JERUSALEM, ISRAEL — Deborah Fineman has been a dual citizen of both the United States and Israel since her birth. At 35-years-old, she has mostly lived in a world with a center-right party controlling Israel’s government, though she does often note with some glib irony in her voice that even Israel’s “conservative” government isn’t quite as restrictive on things like access to abortion as their American colleagues would like to be.
Fineman does not identify as someone who supports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his party’s agenda, though Deborah says she’s certainly voted that way “with certain candidates and on specific issues” in the past. Deborah reached out to us this week because she said she thought our publication might be able to put her in touch with someone who can answer a very important question for her. Fineman says she’s been completely unnerved watching how Netanyahu has run Israel’s government, and she is “horribly ashamed” of the violence that claims innocent lives, no matter who “starts it.”
“Most of us in the region just want the fighting and B.S. to stop,” Deborah told us via Skype. “We might dicker on the margins, but for the most part we all want to live and let live. But Netanyahu’s a hardliner. And he’s been aggressive and taunting. I’m tired of living under the rule of a corrupt, self-dealing war monger. But, wait. Can I even say that out loud?”
Deborah stopped herself short of fully criticizing the Israeli government, and that’s why she contacted The Political Garbage Chute in the first place. Fineman tells us she was about to write and send a letter to the editor of an Israeli paper, defending Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from accusations that she’s antisemitic, because Deborah says she actually feels “shame and embarrassment” that AIPAC uses money to paper over the “trail of blood in Bibi Netanyahu’s wake.”
“I had gotten the letter all written up, and was about to email it, and then it hit me — am I being antisemitic if I criticize Israel? I may not agree with Bibi,” Deborah said, “but the last thing I want is to be is antisemitic. So that’s why I contacted you guys. You’re the most trusted outlet out there, like of all time, really. So I figured if anyone would be able to point me in the direction of someone who can clear up for me whether I’m allowed to criticize the secular government of Israel without being accused of antisemitism, it’d be you guys.”
Ms. Fineman wasn’t initially going to reach out to us, because she says “on paper it’s really stupid to even consider” criticizing Israel as being antisemitic.
“I mean, here I thought Israel was a government and Judaism was a religion and the two are not mutually exclusive, but what do I know? Apparently there aren’t any atheists or non-Jews in Israel,” Fineman posited. “It’s just a big ol’ theocratic state and we’re all forced to be Jewish. You learn something new every day, I guess.”
We have reached out to several religious and political science scholars. So far none have contacted us in regards to answering Deborah’s question. Fineman is hoping to have some answers soon, though.
“Gosh, I’d really like to know if freedom of speech is still a thing, or not. I know I certainly can’t go to America, stay with my American family — who don’t support Netanyahu either by the way — and criticize Israel,” Deborah told us. “But maybe if I’m standing in Israel, and my Torah is just a couple of feet away, then I can make a statement that’s critical of something that’s not even related to anyone’s religious practices.”
Deborah paused, thinking.
“But I won’t get ahead of myself just yet,” Deborah said. “Just let me know what you find out. Sure would be nice to have freedom of thought and expression, for sure, though.”
This story will be updated when we know if Deborah can criticize her own government or not.
Writer/comedian James Schlarmann is the founder of The Political Garbage Chute and his work has been featured on The Huffington Post. You can follow James on Facebook and Instagram, but not Twitter because he has a potty mouth.