Thursday, August 09, 2007

An Open Letter: Machal/Bnei Akiva

Dear Machal/Bnei Akiva,

I actually am not sure what your governing organization is, because my only information is gathered off of the backs of teenagers t-shirts.

You see, I was in Washington, DC yesterday (and it was so fricking hot) to see the National Museum of the American Indian. It was pretty lame, but we can talk about that later. As I walked around the Mall I saw 5 or 6 groups of young teenagers (with no discernible supervision!) in yellow t-shirts, carrying signs, and accosting strangers. The t-shirts said something like "help our captured soldiers" on the front, and on the back said "Machal" "Shevet Shvut" and the date. I googled "shevet shvut" and the only thing that came up was Bnei Akiva sites, and that seemed about right so I'll go with that.

At any rate, you may be wondering why I am writing this letter. You see, whomever you are, I think that your behavior in sending out young teenagers to accost strangers in DC, asking them to write their congresspeople to ask for the release of the captured soldiers bothers me for a number of reasons:

1) You are forcing/coercing kids to do this for you. Presumably these kids are on a Summer program, did they sign up for this specifically? It is pretty hot out there, and an unpleasant job. Are their parents aware that this is what their minor children are doing? It seems rather exploitive to me, and even dangerous, giving the heat, lack of supervision, and the fact that you have left small groups of children/teenagers alone in a city.

2) Even if these children are consenting, I have a problem with those who cannot vote lobbying those who can. There are other ways to influence politics, and if they wanted to raise money for a PAC, or hold a consciousness-raising event, fine. But it sits ill with me for them to ask constituents to lobby their representative when those asking are not in a position to do so. They can take none of the "risk," and don't really have to put themselves out there in the same way, so it seems unfair to ask others to do so.

3) I am a Zionist (CJ would say post-Zionist, but we can talk about that later), I am an American, and I am ticked. By lobbying people on the streets of DC, you are helping to spread the belief that Jews vote in America based on Israel. I hate when people do that, and I hate when people think that, that is the case. I would consider this a chillul hashem*, as you are, in fact, hurting other Jews. I have a Jewish friend who wants to work in the government, and he has to answer awkward questions about his allegiance to Israel in interviews. And that is just anecdotal. It is well known that Jews in the intelligence community have to answer many more questions than non-Jews, and why? Why? Because people like you behave in a way that makes Americans think that Jews are first Jews and second Americans, when for many people, that is not the case. We live in America, and I firmly believe that America's foreign policy should not be decided based on what is best for a third party state. I love Israel, I love the land, and I believe that the soldiers should be returned, but I don't think that there is any benefit in lobbying Congress. Lobby the UN, or the states that are giving sanctuary to Hamas and Hezbollah, but not Congress.

I hope that you will read this, and maybe identify yourself as whichever organization, so that I can properly address my complaints.

Sincerely,
Annie

*A chillul hashem is an act that makes Jews look bad, and a crime against G-d.

5 comments:

Liberal Jew said...

YAH ANNIE! STICK IT TO THOSE ZIONIST PIGS! errr I mean way to express your ideas! (Great points and I had friend interview for a postion that would have stationed in a place in VA that starts with the letter "L" and he didn't get it because he went on birthright.

Annie said...

LJ- Although I appreciate the support, as someone who went on birthright, I find it unlikely that your friend's participation in the trip is what put the kibosh on the job. More likely they just didn't like one of his answers.

However, it IS likely that he wouldn't have had to answer such pointed questions about a trip to Italy or France.

montana urban legend said...

I dunno, Annie. Methinks you underestimate the degree to which the foundational ideals of America emulated those of both the Israel of antiquity, as well as of today. I respect your point about wanting to do what's in the best interest of the country one is leading or voting on behalf of, but fealty and national allegiance are superceded by the creedal basis of the American state. The cultural universalism of both American values and in a different way, many Jewish values, transcends the ethnic tribalism of most nationalisms. And to make things even more complicated, I just ran across a book with a fascinating premise that explains how the American dream itself - as expressed through the most powerful mediums in this culture - was essentially redefined according to a Jewish perspective. And Americans by and large won't want to abandon the dream they've appropriated, regardless of the fact that it was defined by Jews.

And yet, none of this means that Israel can't be questioned, criticized or be otherwise considered something decidedly less than morally invincible. It just means that we shouldn't be so nervous about standing with it when it is right, and even moreso when it is in the right in a way that Americans can readily identify with and easily support within the framework of their own values as well.

Mo'ah Kemo Efro'ah said...

"to accost"

are you being dramatic here? i doubt they were accosting anyone.

"You are forcing/coercing kids to do this for you. Presumably these kids are on a Summer program, did they sign up for this specifically? . . . Are their parents aware that this is what their minor children are doing?"

camp moshava (of which machal is part of) is not a jappy sports or agudah learning camp. it is the educational summer program for bnei akiva, a religious zionist (and in the past, socialist) youth movement. so yes, parents send their kids there for exactly this type of a "indoctrination."

"It seems rather exploitive to me, and even dangerous, giving the heat, lack of supervision, and the fact that you have left small groups of children/teenagers alone in a city."

assuming we are talking about machal campers (are you sure these were not counselors or other staff?), we are still talking about tenth-graders, not ten-year-olds.

"It seems rather exploitive to me"

you say exploitive, i say educational.

"giving the heat"

spend some time during a heat wave in machal/camp moshava if you want to experience heat.

"I have a problem with those who cannot vote lobbying those who can."

what about resident non-citizens, illegal aliens, disenfranchised ex-cons, etc. or what about lobbying for something that is outside the confines of your political district (e.g., environmentalists from manhattan lobbying locals in alaska, even though they can't vote there themselves, on drilling alaskan oil fields).

"if they wanted to raise money for a PAC . . . fine."

if you are concerned about chillul hashem (and fanning the flames of anti-semitism), buying off politicians should raise more flags than asking people to lobby their representatives. from what i understand, it is specifically for this reason that aipac does not raise $ (note that is stands for public affairs committee, not political action committee).

"you are helping to spread the belief that Jews vote in America based on Israel"

1) many (most?) americans don't really vote based on what is best for america, but rather what is best for themselves (lower taxes vs. the welfare state), their ethnic/national/racial identification (irish, black), etc.

2) a strong israel is good for america

3) i'll fall back on brandeis (zionism = americanism)

"I don't think that there is any benefit in lobbying Congress. Lobby the UN, or the states that are giving sanctuary to Hamas and Hezbollah, but not Congress."

1) private american citizens have no leverage over the UN, hamas, etc. and thus "lobbying" them is a waste of breath.

2) congress, over which private american citizens do have leverage, does in turn have the levarage over the UN, hamas (e.g., with house appropriations, senate confirmations, etc.)

also, american jews have successfully lobbied congress in the past to further jewish causes. the best example i can give is the jackson-vanick. do you think the soviet union really would have listened to lobbying by private american citizens?

final thought: there is a value in teaching kids about political activism and practical democratic process. maybe engaging them as moshava does before they can vote will help address the problem of political apathy among those who can vote.

Mo'ah Kemo Efro'ah said...

just out of curiosity, would you feel so strongly if these guys were protesting genocide in darfur?