Israel Makes American Jews Crazy

Tags: Diaspora, Jewish Identity, Holocaust

By Kenneth Cohen

"Israel Makes American Jews Crazy."

I have heard it said by activists that Israel makes American Jews crazy.

I agree. Israel makes us crazy. Why so?

Kenneth Cohen

Why do moderate, thoughtful, liberal minded people - who usually support all the "right" political and social causes get so emotional when it comes to Israel?

The reasons always seemed obvious to me, but I have come to realize that many non Jews don't understand that it isn't a matter of just rooting for the home team.

It is about survival. Survival of Israel but also survival of the Jewish people everywhere. It isn't that we see Israel as "the last, best chance" for our survival. It is our *only* chance for survival. If, God forbid, Israel goes under, it will be the end of our long trek through history.

Yes, some tiny Chasidic enclaves in some of our major cities will survive, but that will be about it. We will become a small "opting out" people like the Amish.

Consider this: there are fewer Jews in the world today than there are Muslims in Karachi, Pakistan.

There are about 14 million Jews in the world. Roughly half of those now live in Israel. The majority Jewish children in the world are Israeli. Of the Jews outside Israel, about half don't give two hoots about being Jewish. They are assimilated. At the time of Jesus there were about 20 million Jews in the world, about 10% of the Roman Empire. Given natural increase, there should've been more Jews in the world today than there are Chinese. But persecution put an end to that. While we are always on the list of major world religions, we're tiny fraction of 1% of the world population.

There are over forty Arab countries and over sixty Muslim ones. Hundreds of countries exist that were part of what was once called "Christendom." Israel is the world's only Jewish country and the only one we've had in 2000 years.

Then there's the Holocaust to consider. One in every three Jews was killed, and 90% of the Jews of Europe were slaughtered.

When I spoke to a group of Quakers last month, one "helpfully" suggested that it's time for Jews to "get over the Holocaust." I've heard that suggestion before. I wonder if he would have suggested to an African-American that black people get over slavery and segregation.

No, we won't get over the Holocaust. Read the statistics above and remember that the Holocaust is still within living memory and that most of us lost relatives in it. Consider the hostility and the threats against Israel and then, perhaps, you will begin to understand our sensitivities. Think about the way that Jews, not just Israelis, are depicted in the media in much of the world. (Please read my article in The Huffington Post on this topic). Generations of kids are being taught that we are villainous and inherently wicked people. It is hard to understand this treatment in the media as anything other than the psychological preparation for yet another genocide against us.

Does Israel deserve to be criticized? Of course. Are the policies of its government not questionable, problematic? Certainly. But without going into the specifics - and we American Jews debate these policies hotly among ourselves - there is something bizarre about the way so many people fixate on Israel's shortcomings, holding every action under a microscope.

Looking at the hostility against Israel, one might think that this was the first time in human history that people have ever migrated anywhere.

The annual Jerusalem Day Parade.

Considering what we have been through and what we are facing, of course Israel makes us crazy. But it also makes us proud. We are proud that this beleaguered little country has maintained a lively democracy, academic freedom, a free press, and remarkable technological achievements.

We are not going to walk willingly off the stage of history. To do so would be crazy.

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Tags: Diaspora, Jewish Identity, Holocaust