gershon baskin 88 USE THIS .
(photo credit: )
Iam writing from Vancouver, the first leg of my North American speaking tour. My
first stop is the University of British Columbia. Its student body, like much of
Canada, is a rainbow of striking diversity. The cultural environment on campus
is a proud blend of pluralism and politeness, acceptance and curiosity, a thirst
for knowledge and academic achievement.
Along with Dr. Sami Adwan, a
colleague from Bethlehem University, I addressed an audience of more than 700 –
members of the academic community and local Jews and Arabs. Our subject:
building peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
I had the opportunity
afterward to speak with most of the Jews and Israelis in the audience. They were
all very thankful to hear a proud Israeli who is optimistic about the country’s
future and the chances for peace. Most of what I heard was a deep sense of
embarrassment from what they read about Israel. They explained how they feel
increasingly alienated from the behavior of the government.
understand its refusal to freeze settlement building to enable negotiations.
They feel deep shame about the rabbis’ letter, and dread the thought of how it
is perceived by their friends and neighbors. They are profoundly disturbed by
what appears to be a witch-hunt against those political and human-rights groups
that do not support the policies of the Netanyahu government. They express a
sincere sense of fear that the day is coming when they too will have to cease
A rabbi who took me for dinner after the event told me
there is growing alienation from Israel in the Jewish community. Jews in Canada
suffer from a lack of organizational structure in which they can express their
love and support, while also asserting their dissatisfaction with its government
The choice here is to either join the ‘Israel right or
wrong 'camp or to join those who side with the boycott, divestment and
sanctions. Active members of the community who do not join the Israel right or
wrong camp are automatically labeled anti- Israel or self-hating Jews – far from
The local Hillel has dismissed the tradition of Hillel, which
encouraged openness, learning, inquiry and pluralism in favor of leading the
campaign to purge the Jewish community of those critical of Israel. In this way,
the Jewish establishment here is apparently a mirror image of the establishment
in Israel. It’s a sad day when criticism loses its legitimacy in Jewish
IN ISRAEL and in many Diaspora Jewish communities, we are
already on the slippery slope of xenophobia, racism and witch-hunts against
human-rights and peace activists. The general demise of the rule of law and
liberal democracy, lead by Israel Beiteinu, Shas, the silence of Jabotinskyites
like Bennie Begin and Dan Meridor and the tacit support of the ultimate populist
Binyamin Netanyahu, is causing Israel to become a pariah state not only in the
minds of non-Jews but also in the eyes of many Jews.
Because of what I
heard here, I’ve decided to return to North America in March to attend the
second annual conference of J Street in Washington.
Canada has no J
Street, and it is sadly absent. J Street is the soulmate of progressive
democratic Israelis. It represents American Jews who are Zionists, proud of
their Jewishness, true lovers of Zion who are fighting for Israel’s soul and
know, like me, that its uniqueness and true potential will emerge only once we
make peace with our neighbors. J Street, like the peace movement in Israel,
human rights organizations and liberal democratic values are under attack on
both sides of the ocean.
AS I was writing these words, I received the
following e-mail: “It is Israel, not the ‘Palestinians’ who should take
unilateral action before it is too late: Annex Judea and Samaria immediately,
and begin negotiations with Jordan about a long-term solution. I am convinced
that many Arab dwellers in Judea and Samaria would acquiesce, maybe even endorse
such a solution... Incentives, financial and others, could be offered to Judean
and Samarian Arabs who would move to Jordan, while similar incentives could be
offered to Jews all over the world who wish to settle in the territories. This
should alleviate the demographic worries of some Israelis.”
It amazes me
that there are people who actually believe this. The author claims: “I proudly
include myself among the few experts who truly comprehend the interminable
conflict in all its aspects– culturally, historically, geographically, legally
It is clear to me that this person has never spoken
with a Palestinian or a Jordanian; this person is completely detached from
reality, like many of those who think time is on our side and that we don’t have
to work round-the-clock to save the two-state solution.
country that grants recognition to the Palestinian state should be a wake-up
Instead, some of our politicians prefer to amuse themselves with
their own wit in talking about a “Facebook state of Palestine.”
Palestinian state is already much more than virtual. It is emerging with each
passing day, with a sense of purpose and a compelling logic of rationality and
justice, with a force of immediacy that even Avigdor Lieberman will not be able
Perhaps the view from the Canadian Rockies that I see from my
dormitory window enables me to see the future more coherently than it can be
seen from the window of the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem. What I see on
the horizon is a road that splits with one path leading toward the sun, the
other toward doom and destruction. We are 100 meters from that junction. Time to
make the right turn.
The writer is co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center
for Research and Information (www.ipcri.org) and is in the process of founding
the Center for Israeli Progress (http://israeli-progress.org).