Nothing Like a Fresh Israeli Offensive to Bring Out the Jew in Me

01/03/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Russ Wellen Editor of Focal Points, the Foreign Policy in Focus blog

The Jew, I said. Not the Israeli.

Though raised Catholic, my father was Jewish (Lithuanian and Romanian). The most WASP-ish Jew you'll ever meet, though, he imparted none of his ancestral religion to me. My wife, who's of Scot-Irish descent, likes to joke that she knows more about Judaism than me.

But whenever Israel launches an offensive against Palestine, it brings the Jewish in me to the fore. Two reasons:

1. With credentials as a Jew, I'm that much less likely to be viewed as an anti-Semite for criticizing Israel. (Though in recent years, because the Jewish lobby and its adherents in the United States have overused it, that charge has lost its power to stigmatize.)

2. As a kid, I had a love-hate relationship with Judaism. I didn't advertise my Jewish heritage because I thought Jews weren't cool and, as one, I feared neither would I be. But I was proud of the humanitarian values long demonstrated by American Jews, especially toward those I did think were cool: American blacks.

But so much for humanitarian values when, as it routinely does, Israel injects Exodus with steroids -- a hundred eyes for an eye, in the words of Norman Solomon. It's so, I don't know, un-Jewish.

The proscription against killing your fellow man is close to, if not at, the core of any religion. Like al-Qaeda and the Taliban beheading people in the name of Islam, wiping out great swaths of Palestinians in the name of the Jewish state hollows out religion. Jews need to stand up to Israel before it renders Judaism a religion in name only.