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‘Israel is bitterly dividing American Jewish community’ — AP

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Two weeks ago the Washington Post ran an excellent piece on the divide inside the Washington Jewish community over Israel. Marc Fisher’s reporting included anti-Zionists and non-Zionists who were getting the bum’s rush from establishment Jewish organizations: Fisher reported on the disinvitation of the Shondes band and author David Harris-Gershon by the Jewish Community Center in Washington.

Rachel Zoll

Rachel Zoll

Now Associated Press religion writer Rachel Zoll has reported a variation on the theme for the AP, about divisions over Israel in the Jewish community, under the headline,”Israel no longer a cause that unifies US Jews.” The article is a disappointment: it fails to mention any anti-Zionists by name, and characterizes the split as one between liberal Zionists and rightwing Zionists. That’s misleading. But the story is still a victory. Its first three paragraphs highlight an issue that is only going to get bigger and bigger. Zaid Jilani tweets: “Watershed moment as Associated Press writes American Jewish communities are now ‘divided’ over support for Israel.”

Zoll:

Once a unifying cause for generations of American Jews, Israel is now bitterly dividing Jewish communities.

Jewish organizations are withdrawing invitations to Jewish speakers or performers considered too critical of Israel, in what opponents have denounced as an ideological litmus test meant to squelch debate. Some Jewish activists have formed watchdog groups… to monitor programming for perceived anti-Israel bias. They argue Jewish groups that take donations for strengthening the community shouldn’t be giving a platform to Israel’s critics.

American campuses have become ideological battle zones over Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories, with national Jewish groups sometimes caught up on opposing sides of the internal debate among Jewish students. The “Open Hillel” movement of Jewish students is challenging speaker guidelines developed by Hillel, the major Jewish campus group, which bars speakers who “delegitimize” or “demonize” Israel. Open Hillel is planning its first national conference in October.

And in a vote testing the parameters of Jewish debate over Israel, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, a national coalition that for decades has represented the American Jewish community, denied membership in April to J Street, the 6-year-old lobby group that describes itself as pro-Israel and pro-peace and has sometimes criticized the Israeli government. Opponents of J Street have been showing a documentary called “The J Street Challenge,” in synagogues and at Jewish gatherings around the country, characterizing the group as a threat from within…

Ah the heroic J Street. Are they really Israel’s critics? Not entirely. The article reflects a conservative discourse, and documents the reactionary official-Jewish space:

In 2012, when Israel carried out an offensive in Gaza after an upsurge in rocket fire, [Rabbi Sharon] Brous wrote an email to IKAR members that was published in The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. She supported Israel’s right to defend itself, while also urging recognition of Palestinian suffering.

The result? She was overwhelmed with hate mail, and inspired competing op-eds and letters in the Journal from Jewish clergy and others until a prominent rabbi called for an end to the recriminations and name-calling.

More of the orthodoxy reflected in the article’s narrow scope:

Many Jewish leaders worry the infighting could not only undermine U.S. support for Israel, but also drive away the younger American Jews who are pressing for a broader definition of what it means to be pro-Israel.

So, no room for those who are anti-Zionists, don’t want to be pro-Israel. Good reporting:

At Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, a Reform Jewish synagogue in South Orange, New Jersey, Rabbi Daniel Cohen struggles to hold the ever-shrinking common ground among his congregants over Israel. Before Cohen delivers a sermon on the subject, he re-reads what he wrote and asks himself, “How are they going to hear it?”

From the pulpit, he tries to weave together the views of doves and hawks among the 850 families in his congregation, comparing Israel to a flawed friend who nonetheless should be defended against slander. Still, he hears complaints — about his personal involvement with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the long-established lobbying group, and his simultaneous support for congregants active in J Street.

A flawed friend who must be defended against slander. That’s the view from the official Jewish world. Zoll is dismissing the burgeoning movement for equal rights inside Jewish life. Once again, the American press is a ways behind the Israeli one.

Thanks to Linda Jansen.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-06.

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28 Responses

  1. just on June 9, 2014, 12:36 pm

    I am perplexed as to why American Jews feel torn apart, and why that is even a concern.
    Is/was it an article of Jewish faith to be loyal to Israel, no matter what?

    ”Israel no longer a cause that unifies US Jews.”

    I think that is cause for a celebration of sorts…and good for Jewish folks all over the world.

    • Woody Tanaka on June 9, 2014, 1:07 pm

      “I think that is cause for a celebration of sorts…and good for Jewish folks all over the world.”

