Today we learned that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with encouragement from President Trump, has barred two duly elected members of the United States House of Representatives from entering into the State of Israel because of their support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. There is no question that some of the statements made by Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have been disturbing to those of us who love Israel and who see BDS as a dangerous and thinly veiled effort to delegitimize the Jewish State. In addition, it is clear that their goals in visiting were questionable. I do not agree with their positions or pronouncements about Israel. Nonetheless, as duly elected members of the United States Congress, they are representatives of our country. Banning them from Israel will only serve to create tensions –between our two nations, within our government and within the Jewish community. It also has the potential to backfire - providing Israel's enemies with more reasons to condemn her. As the leaders of AIPAC, the URJ, the ADL and many other Jewish organizations, as well as people from all sides of the political spectrum – from Senators Elizabeth Warren to Marco Rubio[i] - have publicly stated, this action is ill advised and dangerous. Aside from the political ramifications of this decision, nothing good can ever come from using support of Israel (or a lack thereof) as a litmus test of patriotism. Zionism must never be allowed to become a partisan issue. President Trump is not and cannot ever be the arbiter of anti-Semitism.
In this week’s Torah portion, VaEtchanan, we find the words of the Shema:
“Hear O Israel, Adonai is our God, Adonai is One.” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
Our tradition has taught us that God’s oneness is a powerful symbol of the need for our people to be unified as well. While we cannot always agree on every issue that comes before us, this action – taken by the leader of the State of Israel with encouragement and support from the President of the United States of America - will only serve to divide and weaken our people, our nation and our support of Israel. I strongly add my voice to those who have already opposed and condemned this ill-advised decision.
[i] Remarks from Senator Elizabeth Warren: https://twitter.com/ewarren/status/1162010723691765760%20%20
Remarks from Senator Marco Rubio: