One Jew pleads to not take silence as agreement

The response to Peter Slezak’s article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald on speaking critically about Israel has attracted a number of fascinating responses online, including this one by “repressed Jew” which is deeply distressing. This is what modern Zionism and Judaism has become. Rank tribalism, little independent thought and blind allegiance to the “party line”:

I can personally attest to the vilification, attempts at suppression and humiliation inflicted on people who try to speak out against Israels policies from within the Jewish communities. It goes like this – as soon as an ‘incident’ happens, the ‘mainstream’ Israeli line is so quickly disseminated by those in charge of the important Jewish institutions within the Jewish communities (governing bodies, the AJN, the various political bodies) that by the time people get their heads around what has happened the paradigm of ‘feisty little Israel bravely showing the world the ‘truth’ and highlighting the inherent anti-Semitism of the media’ is already flourishing out there. I swear, with this flotilla incident that happened so quickly that even those who can react quickly were pipped to the post. Without a standard pre-prepared body of material, I just don’t know how it could happen so quickly. From this point, any one who speaks about what they really think is not speaking into a vacuum, it is viewed as not just giving one’s personal thoughts, it is viewed as a deliberate and hardened attempt at self-sabotage, as a targeted attack at the fabric of Israeli and Jewish society. It is violently, aggressively ridiculed and shouted down. the atmosphere of fear is contagious, and many more people than actually believe the ‘party-line’ join in. The thing is, though – there are many people within the Jewish community who do not agree with the bulk of Israel’s actions. I have spoken to these people, I know that they exist.

However, they do not want to become alienated from their community by speaking out. Virtually no-one holds views as extreme as Antony Loewenstein, but absolutely no-one wants to be subjected to the horrendous vilification he has suffered (he is commonly thought to have utterly abandoned any ‘Jewishness’ because of his opposition to Israel, and has been ostracised by the entire community). And so they are (mostly) silent. The most commonly held view is that one must toe the party line in public, and save any criticism of Israel for the Shabbat table. A further complicating factor is that most within the community trust those that run their institutions implicitly; a societal practice that I think is generally suspect. I believe that one should be a good person before one can be a good Jew, and that the two are not mutually exclusive. So please don’t silence equals support, and please, if someone from within the community speaks up, their voice is worth consideration.