      Frankly, I don’t give a shit whether it’s good for bad for Jewish folks; I’m more interested in whether it’s good or bad for Zionism’s victims.

    • pabelmont on June 9, 2014, 1:33 pm

      Just-the-perplexed: Not good for the professional AIPAC-type pro-Israel hardliners who’ve made their lives on this revision of religion. When they can no longer “believe” (or force others to claim to believe) in Israel’s perfection, they will be out of jobs and out of favor and out of a community of hard-liners they’ve belonged to since 1948 (or since 1967). VERY HARD FOR THEM.

      AS TO: “Some Jewish activists have formed watchdog groups… to monitor programming for perceived anti-Israel bias”. NOTE: This reports merely an attempt to quash openness among Jews. To prevent further ideological erosion among Jews. It says nothing about the heavy hand of MSM, POLs, etc. on all the rest of Americans.

  2. BrianEsker on June 9, 2014, 12:40 pm

    No, the sum total effect of these “anti-Zionist” Jews is not very influential at all, even though they make a disproportionate amount of noise and are megaphoned via various kinds of media. Much like the nominal effect of “Israel Apartheid Week ” on Israel’s actual economy that grows by leaps and bounds.

    If you boycotters want to do something meaningful today…go out and picket every Thai restaurant and pull chocolate bars off of grocery shelves. The Thai army is equipping its troops with the TAVOR rifle, and Swizerland has ratified a billion shekel order for drones.

    It would be tragic to see what kind of a conference 3 kooky “Open Hillels” can put together.

    while the Gazans continue to poison themselves by not making a priority out of fixing their own water systems.

    • Woody Tanaka on June 9, 2014, 1:06 pm

      “while the Gazans continue to poison themselves by not making a priority out of fixing their own water systems.”

      Yeah, and I’m sure it has nothing at all to do with the Israelis Jews illegally blockading them to, in effect, engineer this damage.

    • talknic on June 9, 2014, 1:10 pm

      BrianEsker “If you boycotters want to do something meaningful today…go out and picket every Thai “

      Oh. OK. Got a link? I presume you’ll be there. Say….will Israel then suddenly not be occupying Palestine? Will Israel suddenly adhere to binding Law and the UN Charter as emphasized and reaffirmed in hundreds of UNSC resolutions giving Israel hundreds of opportunities to adhere to its binding legal obligations?

      “while the Gazans continue to poison themselves by not making a priority out of fixing their own water systems”

      Going for the Mr Nasty prize Brian? Israel forbids dual use materials, making it all but impossible for the Palestinians to maintain the upkeep on their bombed out infrastructure! BTW it’s up to the “Israel, the Occupying Power” to make up the shortfall in necessities in Occupied Territories.

      • BrianEsker on June 9, 2014, 1:29 pm

        @Talknic the “hundreds of UNSC resolutions?” You mean the ones concocted by the Arab and unaligned countries at the United nations that ONLY ever single out one little country for alleged abuses while ignoring the Chinese takeover of Tibet, human rights abuses in Cuba, slavery of 10% of the population of Mauritania?

      • Cliff on June 9, 2014, 7:26 pm

        @Esker

        Israel is an apartheid State that regularly violates IHL and is colonizing Palestinian land.

        There are plenty of problems in the world. None of these problems negate the profundity of the others.

        Stop hiding behind the other problems in the world.

        You accuse others, without evidence, of ignoring everything but Israel.

        Do you think it’s normal for us all to care about every single issue on the planet? Do you?

        Do you think Zionist Jews care equally about every single issue on the planet?

        This is why you’re a goddamn lunatic. You and your entire political CULT.

        You are the biggest antisemite on this blog. Zionists like you are the absolute dregs of society.

      • BrianEsker on June 9, 2014, 8:27 pm

        @ Talknic ” Israel forbids dual use materials, making it all but impossible for the Palestinians to maintain the upkeep on their bombed out infrastructure! BTW it’s up to the “Israel, the Occupying Power” to make up the shortfall in necessities in Occupied Territories.”

        Pull your pants up! I thought you guys knew your stuff!!! Apparently not!

        1,270 trucks carrying 33,020 tons of goods entered Gaza

        Construction materials are entering the Gaza strip every day!

        Here’s COGAT’s report from last week:

        http://www.cogat.idf.il/Sip_Storage/FILES/6/4456.pdf

        From May 25-31 there were 225 truckloads of construction materials, plus 34 truckloads of plumbing and ceramics.

        It’s more important for the a*&holes who run Gaza to truck in weapons, nice cars and other profitable merchandise through their underground tunnels than to take care of the basic needs of their own people!

