Yavne: A Jewish case for equality in Israel-Palestine

Separation wall between Israel and the West Bank near Jerusalem. (photo: Mazur Travel via Shutterstock)
A liberal Zionist questions if the price of a state that favors Jews over Palestinians is too high and what would it really mean to build a Jewish home that is equally a Palestinian home.

By Peter Beinart | Jewish Currents | July 7, 2020

It is time for liberal Zionists to abandon the goal of Jewish–Palestinian separation and embrace the goal of Jewish–Palestinian equality.

WHAT MAKES SOMEONE A JEW—not just a Jew in name, but a Jew in good standing—today? In Haredi circles, being a real Jew means adhering to religious law. In leftist Jewish spaces, it means championing progressive causes. But these environments are the exceptions. In the broad center of Jewish life—where power and respectability lie—being a Jew means, above all, supporting the existence of a Jewish state. In most Jewish communities on earth, rejecting Israel is a greater heresy than rejecting God.

The reason is rarely spelled out, mostly because it’s considered obvious: Opposing a Jewish state means risking a second Holocaust. It puts the Jewish people in existential danger. In previous eras, excommunicated Jews were called apikorsim, unbelievers. Today, they are called kapos, Nazi collaborators. Through a historical sleight of hand that turns Palestinians into Nazis, fear of annihilation has come to define what it means to be an authentic Jew.

I grew up with these assumptions, and they still surround me. They pervade the communities in which I pray, send my children to school, and find many of my closest friends. Over the years, I’ve learned how to live in these spaces while publicly questioning Israel’s actions. But questioning Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is a different order of offense—akin to spitting in the face of people I love and betraying institutions that give my life meaning and joy. Besides, Jewish statehood has long been precious to me, too. So I’ve respected certain red lines.

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