Is ‘blood’ thicker than water?

Jewish journalists ask whether the Diaspora should criticize Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip.

Italy's foreign Minister Federica Mogherini speaks as she delivers a joint statement with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during their meeting in Jerusalem on July 16. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Italy's foreign Minister Federica Mogherini speaks as she delivers a joint statement with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during their meeting in Jerusalem on July 16.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Since the escalation of tensions between Israel and Hamas, a debate has arisen among Jewish writers in European news outlets from Spain’s El Pais to Norway’s Aftenposten: Can, and should, the Diaspora be critical of Israel’s policy? Some Jewish writers claim to be victims of bona fide accusations of self-hatred, and even anti-Semitism, from Jewish communities and elsewhere.
“Dissent against Israel from Jews in the Diaspora is a relatively new phenomenon,” wrote Antony Loewenstein in an op-ed in the Guardian last week.
Loewenstein, a Jewish-Australian journalist, has been outspoken against Israel’s actions in Gaza. He writes that as a Jew in the Diaspora, to criticize Israel is risky and that non-Israeli Jews face a dilemma between stoutly supporting Israel’s actions no matter what, or criticizing the state – which could lead to being ostracized by family, community and friends.
He is critical of the way Jewish pundits are being treated in this matter, and stresses the importance of Diaspora Jews separating anti-Semitism from anti-Zionism (an issue he covered in a 2006 book, My Israel Question). He says failing to make the differentiation could end up splitting “Jewish communities along the generation lines, or [lead to] growing disillusionment of the Jewish population.”
He further contested a New York Times piece in which Shmuel Rosner argued that the Diaspora should support Israel if they consider all Jews to be a family. “In my own family,” Loewenstein wrote, “it was simply expected that Israel should be supported in times of peace and war. Although support for the Jewish state has been an unofficial second religion for Jews for decades...times are changing.”
He agrees on one point with Rosner, however: the Diaspora still plays a crucial role for Israel. “After all, since Israel’s establishment... communal organizations have been deeply involved in providing the intellectual, emotional and financial backing for the Jewish state.”
Striking a similar tone, Göran Rosenberg, a wellknown liberal Jewish-Swedish writer, argues in the Expressen daily that Jews should be allowed to criticize Israel.
“In times like these, anti-Semitic illusions threaten to sneak their way into critical statements about Israel, and anti-Semitic propaganda [clothes] itself as a critique of Israel. In the same way, there is a risk of legitimate critique of Israel being labeled as anti-Semitism, which has been experienced by a number of Jewish critics.”
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