WASHINGTON - As we deal with our daily existential war in Israel and find it difficult to focus on processes that are more long term, America's Jews are gradually abandoning us. They are not doing it by shouting and threatening, so it is hard to measure the leak in the dam. They simply move aside and go about their business. It's not a PR issue. It is the reality that makes it hard for them to view us as being just. Even those who do believe justice is on our side regret the fact that we are not prudent.
Young Jews on American campuses are raised on values of freedom and democracy. They cannot support – and certainly not explain – a country in which half of the people under its rule do not have the right to vote. And it will only get worse without a two states for two peoples solution.
When we do wake up one day to an irreversible reality of one state for two peoples, we may find that the US Jews, who are mostly liberal, are not by our side.
Last week I watched a conversation between two Jews on Chuck Todd's political morning show on MSNBC. Todd, NBC's political guru and senior White House correspondent, was discussing the Middle East with esteemed journalist Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic. Like distant relatives, they were trying to figure out what was going on in Israel. They laughed bashfully, trying to keep the mood light-hearted, but their voices revealed great concern and a fair amount of contempt.
Goldberg suggested that Israel's political arena is like middle school and told Todd that Likud has shifted even further to the right, explaining that in the Middle East one can always become crazier and more extreme, as he put it. Asked by Todd if there was any opposition to Netanyahu, Goldberg replied 'not at the moment.' Jewish politicians are also confused.
America's Jews are terrified by the Israeli government's relations with Washington, by the political extremism on the right and the lack of a serious center-left alternative.
In Israel people tend to curse and belittle talented Jews such as New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who loves Israel and is merely trying to put a mirror in front of us so we will stop and examine the situation. We should not underestimate such people. They carry a lot of weight in American politics. They love us; they fear for our future. We mustn't let them give up on us; that would be dangerous.
'In Mideast it can always get crazier.' Todd and Goldberg
Those who do not mind losing the support of our Jewish brothers in the US should consider the possibility that Israel may lose the US aid needed to maintain our qualitative military edge and to fund the Iron Dome, Magic Wand and Arrow batteries. Not to mention the US veto in the UN and Washington's behind-the-scenes diplomatic activity to protect us. All this may stop if America's Jews do not support us.
Consider, for example, Congressman Gary Ackerman, a Jewish Democrat from New York who has introduced pro-Israel legislation in the House of Representatives. Speaking at the Israel Policy Forum gala in New York on Monday, he said Ehud Olmert, who also attended the event, "did not piss on the president’s shoe" when he visited the White House during his tenure as prime minister. "It’s only common sense," Ackerman said, alluding to PM Netanyahu's visit to the White House about a year and a half ago, during which he criticized Obama's comments regarding the 1967 borders. The crowd laughed, Ackerman didn’t.
'How demeaning is that?' Ackerman (L) with Olmert (Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom, GPO)
The congressman was even blunter in referring to Lieberman's recent comments at the Saban Forum. The foreign minister claimed that if the Palestinians "achieve their GDP of $10,000, we will achieve peace." Senior American officials who attended the forum were stunned by Lieberman's comments. Every US Jew, including Ackerman, heard what Lieberman said.
"Somebody who is a very prominent politician who is not in this room commented during his presentation that part of the problem in dealing with the Palestinians was that they've not read Voltaire or Jean Jacque Rousseau and that they don't have a gross domestic product of $10,000 a person, per capita. And that's why you can't deal with them. And when they reach that level, then we can talk to them," Ackerman said at the gala.
"How demeaning is that? How disrespectful. How do you get somebody to have confidence that you view them as an equal if you have that kind of attitude? How do you bring them to the table? And where is the table? And why should they show up at the table if that’s the attitude? If we were deciding how to split a pizza and on the way to the table I ate three pieces, you'd start to wonder why the heck should you show up to the table? It’s about dignity and respect.
Ackerman is a Jew who loves Israel. He has done more for the Jewish state than many of those who are writing rude and hateful responses to this article.
He concluded by saying, "Don’t be bullied by the self-righteous and the narrow-minded, and most of all keep the end in sight: two states for two peoples living in peace and security as neighbors, just like the original Zionist cause," the congressman added. "If you will it, it is no dream (famous Theodor Herzl quote)."