Hearing harsh words from people who are disaffected from Israel can make you feel sad, helpless and uninterested in your favorite activities.  Steven M. Cohen’s piece at the Shalom Hartman Institute blog is an approved article designed to treat these feelings with social science!

Your results may vary.

Steven M. Cohen wants you to know that though it may seem that everywhere you turn, you hear Israel talked about as “occupying someone else’s land, perhaps for good historical reasons, but with little contemporary justification” or as a place where “religious extremists [are] going further and further off the deep end.”  Or you hear that Israel rejects “the validity of Conservative/Masorti and Reform Judaism”. Or you might receive links to Israeli columnists and editorialists who decry “anti-democratic legislation; and some writers go so far as to wonder if Israel is veering toward fascism and/or practicing a form of apartheid in the West Bank.” Or, you read in The New York Times, about the “abuses of women that seem to go beyond even the ‘standard’ measure of sexism and gender disparity they see in their own societies.”   … DO NOT BE CONCERNED!

If you have one or more of these symptoms, it’s time for you to read “Disturbed or Distant? They’re Not the Same” and begin to feel better.

First, take comfort in numbers.  All those harsh voices that get you down are:

actually a small minority of North American Jews, to say the least (or the most). People with these progressive identities and a disposition toward disturbance may be culturally significant, but, truth be told, they are far from demographically dominant, even among American Jews (and no one has “accused” Canadian Jewry of excessive progressivism for quite awhile).

So, remember, all those harsh voices that you hear are really perhaps a harsh voice or two.  After a second dose reading, you might even find that all those awful things you hear from disaffected Jews about Israel might just be statistically insignificant.

Second, after reading the article, you will realize that of all of those harsh words do not come from individuals who are distant-from or anti-Israel but from folks who are simply disturbed by Israel.  And someone who is disturbed by Israel is actually someone “whom we love most dearly” precisely because they “disturb us most readily. In our personal lives, distress is a sign of engagement, not a sign of distancing.”  In fact, “[r]ather, the distressed and disturbed, North American Jews who are critical of Israeli leader and policies are actually very close to Israel.”

So, Steven M. Cohen concludes:

the next time you talk with someone who is distressed and/or disturbed by Israel, assume they’re actually very engaged with Israel. Just assume that they’re distressed and disturbed because, well, Israel can be very distressing and disturbing – especially to those who love the Jewish State most dearly.

Feel better now?  Good.

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