To the Editor:
Josh Eidelson ’06 (“Israeli Boim Bill assaults human rights,” 11/6) teaches us an important lesson: You can support the state of Israel and criticize it, too. Further, he suggests, a healthy and active discourse on the actions of the Israeli government is essential for Israel’s future. If you support Israel, you must criticize it too.
The “don’t air your dirty laundry” mentality pervades the American Jewish discourse on Israel. The thinking goes that it is dangerous or destructive to let non-Jewish America hear Jewish criticism of Israel. This idea leads to an unfortunate absence of honest and intelligent Jewish perspectives in the secular discourse, and to hostility towards those who do criticize Israel in public. As Eidelson says: “It is unfortunate, if not surprising, that those who criticize the Israeli government, particularly in this country, find themselves labeled as anti-Semites or self-hating Jews, as bigots or as traitors.”
This is a ghetto mentality — and no one should be too surprised. American Jews are so fundamentally traumatized by the Holocaust that, in times of perceived danger, we revert to a ghetto way of thinking. The Holocaust has come to play a disproportionate role in American Jewish identity, so when bad things happen (9/11, rising anti-Semitism in Europe, daily bloodshed and threat of instability in Israel), American Jews instinctively revert to defense mode. Maybe if we present a united front, they won’t be able to get us this time.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the Holocaust has such deep and pervasive effects. It also shouldn’t be an excuse for silencing of debate. American Jews should feel free and encouraged to voice their strong support of Israel. We should feel the same way about criticizing her. That’s the road map for progress and peace.
Adina Lopatin ’05
November 6, 2002