Answering Andrew Sullivan on Allison Benedikt

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Andrew weighs in on the Benedikt controversy with a thoughtful post, which you should read in full. He writes, at the end:

My own view is that the interests of the US require pressuring Israel to agree to a reasonable two-state solution soon. Maybe I'm wrong. But could a Jewish person convinced of the same argument remain a Jew in good standing? I suspect that's where the issue hinges. Is a commitment to Zionism in defense of Greater Israel a disqualifier from being part of the Jewish people? Benedikt notes that her position in the end is not that much different from Goldblog's stated position:
I bet I land, uncomfortably, about where you land: If the decision comes down to brutal occupation forever to maintain the Jewishness of the state or true democracy, which would mean no Jewish state, I would have to choose the latter--but there is nothing easy or wishful in me writing that, and I hope it never comes to that (though more and more it seems like it will).
She's right, isn't she? So why the outrage?

The outrage comes form the fact that many of us -- I would dare say most American Jews -- believe that you just don't get to walk away. I believe -- not just me, this is one of the messages of the Passover seder -- that all Jews are responsible for each other. This means when you believe a Jew (or, say, a Jewish state) is going astray, you are duty-bound to intervene. Abandoning Israel, abandoning the Jewish people, is abandoning your own family. As Andy Bachman noted, it is a rabbinic dictum that, "all of Israel (read, 'the Jewish people') are responsible for one another."

Nearly half of the world's Jews live in Israel. They are the descendants of refugees from the pogroms; from the great Arab expulsions; and from the Shoah. They are our brothers and sisters. We may not like what they do. We may find them, as Allison Benedikt clearly does, aesthetically displeasing. But they are ours. We don't abandon them. This is one of the reasons I admire groups like J Street the New Israel Fund. Their members could have made the decision to wash their hands of what they see as a terrible mess. But they haven't. They understand their responsibilities as Jews, to Jews (and to the world, which is the great, difficult balancing act of being Jewish: Caring specifically for Jews, and caring specifically for the entire world, at the same time). I might not agree with many of the positions these groups take, but they are fighting for their vision of Judaism and Zionism.

Allison Benedikt, on the other hand, has given up. She revels in her alienation, which, as she freely admits, was provoked by her non-Jewish and quite hostile husband. Ultimately, Benedikt's problem is one of self-absorption.Peter Beinart wrote of her essay, "As epiphany stories go, I found this uncompelling. It's insular -- there are no Israelis or Palestinians in it." I don't agree with Peter so often anymore, but I agree with this.

I'm posting once more on the subject -- some of the e-mail I've received on Benedikt -- and then, back to the usual grind.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/06/answering-andrew-sullivan-on-allison-benedikt/240924/