Still Doing Laundry
Ever since Jane Eisner’s opinion piece appeared in the Guardian last week — “Don’t be fooled by the applause, Binyamin Netanyahu” — I have seen a range of comments flying around by American Jews upset that Eisner not only chose to air her disagreements with Netanyahu and current Israeli policy in public, but that she did so in a foreign publication to boot. Many of the nearly five-hundred comments on the site make for disturbing reading, too.
To which I can only say: good on you, Ms. Eisner. American Jews have for too long been stuck in this vicious cycle of permitting outrageous Israeli actions (or outrageous actions by American supporters like AIPAC) without sufficient comment and criticism because of a fear of making their complaints too public. This trend has been on the wane, a bit, thanks in part to a younger generation of people — like Eisner, or Peter Beinart — who are less concerned with this problem and more interested in tackling the issues raised by Israeli intransigence around the peace process with Palestine.
It’s about time. Five years ago, I wrote that I believe “aired laundry dries faster.” Rather than shrink from public criticism, we instead have an obligation to voice it, loudly:
Well, we do have a right to question, and we should. “We” American Jews (and Americans generally, for that matter) provide billions of dollars in aid to Israel every year – billions through the U.S. government, and billions more through charitable organizations supporting the continued growth of the state of Israel – and that financial support entitles us to have a role in discussing how those funds are spent. But we cannot question the actions of the Israelis if we do not first question our own actions and motivations, and if we do not work to better understand ourselves and the needs of our own Jewish community – and this is the part that is missing. The American Jewish community needs more debate, more open discussion about whether our funding of the state of Israel is, in fact, having a negative effect; whether we are enabling Israel to fight instead of encouraging it to make peace; whether we are confusing Israel’s survival with the underlying quality of its existence; whether we are betraying our own Jewish morals and values by supporting an Israeli state that has so often failed to live up to those same values – values which it also espouses in equal measure. We need more voices like Mitchell Plitnick’s, willing to confront the monolith of establishment American Jewish opinion. AND, we need to stop forwarding, blindly and devoutly, every pro-Israel e-mail that comes across our path, because these e-mails contribute to a process of rote emotional response rather than engaged thought.
Keep that laundry out on the line!