While some (too few) American Jews will celebrate Jerusalem Day next Tuesday night and Wednesday, the 28th day of Iyar, marking the reunification of the holy city during the 1967 War, Israel’s capital remains the subject of controversy among the nations of the world, and much closer to home.
The recent flare-up over Israel’s plans to build housing in the Jewish neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo in east Jerusalem underscored the gap between how Israelis and the international community interpret Mideast events. For most Israelis the issue most separating them from the Palestinians is security, plain and simple, not settlements or housing. Convince Israelis that their security is assured and they show great flexibility in making sacrifices for peace.
It is ironic, and sad, that the heroic effort to unify Jerusalem 43 years ago has led to so much strife and bitterness about Israel’s status, even among Jews. In recent days Brandeis University’s invitation to Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to speak at commencement has stirred opposition on campus.
The student newspaper, The Justice, called the choice of Oren as keynote speaker “divisive and inappropriate,” an indication of just how deep the strains of demonization of Israel and its representatives have become on American campuses, even of the country’s only Jewish non-sectarian university.
Tikkun magazine, which supports “progressive spirituality,” recently announced its decision to honor Judge Richard Goldstone, the author of the UN report on the Gaza war that reflected a stunning degree of bias toward Israel, with its annual award for upholding “the best” ethical Jewish values.
We think the decision was dangerously misguided, if not offensive, but we abhor the fact that Goldstone has been vilified widely as a self-hating Jew — a phrase that should be avoided — and that the home of the magazine’s editor, Michael Lerner, was vandalized this week by those who made clear that the act was politically motivated.
When activists for Israel act out aggressively in this manner toward those with whom they disagree, they only hurt their cause and blur the distinctions between their actions and those of their political opponents. Judge Goldstone and Michael Lerner consider themselves supporters of Israel as well, believing in its right to exist as an independent state. Our community should be awfully careful before we write off those Jews with whom we disagree politically, or our universe, and clout, will become remarkably limited.
On the eve of Jerusalem Day, we pray for the time when Zion shall indeed be the cause and source of unity, not hatred, among Jews everywhere.
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