Dan Ross Headshot

Letter From a Young Jew

Posted: Updated:
Print
AP
AP

Dear Mr. Sheldon G. Adelson,

I am writing you today to express the great frustration that overcame me as I read your op-ed in last Monday's Wall Street Journal. In your piece, you outline the various reasons why you chose to leave the Democratic Party, or, as you put it, the evolution of positions and policies that led you to feel that the Democrats had left you.

While I disagreed with the vast majority of your incoherent argument, I found one of your points particularly flawed: your insistence that today's Democrats are anti-Israel. As a young Jewish American and an avowed Democrat, I can say to you without hesitation that this is not the case, and that I found your flagrant attempt to exploit your Jewishness to court Jewish voters deeply offensive. If I wanted someone to tell me how I should apply my Jewish values to my political preferences I would ask a rabbi, not a casino magnate.

But more importantly, Mr. Adelson, I would like to explain to you the "disturbing development" that you perceive to be a "visceral anti-Israel Movement among rank-and-file Democrats." You see Mr. Adelson, we're in the midst of a generational conflict, a divergence affecting all Americans, and Jewish Americans in particular. The truth is that my peers and I don't have a problem with Israel -- we have a problem with you and your condescending ilk. We don't like being told what to think.

Mr. Adelson, my generation grew up in a world in which Israel has not been the underdog that you and your generation still insist that it is. We came of age bearing witness to an Israel that fought rocks with tanks, that built walls instead of bridges, and that eliminated threats with chilling efficiency. We watched as Israel became the most vibrant economy and democracy in its region, a bastion of entrepreneurship that made the desert bloom. And we listened as Israelis took their backers in the Diaspora for granted, challenging our choices about our Jewish practice and often outright denying the legitimacy of our Judaism.

All the while, you and your peers have asked us to give the Jewish state our unquestioning, unmitigated support. You have asked us to engage in a bizarre doublethink in which we are to simultaneously believe that Israel is both a force to be reckoned with and yet constantly in existential peril.

Truth be told, Mr. Adelson, the vast majority of us think that Israel is in the right most of the time. But we are not willing to blindly accept to your schizophrenic assumptions. Nor are we willing to march lockstep behind all of Israel's actions. Indeed, we would argue that questioning Israel's behavior is, in fact, more pro-Israel. We are just as concerned about the Jewish state's best interests as you are, but when its leaders act in ways that we consider to undermine its future -- supporting settlements, warmongering with Iran, etc. -- we refuse to defend them.

But you refuse to listen to us, and your rejection of our right to speak has caused us to retreat into a silent, irritated indifference. We feel profoundly disenfranchised to engage in a conversation of any kind about the Jewish state because of your generation's insistence that any and all criticism of Israel's conduct is ignorant at best and anti-Semitic at worst.

Me? Anti-Semitic? Really? Really?

Thus the booing at the Democratic National Convention wasn't an expression of animosity towards Israel -- it was an expression of this deep-seated frustration with your generation. It represented the boiling over of years of anger at your control over the conversation about Israel, an issue we'd simply rather not discuss. Who wants to talk about something when they get yelled at every time they do?

Frankly, Mr. Adelson, the best thing that you could do for Israel would be to shut up. For once, you might even try to listen. Because your black and white world is anathema to the mixed multitude of my generation -- that's why we are fleeing it for a land flowing with freedom of thought. The more you tighten your grip, Mr. Adelson, the more we will slip through your fingers, our ambivalence expanding until Israel fades into the most distant regions of our political identity. Just as you left the Democrats, I fear that we might leave the Jewish state. And that's something that, I think we can agree, neither of us wants to see.

Sincerely,

Dan Ross