Historical Amnesia

About a year ago I was watching a young Israeli physician examine an Eritrean boy at the Physicians for Human Rights clinic. The boy sat looking at the ground as his cousin explained that he wasn’t sleeping at night, often waking up sweating in terror. He said the boy was wetting the bed and that he couldn’t keep his food down. When he was asked to get up and walk to the examination table, he wrapped both his hands around his thin right thigh and lifted- left, lift, right, left, lift, right. Only 13, he was thin and weak because of his trek across the Sinai desert. Along the way he was kidnapped and held captive for three months by a Bedouin criminal organization where he was tortured, deprived of food and water and forced to wait as his family in Eritrea was extorted of thousands of dollars. That day in the clinic, wearing donated clothes that hung off his frame, was his second day in Tel Aviv.

Watching the compassion and attentiveness with which this Israeli doctor treated not only this patient, but also every other one who walked into her office was the final impetus to my decision to be a physician. The brief moment in which you can lay your hands on another person and bring your attention to focus solely on their story is an opportunity to transcend the barriers built by conflict, history and fabricated differences. In Israel, those barriers are constant fixtures. At Physicians for Human Rights –whose Tel Aviv clinic currently treats primarily African refugees- you see those barriers crumble down, at least for a little while. It was at this clinic, because of those interactions, that I felt the most hopeful about where Israel might go, and where I could feel proud to be Jewish. That’s where I felt that our history as a people was being used to cultivate compassion.

But yesterday, about 1000 protesters took to the streets of Tel Aviv to call for the expulsion of African asylum seekers from Israel. Some wore T-shirts that said “Death to Sudanese.” They were organized by Members of Knesset who called the refugees a “cancer.” They dismantled a car driven by two black men that had driven into the chaos. Several people were hurt and other injuries were prevented only because activists warned African families and individuals to stay off the streets. This protest- not the first race riot in Israel- was not hidden or small. It was mainstream, public and disturbingly large.

How do I feel about this?

Disgusted. Ashamed. Saddened. It is sickening to think about the fact that Israel was built by refugees and the children of refugees (my family included) and yet, somehow in 64 years, we have forgotten. In a country that reinforces the memory of the Holocaust and encourages citizens not to forget the history of discrimination and delegitimization, how horrifyingly twisted are yesterday’s events? I write about that boy because his story does not sound so far from that of my grandmother’s. They are different but they are so much the same.

I hope that this is when American Jews can step in. These protests are part of a larger disturbing trend and we should not sit by as it happens in our name. We should urge Israel to choose options that protect the dignity of all human beings, and not a “chosen few.” We should encourage voices and actions of Israelis who live by these values- like those of the doctor who continues to inspire me. Our history and its lessons should be moving us to help and welcome those in need. I understand the challenges Israel faces, but those do not warrant, and never have warranted, a disregard for human life.

Please check out 972mag.com, Haaretz.com and www.flickr.com/photos/activestills/ for more information and photos. Also, please go here to sign on to this letter by IRAC (the Israeli Religious Action Center) to President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to respond to the violence.

30 Responses to “Historical Amnesia”

  1. Today we demonstrated in front of the Prime Minister’s against the racism which flared up in such an ugly way. The language of MKs was beyond vulgar.
    Below is the position taken by the Masorti Movement and by the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel

    של כנסת הרבנים והתנועה המסורתית

    “וַאֲהַבְתֶּם אֶת הַגֵּר כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם”
    דברים י, יז-יט

    שלוש פעמים בלבד מצווה התורה על האדם לאהוב. שתיים מתוך השלוש היא מצווה על אהבת האדם. קשה לצוות על אדם לאהוב; קשה עוד יותר להביא עצמך לאהוב מישהו רק כי ציוו עליך לעשות זאת. לא כל שכן אם הוא גֵּר בארץ, זר ומוזר, רחוק ומודָר. לולא היתה מצוות אהבת הגֵּר קשה כל כך, לא היתה התורה נדרשת להזכיר אותה.

