Identity, Israel

Israelis to American Jewry: Pssst…We Don't Like You

Members of the American Jewish Committee, who identify with Israel and care about its welfare, were astounded and offended to the depths of their souls this week when they heard author A.B. Yehoshua say he feels no sense of identification with them and their fate. Yehoshua’s “I have no brother” speech is doubtless harsh-sounding and infuriating to anyone for whom belonging to the Jewish collective means something. But rather than attack Yehoshua, those “good Jews” should direct complaints at themselves, for having done almost nothing to find out how they are perceived by their brethren in Israel.
Had the American Jewish Committee people displayed an interest in the intellectual discourse that has been taking place in Israel for some time, they would have known that Yehoshua’s words express a widespread and accepted way of thinking. They would have learned that prominent intellectuals in Israel view relations with them as a harmful anachronism that undermines the efforts of Israeli society to grant its non-Jewish citizens a sense of belonging. They would have discovered that the philosopher Menachem Brinker, for example, thinks the Arabs of Umm al-Fahm and Lod are part of his nation much more so than the Jews of Manhattan or Chicago – the connection with whom, in his eyes, is a thing of the past. They would perhaps have been surprised to know that journalist Yaron London views foreign workers who wish to settle in Israel more worthy than themselves to be considered members of his people, since those migrants, contrary to them, speak his language and share in his destiny.

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8 thoughts on “Israelis to American Jewry: Pssst…We Don't Like You

  1. A tough pill to swallow, but no surprise to people who have somewhat closer ties to Israelis. There is a huge cultural gulf between israelis and American Jews, and to convince each of the relevance of the other is no small task.
    Frankly, American Jews have an attachment to Israel the place, Israel the idea, but really no attachment to Israelis themselves! So this goes both ways.
    It certainly makes sense for the AJC to demand that some of their dollars be used to teach Israeli Jews about those in the Diaspora– there is value in klal yisrael even outside yisrael.

  2. I agree with the general analysis of this editorial. however, it makes many points, the biggest of which I take away from it is the growing resentment of the US in Israel – not just American Jews. they may epitomize certain negative things about foreign Jewry for Israelis, but there’s a growing anti-Americanism in Israel in general, for whom American Jews are only a part of the equation.
    The sentiment seems be growing on the right and on the left. The settlers feel betrayed by the Americans for backing Sharon’s disengagement plan (witness how many American ex-pats are amongst the settler community – they tend to be extremely vocal here). Aside from the right-wing religious communities these people depend on for support in the US, the settlers can now no longer count on the American government for backing of the settlement project – and they’re increasing vocal about this.
    The Israeli left has been growing equally tired of the Americans due to a host of historic complaints that are both cultural and political, especially driven by a deeping anger about the destablization of the Middle East by post/9/11 American foreign policy endeavors, and the Bush administration’s historic alliance with the Israeli right. Again, given the preponderance of American ex-pats among the Israeli left, this is both ironic and extremely interesting to witness.
    I don’t think Israel’s business class likes any of this. The Israeli economy is too tied into the US for any of this to be comfortable. This said I don’t think its going to lead to anything dramatic, except perhaps stronger economic ties with Europe, which Israel has always wanted – as long as it could minimize Europe’s political influence over Israel.
    I think this all extremely healthy, and am somewhat happy to see this being discussed. When I was a kid in the seventies, there were no McDonalds or Ace Hardware stores in Israel. The Kibbutzim weren’t exactly wealthy, but they weren’t R&D centers for Silicon Valley firms either, with private luxury homes for rent. The country has indeed become too Americanized over the past thirty years – ideologically as well as culturally. It would be great if the balance could be redressed somewhat.

  3. Doesn’t Yeshoshu’s comments also, at least to some extent, touch on the debate about what is more important to the secular Israeli: their Jewish identity (and with that religious practice) or their Israeli identity?
    “Yehoshua himself told The Jerusalem Post that he was surprised by the uproar over his arguments. “It seems to me obvious that our Jewish life in Israel is more total than anywhere outside Israel,” he said, adding, “I think this is common sense. If they were goyim they would understand it right away.” ”
    Isn’t this about, for some, that having a Teuda Zehut, or going to the macolet, more Jewy than, hmm, let’s say, putting on tzizit?
    At the same time, what’s wrong with saying (in perhaps too many words) that the future of most of the world’s Jews is in Israel?

  4. We need to remind Yehoshua and his pals that it’s the JEWS that have a prior claim on the land, not the Israelis (who didn’t exist as such until 1948).

  5. Feh. This is just mere condescending garbage from Ha’aretz. Just another way of wannabe Israeli intellectuals wiggling their noses at American Jews and reminding us that they know more about facts on the ground than we do.
    Plus, this is just a gross exaggeration. The author presents no poll numbers whatsoever to support how Israelis truly feel about their brethren in the Diaspora.
    Don’t get me wrong. Diaspora Jews could be a little more understanding of Israel and shouldn’t always try to impose their own personal views on the country. I generally find Israelis to be very nice, contrary to what some other Americans might say. And then sometimes the Israeli attitude is demeaning, rude, and whiny. This article takes the opinions of a few and applies them to a wider segment of the Israeli population.

  6. The seperation is a good thing. As an Israeli who moved to the US, I feel a great sense of pride and accomplishment in much of what American Judaism is accoomplishing. The liberal heart of our religious future is developing here, not there.

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