Last night at the Park Avenue Synagogue in NY, two Zionist organizations staged a panel on the future of Zionism featuring the former US ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, and Elliot Cosgrove, rabbi of the Conservative synagogue in whose basement the event was held.
Shapiro spoke of the “miracle” of Israel and his commitment to Zionism– an attachment on the part of Obama’s ambassador that Hanan Ashrawi specifically denounced just last Friday as evidence of the U.S.’s control of the peace process for Israel’s benefit. But believe me, there was nothing problematic about Shapiro’s beliefs last night for the audience of 250 older Jews. No, the ticket price, $25, seemed intended to sort out anti-Zionists; and the organizers made clear that folks from that community were not welcome.
Nonetheless, a good deal of the conversation involved issues that anti-Zionists have forced into the discourse.
Cosgrove was asked by moderator Lisa Holstein of Hadassah Magazine about his statement last year from the pulpit that “the critical bond” between the Jewish communities in U.S. and Israel is imperilled. He explained that there is a conflict today inside the Jewish community between the “protective and prophetic” values of Judaism. He related that like Shapiro, he had just attended the AIPAC conference.
I went with my daughter… and I’m sitting there next to my daughter, and every single speaker is decrying the slander against the state of Israel in public forums, in the UN and otherwise, of Israel as an apartheid state. OK? If you were at AIPAC you know that this was sort of the talking point on the script. And my daughter leans over to me, and says, “Wait a second, if there are Palestinians living under Israeli rule, and they’re not allowed to vote, then at what point is Israel becoming an apartheid state. Isn’t that–”
I see her squirming with certain questions. My daughter.
Or outside, when we walked in, there’s an organization I actually don’t know much about the organization other than its name, which is IfNotNow, ripping off of the Hebrew Im lo achshav; they’re asking if we don’t make moves now for a two state solution then at what point will there be so many facts on the ground that it will become an impossibility or a very very painful one. So I see these questions percolating in my own family, in my own community and in American Jewry as well…
So where do we go from here? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. How do I explain to my daughter that there’s a fundamental need for a state of Israel; that Israel is not an apartheid state, that Israel is a nation whose Arab neighbors have never acknowledged Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state… But also know that it’s not only the stated policy of Israel and the stated policy of America but it’s actually in the best interest of the future of the Jewish state to have a two -state solution, and then advocating for that is… not only not a betrayal of their Zionism, but actually an actualization in the finest way of their Zionism.
Cosgrove said that part of the answer is that Jewish children need to be told some of the truth about Israel, sooner than later.
I think Zionist education is critical here…. My wife is here so I’m going to get in trouble for what I’m going to say. But when I tell my children the story of our courtship, I begin– at a certain age I layer in one set of the story; at another age, I layer in another part of the story, when they’re ready, right? But first, I make sure they know that Mommy and Daddy love each other very, very much…
I mean, I’m an educator. I think there needs to be a full-court press from organizations like Hadassah and otherwise that at every level, Hebrew school kids, day school kids, and otherwise, the questions that my daughter was asking me– they need to have working answers all the way up through, until they are on their way to the college, and prepared with the narrative and the right of Jewish self-determination in their own land.
I think we’re woefully underpreparing American kids for that right now.
I’ll have more from this discussion in days to come. I’d note one comment by Shapiro. He said that the question of one state between the river and the sea was one he always deafened his ears to, as being posed by anti-Zionists who wanted an end to a Jewish state. But now that question is being posed by “friends” on the Israeli right. He’s still against the idea. But it was a revelation about who Shapiro sees as constituting his community. Back to my opening here: The most important Jewish questions are now being posed by young Jews and anti-Zionists; but the Jewish establishment really doesn’t want them in the house.
Nope; just tell them that Mommy (American Jewry) and Daddy (Israel) love each other very very much. This won’t last. And by the way, I can’t wait for IfNotNow to have a meeting with Cosgrove, and then report on it.