Last month American Jewish activists succeeded in shooting down Israel's provocative conversion bill. It is an old trick of Israeli right-wing and religious politicians: whenever they need something for their constituency or want the Prime Minister Netanyahu's attention, they shoot the "enemy": the progressive, non-orthodox, innocent American Jew. This time it was the thuggery of Foreign Minister Lieberman. PM Netanyahu insulted him the other day, so he embraced him today. So stupid, so shallow and so childish. Sorry, but that's the best of our contemporary politics.
What amazed me was the reaction of the target, the leaders of the American Jewish community. They knew as well as everybody else that this was not a real crisis but just a whim, an internal affair between Lieberman's and Netanyahu's egos. They had so many ways to intercept it from afar with an effective provocation "killer," by remote control, such a simple call to the Israeli Ambassador or even to the PM himself. If this does not work, Netanyahu's beloved mentor Elie Wiesel is always there for troubleshooting and cleaning up after him, no? An ad in the New York Times never fails, a few op-eds are proven methods, but coming here and buying a real ticket for a non-issue? What a waste.
Non-issue? Exactly. The issue is a much larger and more frightening one. Haaretz newspaper defined this Knesset as a "bad" one: "In both words and actions the MKs are undermining democracy's fundamental values, making cynical, cheap use of parliamentary tools, dragging Israeli society to sectorial disputes and separatism, and isolating Israel from the world."
You do not have to be a political expert or a brilliant analyst of the Israeli situation in order to understand that our parliament represents us: "populistic, declamatory, irresponsible and saturated with racism" (Haaretz). So the question, my beloved American Jewish friends, is not what you do in order to save your own skin, the conversions of your rabbis, but what you do in front of the very realistic possibility that Israel is no longer "the only democracy in the Middle East," because Israel is not a real democracy anymore.
To be honest with you, I am very angry at you. I love you so much, and therefore I am so angry. Tell me the truth: can you see the future of American Jewry and American Judaism if Israel is something other than a democracy? On how many more trips can you send your kids here, deceiving them about the true nature of the place, without facing the cruel realities? How many more wake up calls do you need in order to avoid becoming like the subject in Martin Niemöller's poem: "When they came for me, / There was no one left to speak out."
Just for your information,"they" already came for the Israeli Arabs. They are now coming for the progressive, liberal Jews; the New Israel Fund; the freedom of academic speech; basic civil, human and religious rights; and much more. You are next, my American Democratic and progressive Jewish friends. For this you should buy a ticket and come to fight alongside us. This is not a political "shtick." It is for real.
Follow Avraham Burg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/avrum1