Michael Freund’s attack on David Harris and the American Jewish Committee
(“David Harris and the AJC’s self-importance syndrome,” Jerusalem Post, July 1)
is a classic example of the destructive ways in which we Jews too often conduct
our debates. Instead of recognizing that each side of a given issue is acting in
good faith and upholding Jewish values, we tend to belittle, mock and even
delegitimize the other.
What upset Freund was the statement by AJC
executive director Harris, denouncing Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennett
for repudiating a two-state solution.
By what right, wrote Freund, does
an American Jew who didn’t serve in the IDF have to speak out publicly on a
matter affecting Israeli security? Had Harris endorsed Bennett’s position,
Freund would not likely have questioned Harris’ right to intervene in Israeli
affairs. In any case the time of uncritical American Jewish support for Israel
is long gone, and so much the better.
A mature Israeli-Diaspora
relationship requires mutual respect and attentiveness, qualities missing in
Instead he launched deeply wounding personal attacks,
referring to “Harris and his ilk” as though writing about enemies of Israel,
rather than fellow Jews devoted to defending Israel and the Jewish
Ironically it isn’t Harris but Freund and Bennett himself who are
out of step with Israeli government policy. Just recently Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyahu linked a twostate solution to saving Israel from the
demographic disaster of a binational state. If negotiations with the
Palestinians resume, it’s an open question about whether Bennett’s party, Bayit
Yehudi, will be able to remain in the coalition.
In endorsing a two-state
solution, Harris is reflecting Israel’s centrist majority. Polls consistently
show a solid majority of Israelis backing land for peace – if peace ever became
possible. And polls show that a majority of Israelis, however skeptical of the
chances for peace, want the government to keep trying.
mainstream Israeli position is precisely what AJC has done for decades. In
recent years some on the American Jewish Left have denounced the organization
for precisely that reason. AJC leaders can take some comfort in being attacked
now from the Right as well.
In raising AJC’s record during the Holocaust,
Freund misses the crucial post-Holocaust transformation of the American Jewish
community into the most assertive Jewish community in the history of the
AJC is now at the center of pro-Israel
Freund’s contempt for AJC demeans one of the most remarkable
organizations in Jewish life today. I’ve seen AJC up close, having spoken
numerous times before its leadership, met its chapters across the US, and
briefed some of the literally thousands of American opinion-makers and world
leaders it has sent to Israel through Project Interchange.
out to those parts of the American public where support for Israel tends to be
less instinctive – from campuses to mainline Christian denominations to emerging
populations like the Latinos. Its bridge-building efforts are indispensable to
maintaining American public support for Israel.
Freund’s attack is a
useful pretext to say thank you to AJC, for upholding the good name of the state
of Israel and the Jewish people.
I feel privileged to be able to
reciprocate and affirm the good name of AJC.
The author is a senior
fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. He is author of the
forthcoming book, Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who
Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation (HarperCollins).