    ערכים נבחנים במצבים קשים. קל להיות סובלן במציאות אוטופית. קשה בהרבה כשהמציאות נוקבת, דוחקת, מיוזעת, הולמת בחזה עוד לפני שמגיעה לראש.

    אתגר המסתננים ומהגרי העבודה שהתרכזו בשנים האחרונות בדרום תל אביב הוא אחד מהאתגרים המורכבים ביותר שעל ממשלת ישראל להתמודד עמם. הבעיה הוזנחה ואופיין של שכונות דרום תל אביב שונה לבלי הכר. למצוקה אין צבע. הפשע והאלימות, הפורחים תמיד כשהמצוקה גואה, קנו להם שבת ברחובות והפכו את חיי התושבים כולם – הוותיקים, המהגרים, והמסתננים – לחיים ללא תקווה, חיים לרגליו של הר געש.

    וכעת הוא התפוצץ. הלבה הרותחת ניקבה את רחובות תל אביב בערב יום ד’ במטר חשוך של גזענות. כשהמון שועט ברחובות, פורע, מנפץ, בוזז, מכה, פוצע – שומה על כולנו לעמוד לימין הנרדף. כשמנהיגות מתלהמת מסיתה ומדיחה, עלינו להזכיר שהיינו שם. יותר מפעם אחת. דורות ארוכים היינו מושא ההסתה. היינו אנו מטרת המסיתים, יעד הפורעים. לאורך ההיסטוריה, כשאדם נס על נפשו מפחד ההמון, ברוב המקרים הוא היה יהודי.

    בשמה של מסורת אבותינו ואמותינו, בשמם של הגֵּרים בארץ מצרים והפליטים בארץ צייה, בשמם של כל בני עמנו ובני עמים אחרים שהיגרו או הסתננו או נמלטו מבור עמוק אל תקווה לעתיד טוב יותר, בשם המוסר של נביאי ישראל ובשם ההלכה היהודית – לא ניתן לגזענות לעבור. במאבק על צביונה היהודי והדמוקרטי של מדינת ישראל, אסור לנו לאבד לא את המצפון ולא את הזיכרון.

    “וְאַתֶּם יְדַעְתֶּם אֶת נֶפֶשׁ הַגֵּר כִּי גֵרִים הֱיִיתֶם בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם” (שמות כ”ג 9).


    Rabbi Andy Sacks · May 25th, 2012 at 7:59 am
  2. Thank you for this post. Kol hakavod.


    Rabbi Rachel Barenblat · May 25th, 2012 at 8:20 am
  3. I hope that this is when American Jews can step in. These protests are part of a larger disturbing trend and we should not sit by as it happens in our name. We should urge Israel to choose options that protect the dignity of all human beings, and not a “chosen few.” We should encourage voices and actions of Israelis who live by these values- like those of the doctor who continues to inspire me. Our history and its lessons should be moving us to help and welcome those in need. I understand the challenges Israel faces, but those do not warrant, and never have warranted, a disregard for human life.

    If American Jews really want to step in, they can petition the American government to start bringing Eritrean migrants to their own communities too.

    If there are hundreds-of-thousands of people who want to leave Eritrea every year, let’s move them into Park Slope and the Upper West Side. I’ll respect the hell out of those Jews who are willing to take all of these refugees into their own communities, and to really work to help them out.

    If people want to talk the talk, they should be able to walk the walk.


    Jonathan1 · May 25th, 2012 at 8:49 am
  4. J1 – the US accepts almost 40k asylum seekers a year… The current population in the US of African immigrants is almost 1 million. Plus, immigrants actually need a way of getting to the country they are seeking to enter. Many Africans literally are walking to Israel because it is a (supposedly) democratic nation within their proximity. Not to say the US absorption rate is great or the asylum granting is ideal, especially after the Patriot Act, but you might want to find out more about US immigration and asylum policies before pointing fingers. Or visit NY and actually see neighborhoods of African immigrants…


    justin · May 25th, 2012 at 11:00 am
  5. Jonathan, the US has an asylum policy, although perhaps not as robust as say Canada’s. But in 2011, Israel saw 4,603 new asylum applications; the government rejected 3,692 and approved one. ONE.


