I suppose I should be pleased that Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, whose blog I occasionally read with pleasure, contrasted favorably the Magnes Zionist's posts with Avraham Burg's recent op-ed in the New York Times. Burg was indirectly admonished by the rabbi for criticizing Israel harshly to an external audience, whereas he singled out the Magnes Zionist for his harsh criticisms of Israel to an internal audience. Since the subject of Rabbi Rosen's blog was "Ahavat Yisrael," love of one's fellow Jews, one can reasonably infer that he thought that Mr. Burg was more deficient in that trait than is Jeremiah Haber.
I certainly hope that wasn't his point!
For one thing I write a blog that, while having a tiny fraction of the circulation of the New York Times, is addressed to anybody who can read it, and I have a lot of readers who are gentiles. True, I have a tendency to talk insider language, but that is just because blogs are "unbuttoned" affairs, with scads of spelling mistakes and punctuation errors. I do want to address Jews, of course, but not just. At times I am very happy to be seen in other company.
For example, I just published an essay in an anthology called, After Zionism, ed. by Antony Loewenstein and Ahmed Moor. Among the other contributors were Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy, Diana Bhuttu, Jeff Halper, Joseph Dana, Ahmed Moor, John Mearsheimer, Phil Weiss. The audience of this book is not mainly a Jewish one, and I would not be surprised if those individuals fail to make most people's Ahavat Yisrael list. (Some of them WILL make mine.) I wrote in my essay that not all forms of Zionism are treif (there I go again), and that there is a place for a certain kind of Zionism in a transformed Israel/Palestine. My essay sticks out like a sore thumb in this company, but the editors accepted it because they felt that this book is about trying to envision a more just Israel/Palestine than is the horrible state of affairs today.
As for Mr. Burg -- well, I assume that he wished to publish his piece in the New York Times because he wanted to reach Americans (including more American Jews than all the readers of all the Jewish media outlets combined) who consider themselves liberal and supporters of Israel. He has been carrying on a debate with Rabbi Daniel Gordis about Jewish fundamentalism on the pages of the Economist, even though the both of them work withing a five-minute walk of each other. Is this bad? To some it may suggest a lack of ahavat Yisrael to wage the wars of the Lord in the goyyische press. I don't see it that way. I see Burg's writings as a kiddush ha-Shem, a sanctification of God's name.
Re ahavat Yisrael, I once wrote:
When people ask me whether I am pro-Israel, I unhesitatingly and unabashedly say yes. I am for Israel, which is the classical name for the Jewish people, I believe in and practice, to the best of my limited capacities, the love of the Jewish people, ahavat Yisrael. But what does that phrase mean? Hannah Arendt pleaded guilty to Gershom Scholem’s charge that she lacked ahavat Yisrael, stating that she loves people, not “the people”, not an abstraction. But even if “Israel” is not taken to represent an abstract collective but rather each and every individual Jew, it is arguably impossible, not to mention undesirable, to love people you have never met, or worse, whose ideology or character revolts you, simply because you are a member of their tribe. (Do you love everybody in your family?)
And yet, for me, ahavat Yisrael means to accord members of the Jewish people a special place in my heart, because I view them as extended family. And that is why as a member of the family I feel worse when some of family act atrociously.
The basis for the commandment of ahavat Yisrael is the rabbinic interpretation of the Biblical commandment, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The philosopher of education Akiva Ernst Simon wrote an essay in which he showed (much to his dismay) that the rabbis interpreted "neighbor" not as one's fellow human being, but rather as one's fellow Jew. That much is clear; there is love for one's fellow Jew and respect for God's creatures. Still, one does hear the phrase nowadays, "ahavat ha-adam," love of human beings, if not as much in traditional rabbinic Judaism, than at least in the Judaism I admire and cherish.
But I propose here another reading of the verse, "You shalt love your neighbor as yoursefl" -- you shall love the neighbor who is like yourself, that is to say, you should love like-minded individuals, or what we Yanks call, "folks like us."
In my case, "the folks like us" are composed of what my mother-in-law, of blessed memory, would call kol ha-minim, 'all kinds': Jews, Christians, Muslims, lefties, righties. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with all of them provided that we share the same values. As the song goes, "We are family." True, the family may not be a traditional one, but it is family nonetheless. And if this non-traditional family can help members of my traditional family do the right thing...well, that's fine.
Of course it is also nice when members of your family are also "folks like us" -- in this case, folks like Rabbi Jeremy Rosen and Avraham Burg.