The relationship between a Jewish identity and a political identity

The J Street conference was one of the most intellectually and physically taxing experiences I’ve ever had.  I learned an incredible amount, met amazing people, and feel compelled to keep educating myself on the issues.

I had an idea for a post near the beginning, and ended up not being able to write it until now because of how tired I was at and following the conference.  So this post represents a thought that matured throughout the conference, undergoing numerous changes in perspective as it did so.

The core question I want to ask is: What’s the relationship between a Jewish identity and a political identity?

For a long time, this has had a very particular answer, or at least a very particular accepted one.  Jews have been expected to unequivocally support of the actions of the State of Israel, and, more fundamentally, to support the institution of the religious state of Israel.  J Street isn’t particularly interested in changing the second part of that, but they definitely are interested in changing the first.

Frankly, that’s old news.  People here and elsewhere have long been claiming the right to call themselves pro-Israel while maintaining subtly or extremely different stances on Israel.  So what does make J Street so exciting?

I heard someone say at the conference that Israel has become a partisan issue.  It’s considered right-wing to “support” Israel and left-wing not to.  But that’s under the very narrow definition of what constitutes “supporting” Israel that we’ve heretofore operated under.  By very nature of our insistence, that partisan relationship is being transformed fundamentally.  It will take time for the public opinion to follow, but it’s irreversible.

How does a Jew’s political identity change with this shifting definition?  Well, there are numerous ways.  Two Jews, three opinions.  So might it be for political concepts.

At this point I need to stop and make an important disclaimer.  I’m pro-Israel.  But I’m pro-Israel for what, again heretofore, would be considered the wrong reasons.  The same is true of being a two-stater.

Full disclosure: I’m in support of a two-state solution only, and when I say only I mean it, because I think that without it, civilians will die.  Without a viable Palestinian state and an end to the occupation and the humanitarian travesty that is the blockade, Palestinian civilians will continue to die in military operations and in terrible living conditions.  Israeli civilians will continue to live in fear of having their daily life interrupted and possibly permanently jeopardized by terrorists.

It’s hard to weigh human lives.  Is two lives lost twice as bad as one?  A good analogy is the mathematical concept of infinity.  If I hold the value of human life as infinite (which Judaism arguably does), then no matter how many infinities you add together, your answer is of the same order.  The only way to get a higher order infinity in this case is to raise it to a power, which has no equivalent in our practical situation.  So by this analogy (which I’m pretty comfortable with), any loss of human life is as bad as any other.

Going back to my feelings about being pro-Israel (again for the historically “wrong” reasons), I think that without a state to call their own, there will continue to be Jews who will not accept a single binational state.  So there will be no end to tensions between the Jews and the Palestinians, then living in the same state.  I mean, they don’t get along now in forced separation, so imagine how bad it would be in forced integration.  And, more importantly, in the long decline into this situation, Israel, as the militarily superior power, will do incalculable damage – damage of a far, far greater magnitude than the kind we’ve seen so far in maintenance of the ever-declining status quo.  As soon as Israel realizes that its existence is threatened by a growing Palestinian majority, and if it hasn’t moved towards a peaceful two-state solution, the violence will become much, much worse.

Clearly, this is an unacceptable situation.  So I find that the two-state solution is a way to prevent those casualty figures from climbing higher and higher.

But I don’t believe that the Jewish people have the right to a state.  This, I believe, puts me solidly to the left of J Street.  And if articles like this one from Haaretz by J.J. Goldberg (who was at the conference, and was terrific) get their way, that will drive a wedge between me and J Street.  But that’s not going to happen to me.  However much the religious and political right would like to splinter J Street’s supporters and turn us against each other, we’ve got something they don’t even understand.

J Street wants us there.  Yes, AIPAC, that’s right.  J Street wants us there, and not to change or corrupt our opinions.  Not to convince us of the ultimate truth of their way, but to assure everyone that those differences cannot be ignored.  Goldberg is wrong that it’s J Street that is trying to spread too large of an umbrella while sugarcoating our disagreements.  No, it’s the right-wing that for too long has only accepted their own definition of pro-Israel.  I mean, look at their slogan.  ”AIPAC – America’s Pro-Israel Lobby”.  Doesn’t leave much room for debate or discussion, does it?  By their definition, they’re the pro-Israel lobby, and no one else.

J Street’s approach, is, frankly, empowering.  The idea that a large organization with which I may have substantial policy difference is still interested in hearing what I have to say, and in making me part of a movement is refreshing.  It’s not for everyone, and there may be people who feel that their differences are just too large, but I think that number is way smaller than people are making it out to be.  I, for one, do not feel at all alienated by J Street, and in my experience, I’m about as far left on Israel’s right to exist as they come.  J Street brings together people of different ideologies and recognizes that we share the common goal of human rights.  Where AIPAC (yes, I’m comparing the two) would accuse me of being anti-Israel, J Street takes at face value my implicit declaration that I support human rights, and engages me in a difficult, probing discussion of what the best way to achieve that is.  And we ultimately agree that that’s a two-state solution.  Anyone out there of my political persuasion want to argue against that?  Bring it on.  There is no doubt in my mind, that, despite my high-minded philosophical belief in absolute secular governments, a democratic Jewish state alongside a sustainable Palestinian one is the only way to peace.

Where does that leave me?  Well, as an American Jew, I’m going to be associated with Israel no matter what I do.  People may form misconceptions about my beliefs in it, they may think I don’t care because I’ve never been, but I’m going to be connected to it in some way.  To pretend, as the radical right does, that there’s only one thing that can be done with that connection (unequivocal support), is regressive, ineffective, and just plain stupid.  To pretend, as the radical left does, that Israel is fundamentally evil and I should be judged by its actions no matter what is also stupid.  This leaves me with the responsibility of making that connection into something meaningful.  That means different things for different people.  For me, it’s this type of political and humanitarian activism.  For others, it’s a religious connection to Israel as a holy land, and I have deep, deep respect for that.  For some, it does mean defending Israel’s positions or unequivocally calling for its dissolution.  As Jews, we have to decide.