    Kung Fu Jew 18 · May 25th, 2012 at 11:00 am
  6. Let’s take a step back:

    There are all sorts of problems in Africa–agreed.

    I would hope that the world would do a better job in solving those problems in Africa, so that people wouldn’t feel the need to flee.

    That, unfortunately, probably isn’t going to happen any time soon.

    So, what’s the answer for all of these migrants?

    I would hope that the world might develop a mechanism for their immigration to multiple countries, including Israel.

    Or, we can continue with the current trajectory–that Israel is more or less the only refuge for people fleeing countries such as Eritrea.

    I invite Justin and KFJ to look at a population map of Africa and of Israel.

    It is not unfair to demand that Israel be held to a higher moral standard than the world’s other nations, but it is unfair to hold Israel to impossibly high standards.

    If the current trajectory continues unabated, Israel will be expected to absorb millions of African refugees, without end to the immigration.

    That’s not realistic, nor is it fair to expect of a tiny country with no natural resources.

    It is true that Israel did indeed recently absorb large communities from the FSU and Ethiopia (because they were Jews.)
    But there are two ways to look at those difficult absorptions: either through the lens of Israeli racism, or through the prism of the importance of Klal Yirael, which the Jewish community in Israel worked to uphold, in bringing in the Russians and Ethiopians.


    Jonathan1 · May 25th, 2012 at 12:00 pm
  7. the US accepts almost 40k asylum seekers a year

    Shiri, Justin, and KFJ are making their criticisms of Israel through a Jewish perspective, not an American perspective.

    There are today about 400,000 citizens of Tel Aviv (mostly Jews.) And let’s say there are 60,000 African migrants also living in Tel Aviv–the exact number, from the 80,000 total migrants is hard to quantify.

    That’s not an insignificant percentage of Tel Aviv’s population.

    Again, we all should put our money where are mouths are. There are two large Jewish communities in the world today, one in Israel and one in North America.

    If this issue is a moral demand onto Jews, fine. The Jewish communities in North America should play their part too. They should be calling their Congressman, writing to the White House, organization NGO’s and fundraising campaigns, starting internet petitions, etc. . . . .to begin to bring tens of thousands of African refugees every year into Park Slope and the Upper West Side, and Bangor Maine, and Dupont Circle. And those Jewish communities should be at the forefront of living and working with the migrants.

    That’s only fair.


    Jonathan1 · May 25th, 2012 at 12:10 pm
  8. “If this issue is a moral demand onto Jews, fine. The Jewish communities in North America should play their part too. They should be calling their Congressman, writing to the White House, organization NGO’s and fundraising campaigns, starting internet petitions, etc. . . . ”

    The idea that Jews in NY, for example, live only in the UWS or Park Slope, and not among immigrants is about 20 years behind the times. Most of us can’t afford those areas, so we infiltrate Crown Heights (West Indian), Bushwick (Latino, African American), and Jackson Heights (Latino, Indian) instead. If your idea is that us coddled hypocrites wouldn’t consent to living among immigrants, you’re pretty far off.

    In general, the idea that American Jews don’t know what its like to live with large immigrant populations is pretty ignorant. Yeah, you had your flood to the suburbs type. You also have the UWS. But there are far more Jews in NY than there are rent-stabilized apartments available to us.

    I agree about the double-standard, though. But I think that Israel should deserve criticism for reacting with ugliness and promoting neo-fascists much the same way that the Dutch and French deserve for doing the same. And, frankly, I think that Americans are in a pretty good position to state that criticism.

    Let’s face it. If you have the one of the most vibrant economies in a region, you’re going to have this problem. If ethnicity is a point of national pride, like it clearly is in France and the Netherlands, you’re going to react with ugliness.

