Billionaire philanthropist Ron Lauder – president of the World Jewish Congress – has long enjoyed a reputation as being a staunch advocate for Israel. So we were dismayed at his shotgun assault on the Jewish State in an op-ed piece in The New York Times last week.
Entitled “Israel, This Is Not Who We Are,” it carries the subheading, “Orthodoxy should be respected, but we cannot allow the politics of a radical minority to alienate millions of Jews worldwide.” Lauder goes on to condemn the government for not setting up a specific kind of “egalitarian” prayer section at the Kotel, for basing conversion law on halacha, and for adopting a law that denies certain rights to same-sex couples.
Curiously, he also challenges the passage of the new nation-state law, which, he states, “correctly reaffirms that Israel is a Jewish state, but also damages the sense of equality at the expense of Israel’s Druze, Christian and Muslim citizens.”
He goes on to say that “today some wonder if the nation they cherish is losing its way.” It is an interesting thing he does – suggesting that Israel’s adherence of eternal verities is a sign of the country “losing its way.”
More importantly, he never really explains why adherence to Orthodox rules by all should be such a big deal. If Israeli conversion law, for example, is driven by Orthodox standards, no non-Orthodox Jew is forced to violate non-Orthodox standards (which are far less exacting). Yet, an official recognition of non-Orthodox conversion standards would surely introduce a material conflict for the Orthodox.
Lauder’s characterization of Orthodoxy’s traditionalism as “radical” is of course inane. But what makes Lauer’s article particularly troubling is that it undermines the notion that Israel belongs to the Jews as a matter of biblical fiat and that it is specifically a Jewish land. Plainly, the further one moves from biblical norms, the less resonant that principle is.
Meanwhile the Arabs never waiver in asserting their religion-based entitlement to the entire Middle East.