Should Expats Be Quiet?

istock_cloudsxsmallI’d like to open up a certain topic for discussion here on Half & Half. I have a question that I’ve been trying to answer for years, and this past week the urge to answer it has become even stronger. My last posts on the Cellcom ad have received a lot of attention, and during my activity on Half & Half and on other blogs who discussed the ad, I interacted with quite a few Israeli expats.
Israeli expats are often called by Israelis “Yordim“, a term that seems to be a bit derogatory when you think about it (Yordim, from the word “yerida”, which means “going down”, descending – as opposed to making “aliyah”, which means ascent). For many years, Israelis have often felt that Yordim were in essence traitors. They abandoned the hardships of building a country for their own aspirations abroad. Over the years this sentiment has weakened, almost to the state where most Israelis either admire those who try to make it abroad, or are just plain jealous. But one thing that hasn’t changed, I think, is the feeling some Israelis get when they’re exposed to opinions of Yordim. Many think they don’t have the right to criticize Israel and it’s policies. I admit, I sometimes feel the same way. Sometimes I say to myself “How dare he? Does he live the hard life here? Does he have to deal with a Manhattan cost of living on a  Middle Eastern salary? Does he live in a war zone? He chose not to, so he should up”. And usually when I do feel like that, I feel guilty afterwards.
And this is my question: Do I have the right to feel this way? This question branches out into many sub-questions, and I would like the discussion here to be about expats in general, not only Israelis and Yordim.
expatriateI wasn’t born in America, but being brought up by Americans and growing up there, I often feel a bit like an American expat. Despite this, I feel that in the past I have refrained from openly criticizing America in front of other Americans, feeling I didn’t have the right. An exception to the rule was during the Bush years, when I would tell my American relatives exactly what I thought. But since they were on the same side of the political map, it was like preaching to the choir. Nonetheless, I wonder today if they ever, maybe even subconsciously, had an uncomfortable feeling about me voicing my opinions, when I wasn’t living there? Do I have the right to? Can I be critical of Obama if I feel the need to?
Sure, everyone is entitled to their opinion about any topic in the world. So, if a foreigner can tell me that settlements are wrong, or that settlements are right, why shouldn’t a Yored be able to? Just because he left, is he denied the right to an opinion? Or is this only about how you voice your opinion, and where?
My wife, Karen, is British. Does she have the right to criticize Gordon Brown?
Does a Republican expat in France have the right to argue about Roe vs Wade with a Democrat in NY?
Can a Yored living in LA tell me that my left wing or right wing opinions are wrong? Has he lost that right? Why? Especially if all his family still lives in Israel?
So, this goes out to all you expats, Half & Halves, or anybody who reads this blog and has an opinion about it. Tell me what your thoughts are on this. I need some answers…
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