Last week David Harris, the CEO of the American Jewish Committee, offered a foot-stompin heart-stoppin sermon on Zionism from the pulpit of Temple Shaaray Tefila, a wealthy Reform congregation in Bedford Corners, N.Y.
The theme of the speech was that Israel has nothing to apologize for, and American Jews need to tell that story better. The Palestinians, Harris said, have turned down the “two-state solution” seven or eight times beginning in 1937 and 1947.
I already posted one excerpt. Here is another excerpt, about fighting back on attempts to question Israel’s legitimacy. Notice the extensive justification of colonialism; Harris seems to accept the criticism of Zionism as a colonialist enterprise.
Take it away, Mr. Harris:
We to this day continue to hear a lot about Israel’s legitimacy. So let’s go back to basics… May I ask, and I do so deliberately, provocatively, What is the legitimacy of the establishment of the United States of America?
Was there a comparable Balfour Declaration, a League of Nations mandate, a UN special committee on the future of America, a resolution 181, an endorsement by the General Assembly? Was there a bible, the most widely read book in the history of the world, that spoke repeatedly about Yerushalayim and Zion– and in this case about Washington and New York?What exactly was the basis for the establishment of the legitimacy of the European colonial enterprise in the United States? I might add, or Canada, or Australia, or New Zealand?Or I might ask, why is that when AJC travels to Latin America, as we do so repeatedly …. and all the political leaders and economic leaders and cultural leaders we meet with are European in origin. Were they the indigenous people of Latin America? I dare say they were not.
Or, to be even more provocative, and closer to home, when the Arab world and the Palestinian Authority in particular demand– demand!— of Britain an apology for the Balfour Declaration, do you hear a word about what [British Prime Minister] David Lloyd George and [French PM] George Clemenceau and Woodrow Wilson did in Paris in the first six months of 1919 in creating other states? Or Sykes Picot, and what they did in the creation of Lebanon and Syria and Iraq and Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia?
Are we going to go down this road? And are we going to ask, if we do, why is it that in North Africa, where the indigenous people were the Berbers and then the Jews– Arabs came from the Arabian peninsula and occupied and conquered those nations?
Do they really want to go down the road of questioning legitimacy? Yes of course– when it comes to Israel which I would argue by these terms has far more legitimacy than most nations on earth. But of course their goal is to ignore everything that doesn’t concern Israel.
Thanks to Scott Roth and James North.