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David Borzykowski
Photo by Rhonda Spivak.

Am I really a bad Jew?

By David Borzykowski, October 1, 2009

[Editor’s note: The following article was written by David Borzykowsk on January 8, 2009 during Israel’s operation Cast Led. He is master's student in political studies at the University of Manitoba.]

Over the past nine days I have been watching and listening to others support or oppose the current goings on in the Gaza strip. Like any conflict and especially the Israeli-Palestinian one, there are two sides to every story, except it seems, among Jews. 

Here are my views on the situation.

I do not support the offensive in Gaza.

I do believe in Israel's right to exist.

For most Jews these two statements cannot go together and are in fact the antithesis of each other. What is the most troubling to me is that when I vocalize my opposition to the offensive I am automatically branded an 'anti-Israel wacko' or worse, a 'bad Jew.'

Now, I have encountered this before, particularly when I explain to people that I am writing my Master's thesis on the economic impact of the second Intifada on the Palestinian economy. People jump to conclusions again and think that I'm another self-hating, anti-Israel Jew like so many others that give Jews a bad name. While I certainly do not think that those people give Jews a bad name, I know that I do NOT give Jews a bad name. Why does blind support for Israel have to be equated with being a good Jew?

Because I do not agree with Israel's actions, it does not make me any less of a Jew. In fact, I think that it makes me a better Jew! All through history the Jewish people have been recognized as "the people of the book." We have been known for our mental prowess and the ability to look at the law laid out in the Torah and engage in healthy debate and finally come to a ruling. The entire Talmud is just that — debates on the oral law by the scholars of the day, with additional commentary by Rashi and his family added hundreds of years later. None of these great Jewish scholars ever took the law at face value. Each and every one of them looked deeper into the questions that they had about their religion that they devoted their lives to and came up with reasonable answers. At the Jewish schools I attended we always learned that these scholars were some of the greatest Jews in history and that they were all people to look up to. So why if I don't have blind faith in Israel am I a bad Jew? Because I can look critically at the situation and realize that there are serious shortcomings to the offensive in Gaza? Because I can sympathize with Palestinians I'm therefore anti-Israel?

Mainstream Jewish thinking is seriously flawed. The people who subscribe to the support-Israel-no-matter-what philosophy are pushing people like me further and further away from the community. I know there are other people out there like me, people that do believe in Israel but don't agree with what they do, though we are afraid to voice our opinions. But we are the people that you want in your community. The Jews that are actually anti-Israel and don't believe in its right to exist don't care what the community response to things like this are, because they know that the community won't represent their views.

But where do people like me go? There was a support-Palestine rally on Saturday in Winnipeg. I could never go to a rally like this because there is a fundamental difference between them and me — I cannot support a rally that calls for the dissolution of the State of Israel. At the same time I cannot attend the pro-Israel rally that the community is organizing on Thursday for similar reasons, I do not support what is going on.

I am not anti-Israel.

I lived in Israel; I have taken out Birthright trips as a Madrich (counselor); I am considering moving back there to get my Ph.D. I love Israel. It is honestly one of the very few places that I feel the most at home. I would encourage everyone to go there. In terms of the Jewish community, I feel an obligation to try to get people to go to Israel and to experience what I experienced, and I am on the various Birthright committees so that I can do just that. And so it bothers me even more when people think that I hate Israel and that I'm a bad Jew because of it.

I know that there are other Jews out there that feel the same way. I hope that this post can encourage people to come forward and voice their opinions in opposition to what is currently going on in the Gaza Strip without feeling like they will be branded a 'bad Jew.'

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.