J.J. Goldberg

An Israeli Progressive Wonders at the Silence of American Jewish Liberals

By J.J. Goldberg

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If you’re not familiar with Coteret.com, you should be. It’s a must-read group blog by young Israeli progressives. Most of what they do is translating important news and analysis from the Hebrew press that doesn’t appear anywhere else in English. The blog also posts original musings.

This one is a month old, but worth the read:”Liberal Jews and Israel — A case of split personality disorder.” It’s by Noam Sheizaf, a member of the Coteret collective. He’s looking at the inability of American Jewish liberals to acknowledge and talk about Israel’s flaws. What’s most striking about it is not his analysis of the phenomenon, but simply his description of it as it appears to an Israeli, and his obvious distress over the fact.

Sheizaf opens with a description of a conversation with an American. He observes that with few exceptions, American Jews look on apathetically, or disbelieving, at Israeli actions that would have them leaping to the barricades if they occurred in America — for example, the arrest of a woman for wearing a tallis while praying at the Cotel. He writes:

I’ve became more aware of this issue myself since I started writing this blog. Things I say or write which are well within the public debate in Israel are sometimes viewed as outrageous by American Jewish readers; at the same time, events which would make the same readers furious if they happened in the US – for example, the Israeli municipality which tried to prevent Arabs from dating Jewish girls – are met with indifference.

Naturally, I’m generalizing here. Between millions of Jews you can obviously find all kinds of voices – and this is part of the reason I hesitated before writing this post – but I think one can recognize some sort of mainstream opinion within the Jewish community, which both echoes the official Israeli policies, regardless of the identity of the government in Jerusalem, and at the same time, turns a blind eye on events which might distort the image of Israel which this community holds. And this is something which is hard to understand.


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