From Western Wall crisis to Israel-Palestine now

For many liberal American Jews it becomes harder to be as self-righteous in criticizing Israeli rightist politics now that we Americans also have President Donald Trump.

The Western Wall in Jerusalem (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Western Wall in Jerusalem
The crisis over the Western Wall has now broadened to an overall analysis of Israeli- Diaspora relations, and here are some thoughts.
For many liberal American Jews it becomes harder to be as self-righteous in criticizing Israeli rightist politics now that we Americans also have President Donald Trump, our own surging alt-right government and also a rogue fringe Right, and moreover so many entrenched pathologies like our gun obsession that it seems we can’t do anything more about than Israel can about its problems.
But it still seems that American liberal Jews are justified in criticizing Israel’s Right when we consider that Israel has had its “Trump government” for so long that it’s the second longest-running in Israel’s history, while ours is only of recent date, and even then Trump lost the popular vote.
And so we feel that ours could be temporary, while Israel’s “Trump Right” could outlive both us in America and also Israelis –and further outlive Israelis’ children and their children’s children.
And we American Jewish liberals are at least trying to fight hard against our alt-right and our society’s pathologies, while it would appear that many on the Israeli Right are intensively supporting and worsening their own pathologies.
Also American liberal Jews point out that, in America, with our rightist gun madness and other rightist and supremacist extremisms we are fighting against, American rightists are only hurting us Americans.
Israel, on the other hand, is also hurting another people – with its endless occupation, its settlement movement’s maximalist and annexationist claims, and the country’s endless invasive and intrusive acts – including settlement expansionism – on occupied and incrementally stolen Palestinian land.
Of course, just as the American Right is doing to America, the Israeli Right is harming Israel itself.
It is harming its own country by making Israel increasingly vulnerable to something many of its own prime ministers (Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Yitzhak Rabin and founder David Ben-Gurion himself) have warned about: prospective apartheid in the occupied territories and the resulting existential danger to Israel of self-dissolution into a religiously indistinct binational state.
And it is hurting Israel by creating many new laws against Israelis’ and Jews’ basic democratic political rights to undertake peaceful political actions against the threats the occupation and settlements pose to Israel as a Jewish state, new laws that threaten Israel’s own democracy and Jewishness in addition to the rights and sovereignty and basic political independence of the Palestinian “other people” Israel occupies.
Needless to say, Israel is also under more – and almost daily – threats and acts of violence. And these do deserve emphasis and to be underscored – they deserve the opposite of any excuse-making or any minimization in any way, shape, or form.
But still, from Geneva to the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative to the “Realignment Plan” and onward Israeli has had endless possibilities to end its occupation and settlement of others, and even more as the times have changed from Khartoum “noes” to the Arab League “yeses.”
And thus to sharply reduce both the threats against yourselves and the harm you do to others – to increase the likelihood of security and dignity and rights for Israel and Palestine like.
Both sides have been plentifully at fault, of course, and we liberal Jewish Americas do wish Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had taken up Olmert’s own major peace overture and strongly condemn him for not doing it.
Less spoken of is this: One of the main bewilderments of so many American Jewish liberals involves our liberal Israeli friends and allies.
They sometimes seem to go so far as to praise Israel (and it is certainly a most admirable and in many ways actually miraculous) as to overlook or understate its problems. This is even though, as clear-sighted, realistic liberals they understand that the country’s interminable and perhaps Trumpist government of selfharm, oppression of others, and protracted crisis – as long as the Trumpist government remains in power – make it hard to see how the country’s crisis could ever end rather than only get worse.
It could get worse for both the Palestinians – who are in wretched conditions in the first place – and for the Israelis, because the major gains and strides Israel has so admirably made in its own social and economic conditions have also have – paradoxically – given them so much more than the Palestinians to recklessly mishandle and lose.
It has given them so much more to lose through their interminable and ever more aggressive, more far-fetched and more ultra-rightist annexationist claims and accompanying on-the-ground actions advancing the oppression of another people.
And now, even in Israel itself, Israel inflicts self-harm by all the “new normal” pushes in legislative and undemocratic restrictions against its own citizens and other well-wishing Jews’ critical statements actions against policies which they believe to be highly self-destructive.
For American Jewish liberal warm and equal well-wishers of Israel and the Palestinians it seems more and more like an unending, hopeless and worsening tragedy in which it is hard to see how for either side this can escape becoming ultimately irreversible.
If all this can be reversed, and hopefully it can, it would nonetheless be interesting to learn precisely how.
The author is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School in world religions.