Hillel House at the University of Massachusetts Amherst..
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
I had a dream in which Ronald Lauder called together George Soros, Sheldon Adelson, Lynn Schusterman and all the major donors to the major Jewish organizations which now represent the extreme Right and the extreme Left. They only invited the major donors to the growing alphabet soup of alleged pro-Israel groups and did not invite the hired hands at the heads of the organizations.
At the meeting the recent devastating Anti-Defamation League report on the rapid rise of Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in the world is pulled out and the operational challenge of the meeting becomes, “What we have been doing is not working and our people, our land and our democracy is not working...we need a new game plan. We need a new direction that achieves results and we need it now,” and so they begin to work together. And then, the sounds of torrential rains woke me up to the reality of what is really happening in our community.
We have more groups allegedly representing the interests of the Jewish people than ever before and the net result is that anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and anti-Israelism is getting worse and posing a major existential threat to our people, both internally and externally.
Our community is fractionalizing from within and being demonized, delegitimized and is no longer held to a double standard but is dissolving from its own ineffectiveness. Our people’s collective aspirations and existence are being deconstructed, discounted, dismissed and discarded by members of our own community much to the delight and support of our collective enemies. We have become our own worst enemies and are doing things to ourselves that no enemy can possibly do.
What is happening? The extremists among us have taken over in a struggle that can only end with all of us becoming demoralized and possibly perishing. This deadly relationship is, unfortunately symbiotic and equally toxic to all concerned at both extremes and in the middle. As those who feel they are on the Right become more strident in their views and refuse to work with and communicate with others, so too, do members of the Left become more strident in their views and equally intransigent, and also fail to communicate meaningfully to others.
Both claim to have the narrative of the truth and righteousness on their side as both literally seek to destroy the others. Money flows from major donors to support these warring factions much as if they think they can buy the hearts and minds of our people and our enemies. Only money is talking right now while the rate of Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism rise to dangerous levels.
There is a self-righteous snarkiness, arrogance and mean-spiritedness at both extremes that has most of us nauseated from the struggle because of the presence of major donor agendas and their professional henchmen, who have turned the struggle into their own career development instead of trying to work themselves out of a job by succeeding in making the world a better place for the Jews and Israel. They are currently failing and need replacement. The argument that things could be worse without them is fallacious. They are making things worse. We need new management and new constructs.
These professionals have figured out that the worse things get, the more money they attract from increasingly diminishing communities to perpetuate their jobs. The law of unintended consequences now shows us that the worse things get for the Jews and Israel, the greater the opportunities are for new positions within the advocacy field.
I really find it hard to get behind the ideologically driven right-wing extremists who resort to excommunication and exclusion of other voices...who reject big tents and claim God and history are on their side. I also reject those of the Left who have drunk the propaganda Kool Aid of our enemies, who misrepresent the reality on the ground and in history and engage in a self-righteousness based on ignorance of the complexities of the problem and engage in lazy thinking.
I respect those who will allow for difficult dialogue and painful negotiations. There are no quick fixes in the Middle East, period.
The daily news of Jewish groups rejecting Jewish groups and threatening to further fractionalize our community is deeply disturbing. The laziness of the Jewish community to consolidate resources, unite and target critical areas is bleeding us fiscally, intellectually, spiritually, politically and emotionally from within. Jews refusing to talk and work with each other will be as much responsible for our possible demise as any pending catastrophe from others.
Anyone who cannot see that when the Right tightens the noose, the Left bleeds and that when the Left tightens the noose, the Left bleeds is not thinking clearly. And when the Left and the Right tighten the noose simultaneously as they are now, our enemies unite behind our division and are emboldened to perhaps allow ourselves to weaken ourselves by self-strangulation.
Now, more than ever, I urge the Conference of Presidents to assume some leadership and reconsider their position with respect to J Street, not because I support them or even like some of the misguided positions that I think they have, but because the act of dismissing other Jews at the table of unity is suicidal.
I can think of plenty of organizations within the conference, JCPA and other umbrella groups with which I have profound differences.
While I back Hillel’s right to establish whatever ground rules it wishes to have for who speaks in its facilities, if it is going to claim to be a “foundation” for Jewish life, it must accept that the net sum game of “Open Hillels” having separate conventions at which avowed enemies of Israel such as Rashid Khalidi and Judith Butler speak to an already alienated group of Jews is not the way to have the difficult discussions that are needed in academia to reverse the growing BDS movement on college campuses.
The strength of the Jewish people has always been in its unity with diversity. We are now moving to becoming a people with so much diversity and alienation that there is no unity and this is very dangerous for us in the long run. Major donors who ignore this factor will find themselves contributing to the downfall of our people from within. It is a very bad dream.The author, a publisher and editor, is the coordinator for the International Grassroots Faculty Committee For Academic Freedom and Integrity, as well as president emeritus and co-founder of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.