Israelis are fortunate to have a large and active diaspora of Jews.
Israelis are also unfortunate in having a large and active diaspora of Jews.
The benefits are well known: a bit of money to top off the much larger sums that we provide for ourselves, political support where the Jews have become members of the intelligensia and other elites, as well as friends and relatives to visit when overseas.
The costs are also considerable, and are less often discussed from this side of things. The principal one that impinges on me are individuals who have idealized what Israel should be, and accuse us of falling short of their aspirations. There are also Jews who seek to employ their intelligence and money to influence their governments to pressure Israel in ways they feel are most in keeping with their views.
The range of meddlers from the outside pretty well matches the range of Israelis who express themselves about public issues.
On the left are diaspora Jews who want Israel to be what they imagine to be a classic Zionist or Biblical model of justice. This may mean going the extra mile to accommodate what they view as reasonable Palestinian expectations, and smoothing out the bumps in the Israeli economy so that equality of opportunity and/or rewards prevails for all: Jew and Arab, Ashkenazi and Sephardi, along with Ethiopians who don''t fit into either traditional Jewish category, as well as the downtrodden Africans who make their way across the Sinai in hopes of getting a piece of Israeli opportunities.
On the right are diaspora Jews who believe that God has given all the Land of Israel to us (and them), and adopt an outsized view of that grant. For some of the extreme among them, Baruch Goldstein is a hero. Leaving them aside, I have Internet friends who see no problem other than Israeli timidity standing between us and solving the Arab and Iranian problems once and for all times. What is the IDF for if not for those missions?
My correspondents do not fit simple patterns on the hot Israeli issues concerned with the Haredim. Some anti-religious Jews oppose anything that smacks of God. Others express wonder that Jews cannot get along with one another. Most of my correspondents who are quick to express themselves on anything having to do with Palestinians are quiet about our religious issues.
One can put all of this aside. Diaspora Jews, as well as Israelis who have left the country, cannot vote in Israeli elections. Some of the well known may be able to get a few minutes of attention from an elected official, but their payoffs are unlikely to go beyond a cup of coffee, a picture, and a handshake. Insofar as their range of opinions overlaps those heard from Israelis who live here, vote, and otherwise express themselves, we can dismiss diaspora Jews we disagree with as minor nuisances.
My annoyance rachets upward when the home country of the critic is nowhere close to Israel in providing benefits to its less fortunate residents, and far from Israel''s record in being able to defend itself without wrecking great havoc in the places thought to be threatening it. My outspoken American friends should recognize themselves on both those dimensions.
Also at the top of my annoyance index are diaspora Jews who donate money to Israeli and other organizations intent on influencing what happens here. Yet there is money coming from the right as well as the left. It is hard to decide if overseas branches of Peace Now balance the likes of Irving Moscowitz. It is also hard to determine if campaign contributions from overseas benefit one side of the Israeli spectrum more than another. Sheldon Adelson''s Israel Hayom has become a leading newspaper thanks to free distribution and decent reporting. There is no indication that it has distored Israeli politics any more than Ha''aretz.
Also not clear is the influence of overseas Jewish activists, journalists, politicians, and senior office holders on their governments'' actions toward Israel. To the extent that realpolitik functions in international relations, Israel''s capacities and actions may shape policies toward it more than the conferences, campaign contributions, and lobbying of those concerned with our fate.
AIPAC, J-Street, and all those organizations claiming a human rights agenda may contribute more to the personal satisfaction of their activists than to what happens in the Middle East.
Thomas Friedman and Fox news may entertain or provoke their audiences more than they influence what governments do.
Personal e-mails remain minor annoyances, manageable by being ignored. My computer has a delete button as well as yours.
Beyond personal pique, a diaspora aspiring to influence Israeli raises some provocative questions about Jews.
I''m not the first to raise these questions, and my brief mutterings reflect only a small portion of what has been expressed by people who have pondered these things at greater length.
Prominent in the explanations are shared history and Jewish perfectionism, inherited from the Biblical prophets and manifest in a long list of Justice-minded Jews from Jesus Christ onward.
Also apparent is a continuation of Jewish marginalism. Jews have made it in the economies, academies, and other elite circles of the United States, Britain and France. There is no comparison to their status now and as recent as the 1960s. But they still may fear that they will not fit in unless they make special efforts in behalf of Justice. Perhaps their arrival to the mainstream is too recent. It may take additional generations for Jews to be more like their surroundings, to think less in terms of the optimal, and not to demand better conditions than available from their own government from a distant country that has shown it can take care of itself.
This assume that things will remain good for the Jews of the diaspora, and that present accomplishments are more permanent than those of Weimar Germany.
There is also aid and advice flowing from Israel to Jewish communities overseas. Intermarriage, ignorance of Jewish history and traditions lead Israelis to worry about the future of their people.
Too much involvement?
Not from me. The value of quiet from afar should work in both directions.