Why I No Longer Support Israel

Mar 18, 2015

By Herb Silverman

My family shed “tears of joy” on May 14, 1948, when the Jewish State of Israel was established as a safe haven for Jews. I was five at the time and didn’t quite understand its significance, but I had been taught that an integral part of Judaism was anti anti-Semitism. A number of Jewish displaced persons (DPs) lived in my neighborhood, some of whom had been in concentration camps. I also had relatives who had died in the Holocaust, and my parents warned me to never trust the Goyim (Gentiles).

When I grew up and evolved from Orthodox to secular Jew, I still felt a non-religious affinity to my Jewish “homeland.” I had no desire to make Israel my home, but I viewed it as a prophylactic against future Holocausts. I later learned that the establishment of Israel was not a day of unadulterated joy for everyone — because Jews settled in a country inhabited by other people and forced many of them to leave. In other words, Israel created Palestinian DPs. Nevertheless, I continued to support Israel, focusing mostly on the anti-Semitism of countries in the Middle East that denied Israel’s right to exist. However, I had a more nuanced view that required balancing security for Israelis with human rights for Palestinians.

I also began to think that the Right of Return had outlived its usefulness. I’m fine with Israel taking in Jews who live in danger elsewhere, but not for giving immediate citizenship to Jews like me solely because my mother happened to be Jewish. Aren’t displaced Palestinians more deserving of the right to return than I am? Most Diaspora Jews (Jews living outside of Israel) disagree with me and support the Jewish right of return, even though you can’t literally “return” to a place you’ve never been.

Much has been written about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opposition to President Obama’s diplomatic initiatives with Iran and whether House Speaker John Boehner should have invited Netanyahu to speak to Congress without consulting the president. However, I want to focus on Netanyahu’s Zionist notion that all Jews living outside of Israel are in exile and should become Israeli citizens. In arecent piece, I described my view that patriotism involves pointing out your country’s faults and working to make it better. As a patriotic American, I resent Netanyahu telling me that I’m living in exile. I live in Charleston, South Carolina, home of the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the United States. I prefer the words of its rabbi at a dedication ceremony in 1841: “This country is our Palestine, this city our Jerusalem….”


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