Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely claimed on Israeli English-language news over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend that American Jews are a “people that never send their children to fight for their country. Most of the Jews don’t have children serving as soldiers, going to the Marines and going to Afghanistan or going to Iraq.”
As much as the Israelis resent American Jews meddling in their business, we Americans have the same reservations.
Hotovely’s comments were in relation to the growing American-Israeli divide, but there is something 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 whether to be Jewish and must consider how their Judaism might affect their acceptance into the mainstream American culture.
I was not surprised to see 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.”
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 neo-Nazis chanted “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 Jews served disproportionately more than the rest of the population in World War II.
Thousands of medals have been awarded to American Jews, 27 of whom have been awarded the Medal of Honor.
American Jews have raised their hands to enlist at the same rate as other Americans. Thousands have fought in the 16-year-long war that began with the 9/11 attacks. Currently, 15,000 American Jews serve on active duty, and an additional 5,000 serve 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.
We invite Deputy Foreign Minister Hotovely to come meet with representatives of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA and visit the National Museum of American Jewish Military History in Washington so that she can learn more about Jewish American military history. We hope she takes us up on our offer.
Anna Selman is the programs and public relations coordinator for the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America.