Ron Lauder blames Israeli policies for the impasse with the Arabs and for the assimilation occurring in the Diaspora, while oblivious to the realities in Israel that completely refute his claims
A few days ago, the president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, published an op-ed in the New York Times, saying he feared for the future of the State of Israel.
In a piece titled “Israel’s Self-Inflicted Wounds”, that must have sounded to Israel’s critics like the sweetest chords of a classical music concerto, Lauder laments the demise of the two state solution. He apportions blame squarely on the shoulders of the Jewish state, saying that senior Palestinian leaders are ready and willing to negotiate, but Israel’s “extensive Jewish settlement-building” is making it impossible.
In language echoing John Kerry, he says that without a two state solution, Israel will cease to be a Jewish state or cease to be a democracy. All I can say to that is – “Ronald, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
For the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not exactly the same as a trade tariff dispute over bananas between North Dakota and South Dakota. Israel is dealing with an entity that is openly engaging in terrorist warfare against it. It glorifies murder, rewards killers, educates its children to die, bathes them in hatred and poisons their young minds with a belief that killing Jews will bring them honor.
Pushing for the creation of a terrorist state whose values are not about building their country but rather destroying ours is no way to build a secure future. For them it’s not about Palestine and Israel, it’s about Palestine instead of Israel and applying an idealistic western world viewpoint on the conflict in Israel is not only ill-advised, it’s lunacy.
As if that isn’t enough, Lauder then goes on to say that Israel’s “capitulation” to “religious extremists” is contributing to the “growing disaffection of the Jewish diaspora,” alienating a large segment of Jewish society, especially younger people, who are distancing themselves from Israel because her polices are in conflict with their values. That, he says, is leading to assimilation and the global Jewish community’s affinity towards Israel.
Oh – how wrong he is.
While Ronald Lauder is certainly right to be concerned about the future of the State of Israel, as all Jews who care about it would naturally be, his concern should be one of outright panic for his own community, for it is the diaspora community, especially in America. For that is the one that is in serious trouble.
With a 72% intermarriage rate, the Jewish community in America is vanishing quickly and rather than unfairly blaming Israel’s policies for that, they should take a closer look at their own values.
Because much of the diaspora community has sacrificed Jewish values for a warped progressive attitude that says, “Anything goes!”
It is an attitude that encourages mixed marriages to show how accepting they are. It’s an attitude that sees some Jews side with anti-Semites like Linda Sarsour to showcase how “progressive” they can be. It’s an attitude that allows openly anti-Semitic organisations like Jewish Voice for Peace to spring up and support BDS in an effort to highlight their “progressive” credentials. It’s an attitude where some people are desperate to join forces with anti-Semites in defense of their progressiveness rather than join forces with their own people in defense of their Jewishness.
This is not Israel’s fault, but rather a lack of Jewish leadership that should be focussing less on petty party politics and more on strengthening Jewish identity. When you do that, you reinforce Jewish pride, you boost Jewish confidence, you educate young people as to who they are, where they are from, and what it means to be a Jew.
Most importantly, you make them remember why Israel is not just a faraway country that lives on the evening news, but a part of who they are. A part of their unique birthright and something that should be cherished and valued and defended, not scolded and admonished and attacked.
The diaspora community is critical and highly important to Israel and for thousands of years prior to the State of Israel being declared, it was the diaspora Jews who kept alive the longing to return to Israel. It was the Jews from Russia, from Europe, from Arabia and every other corner of the world that kept the memory of their Jewish state alive in their prayers, in their hearts and in their minds. Despite all the pressures of a modern and secular society, they kept their identity intact.
But after 1948, the roles reversed. Israel became the central focal point of the Jewish world once again, not only spiritually, but politically too. Israel became the glue that kept us together. Israel provided the blanket of security to Jews worldwide. Israel offered the Jews of the world – shattered after the Holocaust – a new lease on pride and respect. It was the courage of this small country that inspired an entire people to dust themselves off and rise up once again.
Because of Israel, every Jew walked a little taller.
Now there are certainly many issues in Israel between the religious and the secular, but it is unfair to expect Israel to bend over backwards to accommodate diaspora communities that have traded in their own Jewish values for so-called “progressive” ones that actively work against Jewish continuity.
This doesn’t strengthen Jewish identity – it weakens it. This doesn’t guarantee a future for the Jews – it endangers it, because when you sacrifice all your traditions, your culture, your heritage, your principles, then what exactly are you fighting for?
While it’s true to say that most Israelis are secular, it’s also true to say that most Israelis are fiercely proud of their Jewish identity and proud of their country.
Ronald ends off by saying that the choices Israel makes in the coming years will determine the destiny of the Jewish people.
But just as Israel has a responsibility to Jews worldwide, so too do Jews worldwide have a responsibility to Israel.
The challenges that we face today and the ones that lie ahead are difficult and demanding. It is though, not Israel’s burden alone to bear. It affects all Jews worldwide.
For it is not simply about the future of the Jewish state, it’s about the future of the Jewish people.
Justin Amler is a noted South African born, Australia-based writer and commentator on international issues.
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