Dear American Jews, The Town Is Burning

Abby Zimet

With the U.N. General Assembly opening, Ha'aretz' Gideon Levy calls on U.S. Jews to use their political power to protest Israel's occupation, atrocities and Gaza assault that have rendered it "a country...
despised." If you love  Israel, he charges, criticize it as it deserves:

Today, your representatives will open your
great annual convention, the General Assembly. Between New Orleans'
Marriott and Sheraton hotels, you will be sated with lectures and
lecturers, panels and discussion groups. Some will be about you, and
some will be about us Israelis. Once again, you will hear all the
cliches - and Joe Biden, Benjamin Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni, too.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu


But this year, you will be meeting in the shadow of last
week's midterm elections - many of you are surely rejoicing over the
president's defeat - and on the eve of fateful decisions.

read that your menu includes an Israeli breakfast, and also several
discussions about the global delegitimization of Israel. Doubtless the
speakers will tell you it's because of anti-Semitism.

Don't believe them. There is anti-Semitism
in the world, but not to the extent they will tell you. Nor is there any
"delegitimization of Israel." There is only delegitimization of
Israel's policy of force and occupation.

That same "anti-Semitic" world knew how to
embrace Israel when the latter chose the right path - during the Oslo
era, for instance. What most of the world has become fed up with is only
Israel's ongoing occupation and violent policy. And the responsibility
(and blame ) for their existence lies with Israel, not the world. The
world is hard on Israel, but it also grants it special rights that no
other country enjoys.

If Israel is dear to you - and that is true
of most of you - then be honest enough to criticize it as it deserves.
Think about your personal friends. What would they value more: your
blind, automatic support, or criticism born of love when it is

Your beloved Israel is addicted. It is
addicted to occupation and aggression, and someone has to wean it from
these addictions. Like any other junkie, it is incapable of helping
itself. Thus the job falls to you.

Some of you know the truth. You want a
strong Israel, but know that the settlements only weaken it. You dream
about a larger Israel, but know that such an Israel cannot be a just
one. You want to be proud of Israel, and you know that in recent years
this has become almost impossible.


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Think back to last year's Operation Cast
Lead in Gaza. Even your American television stations broadcast atrocity
pictures from Gaza. How did you feel then? How did you explain it to
your friends? Self-defense? They didn't buy it. Hamas? That didn't
justify death and destruction of such horrific proportions.

You live in a black-and-white country. But
Israel is neither black nor white. It's not as terrible as it is often
painted abroad, but neither is it as righteous as it will be presented
to you. Above all, it is a country whose arrogant behavior is making it

And you are paying the price. Nothing in
recent years has increased hatred for Israel, and for Jews, more than
Cast Lead did. One of your own generals has already said some harsh
things about the price America is paying on account of the apple of your

You, dear brothers and sisters, have
enormous political power. Sometimes, I think it is too enormous: One
day, it will blow up in your faces. But it is possible to use this power
for something more than a despicable witch-hunt after every congressman
who dares to criticize Israel.

You have the power to influence your
government to change Israel's behavior. And a government that does so
will not be a government hostile to Israel.

This is your opportunity to influence your
humbled president, for whom most of you voted with a divided heart, to
pressure Israel to change its ways. This is important to you, and
important to us as well.

This president has already wasted two years
in the region that most endangers the world's future. As American
patriots and as Jews, even as Zionists, you must now encourage him to
mobilize for this task.

The town is burning, Jews. Israeli democracy
is being torn apart; soon, it will no longer be possible to talk about
"the only democracy in the Middle East," as you so love to do. The
occupation is also growing both more entrenched and more crushing;
already, it is almost impossible to talk abut a two-state solution.

Therefore, as you sit over your Israeli
breakfast, this time, for a change, demonstrate real concern for Israel:
Criticize it as it deserves.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

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