I retain no less a belief in what I see as an ideal world.  J Street does not, as its critics would like us to think, brainwash people out of their opinions.  Having strong ideological differences from some of the key players and many of the supporters of J Street, I still feel that we have a common goal of peace and security.  To be honest, that’s incredible every time I remember it.  That there is a movement that still wants me.  At that conference, people wanted to talk to me.  I didn’t have to convince them to.  They came there expecting to hear from people like me.

So critics of all flavors, beware.  We’re coming for you.  We’re educated, we’re passionate, and we’re connected.  Try as you might, the majority of us are going to stick together.  Try as you might, we will not be demonized and reduced to infighting.

This is not a group with homogenous political, social, or religious opinion.  It is not a group with a unified vision of the future.  But it is a majority of American Jews, the 76% who support two states and the 69% who support active and engaged American diplomacy to get us there.  That’s an extremely substantial majority.

And as Jeremy Ben-Ami proclaimed , “This majority will be silent no more.”

Bring it.

96 Responses to “The relationship between a Jewish identity and a political identity”

  1. [...] decided to stop cross-posting the content of my Jewschool work, so here’s a link to my newest piece over there, entitled “The relationship between a Jewish identity and a [...]


    New post at Jewschool | harpojaeger.com · October 30th, 2009 at 6:28 pm
  2. Kol hakavod to you, renaissanceboy; this is a terrific post and I’m so glad you’ve articulated all of this.

    Part of what I admire about JStreet, in the wake of this week’s conference, is that they’re actively interested in being a big tent. And that’s part of why I want to be there: because it’s a chance to talk with a wide range of people who care passionately about this issue and who understand the need for strong action toward a two-state solution before it’s too late.

    Some of the people I met this wee are ardent Zionists. Some identify as post-Zionists. Some as non-Zionists. But we share the common dream of a peaceful pair of two states coexisting in harmony, and that matters so much more than what labels we prefer to use for ourselves and our political identities. To me, anyway.

    Shabbat shalom!


    Rachel Barenblat · October 30th, 2009 at 8:14 pm
  3. Renaissanceboy:

    J Street explicitly supports the right of both Jewish and Palestinian states to exist. It bills itself as a pro-Israel lobbying group.

    You state: “I don’t believe that the Jewish people have the right to a state.” This is short and to the point. There is no room for misinterpretation. It is unclear why you are concerned that someone will drive a wedge between you and J street. You already have.

    No doubt, you feel very generous in supporting the continued existence of Israel since its destruction would lead to the death of so many Jews and Palestinians. It is heartwarming that you concede the right of Israelis as individuals to continue to live. However, your position is only to the left of those who post on Stormfront.


    Mitch · October 30th, 2009 at 10:56 pm
  4. Mitch, the point I’m making here is precisely that I can say something like that without driving a wedge between myself and J Street. That’s what makes it new and exciting – that there are in fact different points of view within the organization.
    You don’t need to try to convince me that I’m on the far left. I’m well aware of and perfectly comfortable with it, as long as you don’t try to make me sound self-centered (“you feel very generous”, “it is heatwarming that you concede the right of Israelis as individuals to continue to live.”). You can call it heartwarming or make me sound self-serving, but I think it’s more accurate described as humanitarian. And what makes J Street special is that both I and others there can respect the other’s viewpoint as coming from a genuinely humanitarian standpoint. I don’t secretly think that all the people there don’t actually care about Palestinians simply because they support a religious state of Israel, and they don’t think that I don’t care about Israelis because I don’t. They don’t take the radical right’s position of calling me anti-Israel, and I don’t take the radical left’s position of calling them anti-human-rights. We’re both able to put aside our ideologies and realize that there is only one path to peace, and peace is more important than anything else.


    renaissanceboy · October 31st, 2009 at 11:46 am
  5. But it is a majority of American Jews, the 76% who support two states and the 69% who support active and engaged American diplomacy to get us there. That’s an extremely substantial majority.

    And as Jeremy Ben-Ami proclaimed , “This majority will be silent no more.”

    No. In this context, Mr. Ben-Ami should be silent. Ironically, the majority that matters is the majority of Israeli voters, who actually live in Israel and who actually select the Israeli government coalition. And, that Israeli government has the power to determine the “pro-Israel” agenda.

    ”AIPAC – America’s Pro-Israel Lobby”. Doesn’t leave much room for debate or discussion, does it?

    No it doesn’t. And it shouldn’t. If an organization wants to market itself as “pro-Israel,” then it indeed should use AIPAC’s approach . . . . otherwise J Street can change its name to “pro-peace”, or “pro-2-state idea”, or “American Jews who feel unrepresented by AIPAC”, or “American Jews who oppose the Netanyahu government” etc., etc.


    Jonathan1 · October 31st, 2009 at 7:27 pm
  6. Mitch,

    I’m having trouble even conceptualising how far off in the deep end of the right one has to be to consider renaissanceboy just to the left of the goons at Stormfront.

    Jonathan,

    If I chose to be a drunkard, would you claim one has to be supportive of me in that choice to be pro-me?


    kyleb · October 31st, 2009 at 7:54 pm
  7. Let’s say you’ve choosen to be a drunkard, and the government takes you to court for violating an anti-drunk statute, and say I’m your attorney. And say you tell me that you are prepared to be convicted for violating that statute, and you’ve chosen to spend the rest of your days on this earth as a drunk and that you want to plead guilty . . . . then I’m not going to walk into court, tell the judge that you are pleading not guilty and do everything possible to get you into some non-alchohol environment . . . . it’s your decision not mine . . . . just like the people who live in Israel, through the good and the bad, elect the government that sets the “pro-Israel” agenda . . . not Jews in Brooklyn.

