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[This is a very long one, since in order to justify my position I feel compelled to set the out a long list of reasons. I’m afraid much of it sounds like a rant.]

Do I “support” the State of Israel? The short answer is “no.”

I say that with a great deal of sadness. Like most other Jews on the planet, I was raised to consider the establishment of Israel as one of the greatest accomplishments of modern times. At last we Jews would have a country of our own, a country where Jews could be free from persecution for all time, and which would be an inspiration for the world.

Looking at the State of Israel as it is today, there are things that make me sick at heart.

  • Israel has a parliamentary government. It has a few large parties but it also has many small parties, each with its own axe to grind. Because no single party ever gets enough votes to form a government, they are always going hat in hand to the splinter groups for their two or three votes. This gives the small parties a disproportionate amount of power, since they can bring down the government any time they don’t get what they want. Once having gotten what they want, they never let it go. IMNSHO, they are like boa constrictors choking the life out of the body politic.
  • Israel is partly secular, partly theocratic. To a greater or lesser degree the government has to enforce the religious beliefs of those tiny minority groups that I described above. Even when the legal system is against them they often act with impunity, because any attempt at enforcement creates a firestorm.
    • Women’s rights are under siege from the ultra-Orthodox:
      • Quoting the Washington Post (you can read the full blog posting here), women are required to enter through, and sit in, the back of the bus — literally.
      • Women attempting to pray at the Western Wall have been stoned.
      • Public events, even parades, are segregated by sex.
      • Women have been arrested (but never charged, because the legal system is still largely secular), or even beaten, for performing religious acts that are deemed improper by the ultra-Orthodox minority.
    • There is no such thing as civil marriage. Marriages must be performed by approved clergy in approved ways for approved couples. In other words, the Orthodox establishment holds complete sway over these matters. There is no such thing as interfaith marriage. Both parties have to prove that they are “officially” Jewish. (See the article Groom-to-be goes 100 years back in time to prove he is Jewish.)
    • At this point civil marriages performed outside of Israel are legally recognized, but the children would be in real trouble if they needed to be recognized by the Orthodox Rabbinate (which they would, sooner or later).
    • Recognized rabbis are effectively government employees. Because the Chief Rabbinate has decided to “defund” the Ethiopian Jewish clergy, they’ve effectively destroyed 2000 years of Ethiopian Jewish tradition.
    • Israel’s High Court has ruled that Reform and Conservative conversions are valid, but this decision is not binding on the Chief Rabbinate. Someone converted by a Conservative rabbi is legally Jewish, but can’t be married as a Jew.
    • Everything that I said about marriage applies to burial and other life-changing events.
  • I don’t like Israel’s attitudes when it comes to territorial expansion. It always gives me the vapors when someone holds a map in one hand and a holy book in the other. The settler movement’s treatment of Arabs is reminiscent of the effect Manifest Destiny had on the Native Americans, and threatens to damage Israel itself (viz. The settlers’ movement is a threat to Israel’s existence). The whole thing smacks of Hitler’s policies, even to the mainstream Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Read the opinion piece Lebensraum as a justification for Israeli settlements.
  • There’s a lot more racism in Israel than there ought to be. Granted, no nation is immune; and it’s nothing like the anti-Israel propagandists claim, but read Thousands in Jerusalem protest racism against Ethiopian Israelis and Sinai Says: Riots, racism and the future of Israeli soccer, both from reputable Israeli newspapers.

I’m afraid that Israel has lost site of the core values of modern Judaism. A small but growing minority has taken the nation hostage and is trying to resurrect things in the Torah that most modern Jews have repudiated, such as the forced eviction of non-Jewish populations and genocide (Numbers 25:15, Deuteronomy 7). This minority believes its members have a monopoly on our holy books.

So that’s why I don’t “support” Israel — the government of Israel. I do, however, support organizations that are trying to bring Israel closer to what I believe it should be. [The phrases in quotation marks are self-descriptions.]

  • The New Israel Fund, “the leading organization committed to equality and democracy for all Israelis”, which is being viciously attacked by a right-wing organization even as I write
  • The Abraham Fund, “Advancing Coexistence and Equality Between Jews and Arabs in Israel”
  • J Street, “The Political Home for Pro-Israel, Pro-peace Americans

I hope that someday I can answer “Yes” to the question I opened with.