In the days before Yom Kippur, we examine our behavior and commit to improving ourselves. One of our greatest faults is hypocrisy. Too often, we call on others to do something that we refuse to do ourselves. When we are being hypocritical in order to score political points, we take hypocrisy to a whole new level.
An Israeli prime minister’s visit to the United States is an opportunity to improve bilateral relations and take pride in the relationship between the two nations. It shouldn’t matter who the prime minister is, the office itself deserves respect.
But this rule does not seem to apply when Benjamin Netanyahu is prime minister.
For decades, Israeli opposition figures have adhered to the principle that one should not criticize Israel’s leaders abroad. There is a good reason for this. While there are issues that ought to be passionately debated in the Knesset and in the streets, we should not be airing our dirty laundry before the eyes of the world, much of which is looking for any opportunity to defame and libel the Jewish state.
Unfortunately, opponents of the Netanyahu government’s campaign for judicial reform have chosen not to abide by this principle. This has serious consequences. Their language of “apartheid” and “the end of democracy” will not necessarily hurt Netanyahu and his supporters, but it can do untold damage to Israel’s global standing. It has already harmed Israel’s economy and security.
A similar case of hypocrisy was the attitude of major American Jewish organizations towards Netanyahu’s recent meeting with entrepreneur Elon Musk.
For years, these organizations have advocated engagement and debate as the best ways to deal with antisemitism. Many of them will reach out to the individual or institution that has engaged in antisemitism in order to explain why what they did was problematic. The hope is that education and engagement will ensure that the perpetrator does not repeat the offense.
Elon Musk is not an antisemite, but it is clear that since his acquisition of Twitter (rebranded X), the site has become a more comfortable place for antisemites. If the major Jewish organizations were to follow their usual playbook, they would not attack Musk, but engage him in a dialogue.
This is precisely what Netanyahu did in his meeting with Musk. He was not shy about openly and publicly calling on Musk to condemn and fight antisemitism on his platform. While Netanyahu expressed his understanding of free speech concerns, he was unequivocal in his call for Musk to do more.
The major organizations, however, cried foul and tried to delegitimize the meeting. Clearly, this deviation from their standard behavior was due to Netanyahu’s involvement.
The Jewish people need to be above such hypocrisy. We need to remind ourselves of the boundaries of decent and fruitful debate. We need to remember to act in support of the Jewish state and not against it. We can have divisions at home, but we need unity abroad. This is what has helped Israel achieve so much in its 75 years.
Yom Kippur teaches us that it is never too late to change and return to our highest values. Let’s all hope that, over the coming year, we will see less hypocrisy and more honesty, less division and more unity.