Thursday, March 17, 2016

Good for Jews?

Is it good for Jews? That was the question my grandparents asked about any development in politics or world affairs.

Two generations later, we felt more secure and were more likely to ask, Is it good for Israel? This came to the forefront after the Yom Kippur war in 1972, and even more when Israel was criticized for continuing to hold land won in 1967.


Today we encounter situations in which what might be good for the State of Israel might be bad for Jews in the diaspora. Perhaps we are uncomfortable with actions by the Israeli government and feel that they reflect badly on us. (My grandparents would have asked, What will the goyim think?) Or perhaps we think that policies that might be necessary in the short term will be harmful in the long term.


The situation in United States politics is, to say the least, confusing. On one hand, we have a Jewish candidate for president who expresses support for Israel, but whose religious identity is weak. 


On the other hand, we have a Christian candidate who defends Israel at every turn, but whose reason for loving Israel strikes us as  unsavory. Some conservative Christians support Israel because they believe that the existence of the State of Israel is necessary for a future Armageddon in which most Jews will be tortured and killed.


The most extreme form of that belief also holds that Hitler was doing God’s work: that the Holocaust was to punish us for not accepting Jesus. And at least one clergyman who proclaims exactly that has endorsed the candidate who appears to be the strongest supporter of Israel.


So we have a problem: should we vote for the candidate who may be the strongest support of Israel, but whose support stems from a belief that we must consider anti-Jewish? Is that good for Jews?


Speaking only for myself, I hope that the government of Israel doesn’t try to influence the U.S. elections. In 1960, John F. Kennedy was able to persuade voters that he didn’t take orders from the Pope. Everyone knows that most of us don’t take orders from rabbis. But would we be able to persuade other Americans that we don’t take orders from, say, Benjamin Netanyahu?


Again speaking only for myself, I would not be able to support a candidate who I thought was hostile to Israel, nor could I support a candidate whose personal religious views I considered anti-Jewish.


And once again speaking only for myself, I’m glad that Election Day isn’t this month.