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Forward Columnist Decries “McCarthyism” in the American Jewish Community

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
Year End 2009

Columnist Jay Michaelson stirred controversy with a column entitled “How I’m Losing My Love For Israel” in The Forward (Sept. 25, 2009).  
He wrote: “To paraphrase a recent Jewish organizational tagline, I’ve ‘hugged and wrestled with Israel’ for 20 years now. At first, it was all embrace, Zionist songs and culture nourished me like mother’s milk, and on my first trip to Israel I kissed the tarmac at Ben-Gurion as did other USY (United Synagogue Youth) kids. Eventually, the wrestling came to the fore, particularly as I became more conscious of the Palestinians, settlements, and religious-secular divides ... I’ve loved Israel for decades, lived there for three years ... And so it is with the sadness that accompanies the end of any affair that I notice my love is starting to wane.”  
Michaelson recalls that, “When my more liberal friends used to call me out about Israeli politics, I would sometimes respond that the picture they had, shaped by Western media, was a distorted one ... But, you know, a Southerner in the 1950s or an Afrikaner in the late l980s might say similar things ... Finally, I think my love of Israel is fading because I feel personally implicated by its injustices.”  
In a subsequent column in The Forward (Oct. 30, 2009), Michaelson reported that, “Since the publica-tion of ‘How I’m Losing My Love for Israel’ ... the most disturbing responses have not been the vitriolic e-mails or online comments nor the thoughtful and well reasoned replies ... Rather, I have been most troubled by the statements of many Jewish professionals — rabbis, federation leaders, non-profit directors — who have told me, ‘Thank you for saying what I cannot.’”  
Michaelson asks: “Why is it that they cannot say what I said? Because they fear for their jobs, or fear their organizations would be harmed if they expressed their opinion? And what opinion is that, which they and I share? Is it hatred of Israel? Support for the terrorists of Hamas? No. It is ambivalence, uncertainty or reservations regarding the State of Israel ... This is outrageous, and it has shocked me in the weeks since the column was published.”  
While noting that he continues to “love” Israel, Michaelson declares that Israel “does not deserve the kind of love — unconditional, unwavering — that many in our community demand. This is so not because we are unfaithful, but because our lover has become abusive ... Fortunately, I think the American Jewish community is at a tipping point on these issues ... I think one reason my little personal essay struck such a chord is that, between J Street, President Obama, and these shifts in the American Jewish community, there’s an understanding that the tide has begun to turn ... I loathe the company we Zionists are forced to keep: ethnocentrists, know-nothings, warmongers and worse; that angry pseudo-majority whose Disney-fied myths eclipse the region’s messy realities, who dehumanize Arabs and furiously lob the words ‘anti-semitism’ and ‘Holocaust’ like rhetorical hand-grenades. What they love is not what I love.”

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