A POST-ELECTION LETTER TO OUR AMERICAN BRETHREN!
by Douglas Altabet (Arutz Sheva News)
As a fairly recent oleh, I still have lots of family and friends in America, and I understand America and American Jewry in an implicit and intuitive way.
That knowledge has made the reaction of a large number of American Jews to our just completed elections all the more painful and frustrating.
What I have heard and read is a great deal of anger, shame, disappointment and even a sense of betrayal. What I have not encountered is a great deal of empathy, nor an attempt to understand or to contextualize provocative statements.
At the risk of sounding preachy, it must be pointed out that Israel is not the 51st state, not to mention the sixth borough. It is a sovereign country. This is Israel’s great glory and its daily challenge.
Sovereignty under the best of circumstances is messy. There is bottom-line accountability and the need to make things work. There are priorities to be adopted, and varying interests to be managed. Not unlike a successful mediation or contract negotiation, sovereignty entails disappointing the fewest number of people as rarely as possible in the least painful of ways.
Add to that maintaining one’s sovereignty in our particular neighborhood, and the challenges and the risks increase geometrically.
The issues confronted by Israeli Jews are greatly removed from the concerns of the American Jewish community. Rockets are not being fired into Newton, MA, no country is threatening to annihilate Brentwood, CA, and no one worries about missile attacks on La Guardia airport.
This morning I dropped off my daughter at our intercity bus stop for her to take her bus to school. Standing there with her were dozens of young men and women in uniform returning to their bases after a Shabbat leave at home.
Seeing this unremarkable, yet nevertheless poignant, scene drove home the reality of difference in a way that words can not describe. Our town has all of 3,000 residents, but there were likely more Jewish soldiers standing there than there are in many states of the Union.
Their service is a matter of course, not a career choice, nor an elective decision. They are part of the reality that we are accountable for ourselves in the face of the enmity of much that surrounds us (I live conveniently close to both Lebanon and Syria.), as well as the genocidal hatred of countries such as Iran.
I am not saying this to make any excuses, but rather to provide the critically needed context in which to assess our actions. The Israeli public has voted, unequivocally supporting those parties that prioritize the security of the country over other important issues. That is the sovereign right of Israelis to exercise.
In the course of this election, we saw a great deal of “involvement,” “meddling” is a better term, by foreign money, and many think by foreign governments as well, to influence the outcome of the election.
There was not only money contributed, but on the ground forces provided, to tip the election against Netanyahu. This involvement provoked much resentment and even fear.
So when Netanyahu said he was concerned about Arabs being bused to the polling places, he was clearly not concerned about Arabs voting, but about foreign forces bribing them to vote – not for Arabs but for Netanyahu’s opposition.
Anyone who knows anything about Israeli politics knows that Netanyahu would not be concerned about Arabs voting for Arabs, since they invariably sit in the opposition. But the idea of Arabs – or anyone else – being bribed to vote for the major opposing party is indeed a scary prospect, as it powerfully infringes on Israeli self-determination.
This statement has become tantamount to race baiting, which, with all due respect, is American Jews looking through the prism of America and not of Israel. The analogy does not hold water, because at the end of the day, the issues with Arabs are politically based and not racially based (Israeli Jews themselves come in all races and ethnicities, and true racial tensions are indeed prevalent among us within the Jewish tent.).
Are we perfect? Do politicians both here, in the US, and around the world, promise, pander and occasionally invoke fear to motivate voters? Only since the beginning of time
But again, the willingness to go nuclear on this subject was very troubling. So troubling and so out of proportion that I fear that American Jews are starting to envision a nightmare that they never wanted to contemplate: the specter of dual loyalty.
The issue is a canard, but it is implicitly being exacerbated by an American administration that has never been Israel’s friend, and has used any tools at its disposal to cast aspersions on Israeli policy and above all its leadership.
The day when support for Israel is somehow not tantamount to loyalty to the United States will be a black day indeed for America. I pray it will never come close to arising.
However, it is increasingly being left to politically conservative Jews and Evangelical Christian friends to stand unequivocally with Israel. This is a shame, since the support of Israel should rank high with all those focused on human rights and the dignity of man.
American brethren, we are indeed your brethren, and we are indeed pursuing a complementary, but different path from your own. We ask you to see us empathetically, to understand our challenges and our right and need to respond to those challenges.
You have no need to be embarrassed because of us; indeed, quite the opposite. Despite an irremediably hostile environment, we have brought great gifts to all of mankind, and with God’s help, will continue to do so.
All we ask of you is understanding, and the benefit of the doubt that comes with family.