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That's really good food for thought. I won't comment further right now because everything I think of leads to internal inconsistency.
Thanks for a thoughtful and fact-filled reply.
My concerns have to do with the large number of people who seem to assume that being a Jew, being an Israeli, and being a Zionist are identical. In my lifetime I've seen this manifested many times.
Many long years ago I worked for what was then DuPont's Savannah River Plant, an installation dedicated to isotope production and research. I was therefore required to acquire and maintain a Secret security clearance. No big deal in itself, but I once made an injudicious remark regarding President Nixon and found myself talking with three FBI agents. Again, this was no big deal; their questions fit the situation well and I was able to answer them with no difficulty … until one of them asked me what I would do if the United States found itself at war with Israel. After a moment's thought, I said something like "This is the closest I've ever come to jumping across a table at someone I'm talking with. That question amounts to asking me whether or not I'm an American. I AM an American. The United States of America is my country. In that unlikely situation I would act in MY country's interests."
I also find it disturbing that many of my neighbors seem to think we should be electing a President mostly on the basis of the candidates' noisy support of Israel. I think a President of the United States should put the interests of the United State first. Israel is a good friend and ally, but its interests don't alway coincide with outs.
These two experiences, along with many others, are the reason I feel a personal need to assert my status as an American who is, among many other things, a Jew. Others are most welcome to feel otherwise, and I support their right to differ with me … but I consider Judaism a religion and a culture, not a "peoplehood."
I was thinking only of where I stand in this discussion; hence the use of "I" and "Jew." Everyone else's opinions are equally valid for them. I have no problem with people who see themselves as part of a "Jewish People." They deserve the best and I support it when the opportunity arises.
I (there I go again! no way to avoid that word) think my understanding of the phrase "chosen people" is clear and matches yours. My problem is that I don't believe it (my prerogative) and I fear it contributes to the intellectual underpinnings of anti-Semitism.
If I'm not clear on anything else, please understand this: everyone is entitled to personal views and (provided they don't significantly harm others) to act on those views. There is no circumstance under which I would deny others the right to their viewpoints, or the right to discuss and act on their viewpoints, individually or collectively, againprovided they don't significantly harm others. I do feel that it's my right to put my 2¢ into these discussion, and their right to ignore me or retort as they see fit.
For myself, I reject the idea of a "Jewish People." I have no bond to the political entity now known as Israel — I've been there and even at the Western Wall I was untouched.
I am an American who happens to be, among many other things, Jewish.. I have many other attributes I am also a physicist, a husband, a father, an equestrian, a computer consultant, a dog lover, a mediocre karaoke singer, an amateur composer of satires, etc. "Israeli" is not one of my attributes although under the Law of Return, I could become one. Both Hitler and the Chief Rabbi of Israel would agree that I am a Jew because I meet the Halachic requirement: my mother was Jewish.
Criticize any of my attributes and you are criticizing me. For instance if you say people should not ride horses because it's cruel, you are calling me cruel. I do ride horses, enjoy it, and try to make it a pleasant experience for the horse. Criticizing the State of Israel has nothing directly to do with me. I am not an Israeli.