Why to say ‘never’ to ‘Say No!’

Why to say ‘never’ to ‘Say No!’

Last Thursday, July 24, an anti-Israel demonstration was held in Manhattan. It attracted hundreds, according to news reports, with protesters carrying such signs as “U.S. dollars feed Israeli war crimes.” Similar demonstrations were held in other cities across the country.

Anti-Israel demonstrations are becoming common, and the media looks at them as a “dog bites man” story, meaning the story is not worth the ink. What makes these protests the preferred “man bites dog” story is that it was organized by two Jewish fringe organizations, Jewish Voices for Peace and Jews Say No!, and the protesters were Jews. At least one protester is an expatriate Israeli who served in the IDF.

Two days earlier, on July 22, nine Jews were arrested for staging a “die-in” at the Manhattan office of the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces.

It is fatuous to suggest that all Jews support Israel. It is just as fatuous to suggest that all supporters of Israel support Operation Protective Edge, or any similar action in which Palestinian civilians are killed in large numbers.

Indeed, many people – here, throughout the diaspora, and even in Israel itself – are so appalled by the number of Palestinian casualties, they are content either to sit this one out or to make their opposition to Israel’s current actions known by joining in anti-Israel demonstrations.

These people are putting Israel at risk of losing precious support from the United States. (As it is, only 25 percent of Americans under 35 support Protective Edge, according to a Gallup Poll.) They also, however, are putting at risk the legitimacy of the Jewish diaspora, at least as viewed from the perspective of the Torah.

Israel is the Jewish state – not “a” Jewish state, but “the” Jewish state, the only Jewish state – and we in the diaspora share in the responsibility for its well-being.

This is an obligation of ours; it is not voluntary. It goes back to the days of the 40-year sojourn in the wilderness, even before the conquest of Canaan, which marked the onset of the obligation.

We saw the birth of the Jewish diaspora in the Torah reading last week, as we read Chapter 32 of Numbers. Virtually on the eve of Israel’s crossing over to the west bank of the Jordan to claim its rightful inheritance, at the very moment when Israel had to be united, Moses divided Israel by creating the diaspora. With God’s obvious approval, if not under His direction, Moses granted the tribes of Re’uven, Gad, and half of Menashe the right to live outside the Land.

There can be only one reason why the diaspora was permitted to be born at that time: It was created to benefit Israel.

This is made clear in Deuteronomy 3:18-20, when Moses recalls the moment he approved the request of the two-and-a-half tribes to live outside the Land of Israel:

“And I commanded you at that time, saying, ‘The Lord your God has given you this land to possess it; you shall pass over armed before your brothers the People Israel, all who are fit for the war.…[And there you shall remain] until they also possess the Land which the Lord your God has given them beyond the Jordan. And then you shall return every man to his possession, which I [in this case clearly referring to God] have given you.”

Re’uven, Gad, and half of Menashe may have thought living outside the Land was their idea, but Moses says it was all part of God’s plan. This means the right of Jews to live outside Israel exists only for those who actively assist the people inside Israel to live securely. For those of us who are not active in assisting our brethren in Israel to live securely, the right to live in the diaspora never existed in the first place, and we sin against God every moment we live anywhere but Israel.

The Torah, however, is only stating the obvious. Israel can survive only if all the Jews support it, not just those who live within its borders.

Everyone has the right to his or her opinion, and the right to voice that opinion. When Israel is under the gun, however, is not the proper time to do so. That is the time to attend rallies; to write letters to government officials and legislators, and the media; to organize “Buy Israel” campaigns, and to do anything else that demonstrates support for Israel.

Politicians run governments, and they count heads. If it looks as though support for Israel is waning among American Jews, this will have a negative impact on the support politicians have for Israel.

The media especially will pounce on anti-Israel sentiment among Jews. To them, this is a “man bites dog” story, especially in the wake of recent events. They also will regard it more broadly than simply a statement about Jewish support for Protective Edge. The more such demonstrations, the more such stories. The more such stories, and politicians will not worry about “the Jewish vote” as much as they have in the past.

“All Israel is responsible one for another,” the Talmud tells us.

We are the People Israel. If we live in the diaspora, our number one priority – no, our number one task as diaspora Jews – is to support the people of the State of Israel.