Avi Katz (do not publish again).
(photo credit: Avi Katz)
resignation of US President Barack Obama’s Mideast peace envoy George
Mitchell, after more than two years of fruitless efforts, drove home
what has long been clear: this Israeli government prefers an unsustainable status quo to credible moves towards peace.
an Obama-led international peace plan presented to both sides,
accompanied by “knocking heads” diplomacy of the kind successfully used
by presidents Eisenhower, Ford (with secretary of state Kissinger),
Carter and George H.W. Bush, absent what former Mossad official Yossi
Alpher called “serious even brutal pressure,” or what the eminent Zionist historian Howard Morley Sachar termed a “great power” initiative
to outline and enforce diplomatic closure, a growing number of American
Jews fear that the prospects for a two-state solution seem increasingly, and irretrievably, dim.
Jews have responded to mounting signs of hopelessness– for peace and
for Israel’s democratic soul under Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor
Lieberman – by starting to embrace a range of coercive steps against
Israel. Support is gathering, including in the liberal pro-Israel community, for targeted boycotts of West Bank settlements.
mainstream consensus appears to have taken shape” about where to draw
the line between those who are “outside the mainstream Jewish communal
tent” and those who are in, reports New York’s “Jewish Week.” “One can
support a targeted boycott of Israeli settlements and even a cultural
ban against the West Bank settlement of Ariel – as long as one also
supports Israel as a democratic Jewish state,” according to Martin
Raffel (vice president of the US Jewish Council for Public Affairs), who
is overseeing a multimillion-dollar Jewish communal effort (dubbed the
Israel Action Network) to counter Israel delegitimization efforts.
as more American Jews respond to a loss of hope over Israel by
endorsing coercive diplomacy and targeted boycotts of Israeli
settlements, the gap between liberal and conservative Jews is becoming
an unbridgeable chasm.
Some conservative Jews, also sensing that
the ground is shifting, are responding by seeking to enforce, even more
desperately than before, an orthodoxy in public discourse on Israel. Debates on Israel quickly devolve into ugly assaults on the loyalty of
progressive Jews and liberal Zionists as “self-loathing” traitors to Judaism, Israel and the Jewish people.
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a City University of New York trustee and political
brawler on all things Israel, Arab and Muslim. Wiesenfeld opposed
granting an honorary degree to Pulitzer Prizewinning playwright Tony
Kushner because he crossed Wiesenfeld’s self-defined line for legitimate
criticism of Israel. Kushner, charged Wiesenfeld, tied the founding of
Israel to ethnic cleansing, criticized the Israel Defense Forces and
supported a boycott of Israel.
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While Kushner has called the
creation of Israel a “mistake” because it involved “ethnic cleansing” of
Palestinians from the territory of the new state (as documented by
Israeli historian Benny Morris), he has, at the same time, always
“maintained a passionate support for the continuous existence of the
State of Israel,” and rejects a one-state solution. Though he backs the
artists’ boycott of Ariel and sits on the advisory board of the radical
left-wing US Jewish Voice for Peace, Kushner disagrees with its advocacy
of targeted boycotts, sanctions and divestiture from companies that
support the occupation and settlements.
According to Martin
Raffel’s “mainstream consensus,” if there is any one issue that “removes one from the Jewish communal tent,” it is the refusal to recognize
Israel as a democratic Jewish state. Yet Likud leaders like MK Danny
Danon and former defense minister Moshe Arens oppose a two-state
solution, favoring a single state encompassing Israel, the West Bank and
Gaza. In their Greater Israel, Arabs will be the majority but only Jews
will have full citizenship rights. Their plans will make a Jewish
state, and democracy in Israel, all but impossible. By Raffel’s own
measure, aren’t they outside the Jewish mainstream?
Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the British Mandate for Palestine, held that secular, atheist Zionists – who were, for him,
outside the bounds of legitimate Jewish discourse – were unwittingly
acting to hasten the messianic redemption.
Today, it is the
Zionist and non-Zionist advocates of selective boycotts of Israeli
settlements, the young disrupters of Netanyahu speeches who cry, “the
settlements are delegitimizing Israel,” the post-Zionist and Zionist
activists who together fight the demolition of Bedouin homes and
villages in the Negev; it is the impassioned, fiercely loyal pro-Israel
Jews, who are cheering on Palestinian pressure tactics at the UN and
calling for coercive great power intervention to end the conflict; it is
these unlikely men and women who are doing more to save Zionism and
secure Israel’s future as a democratic Jewish state than the politically correct Jewish leaders safely ensconced within their communal tent,
speaking in language that never offends Jewish ears.
Remba, co-director of the Campaign for Bedouin-Jewish Justice in
Israel, served as senior foreign press editor and translator in the
Prime Minister’s Office during the Egyptian-Israeli Camp David peace
process. The views expressed here are his own.
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