Antony Lerman, author of The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist (Pluto, 2012), has written a Guardian editorial on the continuing demonisation members of the Jewish diaspora face when criticising Israeli policy.
The fact is that Jewish diaspora support is vital for Israel, whose governments have taken that support for granted for decades, exploiting it to bolster the country’s international position. But they also treat Jewish communities as subservient to Israel by claiming to speak and act on behalf of Jews everywhere. Were that support to weaken dramatically and Jewish diaspora critics of the Netanyahu government’s policies become dominant, Israeli officials privately acknowledge that the state would face an unprecedented crisis.
While acknowledging that this outcome is still far from realisation, Lerman suggests that fear of growing Jewish criticism – and the prospect of undermining an assumed Jewish solidarity – is causing Israel to devote resources to strengthening Jewish support. An inevitable corollary is the marginalisation of the vocally critical within the Jewish community. Lerman explains:
One method of achieving this is to make it harder for Jews to criticise by accusing them of disloyalty, succumbing to “Jewish self-hatred”, and being “fellow travellers” of antisemites – spurious and groundless charges. Jewish critics with radical ideas for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – particularly those who stress there is a Jewish moral obligation to support Palestinian rights and that this is in Israel’s own interests if it wants to be a genuinely democratic state – are subjected to a process of vilification, demonisation and marginalisation. Since such Jews often describe themselves as being outside the organised Jewish community, ostracising them has been effective.
To read the full editorial, visit the Guardian‘s Comment Is Free.
A Personal and Political Journey
Powerful memoir of the personal and political journey of a leading figure in the UK’s Jewish community, from idealistic Zionist to critic of Israel.
“An honest and moving account of how Antony Lerman – like so many Jewish liberals of his generation – fell in and out of love with the Zionist dream as translated into Israeli reality. A singular figure of principle in the grubby world of communal politics, Lerman retells factually and with a commendable lack of bitterness his shameful treatment at the hands of the British Jewish establishment.” – Rabbi David J. Goldberg author of This Is Not the Way: Jews, Judaism and Israel (2012)
“In this very courageous, personal yet intellectual exposé, Antony Lerman, who, unlike many of his peers, refused to cross the red lines into the ideological territory of ethnocentric particularism, explores his journey to and from Zionism. His critique contains sharp insights and the inspiration of an optimistic prophet who believes that peace, justice and human rights are the true Jewish values.” – Avrum Burg, former Speaker of the Israeli Knesset and author of The Holocaust is Over: We Must Rise From its Ashes (2008)