Last week, the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Committee met to discuss anti-Semitism in America in the wake of the Oct. 27 shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Absent from the discussion were American Jews themselves, something that was noted — not uncritically — in news coverage of the meeting. A headline in JTA read, “Israeli lawmakers debate American anti-Semitism without American Jewish input.”
The JTA article noted that former Knesset member Dov Lipman, who was present at the committee meeting, “was taken aback by the lack of American speakers. He told JTA that the way for Israel to become involved should be by asking ‘how can Israel help you’ and not projecting and suggesting what they need. There needs to be a dialogue.” And former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, who was not at the meeting, was quoted as being as critical of the lack of American input, adding that the best dialogue between Israel and the United States would be “characterized by listening in which Israelis don’t insert themselves into American politics.”
We disagree with much of the criticism, and are concerned by what appears to be a double standard. Diaspora Jews talk about Israel — and what’s best for it — all the time, both with and without input from Israelis. And we do the same thing regarding many issues relating to Jewish communities in other parts of the world. Indeed, members of the U.S. news media of all stripes (including us), a large number of Jewish organizations and many American lawmakers spend a great deal of time engaged in rather targeted critique and assessment of Israel’s policies, large and small — from settlement activity, to peace negotiations, the Nation State Law and issues relating to the rabbinate. In each of these areas, we are rather free with our opinions and conclusions, very often without direct input from Israelis.
That’s not to say the consultation isn’t necessary; nor is it a suggestion that those who live outside the United States shouldn’t presume to know what our communities need in order to confront and combat anti-Semitism. It is, instead, a reaffirmation of the recent JFNA General Assembly theme that “We have to talk.” And through that talk we will get to know each other better, and perhaps even contribute more effectively to meaningful and realistic solutions to one another’s problems.
When all is said and done, let’s recognize that our international relations are not a one-way street, and that we aren’t the only people with knowledge and concern about the well-being and best approaches for our international Jewish community.
We are our brothers’ keepers, and they are ours. The better we know each other, and the more we each listen to the concerns and suggestions of the other, the stronger our bond will be.