Rabbi Jill Jacobs writes that a group of North American rabbis, cantors, rabbinical and cantorial students from all denominations of Judaism, who in January were petitioning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cease plans for construction of a new settlement, did not get the hearing they deserved. She writes:
There are some who say that Diaspora Jews have no say in what goes on in Israel, since we don’t put our lives on the line to live there. I don’t buy this argument for a second. We have a stake in Israel because it is the Jewish homeland. We have a stake in Israel because we invest millions of dollars there, and lobby for the U.S. government to invest billions more of our tax dollars. We worry about family and friends in the Israeli army, who risk and sometimes lose their lives defending the misguided settlement project. And we are the ones who must explain to members of other communities, members of our own communities, and even our children why a state built on Jewish values perpetuates a military occupation of another people.
Since long before the creation of the state, the relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jews has been an unequal one. For too long, we have accepted the assumption that Diaspora Jews will send money and keep our mouths shut. We have perpetuated a myth that real Judaism lives in Israel, while our own Diaspora lives offer only a pale shadow of Jewish life. So we send our children to Israel for their Jewish inspiration and engagement, we fund hospitals and schools in Israel, and we devote our own political capital to defending Israel from criticism.
Jacobs writes: “We have a stake in Israel because we invest millions of dollars there, and lobby for the U.S. government to invest billions more of our tax dollars.” I have a problem with that. “We” refers to Diaspora Zionists but the tax dollars referred to as “our tax dollars” come from a much wider source, including vast numbers of Americans who do not have the slightest interest or desire to bankroll Israel’s defense forces — 20% of Israel’s defense budget is paid for by American taxpayers. So when Jacobs talks about lobbying the U.S. government to invest billions of tax dollars in Israel, she should be clear about who provides those tax dollars.