What is the traditional American Jew to do now?


I consider myself to be a traditional American Jew. I am neither Orthodox nor Reform. I have a good upbringing in Jewish tradition and values but I live a secular-oriented life. I have a deep and I believe unshakeable commitment to a Jewish homeland in the State of Israel but I am deeply disturbed by the endless deprivation and degradation of the Palestinian people. I have a deep disgust for historical and current Palestinian leadership which, as Golda Meir so aptly put it has “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity” for peace; has ignored every opportunity to better the lives of their people and is now overrun by radical lunatics with whom there is no chance of rational discourse.

I am equally disgusted with the current Israeli government which, in its own way, is also now overrun with radical fringe elements that espouse their own brand of intolerance and hatred and are a de facto, existential threat to the future existence of the state. I feel repulsed by the notion of having to defend Israel “right or wrong” because with its present official orientation, it requires a radical suspension of my own common sense and my own personal sense of fairness and justice.

In America, I am depressed and outraged by groups such as AIPAC which have abdicated any role as an ethical or moral force speaking for the best of the Jewish tradition and joined as the publicity arm of the current right-wing Israeli government. AIPAC, in no sense speak for me or, I believe, many if not most, American Jews.

On the other hand, I am equally outraged by the growing elements in America that seem oblivious to the faster than creeping insinuation of anti-Semitic tropes and beliefs into mainstream social and political dialogue under thinly disguised covers of “progressive politics”, “BDS”, Corbynism in Great Britain and like-minded programs. I am disgusted with the fact that the Israeli government appears to be a graft-ridden, get-rich scheme for the Prime Minister, his wife and cronies, makes common cause with the genocidal beliefs of Kahanism to desperately cling to power and at the same time sees our own corrupt and morally obtuse President as its natural ally and defender.


My problem, of course, is that the facile manner in which it has become so in vogue at cocktail parties, fund raisers, academic conferences and college campuses to be anti-Israel (and just maybe a little bit anti-Semitic in the process) makes it all the more difficult for me to avoid being pushed into a defensive posture that does not allow for voicing the ambivalence and true, multi-dimensional nature that a mature consideration of this conflict deserves.

What is someone in my position – Jew or non-Jew – to do? Like so many of our problems today, there is no simple answer but a few things I am sure of:

One, I will not sacrifice my own core beliefs in right and wrong to support any position that is blindly one-sided or premised on hatred, oppression, false expressions of sympathy, or ignorance of historical facts.

Two, I will continue to recognize both the inalienable right of Israel to exist as a Jewish homeland and the right of the Palestinian people to have their own homeland. We have no more right to deny that to the Palestinians than we do the Kurds or Armenians or any other dispossessed people who can lay a legitimate claim to a piece of land they can call their own.

Three, I will not sanitize the misconduct of either side. The Israeli government is not advancing peace by its actions and is creating a demographically, political and ethical morass that will eventually sink the historic achievement of an Israeli homeland. At the same time, I will not countenance, at the United Nations, or anywhere else, placing Israel under a harsher or different standard of conduct than we place on any other country on earth – this too is a thinly disguised program of anti-Semitism. The Palestinians, for their part, are historically burdened with the fact that their seminal, national leader was Yassir Arafat and not Nelson Mandela. They have been and remain responsible for flaming terrorism and vicious anti-Semitism as a diversionary tactics to obscure their own total failure to provide a better and secure life for their people.

Fourth, I will continue publicly affirm my position on all of these matters risking by doing so alienation and accusations from both sides but knowing that it is important that moderate, rational voices be heard.

Finally, I will continue to believe and support groups in Israel and here that believe, that at some point calmer and more rational leaders will emerge on both sides that will permit these two people – related as they in fact are by faith – to figure out a way forward the will benefit the people they now only pretend to serve.

Jonathan Schraub is an attorney in Bethesda.

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