2005 It's Everyone's Business
Chananya Weissman
July 8, 2005, The Jewish Week

One of the trendier political opinions being bandied about today is that it is inappropriate for Jews living in the Diaspora to criticize the policies of the Israeli government. This opinion, often expressed with self-righteous finality, is based on the following principles and logical assumptions that are inconsistent, if not entirely specious.

Argument #1: Jews living in Israel have to live with the dangerous consequences of these policies, and therefore only they have the right to influence these policies.

While it is undeniable that Jews in Israel are on the front lines, the above assumption is pure fantasy. Can anyone seriously deny that a strong and secure Israel makes the position of Jews worldwide stronger and more secure, with the reverse, God forbid, being just as true? After Israel's miraculous victories, particularly in 1967, didn't Jews worldwide experience a surge of pride and stability reminiscent of the days of Purim and Chanukah? Can anyone deny that a strong, viable Israel during World War II could have saved countless lives of Diaspora Jews? The welfare of Jews worldwide is directly affected by the welfare of the Jewish State, nowadays and historically.

Argument #2: Although Jews worldwide are affected by what goes on in Israel, only Jews living in Israel have earned the right to shape the country's policies.

This argument is the crux of the opinion that Diaspora Jewry should “mind its own business”. However, for a great number of reasons both religious and otherwise, what goes on in Israel is very much our business.

  1. As stated above, we are significantly affected by the welfare of Israel, to the extent that our very lives may ultimately depend on it. It would be irresponsible to entrust our personal welfare to a proxy, even if the proxy is more immediately affected.
  2. If we have educated ourselves sufficiently to contribute to the discussion, it would be criminal for us to withhold these intellectual contributions. Who is so arrogant and sure of himself to declare that a Jew in the Diaspora cannot offer a fresh perspective or even the smallest insight that deserves to be considered? With so very much at stake, how can we stifle a potentially valuable opinion, regardless of the geographic location and citizenship of its source?
  3. If we have family and friends in Israel, as so many of us do, what right does anyone have to tell us that it’s not our business?
  4. If a Jew has inculcated the feeling that every other Jew is his family and (hopefully) his friend, what right does anyone have to tell him that it’s not his business? And if one sees a family member or friend putting himself in danger, could we in good conscience look the other way? Would a parent, sibling, or close friend accept a retort of “it’s my life”, “it’s only me that’s being hurt by my actions”, or “it’s none of your business”? What would we say about a relative or friend who accepted this retort and proceeded to look the other way?
  5. Most Israelis desire and appreciate our support, be it financial or spiritual. They draw strength from us as we draw strength from them. If, due to various considerations of varying degrees of legitimacy, we are not yet prepared to fully join them in Israel, we still have a great connection to the land and its people. We cannot limit our connection to being pom-pom waving cheerleaders at the Israel Day Parade, buying Israel Bonds, and spending our money in Israel.
  6. If Israel is truly the Jewish State, both from a religious and a political standpoint, then every Jew has a portion in the land – regardless of whether he has yet filed for citizenship in the current state. Our brethren in Israel are caretakers of both their portions and our own, and we are very grateful to them for their hard work and sacrifices on our behalf. Nevertheless, if we feel that some of these caretakers are acting irresponsibly, it behooves us to object, if even from afar. Our portion belongs to us whether we are physically upon it or not.
  7. Can it really be said that a large percentage of Israelis want us to “mind our own business”? If not, how dare anyone (especially someone not living in Israel!) declare that this is the right thing for us to do?
  8. Finally, when Israel tells the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations to mind their own business, I will gladly reconsider doing so myself. If those who have a most precarious relationship with Israel and a most dubious stake in its welfare, nevertheless express their opinions and demands with insolence — and are given respectful consideration — Diaspora Jews are entitled to nothing less.

Chananya Weissman is a Jewish educator. He can be reached at admin@endthemadness.org.