    Of course, a nation of people for whom ethnicity is a point of pride may well have a hard time seeing things this way…


    Dan O. · May 25th, 2012 at 1:55 pm
  9. Kindly don’t speak for me, my perspective is bound up in American democratic principles that are hard to separate into exclusively Jewish principles.

    Israel is a country of 7 million, 80% of whom live along the coast within an hour of Tel Aviv, so 60K people isn’t anything trivial but it’s not dire.

    There are significant solutions:

    - Israel has imported several hundred thousand migrant workers from the Philippines and Eastern Europe. They get work permits, so why not the African populations? Makes no sense.

    - Israel approved one asylum seeker out of nearly 5,000 last year. That’s dumb. Maybe not all 60K, but certainly the country can absorb several tens of thousands.

    - Mass arrest, incarceration and instant deportation is a violation of basic human rights. There should be a grace period for an asylum seeker to file for refugees status, an approval procedure that values the most dire cases, and if rejected a repatriation (or absorption by other countries) that doesn’t create more trauma than they already experienced.

    - Bibi wants a fence. Fine, put up a fence. But what about working diplomatically with lots of other countries for a joint absorption and humanitarian assistance? That seems left out of the suggested punitive approaches as well.


    Kung Fu Jew · May 25th, 2012 at 2:15 pm
  10. KFJ wrote, in the related post:

    It seems many Israelis have forgotten. Israel is supposedly the “center” of Jewish life, to where Diaspora leaders point as the place where knowledge of Jewish historical persecution is part of the public’s awareness. The UN’s covenant on refugee asylum was one of Israel’s first contributions to the international community: the country’s first government championed, campaigned and signed the voluntary law. Just like the Israelites enshrined the lessons of slavery in the Torah, early Israelis enshrined the lessons of the Holocaust in international law. Both are Jewish contributions to global morality.

    Then KFJ wrote:
    Kindly don’t speak for me, my perspective is bound up in American democratic principles that are hard to separate into exclusively Jewish principles.

    Your point is noted, but I’m not a professional mind reader.

    Israel has imported several hundred thousand migrant workers from the Philippines and Eastern Europe. They get work permits, so why not the African populations? Makes no sense.

    Agreed that it was a huge mistake to bring in those migrant workers. If they hadn’t have been brought in, the job market would have led to higher wages/better conditions in agriculture and construction, and those jobs would have been filled by people who already lived in Israel–both Jews and Arabs–which would lead to lower unemployment. I don’t see how the solution is to perpetuate that mistaken policy, vis-a-vis foreign workers.

    But what about working diplomatically with lots of other countries for a joint absorption and humanitarian assistance?

    Agreed. And the demand is that must Israel take the lead in a mechanism for joint absorption and humanitarian assistance to African refugees that’s legitimate.

    It’s not legitimate, however, to demand that Israel solve the problems of African refugees by itself, or to expect it to turn into the destination point for what could end up being millions upon millions of asylum-seekers.

    That’s too much to ask.


    Jonathan1 · May 25th, 2012 at 3:03 pm
  11. “that Israel must”


    Jonathan1 · May 25th, 2012 at 3:04 pm
  12. I want to say I appreciate and support KFJ’s comments. In my post I didn’t say what I think needs to change and his follow up comments sum it up pretty well. I think the problem at the moment focuses on a lack of policy that has led to multiple repercussions, including legislation that permits detainment for up to three years. It’s even more blatant considering that Israel was one of the first to sign in support of the 1951 Geneva Convention on refugees – and has yet to ratify it today.
    Regarding American Jews- clearly we have our own problems in the US. We deal with deep seeded structural racism, xenophobia, violence etc. And I think that there are many liberal Jews in the US that are vocal on these issues. At the same time, as a community, criticizing Israel is often taboo. Its government is supported despite actions and the presence of leaders who, among other things helped incite these protests. These are leaders Jewish liberals would not support in the US. I personally feel, despite how much I oppose the occupation, that not by not currently living in ISrael, I lose some of my legitimacy in arguing against it. In this situation though, I find it very difficult to stay silent.


    shiri · May 27th, 2012 at 2:36 am
  13. I personally feel, despite how much I oppose the occupation, that not by not currently living in ISrael, I lose some of my legitimacy in arguing against it. In this situation though, I find it very difficult to stay silent.