      • talknic on June 10, 2014, 9:49 am

        WOW Brian, I didn’t know one could use toilets, hand basins and plumbing supplies to repair bombed out INFRASTRUCTURE!!

        You’re really on to something pal. With your knowledge you could change the way cities treat their sewerage and water supplies.

      • eGuard on June 10, 2014, 10:05 am

        BrianEsker: that same idf report says: “Provided by Israel: 5 Million Cubic Meters / Year” (water). That is under 9 liters per person per day. You know what an average person uses per day?

        That same idf report says: “Provided by Israel: 125 MW / Day”. Bullshit. One can not deliver “MW per day”. (MW or MegaWatt is a capacity. Similar: your car’s maximum speed is say 100 mph, a capacity. You cannot say “my car did 100 mph per day”).

    • eljay on June 9, 2014, 1:18 pm

      >> If you boycotters want to do something meaningful today…go out and picket every Thai restaurant and pull chocolate bars off of grocery shelves. The Thai army is equipping its troops with the TAVOR rifle …

      Once again, a Zio-supremacist looks to acts of injustice and immorality committed by others as justification for past and ON-GOING acts of immorality and injustice committed by Zio-supremacists and the supremacist “Jewish State”.

      This “reach for the bottom” mind-set – the idea that being a bit better than the worst is somehow comparable to being as good as the best – is baffling.

      It’s like a person choosing to be a serial rapist rather than a law-abiding citizen and then justifying his choice and his actions by pointing to the existence of murderers.

      • john h on June 9, 2014, 10:51 pm

        Baffling? Nah, it’s only to be expected from those taking ziocaine, eljay!

    • Kay24 on June 9, 2014, 7:58 pm

      With all those weapon deals, and amazing prosperity, you would wonder why Israel is so terrified of BDS, and are putting in millions to fight it:
      From an Omar Barghouti article in Veterans News Now:
      “These days, Israel seems as terrified by the ‘‘exponential’’ growth of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (or B.D.S.) movement as it is by Iran’s rising clout in the region.
      Last June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu effectively declared B.D.S. a strategic threat. Calling it the “delegitimization” movement, he assigned the overall responsibility for fighting it to his Strategic Affairs Ministry.
      But B.D.S. doesn’t pose an existential threat to Israel; it poses a serious challenge to Israel’s system of oppression of the Palestinian people, which is the root cause of its growing worldwide isolation.”

      This from a Philip Weiss article on MDW:
      “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu devoted more attention to the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS) than he did to John Kerry’s peace plans in his speech this morning to the Israel lobby organization the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

      By my count, Netanyahu said the word “BDS” 18 times in extended comments against the boycott movement. He likened BDS to classic tropes of anti-Semitism: the accusations that Jews use non-Jewish children’s blood for matzoh, or that Jews have spread the plague, or that Jews seek world control.”

      Funny, for those who seem to not care about BDS, Israel actions seems like damage control , or why should dear Bibi use that word 18 times? Could it be because Israel has lost millions of dollars, and counting? The false bravado is amusing though.

      Expecting occupied people, who are blockaded, and have their water stolen, and controlled, to fix their water systems is really quite mean, really, but then Israel is known to steal lands and Palestinian resources, and fleece the US taxpayers, to the tune of billions and billions, including weapons, (that are used on unarmed occupied people), like parasites, and gloat just how well they do.
      Meanness is in the psyche of Israeli people.

    • hophmi on June 10, 2014, 7:07 am

      Ditto Brian Esker. It’s simply a matter of numbers. Anti-Zionists, who are largely a combination of red-diaper baby retreads and college campus activists, simply do not make up a large proportion of the American Jewish community, and many do not even identify as Jews at all.

      I have told you many times that you cannot opt out of the Jewish community for everything but this issue.

      And no more nonsense about how the Jewish community is not discussing this issue; this article proves that they clearly are.

  3. seafoid on June 9, 2014, 12:43 pm

    “Many Jewish leaders worry the infighting could not only undermine U.S. support for Israel, but also drive away the younger American Jews who are pressing for a broader definition of what it means to be pro-Israel.

    Death sentence. If it’s not moral the kids won’t buy it.
    Without the kids there is no long term support in Galut.

  4. tombishop on June 9, 2014, 2:07 pm

    This isn’t about Zionism, but I can’t help but believe there is a connection. This is another divide that can be attributed to an authoritarian, theocratic world view. It is another sign of the crisis in the Jewish community which traditionally has been at the forefront of progressive causes including the rights of labor. http://articles.philly.com/2014-06-08/news/50423376_1_teachers-union-solomon-schechter-day-school-board-members

    • ritzl on June 9, 2014, 7:19 pm

      There’s absolutely a connection and it IS about who is going to follow where (and how far) Zionism leads.