    The “drunkard” argument was the exact kind of thing we heard from the ZOA-type organizations, back when they were lobbying Congress against the Oslo Accords during the Rabin/Peres governments. But, at least those groups admitted that they were far-right organizations. Their arrogance didn’t lead them to go so far as to claim that they were somehow the true “pro-Israel” voice in the USA. ((And if they did and I just don’t remember, then it is just as ridiculous.)

    Imagine the chutzpa: American Jews–who don’t even live in Israel–determining the “pro-Israel” agenda.


    Jonathan1 · October 31st, 2009 at 8:22 pm
  8. Jonathan,

    Am I to take your response to suggest you believe; yes, to be supportive of a drunkard you must be supportive of his choice to remain a drunkard? I’m at a loss as to imagine anyone but a drunkard making such an argument.


    kyleb · October 31st, 2009 at 9:13 pm
  9. Jonathan1, your response to kyleb’s drunkard analogy doesn’t make sense, because Israel’s belief in what the result of its actions will be is wrong. Failure to create a viable Palestinian state will ultimately result in the dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state.
    But you’re completely right about chutzpa. It does take chutzpa to stand up to the voices that say that they and only they know what’s best for Israel. Israel’s right to make its own choices isn’t what’s at issue. No one’s arguing with the fact that the Israeli people elect their own government. We’re just refusing to accept that we may not offer opinions on that process. Being pro-Israel does not mean supporting Israel’s every move.


    renaissanceboy · October 31st, 2009 at 9:19 pm
  10. otherwise J Street can change its name to…

    …pro-Palestinian.

    I was reminded again and again, RB, reading through your article, just how utterly removed you are from the reality in Israel – the reality you so humanely wish to address. The arrogance with which you dare to speak, just shrugging off the opinions, votes and life experience of seven million human beings in Israel – a place you’ve never been! – who would be condemned to live with the non-solutions you would impose upon them…

    “Heartwarming” and “self-serving” is NOT humanitarian! Nothing you’ve described could even remotely be addressed as humanitarian. You are not a humanitarian. You deny the right to self-determination for millions of people. Due to your inexperience, bias and arrogance, your ideas have no basis in reality, which makes me suspect that you actually want people to die, their limbs torn off by explosives and their bodies peppered with shrapnel.

    Intellectually, your ideas are like those of a child who thinks this is all about you. This next sentence might be difficult to hear, so prepare yourself.

    None of this is about you.

    On Israel, your ideas have no credibility. I’m not even sure what exactly you’ve written here, or where you wanted to go with it, because of how poorly you expressed yourself. This post has nothing to do with a “Jewish identity and a political identity”.

    Go play with your blocks and leave “Israel” to the intellectual adults on Jewschool. This is too important, and you’re just not ready. Does Jewschool really need another “ra ra” boy for a two state solution, who doesn’t even understand the concept? This isn’t like drawing with crayons. Go to Israel. Volunteer for B’tselem. Visit the settlements. Open your mind to reality, then come back and tell us what you’ve learned.

    Until then, you have absolutely no idea, none, what you’re talking about. To pretend otherwise is literary masturbation, which is all you’ve done here.


    Avigdor · October 31st, 2009 at 9:23 pm
  11. Renaissanceboy:

    I do not want to respond in depth to your last comment as it would probably lead to an argument which neither of us would enjoy. However, I urge you to stop and consider the line that you have crossed when your write “I don’t believe that the Jewish people have the right to a state.”

    Kyleb:

    You seem to be looking for a fight so I will give it to you.

    Claiming that the Jews do not have a right to a state is in fact a staple of the true hard right. As you know, a longstanding quip is that the political spectrum is not a straight line but rather a circular continuum where the far right meets the far left. For example, the Nation ran an article several weeks ago which was entirely devoted to praising Pat Buchanan and his opinion on the Middle East. I can think of no other subject where the hard right and left so approach each other.

    In regards to your response to Jonathan:

    In your analogy, you would represent Israel (not Israelis as individuals). I may not approve of your drinking and might encourage you to stop. However, if I claimed that you have no right to live or that the world would be better off if you died, I could not be considered pro-you and would not expect to be welcomed by an organization that wished to reform you.


    Mitch · October 31st, 2009 at 9:29 pm
  12. rb: Being pro-Israel does not mean supporting Israel’s every move

    Ok. You can have any opinion you want about Israel, but representing yourself to the US government as an official “pro-Israel” organization does indeed mean supporting Israel’s every move.

    It does take chutzpa to stand up to the voices that say that they and only they know what’s best for Israel.

    Those voices are the people who actually live in Israel and who elected this government, and who ultimately will live and die from their governmen’s decision. Kol HaKavod to having the courage to “stand up” to those voices.


    Jonathan1 · October 31st, 2009 at 9:38 pm
  13. yes, to be supportive of a drunkard you must be supportive of his choice to remain a drunkard?

    Yes. If you are going to reprent a drunkard in court, you must be supportive of his choice. If that’s a problem, don’t be his lawyer.

    Yes. If you are going to create a self-proclamed “pro-Israel” organization to lobby the US government, then you must support the Israeli government’s decisions. If that’s a problem, don’t call yourself a “pro-Israel” organization. Just represent yourself as something else.


    Jonathan1 · October 31st, 2009 at 9:41 pm
  14. Are Morton Klein and Jeremy Ben-Ami brothers, btw.?


