Why this grandfather and granddaughter don’t see eye-to-eye on US policy toward Israel

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 - 12:00am


The American Jewish community's relationship with Israel is increasingly fraught.

In some extended families, a debate is simmering between young and old. Take the case of 24-year-old Boston-based activist Alyssa Rubin and Jason Pearl, her 86-year-old grandfather from Bloomfield, Connecticut. 

Pearl believes that unquestioning support for Israel will protect Jews worldwide from anti-Semitism. Rubin disagrees, arguing that uncritical support for Israel and its occupation of Palestinian territories is the greatest threat to the future of the Jewish community. 

An older man and a young woman pose for a photo

Alyssa Rubin and her grandfather, Jason Pearl, pose for a photo together at her graduation from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.  


Courtesy of Alyssa Rubin

"A major shift that's happened over the last few years, particularly since [President Donald] Trump's election and the growth of this right-wing, white nationalist movement is that I've really started seeing anti-Semitism expressed in this country in a more visceral way than I've ever experienced it before," Rubin says. "And I think where the difference lies is that I see the US and Trump's relationship with the Israeli government and with (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu as fuelling that anti-Semitism and not protecting us from it."

Rubin says it's possible to be both Jewish and an ally.  

"We can choose to claim our Judaism and also be in solidarity with the other groups that are targeted by white nationalism and white supremacy in this country and actually ally ourselves, rather than separating ourselves and allying with people who we think will keep us safe, but actually do not care about us," she says. "We also need to look at the way that the US is responsible in a lot of ways for the current situation and that it's actually quite beneficial for the US for Israel to be administering a military occupation and looking at the way that the US really profits off of the occupation and has a vested interest in the status quo being maintained in Israel." 

Pearl says he respects his granddaughter’s point of view, but rejects it.

"If the price of having Israel is that we rarely question its internal and external policies, then that's the price I think we ought to be willing to pay," Pearl says. "I know that the existence of a strong Israel is necessary for the Jewish diaspora to have any security. Alyssa doesn't know what it means to have no nation in the world willing to accept her because she has a big 'J' on her passport. It's hard for me to have my granddaughter support organizations which are to my mind anti-Israel ... It scares me. It bothers me. It's — you know — trouble in the tribe."

Listen to the full interview above.