The Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg raised some interesting questions about Israel support last week on his blog, and here in The Jewish Week, about which I got an earful or two over the weekend. Goldberg wonders why it should be the responsibility of American Jews to make up for the fact that Israel failed to prepare itself for a deadly wildfire. He suggests helping victims as directly as possible instead. The debate continues. But the larger question is whether Jews here, or any place outside Israel, should show support as suggested by its government and major Jewish organizations here like the Jewish National Fund, Jewish Agency, Hadassah and local federations, or in a way they deem appropriate.
This is not only a question of the kind of left-wing dissent that led to the creation of the New Israel Fund and J Street. Right wingers also dissent from the mainstream point of view frequently, most heatredly during the 2005 evacuation from Gaza, when plenty of funds were raised to fight the withdrawal and help the displaced, many of whom have yet to find permanent homes.
While it’s hard to disagree with the fact that a country with a thriving economy should buy its own fire equipment, there are those who feel they simply want to take part in the mitzvah of saving and protecting lives there, and others who will reason that money spared from the government coffers for fire protection frees up funds for defense, social programs and the absorption of immigrants. The other side of the coin is concern that Israel shows one face to the world when it wants to boast of its growing wealthy sector and huge number of successful high-tech startups, then throws on a shmatte and extends an open hand to American Jewish philanthropists and small donors looking for the checkbook love it has grown to expect.
This issue isn’t going away as the fire fades to history. Sad, and scary as it is to contemplate, there may well be other disasters Israel — whose main fosus is always military security — isn’t prepared to confront, such as, God forbid, a major earthquake. Can we afford to establish "you snooze, you lose" as a precedent?
What’s your opinion? Post your feelings about supporting Israel with an independent mind or following suggestions of organizations and government officials below, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or just write a letter to the editor.