    I would argue the exact opposite. If you are discussing these issues through an American Jewish spectrum, then you have every right to call out Israeli society on the occupation, because the American Jewish community isn’t holding another nation under a military occupation.

    On the other hand, if you are demanding that Israeli Jewish society take affirmative action to help African migrants, then the American Jewish community should be willing to play an equal role.

    It’s a legitimate demand of Jews. The 400,000 Jewish citizens of Tel Aviv should grant naturalization to 30,000 African migrants–as KFJ suggests above–and, resultantly, the African immigration will most likely only increase in the upcoming years, along with with the demand for naturalization. If that is somebody’s stand as a Jew, then that’s legitimate.

    But everybody needs to do there part. Dan O.’s point is taken, but there are hundreds of highly concentrated Jewish communities, in the northeast U.S. alone. If this is what’s demanded of the Jewish world, then we should ask them to play their part, too. A campaign should begin to demand that all of these communities bring in hundreds of African refugees per year, and to really help these people out–in the same sense that we’re asking of Jews in the HaTikva neighborhood.

    Is this an unfair demand? Are American Jews prepared to live out their morality only in an arena half-way around the world?


    Jonathan1 · May 27th, 2012 at 10:43 pm
  14. “I would argue the exact opposite. If you are discussing these issues through an American Jewish spectrum, then you have every right to call out Israeli society on the occupation, because the American Jewish community isn’t holding another nation under a military occupation.”

    Correction: The American military isn’t successfully holding another nation under occupation. God knows we’ve tried. It would be indeed a double standard to criticize the Israeli military and government on the occupation while condoning undeclared drone wars that kills civilians just as well as they kill militants. When I vote to reelect the President, I am – in a way – condoning that. The only thing that mitigates this moral outrage, is that the danger posed by a extremist government in Pakistan (if the situation in the tribal regions spread to the capital) makes the threat of Iran look like a child’s game, considering that Pakistan actually has nukes, and a history of nuclear proliferation. Whether drone wars are productive or counterproductive in that regard is completely unknown to me. (My real moral worry is that it’s unknown even to experts.)

    “Is this an unfair demand? Are American Jews prepared to live out their morality only in an arena half-way around the world?”

    We have our own immigration issues. It is fair to criticize us on the way we handle them. It is fair for Jews to specifically criticize Jews on moral grounds with respect to how we, as Jews, handle those issues. But it is not fair to criticize American Jews on the grounds that we need to be prepared to solve Israel’s immigration issues in order to criticize Israel.

    Do you have prominent neo-fascists making loud noises like in the Netherlands or not? If you honestly answer that question, you have your answer to the larger question: the criticism is fair.

    It seems to me that you have things exactly backwards.


    Dan O. · May 29th, 2012 at 9:33 am
  15. @Dan O.

    Again, from what perspective are all of us coming?

    There are two flourishing, large Jewish communities in the world today: one in North America and one in Israel.

    For better or for worse, the Jewish community in Israel runs Israel. Jews make up 3/4 of the population (inside of the Green Line); Jews hold virtually every key decision-making position in Israel; something like 90% of the votes in national elections are cast by Jews. I think it’s fair to say that Jews run Israel.

    In the USA, whatever the conspiracy theorists might hope, Jews aren’t the bosses. That’s fine, America is probably the most successful nation-state in human history, but Jews there don’t have the same authority in the USA as they do in Israel. It’s not even close.

    So, there is a problem with absorbing African migrants in Israel, and Jews–in Israel and in the USA–have a moral problem with the way that Israel is handling the situation. That’s fine by me. American Jews have the right to voice whatever criticism they want about Israel.

    But, no, the analogy doesn’t hold.
    When I vote to reelect the President, I am – in a way – condoning that.

