Is Israel Alienating American Jews, or Are American Jews Alienating Israelis?

By Evelyn Gordon

Mosaic Magazine

June 30, 2017

When the Israeli cabinet froze a plan, approved last year, to designate a space for mixed-sex prayer at the Western Wall, a great many saw in this a rejection of American Jewry by the Jewish state. Evelyn Gordon argues that the rejection may be mutual:

The confrontation [over the Wall] ended as it did partly because too many American Jews have delivered a resounding message [of “You don’t matter to us”] to Israelis in recent years. . . . [And] it’s not just because of fringe anti-Zionist groups like Jewish Voice for Peace or even the growing ranks of the utterly indifferent, but also because of the attitudes of many American Jews who call themselves—and in many ways genuinely are—pro-Israel. . . .

It doesn’t seem to matter [to these Jews] that after almost 25 years of failed peacemaking efforts accompanied by vigorous internal debate, a solid majority of Israelis has reluctantly concluded that while a Palestinian state might be a good idea in principle, in practice, for the foreseeable future, there’s no better alternative to the status quo.

[Instead], liberal American Jews are convinced that they know better—that the continued “occupation” is mostly Israel’s fault, that Israel must end it immediately regardless of the price in Israeli blood, and that their job as American Jews isn’t to support Israelis’ painfully reached conclusions but to pressure Israelis to disregard the lessons of their lived experience. If there’s a better way of telling Israelis “You don’t matter to us,” I don’t know what it might be.

Moreover, pursuant to that attitude, many American Jews—and again, not just fringe groups—are actively undermining Israel in various ways. Mainstream American Jewish groups like campus Hillel houses repeatedly host speakers from organizations that spew outright lies about Israel, such as Breaking the Silence, which even recycles the medieval blood libel about Jews poisoning wells. American Jews also provide substantial financial support to such organizations, mainly through the New Israel Fund. Rabbis and Jewish organizations provide cover for anti-Israel activists. . . . American rabbinical students term Israel’s very existence a cause for mourning and engage in anti-Israel commercial boycotts. The Union for Reform Judaism urges members to step up their criticism of Israel. And on, and on.