THE QUESTION CONCLUDES WITH ASKING, “IS IT DISLOYAL FOR A JEW TO POINT OUT THE FAULTS OR FLAWS
OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL?”
Remember that there are existing faults or flaws in every country or state, from Israel to Germany. So there would be no need for boundaries to limit non-Israeli Jews in their opinions on Israel. We could then react to each state either with full fairness in judgment, or with an attitude of emotional quality. Since full fairness is pretty difficult to achieve, then the boundaries of opinion must be set by reasons of human psychology.
If you are left with psychology, then you’ve heard the usual response offered frequently to the question of why is there a specific
problem about this or that in your relationship. The response used to greet you was “Well,it’s all because you hate your father!” Hating or loving your forebears has a distinct impression on one’s offspring, and it leaves us resulting with deep but unconscious likes or dislikes.
An example from another side is this: In 2009, the non-Jewish scholar George Gilder published a book called “The Israel Test,” whose entire, stated conclusion is that critics of Israel are affected by none other than – envy. But this sounds a bit overstated. Or try this: Consider a letter in Commentary Magazine for January, 2011 (page 6) reminding us that Israel’s status will never improve or change, and will be an eternal menacing challenge to Israel -- whether we have a lot or a few faults -- “as long as the Arab countries base an anti-Jewish hostility of the Islamic world on their religious belief, that the existence of a Jewish state is an affront to Islam.”
We would like to find fairness or objectivity for Israel, so let us first discard subjective notions that color truth with propaganda, or with double-standards, or with unripe judgments. Give us all a “fair hearing.”
While this is a very difficult issue touching upon a sensitive balance between personal autonomy and loyalty to our people and state, we should apply a common-sense approach, recognizing that such approach may change depending on a number of variables. These include the specific topic at hand, its impact on Diaspora Jews, and Israel’s standing in the world. At this time, when there is a cruel and Orwellian campaign to delegitimize Israel throughout the world, we as Jews have to be extra careful in supporting Israel, especially when there are so many misinformed Jews who jump to criticize Israel, giving cover to those who want to harm her.
Nevertheless, there may be times when criticism is warranted, but the critic must always ask himself, what is the purpose of my criticism and will it actually be constructive? While criticism of a country may not fit under the halakhic rubric of lashon ha'ra (speaking truthful words against others for no positive purpose), this principle can help guide us in this issue. Very generally, we are allowed to relay negative information about others if there is a productive purpose which will save others from harm. For example, if one knows that a business partner is a crook or that one's boyfriend is a fraud, one must disclose that information to the unwitting victim.
While, again, the analogy is not fully accurate, the admonition against speaking ill of Israel for no actual, productive purpose applies here. If a prospective critic feels that his public criticism can somehow help Israel, or perhaps repair some chilul Hashem (desecration of God's name), then it may be appropriate. While there is no separation of synagogue and state in Israel, and thus, it's difficult to clearly distinguish between the two, we may also want to separate between political and religious criticism. If one disagrees with political decisions that a duly-elected Israeli government has passed, it does not seem appropriate to publicly criticize such decisions from the Diaspora. Israel is a democracy, and the same way most people would agree that it's inappropriate for a Fijian to criticize a Congressional Act, such a stance would apply for a Diaspora Jew who does not pay taxes or vote, with regard to Israel. If one wants to criticize Israeli policy regarding security, immigration or healthcare, one can move there and effect change from within, but not by penning maligning missives from one's armchair.
Whether it’s the issue of anti-terrorism, treatment of Israeli Arabs or “disproportionate force”, very often, people who find fault with Israel haven't spent significant time there and don't have all the facts (yes, I know there are exceptions). Critics also generally ignore the context of Israel’s actions and judge Israel in a way they do not judge other democracies or even tyrannies, neglecting to point out that Israel is a tiny democracy with a robust free press, Arab members of the Knesset and the judiciary, yet it is surrounded by numerous Islamist countries bent on its destruction. If, considering all of these factors, one feels a real need to criticize, work from within, but not in the blogsphere where such criticism will be used by real anti-semites - oops, anti-Zionists - to attack Israel.. If you feel so passionate that you must express yourself about an issue, then align yourself with similarly minded mainstreamIsraelis who send their children to the army and who deeply care about the country - let them guide your actions.
