Rabbi Joshua Hammerman
Special To The Jewish Week
Friday, January 14, 2011
2010 marked a turning point in the relationship between diaspora Jewry and Israel. Although philanthropy and tourism remain essential components of that relationship, diaspora Jews signaled that unquestioning support could no longer be taken for granted and demanded, as never before, a voice in shaping the values of the Jewish state.
That new assertiveness stems in part from the increasingly active role Jews were being asked to play in defending Israel against what Prime Minister Netanyahu has called Israel’s “Soft War,” a worldwide campaign of delegitimization against the Jewish state. The front lines of this confrontation lie far from the Lebanese or Gazan borders, but on college campuses and op-ed pages, shelves of Trader Joes, Seattle’s buses, containers of Sabra hummus and the “like” icons of Facebook. While many diaspora Jews are willing to be good soldiers in the Soft War, they’ve come to demand that Israel provide what some feel is needed most to complete their vital PR assignment: a Jewish state not stained by corruption, blemished by bigotry or hijacked by the religious right.
Israelis were united in defending the actions of their soldiers, believing that the world, including, many felt, the American president, was out to get them. With Israeli support for Obama plummeting to the single digits, a fissure opened between Israelis and American Jews, who, despite a Republican resurgence at home, continued to support the President solidly. This tension was amplified during tense interactions between the administration and Prime Minister Netanyahu, including two ill-timed announcements on West Bank housing construction that emerged during key meetings with Vice President Biden.