    Jonathan1 · October 31st, 2009 at 9:46 pm
  15. Mitch, the only line I’ve crossed when I say that I don’t believe Jews have a right to a state is the one you imagine as defining legitimate Jewish discourse. I’ve never made any attempt to hide the fact that I do not believe in religious governments and as such have a fundamental disagreement with the existence of a religious state. I’m pretty sure it’s not productive to debate that here, I’m just saying it so everyone understands my background.
    “However, if I claimed that you have no right to live or that the world would be better off if you died, I could not be considered pro-you and would not expect to be welcomed by an organization that wished to reform you.”
    No one’s saying that. J Street exists for the purpose of ensuring that Israel continues to exist.
    Jonathan1: Pro-Israel means “forward” or “yes” Israel. Being pro-something means you support it. Supporting Israel does not mean abstaining from criticism when it’s relevant.


    renaissanceboy · October 31st, 2009 at 9:49 pm
  16. Especially if supporting Israel’s current actions works counter to its long-term interests.


    renaissanceboy · October 31st, 2009 at 9:50 pm
  17. Especially if supporting Israel’s current actions works counter to its long-term interests

    It’s not your decision what is or isn’t in Israel’s long-term interests. You can give your opinion, but you’re not qualified to advice the Israeli government.

    If only the US government didn’t give Israel a dime, so that American Jews could stop concerning themselves with advising Israel about its actions.

    [[admittedly I've been in America for the past few years, although God willing not for much longer]]

    You can always move to Israel, renaissanceboy.


    Jonathan1 · October 31st, 2009 at 9:59 pm
  18. To pretend, as the radical right does, that there’s only one thing that can be done with that connection (unequivocal support), is regressive, ineffective, and just plain stupid.

    Some of these statements are just unbelievable.

    Where was AIPAC on Israel’s ?:

    Disengagement agreements with Egypt and Syria: full support
    Sinai II agreement: full support
    Treaty with Egypt: full support
    participation in Madrid talks: full support
    Oslo Accords: full support
    Treaty with Jordan: full support
    Oslo II Agreement: full support
    talks with Syria during Rabin/Peres governments: full support
    Hebron Agreement: full support
    Wye River Accords: full support
    talks with Syria during Barak government: full support
    Camp David talks in 2000: full support
    withdrawal from Gaza: full support
    Annapolis conference: full support

    Are these examples of AIPAC’s “radical right” bent?


    Jonathan1 · October 31st, 2009 at 10:39 pm
  19. Jonathan1,

    Imagine if the American Jewish right created an organization to lobby the American government to force Israel to have not signed on to Oslo or Oslo II, or Hebron, or talks with Syria or Camp David, or withdrawal from Gaza, or Annapolis… all the while claiming that they were acting in Israel’s “TRUE” interest, saving Israel from itself, etc.

    Imagine if the American Jewish right demanded that American funds for Israel be conditioned on Israel rejecting negotiations with terrorist organizations and securing the Jewish state from attack.


    Avigdor · October 31st, 2009 at 11:00 pm
  20. Imagine if the American Jewish right created an organization to lobby the American government to force Israel to have not signed on to Oslo or Oslo II, or Hebron, or talks with Syria or Camp David, or withdrawal from Gaza, or Annapolis… all the while claiming that they were acting in Israel’s “TRUE” interest, saving Israel from itself, etc.

    Unfortunately, there were such groups, Avigdor. But at least they didn’t present themselves as the legitimate alternative to an illegitimate AIPAC.


    Jonathan1 · October 31st, 2009 at 11:15 pm
  21. They didn’t?


    BZ · October 31st, 2009 at 11:22 pm
  22. No countries/states have a right to exist. States can be seen as the grantor or guarantor of rights, but no state exists because it has a right to exist. Israel, in it’s current political set up, exists for many of the same reasons that a majority of states exist; a powerful military decided it be so.

    Israel, in it’s traditional and historic definition, refers to both a people and a place. It seems to me then that all of the people should have a say in what happens with the place. However, Israel, in it’s present form as a nation state, is quite different from the previous definition. It’s not an ethno-state, it’s a religious state, it’s not a “state of it’s people” or purely democratic state.


    ML · October 31st, 2009 at 11:32 pm
  23. Mitch,

    I’m not looking for a fight, I’m just looking for rational discourse. In that regard, do you content that all ethnicities have the right to their own state? For a specific example, do you argue the dissolution of apartheid in South Africa was a violation of Afrikaner rights? As for the Nation praising Buchanan, people can come to the same conclusions on a particular matter for very different reasons, and doing so doesn’t rightly makes them ideologically similar.

    In regard to the analogy I presented; would you help me evade laws which are put in place to reform drunkards, and would go even further to give me alcohol and cash to feed my addiction?

    Jonathan,

    One can be pro-another by being a friend rather than a lawyer. Furthermore, I contend that acting as lawyer to a enable someone to remain a drunkard is being the opposite of a friend, and giving him alcohol and money is even worse. In that regard, I’d still be considered for Israelis even if we didn’t give them a dime. Like renaissanceboy, I consider myself pro-Israel in the regard that I am working for a peacful two-state solution to the conlifct, as I feel that would better for Israelis along with everyone else.

    renaissanceboy,

    Israel doesn’t rightly have a religious government, but rather an ethnic nationalist one. Of course Halakhic authorities do hold some official power in Israel, but both the government of Israel and the population are largely secular.

    Avigdor,

    Can you imagine APAIC criticizing US politicians for supporting the idea Israel annexing the West Bank and ethnically cleansing it of Palestinians? I’ve yet to see even J Street go that far to stand up against such far-right extremism.


    kyleb · October 31st, 2009 at 11:41 pm
  24. I stand corrected, BZ.


    Jonathan1 · October 31st, 2009 at 11:42 pm
  25. Bah, of course I meant “AIPAC” rather than “APAIC”.


    kyleb · October 31st, 2009 at 11:42 pm
  26. “It’s not your decision what is or isn’t in Israel’s long-term interests. You can give your opinion, but you’re not qualified to advice the Israeli government.”
    Jonathan1, by making me out to be considering myself a dictator of Israeli policy rather than someone with strong opinions on it, you’re stifling discussion. No one is claiming the ability or right to dictate Israeli policy, but groups like AIPAC have long denied American Jews the right even to hold differing opinions on it. That’s what I’m asserting a right to here.


    renaissanceboy · November 1st, 2009 at 1:13 am
  27. Actually, I keep writing that I believe that you are entitled to your opinion.

    but groups like AIPAC have long denied American Jews the right even to hold differing opinions on it.

