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Three Comments Related to Israel

By Arkady Mamaysky

Who speaks for me?

Many voices have been heard recently, including of course those of J Street, criticizing Prime Minister Netanyahu for the statement that he speaks for all Jews.

I have the honor to be one of 320 million US citizens, and when it comes to my rights and responsibilities as a citizen of our great country, the President and Congress speak for me.

At the same time, I have the honor to belong to the great (not by numbers but by achievements), ancient Jewish nation, a large part of which is still, because of our difficult history, spread all over the world. So I feel that when it comes to our specific Jewish problems, and our survival as Jews, Israel and its Prime Minister speak for me.

During thousands of years of persecution and during our recent tragedy of the Holocaust, there were no voices who spoke for us, and there was no place to which we could escape. There was no voice to speak for my grandfather who was killed by the Nazis during their occupation of the city of Odessa, Ukraine, while all able-bodied male members of our family were in the Soviet Army fighting the Germans. The only thing left for us is to guess whether my grandfather was burned alive along with 20,000 other Jews in the warehouse at the Port of Odessa, or whether he was among the “lucky ones” who were simply shot to death along with thousands of others.

There is no need to repeat here information about the many incidents of present day anti-Semitism and its recent innocent victims.

We can only thank God that there is now a strong voice speaking for us. And that voice comes from a country where all Jews, including those who come from places where they live under the threat of anti-Semitism, find protection and have the ability to fight to protect themselves.

Who can hold Israel to a “higher standard”?

Sometimes one can hear the statement, which I heard recently, pronounced by an individual with a good amount of aplomb: “I hold Israel to a higher standard.” In response to a question about what he meant, the answer was: “Israel should withdraw from the West Bank.”

The immediate thought is that this is easy to say for an American Jew who will not be there if rockets will come not only from Gaza and Lebanon, but also from the West Bank.

Ariel Sharon was a brilliant general and a talented and experienced politician. Would he ever have given Gaza to the Palestinians if he, with all his experience, would have been able to anticipate the result?

The question is how any Israeli government can ignore such a lesson.

I personally hope for a two state solution – but only if it will provide for Israeli security. As for “holding Israel to a higher standard,” when I heard this, I was thinking to myself:

I did not build Israel. I did not fight for Israel. Yes, among the charitable contributions I make, I also make modest charitable contributions to Israeli and Jewish causes at the level my family budget permits. So I think I don’t have any right to hold Israel to any standard. And unless any other individual did or does much more than that for Israel, neither does he.

Who looks for only negatives about Israel?

Israel and Israelis possess positive and negative attributes in their politics and behavior (but who doesn’t?). Unfortunately, there are some American Jews who look for and see only negative things about Israel.

The following is a summary of the opinions I heard from a number of different English speaking Israelis talking about four categories of such people:

● Some are ultra-orthodox fanatics who, through their interpretation of the Torah and by ignoring modern science, still live in the dark ages – and thus even found it appropriate to shake hands with Ahmadinejad.
● Some people are simply ignorant about Israeli and Jewish history, have never visited Israel, and cannot distinguish between false and truthful media information.
● Some people pride themselves on being liberal and, for them, being negative about Israel is a confirmation of their liberalism.
● There are also a number of self-hating Jews for whom hatred towards Israel is a logical outcome of their dissatisfaction with their own Jewishness.

Looking back at our history, one can see that for those who persecuted and killed our ancestors, the attitude of a particular Jew towards Jewishness, and in recent times towards Israel, did not make any difference. Jews were humiliated, persecuted and killed just for being Jewish.

A poignant reminder of this is the story of Edith Stein, a Catholic nun who was born Jewish but converted to Catholicism in 1922, and was killed by the Nazis in Auschwitz for being a Jew.

One the other hand, unrelated to the attitude of a particular Jew towards Israel, Israel stands ready to defend and provide shelter to any Jew who is in need of protection.

So let us conclude with the hope that all of us will find a way to be open- an fair-minded towards Israel, and at the time when Israel recently celebrated its 67 Independence Day let us wish this small great Jewish country (our homeland) a Happy Birthday till 120… thousand years.

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