Essay: Brooklyn's not-one-inch crowd

They talk the talk, and then expect their fellow Jews to walk the walk.

hillel halkin 88 (photo credit: )
hillel halkin 88
(photo credit: )
I don't really mind so much being called naively left-wing by my right-wing critics. My left-wing friends (and for my many sins, most of my friends are on the Left) all think I'm naively right-wing. It more or less balances out. As far as I'm concerned, it puts me in the center, which is where I'd like to think I've always been. Still, there is one kind of right-wing critic I can't abide. This is the American Jew who sends me e-mails me from Brooklyn to tell me that I'm a craven appeaser. Not only don't I understand that the best Palestinian is a dead Palestinian, or at least, a Palestinian under a Jewish boot, I'm too naive to realize that the Palestinian from whose neck the boot was removed would jump to his feet and stick a knife into me. In short, I'm an Arab lover. Well, I'll admit it. I don't particularly hate Arabs, even if I sometimes find myself wishing that they lived in another part of the world. I'll tell you whom I do hate, though. It's the Jews who want me to go on fighting Arabs forever while they cheer me on from their apartments in Brooklyn. In general, I've made my peace with American Jews. There was a time when I thought it was one of my missions in life to convince them all, or anyway, all of them who took being Jewish seriously, to settle in Israel. I even wrote a book on the subject, which was so successful that it's now out of print. Now and then I run into someone in this country who tells me he's living here because of it. I smile and say, "Another Jew on my conscience," but to tell the truth, I feel proud of it. Still, I don't go around preaching aliya to American Jews any more. Either they don't know what you're talking about and wish you'd change the subject because it bores them, which accounts for the great majority of them, or else they do know what you're talking about and wish you'd change the subject because you're making them feel guilty. The first kind aren't worth wasting any time on and the second kind only make you feel guilty for making them feel guilty. Good, caring Jews who know they should be living in Israel but aren't for one of a thousand reasons - why rub it in? When it comes to aliya, American Jews have been a disappointment, but you can't go feeling mad at them forever. EXCEPT, THAT is, for the right-wing super-Jews. The ones who demand of Israel that it make no concessions - who revile any Israeli who is not prepared to stand tall, stand proud, stand tough… while they sit in Brooklyn. Talk of craven! What's their excuse? It would be bad enough if it were just a question of morality - which of course it is. I can violently disagree with a fellow Israeli on matters of public policy while respecting his right to his opinion, because I know that, regardless of who is right and who is wrong, we will both have to bear the consequences of whatever this country does. For a Jew to sit on the sidelines and give strident advice, however, when the consequences of taking it have to be borne entirely by other Jews, is vile. What kind of person urges risks on the members of his family while refusing to run any of them himself? OF COURSE, this is a criticism that can be made of many left-wing Jews in America no less than of right-wing ones. All American Jews who claim the privilege, as Jews, of telling Israel what to do while disclaiming the responsibility, as Jews, to be living here are in the same position, whether they support Peace Now or the settlers. There is one big difference, though. The left-wing American Jew, in urging Israel to withdraw from all the territories, is counseling it to take a course of action that would alleviate its demographic problem. While he himself is not willing to immigrate here, or to call upon others Jews to do so, he at least is saying to Israelis: "Take my advice and you will not need immigrants, because by withdrawing to the 1967 borders you will have struck a viable population balance between Jews and Arabs and will be able to do without me." But the right-wing American Jew is doing the opposite. As a territorial maximalist who opposes any withdrawal from the territories, he is counseling Israel to pursue a path that will make its demographic problem frighteningly acute. If his advice were followed, the only thing that could possibly save us from demographic disaster (although the prospects would not be bright then, either) would be the massive immigration of Jews from the Diaspora - which, given the current distribution of Diaspora Jewry, could only mean a massive immigration from the United States. And yet our right-wing friend does not want to immigrate to Israel - he likes living in Brooklyn! He wants to be there while telling us here to adopt policies that will put an end to Israel as a Jewish state unless millions of Jews move here - millions of Jews for whom he has not the slightest intention of setting an example. Imagine a country that is at war. Imagine someone who constantly criticizes the way it is fighting that war. Imagine that he mocks it for not fighting aggressively enough, for not fighting ruthlessly enough, for holding its army back. Imagine that he is constantly griping that the army itself is afraid to take casualties, that it is fighting too defensively, that it should be throwing more soldiers into battle. Imagine that he proclaims that it must never retreat and that anything short of total victory is disgraceful surrender. And now imagine that he is… a draft dodger, hiding from that war under his bed. That's our American super-Jew. And now you'll have to excuse me. I've just gotten another e-mail.