    Could you maybe give some examples of this? I’ve live in America, off and on, for decades, and I never heard of AIPAC denying American Jews the right to hold differing opinions. I’ve seen countless opinion pieces in the New York Times and Washington Post critical of Israel (written by Jews.) I’ve seen all sorts of American Jewish speakers and groups making all types of open criticisms of Israel on radio and TV (most notably on C-Span.) During the Oslo years, Morton Klein was like a one-man anti-Rabin/Peres lobby in DC. Americans for Peace Now has been around for decades. Breira was really big in the 70′s.
    Please give some concrete examples.

    AIPAC sees itself as a lobbying organization, that lobbies for whatever position the freely-elected Israeli government takes. Above, I listed 14 decisions, taken by various Israeli governments over the years, which are not exactly the kind of the “radical right.” AIPAC gave complete lobbying efforts to all of those decisions. Maybe you never heard of those events. Maybe you refuse to believe that AIPAC supports whatever policy the Israeli government advocates. Maybe you have other reasons for your opinions. I don’t know.

    No one is claiming the ability or right to dictate Israeli policy,

    Well, actually, lobbying groups do try to dictate policy. AIPAC tries to influence the US government to cooperate with the Israeli government (whether that is right or wrong is another issue.) J Street apparantely will be trying to influence the US government to pressure any Israeli government that does not agree with J-Street’s philosophy. (As I keep writing, that is J-Street’s right, but they might want to reconsider championing themselves as a “pro-Israel” advocacy group if that is their approach.)


    Jonathan1 · November 1st, 2009 at 1:39 am
  28. Avigdor-

    My sense is that Renaissanceboy CHOOSES to be removed from the situation so that while the rest of us become emotionally involved (absolutely for better or for worse), he can observe and analyze the situation as objectively as he sees possible. We’ll see if he objects to this, but I think RB wants the power of an historian, who sees exactly what goes wrong in a society. But he wants to foresee it. Idealistic, yes. Ignorant, not really.

    “Go to Israel. Volunteer for B’tselem. Visit the settlements. Open your mind to reality, then come back and tell us what you’ve learned.”~
    From what you have given, I see only Israeli sources and education sources through an Israeli lens. Is renaissanceboy’s distance from the reality of both Israel and Palestine worse than your bias? I think not.

    Ideology versus Reality is an age-old debate that cannot be won simply through mockery or what I see as demeaning and possibly ageist remarks. So, before you go off on a blogger who has as much right to voice an opinion as you do, think of the positive results that could come from more people respecting the different perspectives of others. After all, that is what the Israel/Palestine debate is about anyway.


    TAL · November 1st, 2009 at 1:55 am
  29. Jonathan,

    How do you figure that one has to support others right or wrong to be pro-them? If, God forbid, you had a son who became a drunkard; would you consider it pro-him to support his desire to remain drunk?


    kyleb · November 1st, 2009 at 2:14 am
  30. Kyeb,

    I view a self-proclaimed pro-Israel lobbying group like an attorney representing a client. Apparantly you don’t see things that way.

    If you’ve noticed, I keep writing–over and over–that J-Street has the total right to advocate for whatever positions it believes are correct. That’s why I keep suggesting that J-Street refer to itself as a “pro-2-state-solution group,” or “a group for Jews against the occupation,” or “the organization of American Jews who think that Netanyahu’s policies are insane.”

    Apparantly, kyleb, you think that the Israeli government is destroying Israel. Then, go ahead, go to Congress and say that you are a Jewish guy–and an American citizen–who thinks that the US shouldn’t support this Israeli government. That’s your right. But be up front about it. Don’t try to present it as if you are working for some type of “Israel lobby” that it akin to AIPAC.

    As for your analogy, who are we kidding? You don’t care about Israel like a father cares about a son. If you did, you would move to Israel and try to change it for the better. If you had a son who lived halfway across the country and, God forbid, he needed your help, wouldn’t you move across the country to help him ASAP? Of course you would!

    Morton Klein, and Jeremy Ben-Ami, and plenty of other American Jews, are doing everything they can to “save Israel from itself.” But they would never make that cross-country trip to save their son. That’s fine, but let’s be honest.


    Jonathan1 · November 1st, 2009 at 2:36 am
  31. Glad for the candor: “But I don’t believe that the Jewish people have the right to a state. This, I believe, puts me solidly to the left of J Street.”

    I think the joy you are experiencing is legitimacy, which no serious Jew would consider giving you…Is it just the idea of nationalism that bugs you and you would righfully deny the French a country too, or is it just the Jews who you give this dubious honor? –particularly after the Shoah–that you feel a nexus between your opinion and JStreet speaks volumes to Jews who are strong and identifying, strong enough to realize that a Jewish state of our own is not just a human right or cultural heritage, it is a G-d-given right. Good luck with your quest, but I won’t let your sense of belittlement deter me from maintaining my strong ties to an Israel that is alive and self-aware.


    john Tea · November 1st, 2009 at 2:49 am
  32. I’ve never made any attempt to hide the fact that I do not believe in religious governments and as such have a fundamental disagreement with the existence of a religious state.

    You’re aware that the State of Israel was founded mostly by secularists and communists who did not believe in a religion, right? Zionism was for most people always about Jewish national rights as an Ethnic group – like Kurds, or Croatians, or Timorese.

    The fact that Jewish civilization includes a unique and characteristic spiritual heritage/god/calendar/moral-philosophical-tradition doesn’t mean Israel is a state founded for a religious group –it just meams that Jews as a People pre-dated and survived the rise and onslaught of imperialistic religions like Christianity, and originated in an era when each nation had its own god.


    chillul Who? · November 1st, 2009 at 9:24 am
  33. “As for your analogy, who are we kidding? You don’t care about Israel like a father cares about a son. If you did, you would move to Israel and try to change it for the better. If you had a son who lived halfway across the country and, God forbid, he needed your help, wouldn’t you move across the country to help him ASAP? Of course you would!

