I’ve been getting a heap of feedback about my recent Chicago Tribune op-ed, ranging from abject excoriation to deep gratitude and pretty much everything in between. It’s obviously impossible to respond to it all, but I would like to address one consistently recurrent criticism: namely, that a statement so critical of Israel should have been kept within the Jewish community – and that it was wrong of me to publish it in a paper as prominent and public as the Tribune.
A few disconnected thoughts re the “dirty laundry” argument:
– I’m not sure I understand what it means to keep a conversation “within the community” any more. Whether we like it or not, we Jews are now part of an open, pluralistic society. We’ve long since left the ghetto and most of us consider this to be a good thing. And part of that deal is that for better or worse, our community conversations have become transparent and our so-called “internal debates” are now part of the public domain. (I’d say this is all the more so in the post-modern information age – in which no community conversation can truly be considered private or internal anymore.)
– I’ve been blogging for several years now and have written my share of sharp posts on Israel. This one was relatively milder than what I generally post here, yet it really seems to have struck a chord. I’m intrigued that for all of the talk about the death of print media, its reach is still significant – and the traditional op-ed page still seems to have important symbolic significance for folks.
– In this day and age, which do we really think is better for the Jews: a public communal face that demonstrates a monolithic, knee-jerk defense of Israel’s every action – or a Jewish community that is confident and secure enough in itself to model healthy self-reflection? In my experience, non-Jews tend to be much more alienated by the former and appreciative of the latter.
– Many in the Jewish community feel that we should not be contributing to the already significant public criticism of Israel. I am not so naive to say that some of this criticism has fairly dark motivations. But I am also not so cynical to say that the “outside world” cannot tell the difference between abject prejudice and legitimate self-criticism.
– If we do believe that speaking out against oppression is one of our most sacrosanct values, then we are guilty of hypocrisy if we fail to speak out when Israel acts oppressively. For me at least, the value of pursuing justice ultimately trumps the fears that arise when we publicly call our community to account.
I know it is painful and complicated when we do so. I know this first hand. I realize that such a step comes with difficult consequences – but at the very least we should be willing to honestly face the consequences of keeping silent.
I welcome your (respectful) feedback.