    In principle you are, but you in fact your aren’t condoning a thing. If all of the Jews were to get up and move to Canada tomorrow, would that change one thing about American policy vis-a-vis Pakistan?

    In Israel, however, virtually every soldier and officer is a Jew, and the entire conflict with the Palestinians is continuing within the context of the hundred-years-war between the Jewish and Arab communities in Israel/Palestine.

    Similarly, the USA takes in thousands of immigrants each year. So, yes, technically speaking, the American Jewish community participates in that absorption, even though the vast majority of American Jews have nothing at all to do with that absorption . . . nothing

    Israeli Jews, however, have everything to do with the absorption/non-absorption of African migrants. Just go to the neighborhoods in south Tel Aviv if you want to see.

    And, again, I’m not claiming that American Jews shouldn’t criticize Israel. They have that right. If they want to have a bit more integrity behind those criticisms, though, they would put their money where their mouths are, and begin a campaign to bring hundreds of refugees per year, to the Jewish communities on Long Israel, in Los Angeles, Cleveland, Baltimore, Miami, etc., and have those refugees really live in the Jewish neighborhoods.

    @Dan O.
    Why is that an unreasonable request, in the context of what’s being demanded of Israeli Jews?


    Jonathan1 · May 30th, 2012 at 12:02 am
  16. “hey have that right. If they want to have a bit more integrity behind those criticisms, though, they would put their money where their mouths are, and begin a campaign to bring hundreds of refugees per year, to the Jewish communities on Long Israel, in Los Angeles, Cleveland, Baltimore, Miami, etc., and have those refugees really live in the Jewish neighborhoods.”

    Again, you are way behind the times. This was a valid criticism in the 60′s and 70′s, as urban Jews fled to the suburbs to escape the great migration – something, given your stereotypical understanding of the US displayed in a typically brazen Israeli manner (yes, yes, that’s a joke) – you probably don’t understand the significance. One of the reasons the position may have more integrity than you think is Jews made that mistake, and younger generations are ashamed of the racism of their parents and grandparents. Which is why those concentrated Jewish communities of which you speak (unless they are ultra-orthodox) are rapidly turning into withering geriatric communities.

    Personally, my only demand of Israelis is that they not act like fascist thugs. It is unclear to me whether ordinary Israelis are following their politicians in so-acting, or whether it goes the other way around. Still, given that it is a democracy, it doesn’t really matter.


    Dan O. · May 30th, 2012 at 8:27 am
  17. This was a valid criticism in the 60′s and 70′s, as urban Jews fled to the suburbs to escape the great migration – something, given your stereotypical understanding of the US displayed in a typically brazen Israeli manner (yes, yes, that’s a joke) – you probably don’t understand the significance

    Because it’s relevant, I grew up in the DC area during the 90′s, went to the Jewish summer camps, and later studied in the northeast U.S. . . . and I’ve spent my brief (not so) adulthood in Israel–I’m even in DC this month. So, I guess we just must know different American Jews/American Jewish communities.

    One of the reasons the position may have more integrity than you think is Jews made that mistake, and younger generations are ashamed of the racism of their parents and grandparents

    I wouldn’t say it’s racism. I would say it’s classism, which is pretty understandable. How many of us aren’t classist in our lifestyles? We aren’t all Che Guevera.

    Personally, my only demand of Israelis is that they not act like fascist thugs.

    I’m not sure what “fascist thugs” means exactly.

    I’ll let you have the last word, if you want . . .


    Jonathan1 · May 30th, 2012 at 9:59 am
  18. I’m pleased with the outburst of raw naked racism directed at Africans. Makes it easier to demonstrate that whatever is wrong with Israelis isn’t necessarily related to Palestinians. Whatever is wrong with Israelis is just… wrong, and the tribal reluctance to respond accordingly helps to neatly divide the community into allies and opponents.
    For the Jewish community to become anti-racist, it is necessary that we name and shame the racists and provide them with no space in which to have their racist assumptions affirmed or catered to with sensitivity.
    The pattern for this kind of rejection has been set – by the bastards who go after JVP. Let’s see them apply that standard to the Israeli politicians fanning the flames of hate in Tel Aviv.


