Among Jews, a subtext of many debates about Israeli/Palestinian politics is the question of who gets to define Jewishness. Is it believers and militarists who believe that "Greater Israel" really is land "promised" to the descendants of Abraham and Isaac? Or humanists who take pride in Jews' diaspora history as "rootless cosmopolitans?" Who is more "in touch" with their Jewishness -- a secular Israeli or a practicing American? A peacenik, a kibbutznik, or a hawk?
Of course, like most debates over legitimacy and authenticity, these questions are reductive, silencing, and actually prevent people from understanding one another. The starting point for a political discussion on settlements, for example, or Palestinian statehood, should not be a definition of "appropriate" Jewishness. Why? Because fixating on that question, as Phil Weiss has written, makes it easier to elide the fact that the group of people primarily suffering right now -- and primarily culturally threatened -- are not Jews, but Palestinians.
That's not to say that we shouldn't make political arguments informed by our own understanding of Jewish values -- and do so proudly and assertively. I've done so myself. But the bottom line is that those who seek to police other people's Jewishness betray an ideological rigidity that is completely unhelpful in the current political moment. | TAPPED |
I'd go further, and say that applying the question of "Jewishness" to politics--while completely understandable--is straight up racist.