We don’t need Israel to feel secure

American Jewish magazine Tikkun has turned 25. It’s covered matters related to the Middle East, from a left liberal perspective, for a long time, gradually becoming more alive to the impossibility of the two-state solution. Well, that’s my take anyway.

I was asked to write a short reflection on this important milestone and it was published this month. It’s titled, “We Don’t Need Israel to Feel Secure”:

As an atheist Jew, I’ve long believed that Judaism and Zionism must not be joined at the hip. I’ve spent time in the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel and seen the effects of decades of an intolerant ideology determined to isolate and demonize the Palestinian people. Judaism should be a religion of tolerance, peace, and understanding, not nationalistic posturing. We can bring social change by telling rabbis, Jewish leaders, and teachers that Israel isn’t the Promised Land that needs blind support. If anything, it demands a stern hand and tough love to realize that diaspora Jewish support isn’t unconditional; many young Jews now share this view.

Future Jewish generations may have to imagine a world without a “strong” Israel, but they will feel safe. Anti-Semitism in the West is mostly nonexistent and post-Holocaust generations don’t need an imaginary homeland to feel secure.

When I was in Jewish Sunday school many years ago, I was taught that Jews arrived in Palestine in the late 1940s to an empty land. It was a lie. Just like being told at an Anglican school that in 1788 the British arrived in an Australia without Aborigines. I was ill-served by both myths.

Modern Jewish thinking should be alive to difference, open to dissent, and critical of authority. History has taught us the grave errors of avoiding such advice. Present-day Israel is a lesson in how not to marry democracy and decency.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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