The divide between Israelis and American Jews seems to be growing. Indications of the widening gap came last week with reports of a confrontation between an American Jewish activist and four members of Knesset, from across the political spectrum, at a synagogue near Boston.
As reported at The Algemeiner, at the end of a forum at Brookline’s Congregation Kehillath Israel, an audience member named Shifrah told the four Israeli lawmakers, “You are losing me and you are losing many, many people in the Jewish community… I cannot look the other way when three Israeli teenagers are brutally murdered and the response is to kill 2,300 Palestinians [in Operation Protective Edge in 2014]. I want to know what you are doing to make peace with the Palestinians. I want to know what the government is doing to make peace.”
Despite the general fractiousness of Israeli politics, the lawmakers, who spanned the Right-Left spectrum, rejected the woman’s claims. Not one of them was willing to accept her view that Israel was morally impaired for defending itself from Hamas’s terror war against it. Each in his or her own way pointed out that the woman’s question exposed a callous indifference and utter ignorance to the actual situation in Israel.
Speaking last, Likud MK Amir Ohana noted that Israel didn’t enter into its war with Hamas three years ago because of the execution and abduction of the three youths by Palestinian terrorists. Israel went to war against Hamas in Operation Protective Edge because the terrorist regime in Gaza began pummeling Israel with tens of thousands of mortars, rockets and missiles.
And as Ohana noted, “Each and every one of them [was] targeted to kill us.”
Ohana concluded, “If I will have to choose between losing more lives of Israelis, whether they are civilians or soldiers, or losing you, I will sadly, sorrowfully, rather lose you.”
To a degree, the Brookline exchange was a watershed event. This is true for two reasons.
First, there was the unanimity of the responses. And second, the lawmakers were willing to walk away from the increasingly vocal anti-Israel faction of the American Jewish community.
Shifrah’s statement was a moral and criminal indictment of Israel. It was also an egregious slander of the entire country.
Shifrah stood before a crowd of American Jews at a synagogue and alleged libelously that in retribution for the murder of three boys, Israel maliciously killed 2,300 innocent Gazans.
And the Knesset members told her not to let the flap slam her on her way out of the pro-Israel tent.
This action was long in the making and long overdue. For more than a decade, American Jews led by radical rabbis and thought leaders have been threatening Israel.
You are making us embarrassed, Peter Beinart and his supporters have said. We won’t be able to keep supporting Israel if you don’t succumb to all the demands that the PLO and Hamas are making. Their terrorism – that is, their “resistance to occupation” – is understandable.
Israel, they harangue, is losing American Jewry. We are progressives. We stand up for the oppressed against the oppressors. Israelis, you are oppressors and we won’t be able to stand with you and as Jews, we will stand against you.
We will seek common ground with anti-Semites like Roger Waters and Alice Walker and invite them to our most prestigious forums to speak. We will make common cause with terrorist supporters like Linda Sarsour and terrorists like Rasmea Odeh. We will show that we don’t hate Israelis by hosting EU-funded anti-Israel groups like Breaking the Silence at our synagogues and campuses. And we will insist we are pro-Israel and pro-peace and send our checks to J Street, a group that has never sided with Israel on anything.
Over and over again Israel has heard these voices, which are often well-paid and always well-covered by the media. Over and over we have listened to their threats of abandonment.
Rather than criticize them for their hostility and reject their threats, Israeli spokesmen, particularly from the Left, have tried to make these Jewish Israel bashers feel better about Israel.
True, we are “occupiers,” voices like Haaretz’s former columnist Ari Shavit told his American audiences. But we feel really bad about it so please don’t hate us.
We love you so, please love us back. We are one.
The time has long since passed for Israel to begin a frank exchange with these people.
There are lines you cannot cross and still expect us to care what you think.
Sometimes those lines are crystal clear.
For instance, last week, the anti-Israel and increasingly antisemitic Jewish Voices for Peace BDS pressure group held its annual conference in Chicago.
More than a thousand people showed up. JVP decided to use its annual event to honor a Palestinian terrorist murderer.
Rasmea Odeh, who was imprisoned in Israel for her role in the terrorist bombing of a Jerusalem supermarket in 1969 that murdered two Israelis, was honored by JVP for her fight against Israel.
Odeh is about to be deported to Jordan after being found guilty of immigration fraud for failing to mention that she is a convicted terrorist murderer on her immigration forms when she moved to the US in 1994.
Odeh took advantage of the microphone JVP provided her to pledge to continue fighting for the eradication of Israel for the rest of her life, and urging her audience to do so as well.
In her words, “Zionists aren’t going to stop their land grab in Palestine. The Palestinians there and the Palestinians and our supporters here have to stop them with our resistance and our organizing.”
JVP is certainly a Jewish group. Odeh was introduced by Rabbi Alissa Wise. But everyone associated with JVP is an enemy of Israel, Jewish or not. And Israel has begun to treat it as an enemy. Just this week, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan rightly castigated the group as antisemitic.
If JVP is the easy case, the situation quickly becomes complicated.
Can we draw a line when seemingly mainstream leaders join the ranks of Shifrah and JVP in libeling Israel? Can we walk away from prominent American Jews who indicate that as far as they are concerned, Israel is a moral burden that they are having a hard time carrying because they believe – and propagate – slanders of Israeli society and of the IDF? Consider the case of Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove. Cosgrove is the rabbi of the toney Conservative Park Avenue Synagogue in New York.
Last week Cosgrove joined the radical chorus of voices advancing the Israel is Apartheid slander.
According to Mondoweiss, in an event at his synagogue following the AIPAC conference, Cosgrove spoke of his daughter’s uneasiness at the sound of speaker after speaker rejecting the false allegation that Israel is an apartheid state.
Cosgrove said that his daughter pointed to the fact that the Palestinians do not vote for the Knesset as proof that Israel is in fact apartheid.
As Yisrael Medad noted on his website, Cosgrove’s daughter’s statement was utter nonsense.
Why would Palestinians vote for the Knesset when they have the right to vote in the Palestinian elections? The Palestinian Authority, not Israel, is their governing body.
It isn’t Israel’s fault that PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas has failed to hold an election since 2006.
The fact that Rabbi Cosgrove was unwilling to point this obvious truth out to his daughter, and indeed, the fact he thought her ignorant slur was worth repeating publicly and supportively to his congregants speaks volumes about his own anti-Israel prejudices.
Medad also noted that in an article in The Jerusalem Post last year, Cosgrove threatened Israel with a withdrawal of American Jewish communal support.
Cosgrove wrote, “American Jewry isn’t able to reconcile the dream of Israel as a liberal democracy and the death of the two-state solution; it is unable or unwilling to defend Israeli actions in the court of world or campus opinion.”
There is a straight line between Shifrah’s false claim that Israel needlessly and maliciously killed 2,300 Palestinians in Gaza in the 2014 war with Hamas and Cosgrove’s insinuations that Israel and its military actions are to blame for the absence of peace with the Palestinians.
Both are slanderous attacks against Israel. Their goal is not to cultivate a dialogue but to justify condemnations and opposition to Israel.
Telling the Shifrahs and JVPs of the world that they are beyond the pale is important, but insufficient. Israel needs to make clear that blaming Israel for the crimes of its enemies and ignoring objective reality is not acceptable. If the Cosgroves of the American Jewish community cannot tell the difference between Israelis and our enemies, then it is they that require a moral reckoning.
We, with sorrow, will have to make do without their phony support.