It is impossible for any feeling human not to be revolted, disgusted and horrified by the pictures and stories coming from Ukraine. Wholly apart from all the political motivations and machinations, the impact on innocent civilians has been devastating and pervasive.
We look at these pictures and want to help. There have in fact been immense efforts extended by Israel, among other countries. Israeli involvement is of course reinforced by the presence of some 400,000 Jews in the country, many of whom have now fled to neighboring countries to the west.
Besides its efforts on the ground in countries bordering Ukraine, Israel has been quick to invite and encourage as many Jews as possible to make aliyah. So far, not all that many have done so, and many of those who have come are orphans and children.
However, there has also been extensive pressure on Israel to throw open its borders and admit thousands of non-Jewish Ukrainians. It is not clear how this would be done, and what form such admission would take.
What is even more fraught with potential difficulty than the logistics of such a move, are the motivations and agenda behind it. There are those who, having seen the displacement and misery close up, have reacted emotionally, urging Israel to do whatever it can, including opening up its borders to literally hundreds of thousands of refugees.
Again, there has been little forethought or deliberation about the reality of how this would work; such “details” are thought to pale in comparison with the need at hand.
Then there will be those who, seeing the reluctance or the unwillingness of Israel to make itself into an open border, will find an opportunity for achieving a larger and more insidious goal.
The Ukraine crisis has been an opportunity for anti-Zionists and antisemites to reinvigorate their demonization of Israel. There are the strange but ever-present analogies of the Ukrainians to the Palestinians, and Russia to Israel. And of course Israel is “greenwashing,” showing false compassion to the Ukrainians as a way of masking their constant oppression of the Palestinians.
I fear that the next phase of condemnation will be that Israel’s desire to help Jewish refugees shows how racist and chauvinistic it is. Isn’t a refugee a refugee? Are non-Jewish refugees less deserving than Jewish ones?
It is only a hop, skip and a jump from this assessment to a more global judgment that the very idea of a Jewish state is an affront. This perspective will find ammunition from the recently espoused views by the likes of Peter Beinart and Amnesty International, that Israel should not exist as a Jewish state.
While these assertions have been wrapped in the exquisitely complicated and contorted language (such as speaking of the need for a Jewish refuge or the need to take into account Jewish self-determination), they all conclude that Israel as a state, and certainly as a Jewish state, is an affront to human rights and a grave impediment to the national aspirations of Palestinians.
Of course, this is all vicious, malicious and completely fictitious. Sadly, though, none of it matters. As with classic antisemitism, the facts, any facts, can be made to fit into the narrative. Anything Israel will do, or not do, will be wrong, selfish and manipulative.
I fear that the drumbeat of condemnation – energized by Israel’s efforts to support Ukrainians, though not necessarily Ukraine – will only intensify.
In his frighteningly prescient book, The Dying Citizen, Victor Davis Hanson details the increasing power of a destructive globalization that erases national identities in favor of an Orwellian global regime.
This march to globalization, led by the progressives of the Left and the elites that support them, will inevitably condemn a Jewish Israel as a chauvinistic, nativistic throwback that needs to be expunged in favor of a state of its citizens.
Forget that there are more than 30 Muslim states and more than 20 Christian states. Israel is too narrowly particularistic and it can be true to Jewish values by no longer being Jewish. Clinging to the need to enshrine Judaism can only be racist and exclusionist.
While it is not difficult to provide the all-too-predictable condemnations that the globalist Left will be inveighing against Israel, it is more difficult to resist the flood tide as it intensifies.
We are only hurting our own cause when we talk about letting in untold numbers of refugees, regardless of who they are. Pushing back against such self-destructive naivete only provides more ammunition to those whose agenda far surpasses the admittance of any and all.
Israel is increasingly the odd man out, the exception that proves the rule in the Western drive for universalistic uniformity. This is a red badge of courage, but one not easily preserved.
All of our very well-intentioned efforts to help Ukrainians must be filtered through the prism of not doing ourselves harm as a Jewish State, which, to the chagrin of many, has succeeded, precisely because of its particularity, in being a light unto the nations.
The writer is chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu, a grassroots Zionist organization, and a director of the Israel Independence Fund.