Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s relationship with Henry Kissinger produced a number of stories that display Golda’s humor. When Kissinger told her that he was first American, then the Secretary of State and then a Jew, Golda told him that was fine since, in Hebrew, people read from right-to-left. During the 1974 negotiations between Israel and Egypt, Kissinger told Golda “when I reach Cairo, Sadat hugs and kisses me. But when I come to Israel everyone attacks me.” Golda responded: If I were an Egyptian, I would kiss you also.
The above anecdotes also capture in a subtle and humorous way, the challenges that have at times arisen when Jews live and serve as dedicated and law abiding citizens in a country whose policies conflict with Jewish or Israeli interests.
Judaism is both a religion and a historic nationality, and the Jewish ancestral land for over 3000 years has been the land of Israel. But when our Jewish home is threatened, or more specifically when our country of citizenship pursues positions that are to Israel’s detriment, where do our allegiances lie? Should we be shedding either mantle? Is it our business to express our concerns? Or should Jews huddle under the radar thanking our lucky stars that we are living in a country that has extended to us the benevolence of shelter, security, freedom and acceptance.
This dilemma for Jews was severely highlighted during the Holocaust. As Jews in Europe were being brutally slain, gassed, shot and herded in ghetto’s, American Jewry living in relative nirvana, were carefully weighing their response. Documentation and testimony has consistently shown that Jewish leadership was well aware of the wholesale slaughter as early as 1942.
The truth is that over the centuries Jews have indeed often been forced to bite their lips in silent submission while their foster countries pursued positions that were perilous to their people. But this was under oppressive regimes, totalitarian, communist or dictatorial, that were not founded on the basic lofty ideals of freedom and equality for all.
But for Jews living in free democratic countries that preach and practice the principles of tolerance and respect, this dichotomy is false, simply because Judaism is founded on the very same ideals of acceptance and freedom. To the extent that there are those who will profess that western founding principles were intimately influenced by Jewish sources.
As Jews the ongoing challenge today is maintaining our absolute standards of moral authority. Jews are often referred to as the “Moral conscience of the world” and so it is our responsibility to fight for those core ideals, ensuring that we never deviate from these basic tenets, and that we are never disconnected from the principles of our Jewish/American roots.
Indeed the failure of the allied powers to bomb the tracks to Auschwitz was both un-American and un-Jewish. The bible proclaims “Do not stand by when your brother’s blood is shed” and every American child proclaims the oath that ends with “freedom and justice for all.” Yes, Allied leadership lost its moral bearing, and the Jewish leadership not only let down their brothers and sisters in the death camps but betrayed their responsibility as American citizens and as people of the book to uphold American values.
Defending our positions, guaranteeing safety and security for all free and loving peoples on this earth and holding violators accountable are all basic tenets of a Jewish/American value system.
It is ever clear, that a secure and strong Israel is in the interests of American safety. Defending Israel as the free world’s front line is crucial to upholding Jewish and American values. In the words of Tony Blair at the World Trade Affairs Conference in August 2006/7 “We will not win the battle against this global extremism unless we win it at the level of values as much as force”
Today there are a number of key areas of disagreement between the Obama administration and Israeli positions. It is crucial that we carefully consider what is best for Israel’s safety, security, and the firm advancement of our moral ideology. We must back these positions as Jews and as Americans.
This is not a question of Israel versus America because we are in the same boat. It is a question of America losing its direction and our job as Jews is be as vocal as we can in steering our ship through the storm of global injustice and bail out the submerging waters of moral relativism.
The Author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.