Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I prefer to live with Jews

Rabbi Eric Yoffie's vision for the future of State of Israel left me feeling queasy.

Rabbi Yoffie declares that he can work with a Jew whose ideology he rejects. Rabbi Yoffie suports a Palestinian state. His collaborator doesn't. The objective they are collaborating on: the defeat of the Palestinian bid for UN recognition.

There is a classic reading of Judaism that sees the religion as a normative system of actions. Beliefs are less significant than actions. It is what we do that binds us as a community not what we think. Rabbi Yoffie seems to have found a nice way to apply that teaching today.

Yet, what would a Palestinian  - even one who disagrees with the Abbas plan - think when he learns that Rabbi Yoffie is using his influence as a Jewish leader, in the name of what he says is best for the Palestinians, to defeat the Palestinian plan.
Rabbi Yoffie would like to reserve the right for himself to be able to move to a Jewish State that has a dominant Jewish character. He prefers to live with Jews. I assume that, like almost all Reform Jews, Rabbi Yoffie lives in suburbia in a comfortable, overwhelmingly White neighborhood.

In the suburbs I see a great thirst for a healing of the rift between the city and suburbia that dates back to the 60s. Of all the musical programs I brought to my synagogue the one that had the most enthusiastic appreciation and broadest participation was the African American Jewish choir and band from the far South Side of Chicago.

As I wrote in a previous post, the conversion of Reform Judaism to Zionist activism followed on the heels of the great migration of Whites from the city to the suburbs, in the 50s and 60s. In Chicago's case: from the South Side and West Side of Chicago to the northern suburbs. Because of the events that precipitated "White Flight" this migration was particularly significant for the Jewish population.

According to Rabbi Yoffie, while American Jews enjoy the energy of Israel when they visit as tourists, they won't move there unless they can take their suburban lifestyle with them. This is certainly true of the American settlers on the West Bank. Not for them the the cramped apartments of the older Israeli cities. They went to the West Bank to their government-subsidized house-and-a-garden.

Rabbi Yoffie goes beyond showing his loyalty as a "Diaspora Jew" to Israeli policy. In his full-throated allegiance to Israeli policy he declares that he has a personal investment as an American Jew  in Israel rejecting Palestinian emanicipation.

This is condescending not just to Palestinians but to Israelis too.

Let the Israelis and Palestinians work out what's best for them. Let's not tell the Palestinians how to go about their quest for dignity and justice. And let's not put out American needs on the Israelis. They have enough on their plates.

And, Rabbi Yoffie, it's ok to disagree with Jewish opponents of Palestinian self-determination.

No comments:

Post a Comment