As an American Jew currently working at a Palestinian think tank in Haifa, I see both sides. Certainly, there is a chronic blindness – intentional or otherwise – on the part of the rest of the world towards the injustices done the Palestinians on the part of the Israeli government.
Yet as much as I fight for social justice (quote unquote), I can’t help but feel utterly betrayed by this Knesset motion, as I do every day in my work reading and researching these injustices towards Palestinians. It is not an issue of who Israel and the rest of the world may or may not be ignoring. It’s about questions of personal identity, questions that matter very deeply to a whole world of people. My own identity as a non-Orthodox Jew, the identity of Palestinian citizens of Israel as Palestinian, as Arab, as non-Jewish in a Jewish-only world: there is a similarity here.
Certainly this wrong is not nearly as damaging – yet – as the abuses towards the Palestinians. These are completely incomparable situations. But they bother me, and I predict many others, on two completely different levels. The move to “accredit” only Orthodox conversions is an offense to who I am. Israel’s daily policies against Palestinians are an offense to what I believe. These overlap but solicit different reactions. Fight or flight versus stay and play, so to speak.
If anything at all, we can hope that what comes from this is a newborn sense of understanding on the part of American Jews for the hardships and discrimination Palestinians endure in their daily lives.