Thursday, December 18, 2014

Liberal Zionists aren't unicorns (they exist!)

Like you, I am sick unto death of the ultra nationalist idea that all liberals hate Israel, and that no real Zionist could possibly oppose Israeli expansion in the West Bank or child-killing in Gaza and the suspension of civil rights in the territories.

I'm tired of being called "anti-Israel" when what I am, simply, is anti scary zealots like Naftali Bennett, and their contention that some nebulous idea of "security" justifies all.

Anyway, I bring this up because the Times has a nice feature today on people the ultra-nationalists deny exist: Liberal Zionists. Meet Rabbi Daniel Zemel, a real ohavai tzion, who presides over a politically-powerful liberal congregation in Washington and feels nothing but anguish over the direction Israel has taken.
The entire year 5774, in fact, was a trying one for Zemel and other liberal Zionists, who increasingly find themselves torn between their liberalism and Zionism and stranded in the disappearing middle between the extremes of a polarized American Jewish community. [His synagogues] liberal Zionists remained wedded to a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians and estranged from the policies of a right-wing Israeli government, along with the reflexively Israel-can-do-no-wrong sentiment on Capitol Hill. But they also felt alienated by Jewish groups to their left, some of which chanted, “Stop the murder, stop the hate, Israel is a racist state.
Last Rosh Hashana, he delivered a sermon that seems to coincide with my own views,
He bemoaned the growing ultranationalism in Israel by saying it had “dragged through the mud” what he called “the greatest ethical tradition in history.” Heads nodded in the pews. “In many segments of American Jewry,” Zemel said, “one is free to disagree with the president of the United States, but the prime minister of Israel is sacrosanct. How patently absurd!” Zemel’s criticism of the current Israeli government pivoted to a discussion of how the Holocaust and that summer’s flare-ups of anti-Semitism in Europe reminded them all that Israel was existentially necessary. “We must love Israel even harder,” he concluded, quoting from the Israeli national anthem. “Od lo avda tikvateinu. We have not yet lost our hope.”

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