Regev Responds

Israeli MFA Deputy Director General for N. America is concerned

"Israel is losing the Jewish people"

Former Israeli MFA Deputy Director General for North America, Baruch Bina, published an article in Hebrew titled ‘Israel is losing the Jewish people’. Hiddush shares some of its key assertions and observations in English here.

Yarmulkes, source: FlickrYarmulkes, source: Flickr

We have focused on the deteriorating bonds between Israel and the diaspora, which cause both national and strategic harm to the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Most recently we highlighted the important report prepared by the INSS and sponsored by the Ruderman Foundation, which should be commended for the priority it attaches to the critical relationship between Israel and American Jewry.

This month, another credible voice was added to those pointing to this devastating dynamic. It was expressed in an op-ed published in Haaretz by Baruch Bina, titled ‘Israel is losing the Jewish people’. Since Baruch Bina is a very important voice in this arena and the article was only published in Hebrew, we see the need to share some of its key assertions and observations. Baruch Bina was the Israeli MFA Deputy Director General for North America.

He starts by quoting a recent uncharacteristic statement made by President of the Jewish Federation of New York, Eric Goldstein, who was recently quoted as saying to an Israeli delegation that "People who until three years ago were Israel's greatest supporters tell us they want to vomit, and that all their investment and love for Israel has gone down the drain."

Bina reacts to Goldstein’s words, saying that they are harsh and possibly even exaggerated, but "the disconnect between Israel and the Jewish community in the USA taking place in front of our very eyes is real. It may damage the ethnocultural identity of American Jews in an era when many defines themselves as ‘hyphenated Americans’ (‘African-Americans’ or ‘Jewish-Americans’). It may damage the ability to work together towards all Jewish causes, such as assistance to communities in distress throughout the world; it may herald tangible political danger to Israel." As to the last, he writes:

Senior Israeli leaders believe that as long as Israel has the support of Orthodox Jews and Evangelical Christians, it does not need the Reform, Conservative and secular (most of the Jewish community).
    "The Jews, the most progressive population in the United States, will find it difficult to maintain their automatic support of Israel, insofar as the Orthodox stranglehold deepens, women are excluded, the inflammatory degradation of the judicial system continues, the settlements are expanded at the expense of welfare budgets, prospects of a political [peace] process are undermined, close relationships with non-liberal regimes are tightening, and Donald Trump is enthusiastically supported... There are those in Israel who say that this is not a problem, and that American Jews are no longer necessary. They even praise the political charm of Benjamin Netanyahu, who has managed to fortify ties with the Republicans. Senior Israeli leaders believe that as long as Israel has the support of Orthodox Jews and Evangelical Christians, it does not need the Reform, Conservative and secular (most of the Jewish community)... The remarks of the President of the Federation of New York were sharp, but he is not the only one who has expressed himself in such a way. Anyway, who would have imagined such a statement a few years ago? Something severe and bad is happening under our feet. Beyond the damage caused to the overall Jewish identity, Israel, which is becoming increasingly radical, is shedding one of its most important political tools. Without the other half of the Jewish people, we will find it very cold out there."

This is an extremely disturbing prediction, coming from an extremely responsible and committed senior Israeli civil servant. It is high time that both Israelis to whom his article is addressed and American Jews who are repeatedly slighted by Israeli politicians but have been slow to see the full scope of this unfolding threat to Jewish unity and Israel’s undermining of its core principles (such as pluralism, diversity, and inclusiveness), wake up and confront this. Some have already spoken up, most notably Charles Bronfman and Ron Lauder. Not surprisingly, the response from Israel’s senior politicians has been an additional insult waged by Minister of Diaspora Bennett in an op-ed responding to Lauder, shifting the blame to the American Jewish community, as was done by Prime Minister Netanyahu in a briefing to the Israeli Press Corps.

The response should be proactive, assertive, and principled. We can no longer settle for damage control, background politicking, and delay strategies. We at Hiddush believe that the best path forward is along the lines of the Vision Statement for Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State, although it can also serve as a basis for further exploration. Whatever is done, the most important thing is not to presume that business is “as usual” and appeasing rhetoric by Israel’s Prime Minister can be enough.

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