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Friday, March 18, 2011

American Jewry's minds are so open that their brains have fallen out

When Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY) made the statement in the picture at the top of this post, he might have thought he was referring to J Street. He may not have realized that he was identifying an affliction that has much broader application to the American Jewish community. When defining what constitutes support for Israel, the American Jewish community's collective brains seem to have fallen out.

Let's start with the good news: The morons at J Street have finally found a boycott that they don't like. Unfortunately, it's a boycott being promoted by the pro-Israel community.
J Street is deeply troubled by recent attacks on Harvey Weinstein and Julian Schnabel, as well as on their new film Miral.

It is not our place to take a position on the film as art. However, we believe strongly in the role artistic expression has to play in bringing to attention complex histories and opening up difficult but necessary dialogues both within and between our communities.

Arguing against the distribution or screening of Miral does a disservice not only to this sort of public discourse, but also stands against the values and traditions of rigorous and civil debate that underpin our Jewish community.

We oppose any efforts to limit Miral‘s distribution, as we would with any artistic effort to tell the important Israeli-Palestinian story from either people’s perspectives. We encourage broad engagement with the film and believe that only by understanding “the other’s” narrative can the groundwork be laid for a lasting resolution of the conflict and true peace and security for generations to come.
On the other hand, the American Jewish community has apparently now decided that boycotts of the Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria are 'pro-Israel.' Yes, you read that correctly. It starts with this article in this week's New York Jewish Week.
As the Jewish community struggles to combat efforts to delegitimize Israel and still retain a “big-tent” strategy, a mainstream consensus appears to have taken shape in recent weeks that boils down to this: one can support a targeted boycott of Israeli settlements and even a cultural ban against the West Bank settlement of Ariel — as long as one also supports Israel as a democratic Jewish state. [Without Ariel and the other Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, there's not likely to be a Jewish state for very long, because we will be overrun if we - God forbid - return to the Auschwitz borders. CiJ]


Raffel’s thinking on the issue of “settlements-only” boycotts seems to have evolved since the Israel Action Network was formed in December. At the time, he told The Jewish Week, “I don’t know that a consensus has crystallized on this subject.

“If a person believes that Israel ought to do more to achieve peace based on a two-state formula, the question is, will boycotting a settlement advance the day that there will be peace? I’d argue that no, it will only harden positions and be counterproductive,” he said in December, “but being misguided in one’s policies doesn’t mean one necessarily has become part of the ranks of the delegitimizers.”

This week Raffel cited Meretz USA as a group that, though it might fit his earlier description of “misguided,” is safely in the tent, so to speak. The group supports the targeted boycott of Israeli settlement products and the cultural boycott of Ariel, but, Raffel said, “it is fully supportive of the Jewish state and it repudiates the BDS movement.”

Ron Skolnik, executive director of Meretz USA, agreed, saying that despite “a certain similarity of tools, we are clearly in favor of a two-state solution in which Israel remains democratic and the national home of the Jewish people. JVP doesn’t really specify what end result it prefers.”

Yet he said his organization decided to issue a statement after the action of Brandeis Hillel because it rejects the “idea that a boycott of the settlements in the occupied territories is the same as the delegitimization of the State of Israel. … We believe that a targeted boycott of the settlements (as opposed to a global boycott of sovereign Israel) is a legitimate tool to be used by Zionist organizations and individuals … ”
Alana Goodman comments:
The fact that Jewish leaders are making this argument is bad enough on its own. But here’s the bigger problem: the Israel Action Network is no shabby left-wing gang of activists. It’s a multimillion-dollar project funded by the Jewish Federations of North America, created for the sole purpose of combating the boycott movement.


And as the leader of this anti-boycott initiative, Raffel seems to be finding ways to apologize for and excuse delegitimizers instead of combating them.


How is a targeted boycott of settlement goods not a part of the BDS movement? And what exactly is the point of sinking millions of dollars of Jewish communal money into a task force to fight Israeli boycotts if this task force ends up legitimizing the delegitimizers?

