June 7, 2009
Peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is further away than ever. Animosity between Westerners and Muslims continues to grow. Traditional anti-Semitism is on the rise.
The composition of the current Israeli government is frightening. Prime Minister Netanyahu does not acknowledge a two state solution. Foreign Minister Lieberman continues to express his contempt for his Arab citizens and neighbours.
Most Jews in the Diaspora are probably unhappy with the present government. Should they speak out?
This poses a fundamental dilemma. Jews have suffered from anti-Semitism for two millennia. Israel has a special meaning for every confessed Jew, whether religious or secular. I can never forget the taunts in England before 1948, such as: “Go back to where you came from.” I felt like a “wandering Jew” with no homeland. After the establishment of the State of Israel, we became to our neighbours Jews with a homeland but who chose to live in England.
We believed in Israel, supported Israel and were proud of Israel. The Jews of the Diaspora closely associated themselves with Israel. They never publicly criticized Israeli government policies. I felt the same way.
Today the Israeli government position is unacceptable. There are at least two points of view on every aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, except one – the West Bank settlements. These have been built on land not belonging to Israel or the settlers. They have broken up the West Bank and have caused the fence to be built in a manner which has ruined the daily lives of many thousands of Palestinians. There is no legal justification for the settlements – only an extreme religious argument. Successive Israeli governments have permitted the steady, illegal expansion of the settlements.
Not only is there little prospect of peace under a Netanyahu government, but a lasting peace may no longer become possible.
During the last decades, the Jewish Diaspora, as a whole, has not spoken out for a just peace and against Israeli policies preventing it. Only a few lonely voices have done so and had heaped on them the disapproval of the majority. I admit not to have spoken out sufficiently. My late father’s words: “There are enough anti-Semites in the world without Jewish ones”, echo in my ears, however irrational the sentiment.
And yet, I feel that we are seeing policies and actions which are leading to the moral degradation of the Jewish people. Our values have underpinned society for millennia, and been adopted by Christians. The New Testament cannot stand up without the Old Testament.
Current Israeli government’s policy is not only unconscionable but it is not in Israel’s interests. The US Administration, led by Obama, will not tolerate indefinitely an attitude which does not genuinely indicate a desire for peace on equitable terms.
And extremists are gaining strength on both sides.
Only American Jewry has any real influence on Israel. So the best we European Jews can do is to express our views to our US brethren.
Author : Stanley Crossick