Part 1 of article
Israel’s public relations difficulties are growing worse. Some people believe that this problem already constitutes a graver threat than the Palestinian danger. Why is Israel helpless in the face of this threat?
Seemingly, everything possible is being done. Ambassadors are being briefed, our heritage sites are being upgraded, and even Israelis who travel abroad are enlisted for the PR cause. However, the criticism leveled at us does not only pertain to the corporeal realm: Who opened fire, was white phosphorous used, etc. This criticism aims to undermine Israel’s right to exist.
Yet on this ideological level, Israel is not only showing weakness in the way it conducts itself; it in fact raises question marks over its own right to exist.
Israel’s right to exist is premised on the world’s support for the Zionist idea, that is, the establishment of a national home for the Jews in order to bring them out of the Diaspora. Israel was meant to be a solution and an alternative to the Diaspora.
However, over the years, Israel’s devotion to its mission has declined. Instead of separating from the Diaspora, Israel created a symbiotic relationship with it under the paradigm whose motto is “We Are One.” Instead of aspiring to end the Diaspora, Israel works to perpetuate it.
Joint programs by Israel and world Jews are meant to boost the latter in the Diaspora, rather than to bring them out of it. Alongside aliyah envoys that head to the Diaspora from here we also have envoys whose job is to nurture the Jewish communities overseas. The flagship of the joint work in recent years, the Taglit project, is perceived as a Zionist enterprise here; in fact, it aims to salvage Jews from assimilation in order to boost the Jewish community in the Diaspora.
Meanwhile, a new museum being established at the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora in Tel Aviv with the Israeli government’s help will be expressing the outlook of “One global Jewish people, whether it lives in Israel or anywhere else in the world.”
Instead of distinguishing itself from the Diaspora, Israel desperately clings to it. The notion of “Zionism,” which aims to separate us, was replaced by the “memory of the Holocaust” as a constitutive value that binds us together. Instead of emphasizing Israeli Judaism, we export meaning, theology, and Jewish patterns from the Diaspora. Instead of becoming an alternative, Israel has become a branch of the Diaspora in the Holy Land.
Israel’s conduct implies a positive attitude to and promotion of the Diaspora; for example, the glorification of Elie Wiesel, the symbol. When Mr. Lessons of the Holocaust chooses to reside in New York, he conveys the message that there is no problem with the Diaspora. For that reason, Journalist Matti Golan referred to Wiesel – as a symbol, not on the personal level – as a worse enemy of Israel than Yasser Arafat.
When Israel invited Wiesel – the symbol, not the person – to light a torch on our Independence Day, it confirmed that there is no problem with the Diaspora.
Part 2 of article to appear Sunday night
Benny Levy is the chairman of the Shivah – Zionism Now non-profit organization