    Morton Klein, and Jeremy Ben-Ami, and plenty of other American Jews, are doing everything they can to “save Israel from itself.” But they would never make that cross-country trip to save their son. That’s fine, but let’s be honest.”
    Jonathan1, I appreciate your commitment and connection to Israel, but I’m almost insulted at how willing you are to condemn the actions of others without that connection. Perhaps the more concrete point to debate, however, is how much effect one could have within Israel. At the J Street conference, there were many sessions focused on why U.S. pressure is what is needed to end this conflict. I chose to attend sessions mainly focused on Israeli and U.S. foreign policy, such as that concerning Iran, and those focused on organizing, but I know there was a session on the absence of the Israeli peace movement, and one on how the workings of the Knesset affect the conflict. Having not attended those particular sessions, I can’t claim to be able to argue those points, but I did learn a lot about why this issue isn’t going to progress without meaningful American diplomacy. So please don’t imply that because I don’t live in Israel and have not been (not on moral reasons, I just haven’t yet), I should refrain from forming opinions, or am expressing them improperly. America is Israel’s largest strategic ally, and Americans have every right to influence what our tax dollars support.
    chillul Who?, I appreciate the clarification – it’s a good point. It certainly complicates my viewpoint, and it’s why I don’t look at the government of Israel as a repressive theocracy. I try to make this clear when I talk about it with people in person, but I don’t think I did here. Israel is a democracy, and it’s not as though it forces people to convert, but there are state-sponsored religious institutions, and that I have a disagreement with on a fundamental level.


    renaissanceboy · November 1st, 2009 at 11:05 am
  34. “I think the joy you are experiencing is legitimacy, which no serious Jew would consider giving you”
    john Tea, no one’s trying to take away your belief in the legitimacy of Israel. I’m in fact arguing against that – I see no reason we can’t have different beliefs and still have an honest conversation about what’s best for Israel.
    Drawing arbitrary lines in the sand regarding what a “serious Jew” believes and what they don’t is ridiculous. I’m a serious Jew. I don’t believe in religious states. What’s your problem with that?


    renaissanceboy · November 1st, 2009 at 11:25 am
  35. I appreciate your commitment and connection to Israel, but I’m almost insulted at how willing you are to condemn the actions of others without that connection.

    Can you please clarify where I’ve condemned those American Jews who don’t want to move to Israel? As I keep writing–over and over and over–American Jews, and specifically J-Street, have the right to voice whatever opinions they wish.

    Perhaps the more concrete point to debate, however, is how much effect one could have within Israel

    Is the point not how much effect these things have on those who live in Israel (a severe effect,) and how much effect these things have on those who seek to influence Israeli policy from the USA (no effect)?

    So please don’t imply that because I don’t live in Israel and have not been (not on moral reasons, I just haven’t yet), I should refrain from forming opinions, or am expressing them improperly.

    Again–I’m hurting my fingers typing it over and over– but nobody is saying that you shouldn’t form your own opinions or that you shouldn’t express those opinions to your Congressional representative if you so chose. What I am requesting is that if you decide to lobby your Congressional representative, do so representing yourself: apparantly a young American Jews with very strong passion about Israel/Palestine and the whole mess of that century-long conflict. However, please don’t do so as some type of “pro-Israel” lobbyist, claiming to “save Israel from itself.” THAT is insulting to the millions of people living in Israel. That’s the height of chutzpah.

    America is Israel’s largest strategic ally, and Americans have every right to influence what our tax dollars support

    Again–please read my comments above to clarify this–you absolutely have every right to do so. But you DON’T have the right to come at it as a “true friend of Israel, who is working to save Israel from itself.” American Jews aren’t the father of a drunkard from kyleb’s analogy, because the father in that analogy would go to the ends of the earth to help his son.


    Jonathan1 · November 1st, 2009 at 11:55 am
  36. Jonathan,

    For the record, while the bulk of my formal theological instruction is from Reform temple, and my understanding of God is as much Jewish as anything, I’m not interested in adhering to any particular religious doctrine. Also, as far as my linage goes, I don’t have enough Jewish “blood” to qualify for Israel’s Law of Return. So, I wouldn’t go to tell anyone I’m a “Jewish guy”, congress or otherwise, and your suggestion that I move there to help from inside isn’t rightly practical.

    That clarified, the US plays a father role of sorts to Israel, giving them a hefty allowance along with acting as their protector in many other ways. Also, It’s not that I think the US shouldn’t support Israel, but rather that I think we should be more cautious about how we do so. I do care for Israelis as much as I care for anyone, and it because of concern for humanity that I’m working to change US policy towards Israel.

    Regardless, I ask again; if you had a son who became a drunkard, would you consider it pro-him to support his desire to remain drunk? A straight yes or not answer please.


    kyleb · November 1st, 2009 at 1:44 pm
  37. Your example isn’t analogous to the J-Street/Israeli government relationship.

    But, because you need an answer: yes.


    Jonathan1 · November 1st, 2009 at 1:55 pm
  38. Jonathan,

    Again, my analogy is in regard to the US/Israel relationship. That is what J Street along with people like myself are working to change, though obviously to distaste of those who consider it proper to support a son in his desire to remain a drunkard. Anyway, I’m left curious to know how far you’d go in supporting the desires of a son without regard to right and wrong. If he were to choose to be a serial murderer, would you support him in that too?


    kyleb · November 1st, 2009 at 3:15 pm
  39. Again, my analogy is in regard to the US/Israel relationship The US/Israel analogy is closer to a mother holding a baby in her arms, unfortunately.