    Jew Guevara · May 31st, 2012 at 8:21 am
  19. “I wouldn’t say it’s racism. I would say it’s classism, which is pretty understandable. How many of us aren’t classist in our lifestyles? We aren’t all Che Guevera.”

    “I’m not sure what “fascist thugs” means exactly.”

    That’s pretty LOL. This whole demonstration/counterdemonstration is so right out of the Dutch playbook it’s startling. At least the mainstream Dutch are able to name it for what it is, instead of remaining in denial.


    Dan O. · June 1st, 2012 at 12:21 pm
  20. Most here seem to be conflating the issues of providing refuge and offering asylum and naturalization. Israel can and should be a refuge for victims of genocide, but is under no obligation or moral impetus to naturalize them, must sensibly manage their length of residence in the country, and establish a horizon for their repatriation.

    The riots were ugly, and fit the definition of a pogrom. That they seem to have been incited, in part, by ostensibly religious Jewish parties and persons makes me sick. That’s completely f*cked up (and also, the absolute WORST way to deal with it is by attacking those persons head on, because they’re playing to a base of extremist activists, and doing so will only raise their electoral profile). The issue of providing haven to refugees is emerging as a powerful litmus test for observant Jews to differentiate between unworthy blowhard demagogues and serious, Torah-minded leaders, precisely because the mitzvah of providing refuge is so patently clear and inescapable.

    Also note, these weren’t “haredi” pogroms; most of the rioters, from what I saw, were not religious-identified whatsoever.

    Shiri’s solution – American Jewish involvement – is kneejerk and quite puerile. The problem is an Israeli problem and the solution must be an Israeli solution. Any American Jewish role should be by Israeli request. Have some faith in our people’s sensibility and compassion. The last thing Israelis need are American Jews with too much time on their hands making a sport of stand-off carpet-bombing righteous indignation (too late?) which will, instead of focusing anger on the rioters, where it would naturally go, provoke a defensive response (as demonstrated by J1 above).

    Define this within an American vs Israeli context and we all lose. Define this within a right vs left or a religious vs secular context and we all lose. The consensus for doing the right thing without destroying either the country or our values exists.


    Victor · June 4th, 2012 at 4:05 pm
  21. Dr. Victor,

    Where have you been?


    Jonathan1 · June 4th, 2012 at 9:53 pm
  22. I’m neck deep in clinicals. I sometimes go days or weeks without reading a thing about contemporary Israel; the only time the word still comes up is in my ChiTaS and davening. No time for much else. It’s been a profound, life-changing experience, to take an extended break from activism. I’ve missed maybe two or three months of news, without really missing anything, if you know what I mean.

    With perspective, it’s really amazing to me that so many people devote incalculable quantities of time, vast waterfalls of the stuff, of their lives, to events in which they have no direct role, no real competence, and no actual ability to influence anything.

    Every morning I check in on a little girl named Sheena, 7 years old. When she was five her parents beat her so badly they severed her spinal cord, among other things, turning her into a quadriplegic. In the last two years her legs and left arm atrophied and had to be removed. Her right hand is contorted and clenched involuntarily in a terrible way which, if she retains any feeling in that arm, must be immensely painful for her. All day, every day, she stares at the wall, blinks and wets her lips. I don’t know if she can hear me, but trying to enrich her sensory input in the morning has become so much more important to me than checking the news.

    Still, nice to see Jewschool plugging away.

    How are you doing, Jonathan?


    Victor · June 5th, 2012 at 12:12 am
  23. Nothing so interesting, if that’s not obvious.


    Jonathan1 · June 5th, 2012 at 9:46 am
  24. Victor,
    Great reply. You hit the nail on the head.


    Avraham · June 7th, 2012 at 1:46 am
  25. “Any American Jewish role should be by Israeli request.”

