It's OK for Jews to criticise Israel... but it isn't a duty

Israel is a country divided and that is mirrored in the diaspora’s response

March 21, 2023 14:10

The notion that diaspora Jews must never criticise Israel is as wrongheaded as the notion that we are duty-bound to do so. Having spent years working in the community, my reflection on these respective positions is that they are two sides of the same coin and come down to one thing: confidence, or lack thereof.

Let’s take them in turn.

There are those who say we must never criticise Israel until we take up citizenship, put ourselves and our children on the front line, and pay taxes there. On the face of it, a legitimate argument; but taken in the absolute, it is a nonsensical position. No one says we must take up citizenship of America, Russia, or France if we want to criticise their respective governments.

Those who hold this view also say that Israel has enough enemies – a hard argument to rebut – and that by lending our voices to the attack dogs, we strengthen them. However, to suggest that a country is never ripe for criticism is to put it on a pedestal that it can’t but fall off. Loving and supporting Israel and accepting that it can make mistakes, or even that those mistakes must sometimes be criticised, are not mutually exclusive positions.

On the flipside, there are those who say that as Jews it is our duty to criticise the only Jewish state. They claim that not doing so is a tacit endorsement of whatever it is they believe we should be condemning. I respectfully disagree. We are not responsible for the actions of a foreign government, even if those actions can affect us in the diaspora. I fear that many who adopt this position do so in order not to be shunned by the so-called “community of good”. This is a futile exercise because they accept nothing less than the wholesale derision of Israel. Suffice to say, the energy spent criticising Israel is rarely matched when it needs defending.

We have seen Likudniks join the protests; the elite Israeli Air Force 69 squadron refusing to join a training exercise (since reneged on); and former IDF Chiefs of Staff and others condemning the reforms. None of them can be accused of being pacifists. Ironically, many of those promoting the government’s agenda have never served in the military or in any alternative capacity.

As the protests in Israel grow, it is becoming unequivocally evident that most Israelis committed to the country’s founding principles are fighting for the state to uphold the Declaration of Independence and the values so many of us in the diaspora who love and are invested in Israel want to maintain.

Israel is a country divided and that is mirrored in the diaspora’s response. We are seeing increased confidence where those who love Israel no longer care what the haters say because they believe more is at stake. It is crucial that we allow people in the community the space to air their views and for leaders to model civility and respect.

March 21, 2023 14:10

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive