And here’s my new column from Moment Magazine:
The incident repeats itself with small variations. A rabbi somewhere in America writes to ask if I’ll come speak to his congregation about Israeli politics and my recent book, The Unmaking of Israel. Afterward I receive another email: At a meeting of the Israel Committee or the board, he has encountered worry that inviting me could offend right-wing Jews. He asks how I respond to such concerns. Here’s one abridged version of my reply:
Your note reminds me of the apocryphal story about the new rabbi of an American Orthodox congregation who asks the shul president what he should talk about for his first Sabbath sermon. The president says, “Something to do with yiddishkeit.”
“Maybe I’ll talk about Shabbos,” the rabbi says.
“Well,” says the president, “a lot of our members drive to shul. They might take offense.”
“All right, I’ll talk about kashrus,” says the rabbi.
“Actually,” says the president, “some of our members eat in Chinese restaurants. Maybe you should skip that.”
“Fine. I’ll talk about taharas mishpuche,” the rabbi suggests, referring to the laws regarding ritual immersion for women.
“Now that you mention it,” the president says, “my wife is scared of water. Not a great topic.”
“In that case, what should I talk about?”
“Yiddishkeit, of course.”
So I should prepare a lecture based on my recent book, which describes how the occupation of the West Bank threatens Israeli democracy. But I’d best not talk about anything that could upset anyone.
Jokes aside, my first inclination is to answer defensively—to say that I moved to Israel 35 years ago and have raised three children here, that I’ve worked as a journalist for nearly three decades, and that my views are similar to those expressed daily by mainstream Israeli politicians and by other Israeli commentators. From experience, I know that some right-wing American Jews will indeed disagree with my argument that Israel must stop West Bank settlement and more aggressively pursue a two-state solution. But someone who is alienated by the very fact that I’ve been invited to speak doesn’t really want to know about the issues discussed daily in Israel.
Getting defensive, though, implies that I need to defend myself. And the real question isn’t who I am or what I’ll say. The question—though it sounds surreal to ask it about Jews—is whether disagreement is acceptable within the Jewish community. …
Read the rest here, and return to SoJo to comment. We allow arguments – respectful, of course..