Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh Lezeh (loosely translated: Jews are responsible for one another) are powerful words conveying an awesome ethic which has been part of our national psyche and vocabulary for a very long time. It has been the gold standard by which the members of the tribe comported ourselves. This rule has had a tribal like quality to it and unless you are a member of a tribe it is hard to grasp. Other ethnic groups who maintain a strong network and filial association can empathize with the sense of responsibility and belonging that we feel. The dictum kol yisrael areveim zeh lezeh defies the traditional definition of responsibility, because it also assumes belonging and group identification, transcending blood ties and demanding loyalty and fealty to the group. The idea of the “kehilla” is founded on this idea. In fact the underpinnings of the very idea of “Jewish community and infrastructure”, including the overpowering need to extend tzedakah wherever it is needed, is built upon the simple yet complex idea that we are bound to each other.
This paradigm that has helped define us as a global community for millennia undoubtedly (obviously) applies to Israel as well. Israel has enjoyed the financial, emotional and political support of the American Jewish community since the inception of modern Israel because of the abiding principal that kol yisrael arevim ze lezeh. Even though we were separated by geography, culture, language, law and citizenship there was always the bond of brothers, an unspoken pledge amongst us, which transcended space and defied logic. American Jews may have disagreed with some of Israel’s policies, and Israelis may have ridiculed their spoiled and naïve American brothers, but we settled our differences behind closed doors in a space reserved for members of the tribe. While there may have been dissension within our community we presented ourselves to the public as a unified front having settled any previous differences that threatened the harmony of the tribe.
All of this has begun to erode and while it is difficult to pinpoint its genesis (I shall leave this to the sociologist) one can certainly point to a series of recent benchmarks that underscore this lamentable reality. J Street is one, but a more insidious manifestation was the support that Barak Obama garnered from some quarters of the Jewish community. There is nothing inherently wrong with voting liberal. There is nothing wrong with voting conservative. What is troublesome is voting for a candidate that has leanings not favorable to a significant segment of the corpus of the Jewish people.
While this in itself may be disconcerting what is reprehensible is that individuals in leadership positions have chosen to join those that that have applied the infamous double standard to Israel’s conduct of war. The U.N. War Crimes Commission for Gaza is headed up by non other than Richard Goldstone, a Jew determined to nail Israel to the cross and is a persona non grata in Israel. Another maverick Jew is Ronnie Kasrils, a small time South African Jewish politician trying to make a name for himself by leading a campaign against Israeli soldiers carrying dual citizenship. He is trying to pressure his government into prosecuting those soldiers, members of the IDF holding South African citizenship, for war crimes.
There was a time that members of the tribe all shared common goals and even if there were fundamental disagreement rarely was there an instant when we turned against our own. All that has changed in a very short time. People like Kasrils and Goldstone have joined the auspicious gang of sophisticated Spanish bounty hunters on the hunt for Israeli “war criminals”, not wanting to dull their skills honed during the Inquisition. Add to that the new breed of self hating Jews, like Rahm Emanuel, and David Axelrod and we have a picture that doesn’t bode well for our future. (They represent a new breed of Jews, acting, ostensibly for the good of the Jewish people, but in reality they are no different that so many other well intentioned “court Jews” throughout our history). A week ago Robert Novak died. I couldn’t help but wonder who was worse Kasrils or Novak?