When it comes to religious issues, however, there may be times when it is appropriate to question even duly-passed laws because of the effect they may have on all of Jewry. This, too, however, should be done carefully by trying to build bridges with religious leaders in Israel and helping them understand the effect of certain statements or laws upon world Jewry. Currently, there is a big brouhaha over pending legislation regarding conversion, and while there has been much misinformation, this is an area where there must be cooperation between Israel and the Diaspora. If you feel that certain religious issues in Israel are causing people to view Judaism in a skewed way, first make sure that you understand the issue fully, speak to your rabbi and find out if anything is being done that reflect your views. You can also contact your local Jewish federation or other groups that support Israel, along with the closest Israeli Consulate or Embassy to let them know how you feel and ask for clarification.
Bottom line, and this applies to all areas of life, before any knee-jerk criticism, make sure that you engage in dialogue, especially when there is such monstrous venom directed against Israel by hypocrites and haters, who don’t seem to care about actual, terrible injustices around the world. The desire to criticize can actually be a good sign if it means that one is engaged with and cares deeply for Israel, but how it’s expressed is the issue. There’s obviously much more to discuss and there is no easy answer to this but especially in today’s climate, one should be very careful to ensure that any criticism will be constructive and come from a place of love for Israel.
This is a difficult question.On the surface, we want to be very hesitant to tell people in another country how they should run their country.Then again Jews, as a community and as individuals have long been advocates for freedom, equal rights and peace in a variety of different countries where they have not lived.Therefore why should Israel be any different?
The commandment of Ahavat Yisrael – love of Israel – is very important.It is a part of Jewish tradition to love not just the state of Israel, but the people and the land as well.But we know that love is not saying to someone, “Do whatever you want.”That is indifference.Therefore the idea of Ahavat Israel, along with the commandment to reprove our neighbor when we see them doing something wrong, suggests that we should be critical of Israel when necessary and that it is more loyal than dis-loyal to discuss the flaws and faults of Israel.
That said, it is also part of our tradition of reproving our neighbor to do it in a way that does not embarrass him or her.Therefore, it is appropriate to make sure that our criticisms of Israel are both come from a place of love and are done in a constructive rather than destructive way.Participating in boycotts, protests against Israel’s right to reasonably defend itself or groups that cross the line from legitimate criticism to anti-Semitism (by making Israel the “Jew” among nations) would be inappropriate for anyone who claims a love of Israel in any of its definitions.
Writing well thought out letters to the editor, discussing the situation from a calm perspective or joining a group like We are for Israel (http://weareforisrael.org/) that is fully supportive of Israel but isn’t afraid to say when it is on the wrong track in its pursuit of peace, are all good ways to understand the situation from a centrist Israeli and American perspective, while avoiding the all too frequent blind support from groups like AIPAC and ZOA and the too often knee jerk criticism of Israel form groups such as J-Street, B’tzelem and Brit Tzedek V’shalom.
It is not only permissible, but part of loving Israel, to be willing to criticize Israel as long as that criticism is aimed at making Israel better rather than delegitimizing Israel or casting it as some sort of pariah state.
Copyright 2014 all rights reserved. Jewish Values Online
N O T I C E
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED IN ANSWERS PROVIDED HEREIN ARE THOSE OF THE INDIVIDUAL JVO PANEL MEMBERS, AND DO NOT
NECESSARILY REFLECT OR REPRESENT THE VIEWS OF THE ORTHODOX, CONSERVATIVE OR REFORM MOVEMENTS, RESPECTIVELY.