    That is what J Street along with people like myself are working to change

    Wait a second. The man who makes the ultimate decisions for the U.S. relationship with Israel is Mr. Barak Obama, the United States President. It’s not Mr. Jeremy Ben-Ami. Mr. Obama wasn’t elected to be “pro-Israel,” he was elected to be “pro-America.”

    If, though, an American citizen or group wants to lobby the American government for a certain policy regarding Israel, that is their right. That, kyleb, is why I wrote above:

    otherwise J Street can change its name to “pro-peace”, or “pro-2-state idea”, or “American Jews who feel unrepresented by AIPAC”, or “American Jews who oppose the Netanyahu government” etc., etc.

    and this

    Ok. You can have any opinion you want about Israel, but representing yourself to the US government as an official “pro-Israel” organization does indeed mean supporting Israel’s every move.

    and this

    Yes. If you are going to create a self-proclamed “pro-Israel” organization to lobby the US government, then you must support the Israeli government’s decisions. If that’s a problem, don’t call yourself a “pro-Israel” organization. Just represent yourself as something else

    and this

    J Street apparantely will be trying to influence the US government to pressure any Israeli government that does not agree with J-Street’s philosophy. (As I keep writing, that is J-Street’s right, but they might want to reconsider championing themselves as a “pro-Israel” advocacy group if that is their approach.)

    and this

    Again–I’m hurting my fingers typing it over and over– but nobody is saying that you shouldn’t form your own opinions or that you shouldn’t express those opinions to your Congressional representative if you so chose. What I am requesting is that if you decide to lobby your Congressional representative, do so representing yourself: apparantly a young American Jews with very strong passion about Israel/Palestine and the whole mess of that century-long conflict. However, please don’t do so as some type of “pro-Israel” lobbyist, claiming to “save Israel from itself.” THAT is insulting to the millions of people living in Israel. That’s the height of chutzpah.

    and this

    Apparantly, kyleb, you think that the Israeli government is destroying Israel. Then, go ahead, go to Congress and say that you are a Jewish guy–and an American citizen–who thinks that the US shouldn’t support this Israeli government. That’s your right. But be up front about it. Don’t try to present it as if you are working for some type of “Israel lobby” that it akin to AIPAC.


    Jonathan1 · November 1st, 2009 at 5:36 pm
  40. J-Street, though, is not the US government. It is a political lobbying group. They have the right to lobby for any position they wish. Personally, I think it is chutzpah for them to represent themselves as an organization lobbying for Israel if they wish to lobby for anything that is not the position of the freely elected Israel government.

    I don’t view the American Jewish community and the Israeli Jewish community as a father/son dynamic. Maybe you somehow do, hence the analogy.

    Yes, I do believe that Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Yossi Sarid, Naomi Chazan, Efi Eitam, and Dan Meridor care more (and frankly know a lot more) about what is better for Israel than do Jeremy Ben-Ami, Morton Klein, Howard Kohr, and renaissanceboy.

    Yes, the people who live in Israel, and who will live and die by their freely-elected government’s decisions, get to determine the “pro-Israel” policy. If Americans want to present themselves as “pro-Israel,” they must respect Israelis’ decisions, or they can move to Israel, or they can just not represent themselves as “pro-Israel.”

    Ok? . . . . Ok.


    Jonathan1 · November 1st, 2009 at 5:43 pm
  41. Jonathan1, AIPAC calls itself pro-Israel because it believes that supporting the Israeli government is the best way to support Israel. Thus, in their eyes, pro-Israel = pro-current-Israeli-policy. I disagree. I believe that supporting Israel as an institution is not best done through supporting current policies. The point is that we both have a right to the term “pro-Israel” because we both believe that what we’re doing is in Israel’s best interests.


    renaissanceboy · November 1st, 2009 at 5:44 pm
  42. Look, rb. You seem like a really good young dude, and I think it’s great that you’re so passionate about this stuff.

    I would say the same thing to the people who lobbied Congress against the withdrawal from Gaza as I’ve said to you.

    We just disagree about what “pro-Israel” means, and we’ve flushed it out to death–at least I have.


    Jonathan1 · November 1st, 2009 at 5:50 pm
  43. Hey Jonathan, if you had a son who to chose to be a serial murderer, would you support him in that too? A straight yes or no answer please.


    kyleb · November 1st, 2009 at 7:59 pm
  44. Is English not your first language kyleb?


    Jonathan1 · November 1st, 2009 at 8:29 pm
  45. Jonathan1, do you follow electronic intifada?


    Avigdor · November 1st, 2009 at 9:05 pm
  46. No. The only blog I read is this one. Why?


    Jonathan1 · November 1st, 2009 at 9:14 pm
  47. Jonathan,

    If you would be so kind as to give me a straight yes or no answer to my question, I’d be happy to reciprocate by doing the same with yours.


    kyleb · November 1st, 2009 at 9:21 pm
  48. Ok kyleb. You’ve caught me.

    1) I indeed think that the people who live in Israel should determine what is best for Israel, not the Jews who live in Boston and New York.

    2)I indeed do not think that the relationship between American Jews and Israel is akin to a father’s relationship with his son.

    3)If I had a son who was an alcoholic, I would try to seek help for him, and if he were a mass-murderor, I guess I’d call the police on him (I never really thought about it before.)

    You’ve exposed the blatant contradictions in my argument.


    Jonathan1 · November 1st, 2009 at 9:25 pm
  49. Electronic Intifada (google it) is home to the western-educated remnants of the Marxist and nationalist (also fascist) elements of the Palestinian national movement, joined with the anti-Israel wing of communist international, essentially living in the glory days of the First Intifada, the economic boycott in the territories, etc. They don’t reject violence, but understand their weakness in this area, and thus espouse alternatives. They are what Fatah would be, were it not utterly corrupt. They have no real power on the ground, but are increasingly influential with western intelligentsia. Quite frankly, in the West today, it’s enough to say you are a Palestinian man who rejects violence to be a hero. The head is Ali Abunimah, who you may have heard of. He published a book about a one state solution.

