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‘Why even bother with Israel?’ ask American Jews alienated with Israel

December 1, 2022 at 4:45 pm

Israeli and American flags on March 21, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel [Uriel Sinai/Getty Images]

Israel’s far-right coalition is presenting “unprecedented” challenges for American Jews. Alienated more than ever with the Apartheid State, many are seriously questioning their support, calling for a boycott of the current government and asking, “Why even bother with Israel”?

Details of their disaffection were revealed in a report by Haaretz. The Israeli newspaper questioned American Jewish organisations that have supported and fundraised on behalf of Israel for generations are now deliberating on how to handle the far-right government.

“What we are hearing from Israel has me braced for some kind of explosive situation that will turn off even more Jews in America than have already been turned off,” Larry Katz is reported saying. Katz has a successful track record of fundraising for Israel in the US, but he is more unsure than ever that he will be able to convince American Jews to give for Israeli causes, especially now that the values of the two communities are further apart than they have ever been.

Read: The already ‘messy break-up’ of American Jews over Israel is getting messier

“I’m worried this new government is going to take steps that will bring American Jews to the point where they ask: ‘Why even bother with Israel? What’s the use? It’s a racist place and they don’t respect our form of Judaism. Why should we give any of them anything?’,” Katz went on to say.

The most explosive potential landmine is said to be the far right’s determination to change the Law of Return. Until now, successive Israeli governments have used the racist law to block Palestinians ethnically cleansed from the territory from ever returning. The current government has touted the possibility of changing the law so that the grandchildren of Jews would no longer qualify for automatic immigration to Israel.

Israel was founded on the doctrine of “ingathering of the exiles” but with religious extremists in the current government questioning who is and is not a Jew, refusing to recognise Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist converts and their descendants, many American Jews will be prevented from exercising what has been a core Zionist principal.

Read: Donors withdraw millions in support for controversial programme whitewashing Israeli crime

Sarene Shanus, who chairs the Israeli Engagement Task Force at her synagogue in Larchmont, New York, was reported making that point. “When you are trying to get American Jews to engage more with Israel, exactly how are you supposed to promote that engagement while the Noam Party’s Avi Maoz – the new deputy Minister of Jewish identity in the Prime Minister’s Office – is telling them he doesn’t believe they are legitimate Jews? It will make things very hard,” Shanus said.

Apparently, there are shock waves going through the American Jewish community. Some have taken the initiative to register the dismay of American Jews by boycotting meetings with representatives of the new government. A letter was issued calling on members of the American Jewish community to boycott members of the far-right government.

One American-Jewish leader interviewed by Haaretz said that they had to speak out because the current government “could easily end up disenfranchising most of the American-Jewish community and the level of alienation that will result could create the largest breach between American Jews and Israel that we have ever seen.”