The Israel Action Network was founded on a good premise, but if Raffel’s statements are indicative of the sort of “action” the group will be taking, then it doesn’t seem to be serving the best interests of American Jewry.
I sent Alana's post to William Daroff, the Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America, asking for comment. Daroff responded by sending me a link to this post by Ben Suarato with a statement by Martin Raffel on JCPA's blog:
“In the Jewish Week interview, I sought to articulate where I believe a general consensus lies with respect to the Jewish communal tent on Israel advocacy. Consensus, not unanimity. Clearly there will be differences of opinion about where lines get drawn. And, in fact, the lines may be different from community to community - what works for the San Francisco Jewish community might not work for the Houston Jewish community - and that's ok.

“In my judgment, those groups that are unwilling to support the Jewish people's right to build a national homeland in Israel -- i.e., recognition of Israel as a democratic and Jewish state -- place themselves outside the Jewish mainstream and cannot reasonably be seen as allies in our effort to counter the growing assault on Israel's legitimacy.

“But what to think about Zionists on the political left who have demonstrated consistent concern for Israel's security, support Israel's inalienable right to exist as a Jewish democratic state, and consider Israel to be the eternal home of the Jewish people -- but have decided to express their opposition to specific policies of the Israeli government by refraining from participating in events taking place in the West Bank or purchasing goods produced there? I vigorously would argue that such actions are counter-productive in advancing the cause of peace based on two states that they espouse, a goal that we share. But this is not sufficient cause to place them outside the tent.
Sorry, but people who are pro-Israel ought to at least be capable of seeing that the dispute between us and the 'Palestinians' isn't about borders or territory. It's about Israel's existence. By opening the 'tent' to allow in those who would place the blame for the 'peace process' failure on Israel, these fools put themselves in the same league as those who sponsored the Durban conference. They are delegitimizers.

I wonder who Raffel and friends would respond to an eventual one-state solution that is Jewish only. Would they accept that? Given the 'Palestinian' refusal to compromise and continued lust to destroy the Jewish state, the conflict here has become a zero-sum game where either we will survive or they will. Will the Raffels of the world find that unacceptable because the 'Palestinians' will (God willing) lose?

In the process of opening the tent, the American Jewish community has allowed its collective brain to fall out.

I would not want one red cent of my donation going to support Rafell's group. If in fact he "vigorously would argue that such actions are counter-productive in advancing the cause of peace," then he has no backbone. And the very idea of saying that it's okay to favor a boycott of the Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria if you live in San Francisco, but not if you live in Houston, shows the absurdity of the entire argument.

The tent needs to be closed (and limited to Halachic Jews). Maybe then the brains would stay inside.

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At 4:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carl, if you close the tent to non-halachically observant Jews, then you're living in a mighty small tent. Goodbye Tel Aviv beach flash mob sexy dancers! Goodbye secular high tech computer innovators and medical Nobel Prize winners!! Goodbye (I'd wager) Allan Dershowitz!!! Goodbye Conservatives (some would say). The point here is noted but disputes won't disappear. Does that one-state need to include, for example, an invasion of Gaza? By whom? And how to compel them?

At 4:54 AM, Blogger biorabbi said...

As an american zionist non-halachic Jew married to a Jew, I take mild exception to this quote:

"The tent needs to be closed (and limited to Halachic Jews). Maybe then the brains would stay inside."

Carl, being 100 % Jewish is not insurance against stupidity, appeasement, or, sadly, at times duplicity and even evil. There are many Americans who strongly identify with Israel despite being 1/2 Jewish or less. Conversely, there are Jews who are Jews according to the traditional matrilineal definition(a definition I accept completely)who do not identify with Israel.

If I misunderstand you to referring to traditional observance of Judaism, ie more strongly orthodox being more identified with Israel, then I stand corrected. I have long been turned off by reform Judaism due to rabbis who condem Israel. I'd rather watch football than sit through that. Here again, there are individual reform rabbis who strongly identify with zionism, but they, sadly, appear to be the exception.

One the one hand, I recognize the vital import of Jewish continuity mandates marriage within, but I would only point out the children of such intermarriage may strongly identify with Jewish history, Israel, and the moral fabric of Judaism.

At 7:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

William Daroff, David Harris, Malcolm Holnlein, and other are doing an immense disservice to the American Jewish community. The American Jews who understand what is going on are fighting with all our might. We don't have headline power but we are ten time times stronger than the hate-filled Left. (I was once on the Left, myself). Please see my piece on Julius Genachowski at the FCC.


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