Q: There’s always so much negativity in the news about Israel. And the good news often gets buried. Do influential Jews—bloggers, journalists, religious leaders—have an obligation to spread the word about positive developments coming out of Israel, in order to shed some positive light on Israel?
A: One of the major overriding precepts to our behavior as Jews is Kiddush Hashem, the sanctification of G-d’s name. Any action which reflects positively on Jews is a Kiddush Hashem while actions that do not are a Hillul Hashem, a desecration of G-d’s name. Unfortunately, the world tends to focus on the Jews’ downfalls rather than our achievements, causing us much grief. What is worse is that the Jewish world has been terrible about Public Relations and often do more damage with their statements than had they remained silent.
There are several perspectives on to what extent the modern state of Israel is an expression of Judaism, with some voices being very much against its existence. In principal, both attitudes can be maintained and one would not necessarily need to stick up for Israel, particularly when its actions violate the moral conscience of Judaism. However, in the spirit of the answer I am about to give I will not focus on Israel’s shortcomings, since I still believe that the positives that the State of Israel have accomplished outweigh the negatives.
It was Dr. Martin Luther King who said that anti-Zionism is a thin veil anti-Semitism. I can certainly attest to this by the kind of hate posts I received on my video simply stating why I am proud of Israel. There really isn’t a difference in the world’s mind between Israel and Jews, and this is a fact recognized by even the most ardent anti-Zionists. For example, the anti-Zionism Satmar sect excommunicated the members of the Neturia Karta for marching on Shabbat with Palestinians in Washington against the State of Israel. It was precisely for this reason, that we do not take the side of our enemies.
Israel is in desperate need of PR, and if you are able to help it is a positive thing. I do add a proviso: it must be done well. This means two things:
1. It must be done unapologetically. There are more than enough people on the other side to point out what Israel is doing wrong. It is the tendency of some Jewish sources to engage in self-deprecation while defending Israel that gets us in trouble.
2. The defense must be well-founded and well-researched. It will be scrutinized so it must be beyond reproach. The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot enjoins us to know how to answer the Apikores, a heretic. In this case, if you are willing to post, you have to be willing to do the background research to make sure that it is airtight.
The most important thing if you decide to advocate for Israel is to ask yourself: how will what I say be interpreted? If it will reflect negatively on Jews, then it’s better not to say anything.