    Victor,

    It’s just not the case that American interests in the region are limited to Israeli welfare. The truth of the matter is that when Israel or when elements within Israel look bad, we lose international political capital.

    As for influence, an entire congressional seat in Queens was determined over something nebulous regarding views toward Israel! Think about that: what does a mere junior legislator have to do with our policy in the Middle East?

    So, we’d be pretty naive not to see the double standard. It’s okay for the tail to wag the dog, but out of bounds for it to work the other way.


    Dan O. · June 7th, 2012 at 12:59 pm
  26. Victor writes:
    Every morning I check in on a little girl named Sheena, 7 years old. When she was five her parents beat her so badly they severed her spinal cord, among other things, turning her into a quadriplegic. In the last two years her legs and left arm atrophied and had to be removed.

    So much for doctor-patient confidentiality.


    BZ · June 7th, 2012 at 1:33 pm
  27. Victor writes:
    which will, instead of focusing anger on the rioters, where it would naturally go, provoke a defensive response (as demonstrated by J1 above).

    @Victor

    I just don’t know how else to respond,though.

    See:jewschool.com/2012/07/11/28922/african-asylum-seekers-and-the-american-jewish-community/#comments

    ” The right-ward drift of the Jewish citizenry of Israel, which is deeply unsympathetic to 61,000 non-Jewish asylum seekers in their country, is presently in sharp relief to American Jewry’s sensibilities on the issue. “


    Jonathan1 · July 11th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
  28. @Jonathan1

    Don’t worry too much. This isn’t really about you, as an Israeli, or Israel itself, for that matter. Much of what passes for progressive Israel-related American activism is simply using Israel and Israelis as a prop, a convenient “other” (which is why KFJ’s gross generalizations are kosher, whereas he’s never dare to speak in such generalities of black or hispanic Americans, much less Palestinians), in the classic American struggle for self-definition by negation.

    Israel has so far deported what, 200-300 people? My country, the United States, deports thousands of people a day, tearing apart families and destroying lives in the process. Many of those deported have been living here for years or decades, from the time they were infants, and know no other country or language. We have tens of thousands of illegals in administrative detention (the same kind that Islamic Jihad members stage hunger strikes about), many thousands of which will remain so for years, indefinitely, because their countries of origin either no longer exist, are failed states, or refuse to repatriate them (I know of such people). I’ve yet to hear a single progressive American Jew start a crusade on this issue, and were they to try, they would fail.

    It turns out illegal immigration is a complicated subject when one is forced to grapple with its complexities. But this is racist, apartheid, as-a-Jew, not-in-my-Holocaust-surviving-grandmother’s-name Israel we’re talking about here, and a little righteous indignation flavored with a quote or two from the Rambam goes a long way to appearing like you really care, without doing a damn thing.

    So, just act the part you’ve been cast in, Jonathan: STFU like the nice, bigoted, racist and homophobic AIPAC neocon, rapist of Filistine that you most clearly are, and remain a convenient prop in the Jewish-American game of communal identity politics. Remember, it’s not really about you, because if it were, they’d be talking to you, not about themselves.


    Victor · July 15th, 2012 at 12:43 pm
  29. @Victor,

    For disclosure, I’ve been in the States for most of the summer and, even more, I don’t represent any Israeli other than my American-Israeli self.

    But, it does seem like many of these conversations really aren’t about Israel. They’re really conversations about the American Jewish community.

    For instance, the recent lionization of Peter Beinart. Whether he’s right or wrong, what is he saying about Israel that plenty of Israeli Jews haven’t been saying for decades? What is he saying that Uri Avnery wasn’t writing about in the 1970′s?


    Jonathan1 · July 16th, 2012 at 1:09 am
  30. I had the same observation. Of course, being a Jew in any place makes the subject of Israel like a connected issue. However, I think that the topic is more concentrated on Jews on America rather than what is happening in Israel as a country.


    Charles Green · September 15th, 2012 at 6:35 am

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik