Thursday, May 3, 2012

Is there a limit to loving criticism?

There is a common (one might say tired, overdone)  motif in all sit-coms where a wife often asks her poor husband how she looks in a particular outfit. Usually, the husband will try and find some way to avoid answering the dreaded question: Do I look good in this? You see, in this situation, the truth will not help him...He loves his wife. He loves her with every sinew of his being and he may well think that she is incomparably beautiful and it doesn't matter what she wears. So of course, he is always going to say yes, right? Well not exactly - you see his wife sometimes wants just to hear, "yes you look beautiful" and sometimes she wants to hear, "Well no, you can't really wear those boots with that skirt, they don't go". Now the problem is he doesn't always catch the right situation... And if he answers, "Of course you look beautiful" when she wants a more specific answer, then he's in the doghouse, because, in his unfeeling, stereotypically male, neanderthal manner, he has managed to show that he doesn't really care what she wears. If you haven't guessed - I am feeling a certain amount of empathy for the husband figure in this sit-com sketch - in fact, minus some of the stereotyping, I can completely identify. I admit it. So you see - I hate that question. Because let's face it - what's important to me is that I love my wife and she's beautiful, and I don't care so much about the shoes matching or not. My guess is there are few people in relationships who are hearing my pain. But in the end, it doesn't really matter - because my wife may know that I don't know anything about clothes, and that I think she looks beautiful in anything, but she also knows that I love her. So after she tells me to pay attention and actually look, I can give her an honest critique, and we are hunky-dory, safe in the knowledge that we love each other, and she is now wearing the correct boots for her outfit.

But I don't write about relationships - so what's this about? Well, I recently had an interesting conversation with a facebook friend about this article. And the conversation led us to ask the question - what is loving criticism of Israel from "the Diaspora"? Is there acceptable criticism and unacceptable criticism of a government?

You see, I am as critical as can be about Israeli government policy. I have protested it, I have petitioned against it, and I am willing to shout and wail about it in the streets. But it's my government! The question arose in my conversation with my fb friend - how much criticism can a partner take before they begin to doubt the sincerity of the "love" out of which the critic speaks.

So - I ask myself? Have I turned into that narrow minded Israeli who refuses to hear criticism - no, I don't believe I have. I am happy to hear criticism from many pro-Palestinian organisations (including Jewish Pro-palestinian organisations). You know what, I myself consider myself a Jewish pro-Palestinian. I support Palestinian nationhood, I support Palestinian business. I do my best not to support the economy of the settlements. I vote for and am a member of a party which will uproot the settlements and work towards a Palestinian state. I am a pro-Palestinian critic of Israeli governmental policy. And I believe that my critique of the state's actions comes from within. From a place of love.

When I critique Likud policy or Bibi Netanyahu personally, though, it is not out of love. I do not love Bibi (more than I love any other human in that they are human). Infact I dislike Bibi and resent him for what he has done to my country. So I would be dishonest if I said that I criticise him from a place of love. Maybe if I was part of his family but disagreed with him politically, I could say that - that I love him, but because I love him, I must tell him that he is wrong. And that's the key - criticism will always be criticism. Love needs to be shown and felt. It cannot be declarative. Next time my wife asks me about the sweater, or the boots, or the skirt - I know that she knows that I love her, because we live together, day in, day out. We support each other and face the world together.

So now I understand another level of the complicated "critique from Love position" of Diaspora Jewry. You see it's not about the criticism - it's about the love..... The real issue is not whether Israel can take criticism or not. We take it plenty. We've learnt to live with it. It is that essentially we don't see ourselves as being in a loving relationship (or pretty much any relationship) with Diaspora Jewry. What Diaspora Jewry needs to understand is that we don't see your criticism as loving - not because it's criticism, but simply because we essentially view you as any other foreigners. That's sad, and I get that it's hurtful, and I wish it wasn't so, but you know what - you chose that. Israel has made it super-easy to come and be a citizen here (I'm not saying it's easy to make aliyah, but it isn't hard to become an Israeli citizen). You chose not to. You chose to stay living in America, Argentina, France, wherever.... We asked you to move in. You said no. And now you think there's still a loving relationship? When you say to Israel, those shoes (the settlements) don't really go with that skirt (being a democracy), you're right. And you know what - if you were a fashion guru, we'd listen to you. And also, if you were our husband or mom or a close friend, we would listen too. But you aren't. And think about it for a second. If someone stops you in the street and tells you that your shoes don't go with your outfit, you're not going to stop, rationally and think about it and say - oh yeah, you're right. You're going to think they are rude and should mind their own business. Especially considering that at the time, the back of their skirt was accidentally tucked into their knickers. So - criticism from Love - it works as a concept, but there has to be real love. And unfortunately - there just isn't. Sorry guys....