The Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi Hotovely, went on Israeli news over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend claiming that American Jews are a “people that never send their kids to fight for their country. Most of the Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines, going to Afghanistan, going to Iraq”. As much as the Israelis resent American Jews meddling into their business, we Americans have the same reservations.
Hotovely’s comments were in relation to the growing American-Israeli divide, but there is something that she missed – it is easy to be a Jew in Israel, but in America, it takes work. Israeli identity is ingrained in Jewish identity, and Judaism is a part of the culture. Jewish Americans, on the other hand, have to make the decision of whether or not to be Jewish, and how their Judaism might affect their acceptance into the mainstream American culture.
I was not surprised to see that Lee Rogers, a columnist from the Neo-Nazi Daily Stormer, use Hotovely’s words against American Jews, “The last thing the Jews want are the American people waking up to the fact that they’re fighting wars for them even though few Jews serve themselves.” Now, I expect a rabid anti-Semite to use anti-Semitic tropes against American Jews, but when the comments originate from a fellow Jew – albeit an Israeli Jew – that especially hurts.
Which gets to my next point – the idea of Jews not serving in proportion to their population is an old anti-Semitic lie that reached its heyday in Nazi Germany. In fact, we again saw it used this year in Charlottesville when we saw Neo-Nazis chanting, “Blood and Soil” – which refers to the idea that only white Americans have spilled blood for this country.
We know that American Jews have fought and died for our country as far back as Asser Levy and his comrades in the New Amsterdam colony. Since then, Jews have fought for America in every major war, and in World War II, Jews served disproportionately more than the rest of the population. Thousands of medals have been awarded to American Jews, and to date, 27 American Jews have been awarded the Medal of Honor.
American Jews had raised their hands to enlist at a same rate as other Americans. Thousands have fought in the 16 year long war which began with the 9/11 attacks, and currently, there are 15,000 American Jews serving on active duty and an additional 5,000 serving in the Guard and the Reserves. In any case, I dare Hotovely to tell the parents of the 56 fallen Iraq and Afghanistan Jewish American heroes that American Jews don’t serve. These Jewish Gold Star Families have made the ultimate sacrifice in protecting America and American values.
Here at JWV, we invite Deputy Foreign Minister to come meet with representatives of the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. and visit the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington, D.C. so that she can learn more about Jewish American Military History. We hope she takes us up on our offer.