We’ve reached a new moment of despair inside the American Jewish community/Israel lobby over the two state solution, and a recognition that the occupation and Netanyahu’s coalition are delegitimizing Israel in the eyes of the world.
First there was a letter earlier this week to Netanyahu from 40 American Jewish leaders, including Charles Bronfman, pleading with him not to accept the Levy report which says that the West Bank is Jewish land.
“our great fear is that the Levy Report will not strengthen Israel’s position in this conflict, but rather, add fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.”
Among the leaders is Daniel Gordis, a rightwing Zionist who told the AP that the crazy Levy report might be legal, but that it makes Israel look obstructionist.
I believe this goes under the heading of too little, too late. Though the good news is that it’s dawning on the Israel lobby that public opinion counts, and that Jews will need to break with Jews.
Then there’s Rachel Lerner of J Street, who says that the occupation is “killing Israel’s future,” and she wants the Jewish community to take action. Note in this op-ed in the New York Jewish Week that she is not reaching out to other communities to take action; no, she just spoke against any kind of action, divestment, to the Presbyterian gathering in Pittsburgh. By doing so she maintained her Jewish community cred. Now she wants to be heard inside the lobby, to have the lobby take action. Lerner:
My words, though – and even J Street’s voice – can only go so far without being backed up by voices and action in the rest of the organized Jewish community – and by voices and action in Israel.
Jewish community leaders must do more than simply say we believe in a two-state solution. There must be substance behind that language – and a major commitment by our community to make this work a critical priority. If we continue to fail to heed this call to action, the last and best chance to secure Israel’s democratic, Jewish future may well slip through our fingers, as movements like BDS will only grow stronger and more attractive to an increasing number of people.
If a “broad tent approach” is nothing more than a strategy to look as though we care about Jewish values like democracy, peace and social justice, then it will surely fail – and fail miserably. No one will be convinced for long.
The Jewish community cannot just look as though we are for a sensible, peaceful, and just solution to this conflict. And it cannot only include organizations like J Street and voices like mine on panels about combating delegitimization or in community statements condemning BDS — and then dismiss us as out of the bounds of community or as “anti-Israel” when we talk about the delegitimizing effects that the continued occupation in the West Bank have on Israel’s democratic character. At some point it will have to take an active stand. That time is now.
One week after the Presbyterian vote came down – one week after I told that room that there are more effective ways of moving Israelis and American Jews than BDS — the Levy committee’s recommendations became public in Israel, asserting that the settlements are legal. The report drove home the dire implications of an occupation that is killing Israel’s future.
I don’t think that will work. I think the Jewish community is too reactionary, and that any change must come from a broad-based coalition. A tragic situation has developed in the Middle East; and the American Jewish community has played a key part, by urging reflexive support of Israel, no matter what.