Jewish critics of Israel -
are also strongly Jewish
I must take issue with columnist Gerald Steinberg’s claim that the “independent Jewish voices” who choose to criticize Israel’s policies are “not active in synagogues, play no role in other Jewish institutions and do not contribute to Jewish life” (“Israel-bashing Jews: not in my name,” CJN, March 5). In 2004, my colleague Emma Jo Aiken and myself conducted a research project with members of Toronto Jewish groups opposed to Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian lands. The results were presented that year at the annual meeting of the Association of Canadian Jewish Studies.
Contrary to Steinberg’s claim, the 15 interviewees, representing five different groups, displayed a strong commitment to Jewish life. In fact, more than half of those interviewed belonged to synagogues and had a self-described “strong Jewish background,” including attendance at Jewish day schools and membership in Zionist youth movements. Indeed, half of those interviewed described themselves as Zionists with strong connections to the traditions of socialist thought and dissent that are part of the history of Zionism. While it may be comfortable to believe that Jews who criticize Israel are beyond the pale, there is evidence that their connection to Judaism and Jewish life is not only quite real, but for many is the basis for their political stance.