One has to only be vaguely familiar with the main acts of Jewish History to recollect the events leading to the destruction of The Second Temple. Then there were Roman Legions smashing through the walls and the gates of Jerusalem. However, there was also terrible massacre taking place inside the eternal capital perpetrated by Jews against their fellow co-religionists (the perceived and real political opponents). These days one does not have to travel in space or time to witness a similar “civil war”. A demonstration relating to the events in the Middle East and taking place in any major American city gives a good glimpse into the abyss currently dividing the Jewish People.
The side representing the views critical of Israel, skeptical towards the West and generally “pro-peace” is always lead by a dedicated group of fellow Jews. In the heat of an argument one is astonished by the intense hatred and high emotional pitch. Nevertheless, most of them are very nice, highly educated, well meaning individuals. They claim to have only the best intentions towards Israel, Jews and the West. They don’t believe in force and think all ills of this world may only be successfully addressed with a persuasive argument combined with good education and fair distribution of wealth. Hence, they condemn any application of force by Israel (or any Western power) as leading us away from the only correct solution. These, by themselves, are not new ideological positions. However, what separates this group from their predecessors (Communists, Pacifists, etc) is the stubborn insistence on taking that stand from a purely Jewish (from their point of view) perspective. This suicidal or homicidal tendency (depending on one’s reading of history) is of much interest and must be understood.
Politically, the group found its home in J-street and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). There is no point in arguing these people are not real Jews (as many on the “right” have attempted to do). They are and arguing otherwise would be an exercise in intellectual self pleasing. The Jewish establishment has correctly (though belatedly) recognized that and, after ignoring and ostracizing the group for a brief period, engaged it via discussions with its leaders. However, a fundamental mistake was made in the process. Moving from one extreme to another (from being ignored to being accepted), the group ended up as “yet another Jewish Voice”. Indeed, their voice is Jewish. However, to be precise, it is universalist voice rooted in the Jewish Tradition where Tikkun Olam takes precedent over most other postulates and beliefs of Judaism. The group’s main argument with the wider community is not the final goal (The Isaiah's Prophecy), but the timing. Wheres most Jews understand the low chances of seeing that much improved world in their lifetime, the group insists on seeing immediate results. Any path (however risky or naive) must be tried since any action is better than inaction. Their obsessive fixation on settlements and Jerusalem is direct byproduct of that ideology of “instant spiritual gratification” where seemingly easy and immediate solutions rule the day. They are the generation raised with the worldview declaring being Jewish is to strive to be a decent human being who happens to be lighting candles on Shabbat and where the history of the nation is defined by The Holocaust and “The Fiddler on the Roof”. Israel’s future is important, but not as important as the welfare of the entire world: if the bleeding cannot be stopped then the part needs to be amputated.
Two thousands years ago a very similar conflict within the Jewish community was brewing and spilling to the surface. Not to disparage the group’s sincere respect for and dedication to the Jewish tradition, but the early Christians had exposed similar attitudes and aspired to the same goals. Many other social and political circumstances of that period resemble those of today. Now and then many Jews believe the national aspect of self identification is too narrow to contribute to the general progress. The universalist aspect of Judaism and the recent history provide religious and cultural background to walk forward not as a separate group with its own interests, but as part of a broader collective striving for a better future for all. Only today the religious aspect of the “rebellion” is replaced by a political movement with spiritual undertones. Hence, the problem is not new, but the remedy is still elusive. However, at the very least we should attempt at repairing the problem caused by our own neglect and complacency.
J-street (and to a lesser extend JVP) must be “co-opted” before the situation develops into irrevocable J-split. The rank and file members need to be engaged independent of the leadership (mostly unsalvageable). Apart for a few fanatics, the majority of the group do really care about the future of Israel and the Jewish People in general (even if they prefer a much shorter path to “success”). They are already engaged (unlike the vast majority of the Jewish Community) making them a potential assert. These are mostly secular left leaning women and men that, with being exposed to more substantive and persistent arguments, may become new voice of a true Liberal Jewish tradition. Surprisingly, even leading members of these organizations are not well acquainted with historical facts or the background of the current events. They are guided by best intentions and denial of the existence of evil. Many “truths” produced by informational department of dubious friendliness to Israel are taken for granted. This pure propaganda is easy to expose with facts and solid logical arguments. These people should be debated with conviction and respect rather than simply provided a forum to voice their opinions. That process should lead to redirecting their energy from opposing Israel’s policies as their ideological raison d'etre to becoming a voice representing Israel in the circles historically unfriendly to the Jewish State. Though the tendency of this group to veer sharp Left must be combatted aggressively and with intellectual vigor rather than with hysterical shouting and name calling. Israel must play a leading role in that effort. It should tirelessly work with that group. The divide must be narrowed quickly and without hesitation as nothing weakens us more than a resentment of each other.