The State of Israel has journeyed from survival to military and economic power; from underdog to tough negotiator; from light unto the nations to pariah subjected to asymmetric demands in regard to the conduct of war and human rights; from being the unchallenged friend of the United States to the intransigent child being faced by an ally who wants to change the rules. This complex transition has resulted in an Israeli government who demands hasbara rather than dialogue and reacts to the pressure by challenging deeply held Jewish values of equality and social justice, even within the Green Line of Israel itself.
British Jewry’s traditional support for the Israeli Government ‘right or wrong’ is being increasingly questioned. There are those who disassociate themselves from the Israel that has evolved. Some fund Israeli activists in seeking to bring about equality and social justice for all Israeli citizens. Others, amongst the religious nationalists, increasingly argue for the permanent inclusion of the occupied territories within the Promised Land and an ever more restrictive religious character for the State.
What is clear is that as the differences within the community are widening, intolerance is growing. More importantly many of our younger generation are conflating the challenge of our relationship with Israel with their own Jewish identity. It is to them and to the State of Israel, rather than to its Government, which we owe the duty to discuss the issues in determining what we mean when we say that we are pro-Israel.
Nicholas Saphir is the Chair of New Israel Fund UK.
Update 5th May:
On Tuesday 8th June, Nicholas Saphir will be speaking at public meeting at Calderwood Lodge Primary School at 8pm. The title of his lecture will be: “Supporting Israel does not require blinkers”.