My teacher Rabbi David Hartman often jokes that we should criticize Israel like a mother not like a mother in law. A mother criticizes in order to refine. A mother in law criticizes for the sake of criticizing and even belittling. Even though this is not my personal experience it contains an important lesson about how we approach Israel. Criticizing with love is the goal. The notion that our love is negated by our criticism comes from a deep insecurity about our relationship with the State of Israel. We must criticize. But we must not only criticize. We must also defend. We must do both.
Leon Wieseltier offers these insights in his recent, brilliant article:
So Israel must be defended and Israel must be criticized. Almost nobody any longer practices the lost art of doing both at the same time, with similar emphasis, out of equally intense convictions, in a single breath. Instead there is the party of security and the party of justice, as if the country, any country, can endure without both. The debate is a stale contest in cursing between gangs, a tiresome exchange of to-be-sure sentences, uttered by people with anxieties about credibility, or worse, with no such anxieties at all. To be sure, the settlements are a terrible blunder, but centrifuges are spinning in Iran. To be sure, centrifuges are spinning in Iran, but the settlements are a terrible blunder. When I studied the history of Zionism as a young man, I was impressed by Ben-Gurion’s remark, about Britain’s restrictions upon Jewish immigration to Palestine even as Hitler was conquering Europe, that he would fight the White Paper as if there were no war and the war as if there were no White Paper. It seemed almost impossible and altogether correct. There is never only a lone danger or a lone ideal. We should fight the centrifuges in Iran as if there are no settlements and the settlements as if there are no centrifuges in Iran. Welcome to the gang of no gang.And we must always celebrate Israel's existence. We live in remarkable times. There exits a sovereign Jewish state! But nothing, and no one, is ever above criticism. And many things, most especially the modern State of Israel, is deserving of our love.
And of course my mother, and my mother in law.