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Words of the Week

“This is not a eulogy. I have not changed my belief in and love for Israel, nor have I given up hope for its future. I hope that this piece will serve as a wake up call.”

Source: Mattan Berner-Kadish, “Loving Israel, Even When Israel’s Government Doesn’t Show Love for Jews Like Me” (RAC.org)

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  1. Dear Erika, I don’t find an email address for Mattan, so could you pkease pass on or post this respinse to his article? Thank you for posting it and reminding us how we must never think we know all there is to know about each other:
    Please, Mattan, Israel needs more from you than the disingenuous pose you assume in this article. You are a student of politics and yet you pretend you have no politics, just a certainty of what is right. The great thing about Israel’s democracy is that it allows you to have your politics openly, you can even vote communist or religious Sephardic. I’m afraid it’s your American Jewishness that makes you hide your leftist politics when it comes to criticizing Israel’s democratically-elected government. There’s nothing wrong with being a Jewish leftist, it’s especially honored in Reform circles, but you are quite naive to write that “my political views are deemed as traitorous” in Israel. Were you to live and vote there, you are free to vote Meretz or Arab list. But no one in Meretz is pretending that only they are the righteous ones—because if they did pretend that, like you do, there would be no point to their politics and their right to persuade others. You, however, make no attempt to persuade. Instead, you threaten a kind of childlike blackmail by crying that Israel doesn’t love you. Surely you’ve learned that democratic politics is a tougher business than that, haven’t you? One third of all Americans are evangelical Christians who mostly love Israel, and yet they are not self-righteous about which parties are in or out of the government, either in Israel or here. When Obama was president, they did not feign that America didn’t love them anymore when congress passed laws they considered anti-Christian. So we hope you will pull yourself together and state your politics openly—as well as honor the right of others, especially Jews, to hold different views about you.

    • Just a note for David and anyone else that David’s comment auto-posted since he is a repeat commenter, which I appreciate. I don’t happen to agree with David’s comment—I found Mattan’s piece eloquent and inspirational (especially compared with what I see from so many other American Jews his age these days). I have no idea if Mattan will see this post, since we do not know each other. But if he does see this, I hope he’ll know that I posted the excerpt from and link to the piece because I found his words so very much worth sharing.

      • Erika, thank heaven for disagreements! But don’t misunderstand: I don’t discount Mattan’s feelings, but rather his unintended tarring of Israel. Why do most Israelis support the additional basic law? That is the question you both fail to ask yourselves. And when you or Mattan fail this way, the implication is that Israelis are bigots and racists, or somehow less loving than you of other Jews. Since Mattan self-identifies as a political science major, shouldn’t we expect more understanding of Israel?

        • This is going to be my final comment on this post.

          There are plenty of Israelis (including President Rivlin) who have made clear that they do not support the new law. (By the way, this post indicates nothing, about my feelings about the law.) And as for what you say about Mattan, all I’ll add is that I wish that every person his age knew and cared as much about Israel as he does. We’d be in a much better place if that were the case. If you think that either of us are “tarring” Israel here, there is truly not anything else to say.

          • My final comment as well, though it’s a shame Mattan won’t have a chance to hear divergent views (Erika, your link to his Reform social justice site does not take comment). I think the young do not need to be protected from others who also love Israel; I think they might even be tolerant of complexity if given the chance. So of course there are others like you, Erika, who may not support the new basic law—that only confirms that Israel is a vibrant democracy! At least you understand why it was passed, but many Americans don’t and assume it was typical Israeli xenophobia. Perhaps many young people are turned off by Israel because the adults in their lives don’t help them to understand the complexity of Israeli culture and politics. Why not help them to understand, rather than imply, as pro-Israel Mattan does, perhaps inadvertently, that the majority of Israelis are less loving?

            • I’m not engaging with your various claims and arguments any further, David; just pointing out that if I really wanted the author of an article published by a website to know my thoughts about the article, and there was no way to leave a comment on the post, I would likely simply look for the website/organization’s own contact information, which should be pretty easy to find, and send my message to them to pass along to their author (instead of continuing to argue with a reader who happened to share it). It’s not that difficult to do, and it’s far more likely to get your thoughts across to the writer than this kind of exchange is.

              • Did that, no response. And are my claims for Israel’s democracy really so difficult for you? I’m in sync with Rivlin too.

  2. While I agree with much of Mattan’s argument, I’d like to expand it by raising the point that many Western democracies (certainly the US but also England vis a vis Brexit) are caught in a struggle between pluralism versus nationalism that’s often occurring at the cost of democratic values. The impetus for (or against) a nation state law isn’t unique to Israel, but instead seems to be a more global phenomenon. Mattan is fundamentally correct, however, in saying that people need to fight for the country they want by voting and other political participation. As for Netanyahu meeting Orban, well, that’s what heads of state do. They meet each other even if there are significant disagreements between them. I think it would be dangerous for an Israeli head of state to refuse to meet with another head of state due to the latter’s odious politics. Israel is already facing stigma and isolation due to the BDS movement. It would be strategically unwise for an Israeli head of state to use BDS’ tactics of refusing dialogue and contact.

    • Glad to see you engage the complexity of the situation.

    • Thanks for posting, Adrienne. To be honest, my purpose in sharing these “Words of the Week” was less to engage with Mattan’s entire argument than to highlight how—not alone, but still rather exceptionally among his peers—Mattan is, overall, eloquently expressing a deep love for a country that means so much to him, while articulating his critical take on a number of recent developments that have unsettled many even outside his age cohort. In any case, it’s nice to hear from you again!

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