Last update - 02:30 11/05/2008
Let's be done with all the Talanskys
By Gideon Levy
Revealing the identity of the primary witness, Morris Talansky, in the lastest Ehud Olmert affair raises questions that go beyond the prime minister. Serious questions need to be asked about the relationship between American Jewry and Israel.
Granted, Talansky is a mere individual, but he is not the only one. Jerusalem is full of wheeler-dealers, functionaries, lobbyists, donors and philanthropists. There are rich men and middlemen, envoys and delegations, many of them with good intentions, but some without.
They wheedle and schnorr and contribute to various causes. It's the kind of schnorring that begins with Shaare Zedek Medical Center and could end in court. The question here is why did Talansky, or any other Jewish American, invest, allegedly, in Olmert? What do they receive in exchange for this pot stirring?
It's time to reorganize the system, to air out the relationship between the world's largest and second-largest Jewish community - a relationship that has long become distorted and even harmful. It is time to say to the American Jews directly, as is customary among relatives: Leave us alone. Take your hands off Israel. Stop using your money to buy influence in Israel. Stop "contributing" to advance your interests and views, some of which are at times delusionary and extremely dangerous to the future of the country you're supposedly trying to protect.
No thank you, we're doing all right. No thank you, some of you are causing us great damage. If you want to wield influence, do it in your own country. You have a lot of power and influence there. Perhaps too much; it's none of our business. You are American, not Israeli citizens, and no amount of money can or should change this fact. War and peace, social justice and government, education and religion in Israel are a matter for its citizens alone.
Our door should of course remain open to visits, immigration and displays of interest. But the extent of American Jewry's intervention in our affairs has long become intolerable. It's time to show them the door - the one that separates them from us.
Israeli politicians from all parties engage in an overly close rapport with American Jews, and of course, their money. The American Jewish establishment may support all Israeli governments blindly and automatically - this, too, is inexplicable and raises weighty questions. But under the official countenance of not intervening in our internal affairs, they have a thumb in every pie.
Sixty years old, economically sound, enjoying the great superpower's massive support, which is unequalled worldwide - Israel is strong and mature enough to manage without the interference of American Jewry.
The name of the game, of course, is money. Everything is about money, even if it is concealed under a pile of cliches and promises. From the prime minister to the mayor of a remote town, from hospital director to community center manager - all look to Jewish-American money. That's a guarantee for unhealthy relations. If it could be justified in the state's early days, when everything was still new, it no longer has place in a 60-year-old state that can and should build its own community centers and avoid the price it will be charged for schnorring. We are dealing with an impatient, aggressive Jewish community, whose aggression is reflected in its relations with Israel.
In many areas the damage is direct and considerable. The settlements in the territories, for example, would not have thrived and grown had it not been for the big money flowing from American Jews. A Ynet investigation released around two years ago found that American Jews sent $100 million to the settlements in the past decade.
Dozens of Jewish associations foster and finance the most nefarious project we've ever had here, from the One Israel Fund to the Hebron Fund, from American Friends of Ateret Cohanim to Shuvu Banim. They are all fattening the settlements, some openly and others under the table.
By so doing the Jews are helping to shape and mutilate another state. It's not only money: The loud, blatant Jewish right wing, which crushes any display of a different opinion in America, is trying to do the same in Israel. Camera, a McCarthyist group that persecutes journalists in the United States, is directing its absurd persecution and slander campaigns against the Israeli media as well. That is also part of the distorted relationship.
The contribution of American Jewry to Israel may on balance be positive. They financed and built for us quite heavily; we in turn offered them a safe haven and a source of pride. Neither side of this equation is relevant any longer. We no longer need their money, certainly not at the price of their interference, and it is doubtful we can still offer them that haven or pride. Let's part as friends, then. Let American Jews attend to their own business, and us to ours. And let's be done with any more Talanskys.