Foolishness and hypocrisy

By Dow Marmur

Jerusalem (Nov. 26, 2017) – Tzipi Hotovely is an Israeli success story. Born in 1978 to immigrants from Georgia she became a lawyer and is now a doctoral student at Tel Aviv University. She married a lawyer and is the mother of two young children. For the last eight years she has been a Member of Knesset on behalf of the Likud party having been placed quite high on its list.

As her party boss and Israel’s prime minister decided to keep the foreign affairs portfolio for himself, he appointed Hotovely as his deputy, presumably to run the day-to-day affairs of the ministry and to act as her master’s voice.

Recently, however, she appeared to speak with her own voice and that got her into trouble with the master. Being the victim of the principle that a foolish act leads to another foolish act (a variant of the idea in Jewish lore that a good deed leads to more good deeds and transgressions breed transgressions), Hotovely responded to the stupid decision by Hillel in Princeton to cancel her scheduled appearance (woe unto us when liberal bodies, students to boot, try to muzzle people they disagree with) by lashing out against American Jewry.

Tzipi Hotovely was scandalously wrong when she suggested that American Jews don’t fight for their country

Even if some of what she said may have not been entirely wrong, it was very undiplomatic and unbecoming a deputy foreign minister. She may not have been wrong when she suggested that the non-Orthodox movements are using their claim to equal access to the Western Wall for political purposes. She might have added, however, that Orthodox movements and parties do the same.

But she was scandalously wrong when she suggested that American Jews don’t fight for their country, even though statistics suggest that they do so to a higher degree than their numbers would suggest. The implication that Jews aren’t as patriotic as others in the countries in which they live is, of course, an anti-Semitic canard. It’s especially vile when spoken by an Israeli public figure. Not surprising, we now hear that neo-Nazi websites in the United States are quoting Hotovely on the subject.

She was also very wrong when she implied that American Jews haven’t fought for Israel. The American lone soldiers currently serving in the IDF belie it, as do countless other instances. The contribution of American Jews to the creation and continued existence of the State of Israel is beyond dispute. Rabbi Michael Boyden published an important blog on the subject a few days ago.

I also meant to write about it after Hotovely’s outburst and Netanyahu’s repudiation of her statement, but decided that, in view of the other dramatic events in and around Israel, this wasn’t worth a page. However, Sunday’s editorial in Ha’aretz made me reconsider.

The editorial points out that the prime minister’s rebuke of Hotovely was an act of hypocrisy: in fact, she said what Netanyahu thinks and on which he acts. Like all Israeli right-wingers, both believe, that if you are Jewish you cannot be a Democrat and if you are a Democrat (which most American Jews are) you cannot be Jewish. Hence his current neglect of America’s Jews and her attack.

The rift between this Israeli administration and American Jewry is, therefore, much deeper than the little fracas around Hotovely’s speech: it reflects the policy of the current government of Israel. And it’s by no means clear where the opposition stands on this. Start worrying, more to follow.

Rabbi Dow Marmur is Rabbi Emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. He lives in Jerusalem.

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