      “It’s really, really clear from Jewish law that you are not allowed to engage in any union busting,” insisted Rabbi Jill Jacobs, who is based in New York and authored the legal opinion, or teshuvah, for the conservative movement’s law committee. It stated that affiliates “may not interfere in any way with organizing drives” and must pay workers a living wage.

      Tell it to SodaStream, et. al.

      Someone may argue that this opinion is only about how Jews should treat other Jews (which would be one of the founding principles of Israel). But then more, imho, will ultimately draw on past, shared civil rights efforts and make the “Golden Rule” connection when contemplating Israel.

      I don’t know, maybe a better way to approach this is to ask whether many Jews can invoke Jewish law to demand respect and NOT have that ripple outward into a larger world view and as a filter for “interpreting” Israel-the-reality (as opposed to Israel-the-myth). That would be a great question for Rabbi Jacobs.

  5. seafoid on June 9, 2014, 3:42 pm

    Jewish soldiers will soon be ethnically cleansing Bedouin nomads from near east Jerusalem

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/.premium-1.596977

    “An army base is located several kilometers south of Sateh al-Bahr. The settlement of Mitzpeh Yeriho, which was built in 1977, is several hundred meters to the north, on the other side of the expanding Highway 1. The inhabitants were members of the Yeriho group, which was established by members of Gush Enumin and adherents of Rabbi Meir Kahane.

    In 2012, several members of the Hamadeen clan decided to exchange their tin shacks – unbearably hot in summer and freezing cold in winter – for mobile homes donated by the European Union. These mobile homes have kitchenettes, showers and polystyrene boards for insulation inside the prefabricated walls. Several vegetable gardens were planted in the yards between them.

    But the mobile homes awakened sleeping bears. The residents received demolition orders from the Civil Administration. Attorney Shlomo Lecker petitioned the High Court of Justice against the orders. After all, he said, the mobile homes took up no more space than the shacks had. Was a Bedouin not allowed to improve his living conditions? In November 2012, the High Court justice issued an interim injunction preventing the mobile homes from demolition.

    On April 24, Justice Uzi Fogelman held a preliminary hearing on the petition. Attorney Reuven Edelman of the State Prosecutor’s Office, who represented the army and the Civil Administration, said that the state proposed that the petitioners move to the township where the Civil Administration was planning to move thousands more Bedouin of the Jahalin tribe north of Jericho. The master plan had not been presented for formal objections it had undergone, though, some changes following objections from the Jordan Valley Regional Council, which is amalgamating the region’s settlements).

    This is state-owned land, about 2,000 dunams (about 490 acres), a pocket of Area C within the Jericho enclave (in Area A, which is under the Palestinian Authority’s control). The Civil Administration intends to amass between 3,800 and 6,000 Bedouin into the township, against their tradition and tribal law, and without allowing them any grazing land.

    Plans for expelling the Bedouin from their encampments in Area C in the West Bank and concentrating them into several permanent townships have been devised in the Civil Administration’s halls for at least a decade. ”

    Light unto the world my ass

    • just on June 9, 2014, 4:36 pm

      Mine too.

      I appreciated your comment about the typo the other day– ‘blight’ rather than ‘light’.

    • Citizen on June 9, 2014, 7:00 pm

      Some folks donate charitable items, others destroy them.

  6. eljay on June 9, 2014, 3:53 pm

    When applied to non-Jews, “Never again!” becomes “currently its not necessary“.

    • RoHa on June 9, 2014, 9:14 pm

      But let’s do a bit of it anyway, to keep our hand in for when it becomes necessary again.

    • ritzl on June 9, 2014, 7:34 pm

      Interesting article, talknic. Carr explains why the current government is legally wrong, but he never got around to explaining, “Why now?” wrt a precipitous change from a 50-year bipartisan policy, and particularly because there hasn’t been a change in the legal basis. Surely he must know, or is that an off-limits topic.

      And I like the bit about “…not even the US… [calls them ‘disputed’].” Pretty amusing. Aussie humor?

  7. eGuard on June 9, 2014, 7:34 pm

    Zoll: bitterly

    Word spill is bad writing.

  8. michelle on June 10, 2014, 5:13 am

    as usual incorrect choices divide
    the good choose G-d over all others
    .
    G-d Bless

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