Last update - 16:03 17/08/2008
The recent row over a U.S. art installation illustrates that our blanket embrace of Israel is outdated.
By Robbie Gringras
An exhibition in Chicago's Spertus Museum features Israeli and Palestinian artists engaging with the subjectivity of maps, and all falls apart. After a short struggle, the exhibition is closed down. The curation is described by the Jewish Federation as "anti-Israel," and one commentator goes so far as to describe the closed exhibition as "a cultural crime scene,", no less. Articles are written about "freedom from censorship" on the one hand, and "Jewish communal commitments" on the other.
But the huge elephant in the room has once again been stepped around.
The truth is that we don't fundamentally disagree about freedom of expression, or about the need for Jewish cultural institutions to relate to their audiences. We just haven't fully worked out how American Jewry can relate to Israel.
We have become used to only one way of relating to Israel: "hugging." We give Israel warmth, love, and support - with our eyes closed. This hugging was once entirely appropriate. The fledgling state was in need of support - immediate, instinctive, even blind support. But can hugging alone be a sufficient response to all of Israel's current complexity? Will a hug help us past Israel's attitudes to progressive Judaism? How much can a warm embrace move us beyond the nature of the Iranian threat?