Recent decades have witnessed a growing polarization in Diaspora Jewish communities, especially in the U.S., into different camps, and a shrinking of the “middle”.5 Visible in several spheres, this trend also applies to the relationship with, and attitudes toward, Israel. These trends are more conspicuous when international political attention is focused on Israel, and even more so when Israel is involved in active armed conflict. “Israel’s security policy is making it increasingly harder for Diaspora Jewry to present a unified voice vis-à-vis the Jewish state,” claimed the author of a comprehensive study of Diaspora Jewry and Israel.6
Last summer, while Operation Protective Edge was being waged in Gaza, the divergence in attitudes toward Israel was all the more pronounced. Clear support for Israel was expressed in Jewish Diaspora communities; yet quite a few critical, sometimes harshly so, voices were raised. “Privately, people admit to growing tired of defending Israeli military action when it comes at such a heavy cost in civilian life, its futility confirmed by the frequency with which it has to be repeated.”7
These circumstances lead JPPI to focus the 2015 Israel-Diaspora Dialogue on questions of morality and Jewish values in the use of force, as we sought to understand World Jewry’s perspectives regarding the way Israel has conducted its recent wars. Dialogue seminars were held in over 20 Jewish communities worldwide.8 Hundreds of participants discussed questions in three major spheres: What they know about Israel’s actions, and their insights about its methods of operation; How Israel’s actions correspond with Jewish values, and their moral expectations of Israel; and How Israel’s actions affect their lives and their connection to the Jewish state.