Green: Israel is Not Above Reproach

Jews must support Muslims and take responsibility for Israel’s failings.

by Isaac Green | 2/3/17 12:20am

Josh Kauderer ’19’s Jan. 27 guest column — published on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the very day that President Donald Trump signed an unprecedented executive order targeting Muslim refugees and immigrants — trades on the tired argument that criticism of Israel amounts to anti-Semitism and suggests that Jewish people are the religious group that most needs defending in today’s society. Kauderer so confuses and dilutes the meaning of anti-Semitism and what Jewish values ought to stand for that I struggle to decide where to spend my 800 words setting the record straight. However, two salient points stand out to me as most important.

First, Israel’s status as a Jewish state cannot exempt it from criticism. In fact, it is my Judaism and the values my culture and religion have instilled in me that compels me to criticize a state that consistently fails to live up to the values upon which she was founded. Second, I must point out the irony that even on Holocaust Remembrance Day, in the face of a bigoted nationalistic president indirectly condemning a group of people to death based on their religion, denying them the sanctuary that so many European Jews were denied 70 years ago, Kauderer chose to focus on the isolated and relatively unthreatening anti-Semitism that he sees in the world rather than confronting the Islamophobia that so parallels the forces leading to our own historical suffering.

I begin with the simple assertion that to criticize Israel does not make me anti-Semitic. Kauderer suggests that the same impulse is behind isolated incidents of neo-Nazi sentiment and the U.N. Security Council’s resolution condemning settlement building in the West Bank. He even went as far as to label that the actions of the U.N. represent an “effort to delegitimize the broader idea of a Jewish nation-state.” But we must be allowed to criticize the actions of a government without that criticism implying that we believe the country represented by that government should cease to exist.

The true story about the settlement building in the West Bank is that its continuation represents a concerted effort by a conservative faction of the Israeli populace to ensure that a two state solution never comes to be. As settlements continue to be built, Palestinian lives and families are uprooted, the possibility of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank is squeezed out and we are moved further and further from peace. The U.N. certainly holds Israel to a higher standard than they do other nations in the Middle East, but the U.N. also created Israel and with every passing day Israel deserves less and less the title of true democracy. It is admirable that, as Kauderer points out, Israel is the “only country in the Middle East that provides equal rights … to both LGBTIQ citizens and women,” but that does not relieve her of the obligation to afford equal rights to all those living in her borders. A society that forcibly relocates one religious or ethnic group from its homeland to accommodate the expansion of another — as often happens when a settlement is established or expanded — is deserving of rebuke. I affirm Israel’s right to exist and because of my concern for it, I criticize several of its policies.

To me, the truly disturbing problem is that so many American Jews like Kauderer seem to feel no obligation to ensure that the oft repeated motto “Never Again” is extended to all those whose lives are at risk from extremism, violence and bigotry. It’s as if in the face of a massive and spreading forest fire we are pouring the majority of our resources into squashing the last embers of a fire that was contained a long time ago. Kauderer suggests that we must be vigilant of religious persecution in Trump’s America, and amazingly does so without ever mentioning the religious group that is being scapegoated more and more and systematically targeted nationwide and worldwide: Muslims. The president of the United States just established a religious test for immigrants entering the United States. I — as a Jew and an American — am outraged.

I will stand against bigotry in any form because that is what my Jewish heritage demands of me, and I call upon all of my Jewish peers to do the same. The parallels between the evils directed against Jews in Nazi Germany and those that are beginning to be directed against Muslims in our country cannot go unnoticed to anyone who has learned as much about Jewish history as Kauderer no doubt has.

Our Jewish heritage demands that we lend our power and position to our Muslim brothers and sisters who are also the victims of violent hate crimes in this country and appear to be in increasing danger in Trump’s America. To fail to even mention their plight at a time like this is utterly irresponsible.

Green is a former member of The Dartmouth Staff.

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