When Israel is at war there is a “domino effect,” said one seminar participant in Cleveland. Many of the discussions stressed the way Israel’s wars – the manner in which they are presented in the media, the attention they draw, and the seemingly automatic tendency of non-Jews to assume that all Jews take a pro-Israel stance – directly affect the relationships Jews have in their surroundings.
As also highlighted in last year’s Dialogue report, “There is clear evidence that periods of tension between Israel and its neighbors increase the frequency and intensity of harassment/attacks against Jews in various places around the world. This is true for places where there are only a few Jews as well as places where the Jewish communities are larger and stronger.” This year, in light of the bloody incidents against France’s Jewish community, such insights were particularly emphatic. One discussion participant noted, “Any time [Israel uses force] synagogues are burned.”17 Accordingly, it is only natural that Jews worldwide would be worried about Israel’s policies toward its neighbors, and its image overseas. Whether they want a connection with Israel or not, Jews around the world are forced to bear some of the cost for the way Israel is perceived by the world.
This conclusion applies not only to Jews residing in communities under direct and outright threat of violence, but also to relatively safe communities, such as in the United States. Dialogue participants shared many stories that shed light on how IDF actions impact their lives. A St. Louis participant said, “Whether I want it or not I am forced into acting as an ambassador for Israel.” In many discussions, participants described incidents when they chose to remain silent, and sometimes did not identify themselves as Jews, so as not to be dragged into conflict and debate with adamant Israel detractors.
Here too, the difficulty perceived by younger Jews is greater than that of their older counterparts, among other reasons, because the way they understand Israel and its responsibility for the continuous wars differs from that of the older generation. For example, the percentage of young Dialogue participants who believed that Israel’s enemies pose an “existential threat” was much lower than that of older participants.