    You should follow EI. They are ardent one-staters – not for reasons of equality or justice, though they speak the language fluently, but because they instinctively gravitate to the sole remaining path to destroy the Jewish state. For this reason, many of them supported Hamas against Fatah, which caused a major clash in the movement, as many of them are linked to Fatah.

    I stopped following them after Hamas took over Gaza, because their analysis of the situation just veered into the most absurd kind of denial, and I don’t have time for fiction. I feel their wing gaining some ground right now, I so jumped back in lately.

    Really, they are very innovative, cutting edge and utterly persistent (in that, “removed from reality kind of way”) in the one state approach, and since two states are a fantasy at this point, their ideas will be picked up by more mainstream society in the coming years. As with many socialist activists, there are many colorful wrinkles to this bunch – another of their sites, more cliquey and less serious, is kabobfest (google it) – such as that half of them are gays and lesbians who have been disowned by their traditional Palestinian families. Thus, they would actually be quite uncomfortable living in a true Arab society – a fact they recognize – and are seriously counting on a disarmed Jewish minority to preserve a semblance of liberalism in this one state.

    Of course, as we found out after letting Arafat back in from Tunis, these day dreamers are often the first to fertilize the fields, but like the bolshevik intelligentsia, many will go gladly when it is their time, knowing this is for the good of the cause.

    Anyway, I just thought you could use a break from beating your head against two walls and just go to the source. Survival of the fittest necessitated that EI are able to articulate more than one “you’re a father of a drunkard/rapist/murderer/genocidal maniac” analogy.

    Wait wait… what if the son is a drunkard, rapist AND a murderer! What THEN, Jonathan1?! Straight answer yes or no please! Naturally, if your response does not agree with my prepared position I’ll just change the analogy to make the son even more despicable. As the kids say these days, lame city… do they say that?


    Avigdor · November 1st, 2009 at 9:56 pm
  50. I wasn’t attempting to expose contradictions in your argument, but rather simply trying to help you come to terms with why some of us do not share your position on the matter. In that regard, note that I didn’t suggest “the relationship between American Jews and Israel is akin to a father’s relationship with his son”, but rather that the relationship between the US and Israel is somewhat like that between a father and a son.

    Anyway, I thank you for answering my question directly, and even more for revising your answer to my question on alcoholism. I hope that having thought those questions through, you might understand that I’m pro-Israel too, just from a different perspective than you.

    As for your question; yes, English is my native tongue. However, being dyslexic, my spelling and proofreading abilities are dubious at best regardless of what language I write.


    kyleb · November 1st, 2009 at 9:59 pm
  51. Jewschool is enough for me, Avigdor.

    kyleb: ??????


    Jonathan1 · November 1st, 2009 at 10:14 pm
  52. kyleb: behatzlacha (I wrote it in Hebrew)


    Jonathan1 · November 1st, 2009 at 10:14 pm
  53. Heh, yeah, it seems a shame Hebrew script doesn’t work in Jewschool comments. Anyway, I wish you the best too.


    kyleb · November 1st, 2009 at 10:22 pm
  54. I hate to add to what looks like a nicely concluded debate/bashfest…sorry.

    Martin Buber discusses the difference beween “I-it” relationships and “I-Thou” relationships. “I-Thou” relationships are ideal because they involve an engagement with and respect for the entity in question. Unfortunately, this conversation seemed either to minimize Israel into an “it” (a puppet, a prize to be won, a child) or treat Israel as a “Thou” but generalize it into a symbol or idea. My hope (and I think also J Street’s hope) is that a happy moderate can be found. Soon.


    TAL · November 1st, 2009 at 11:32 pm
  55. The assumption by some of the posters that to be “pro-Israel” is to support the stance of the current government is a defintional assertion that conceals very unsavory politics. There is no logical necessity to identify supporting a country with supporting the policies of the government currently in power. One need not, for example, have supported the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 in order to be considered “pro-American.” (I would contend quite the contrary!) To take another example, the notion that only those who support current policies are “pro” that country was the argument that the pro-war faction during the Vietnam War used to tar the antiwar movement as “anti-American.” As these examples shows, this is true in relation to democracies just as much as in relation to non-democracies. Otherwise, you would be contending that the party out of power (even if that party is 49% of the electorate) who opposes the party in power is “anti” the country as such. This is a profoundly anti-democratic position.


    Judah Magnes · November 2nd, 2009 at 12:50 am
  56. Otherwise, you would be contending that the party out of power (even if that party is 49% of the electorate) who opposes the party in power is “anti” the country as such

    So, to take your example to Israel, the minority of Israelis who didn’t elect this coaltion ACTUALLY LIVE IN ISRAEL.

    Americans who oppossed the Iraqi war and Vietnam war ACTUALLY LIVE(D) IN AMERICA and are/were subjected to a draft or a damaged economy and other ramifications of those wars.

    J-STREET AND AIPAC MEMBERS DON’T LIVE IN ISRAEL. J-STREET AND AIPAC MEMBERS AREN’T AFFECTED BY EVENTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST. The people who live in Israel (and of course in the territories) ARE AFFECTED.

    The arrogance is just unreal. A group of people living in country A–halfway around the world–decide what the policies of a country B should be, under the title of being “pro-country B.” What arragance.


    Jonathan1 · November 2nd, 2009 at 10:23 am
  57. So a particular position can be either pro-Israel or anti-Israel depending on the geographic location of the person stating the position? The pro-Israelness of a statement of opinion depends on who’s making the statement, and can’t be evaluated absent the person making the statement? That sounds pretty absurd to me.


    Desh · November 2nd, 2009 at 10:42 am
  58. Actually, if you’ve read the statement I’ve written above about 14,000 times , anybody in America has the right to take any position on Israel they want. And, any group has the right to lobbby the U.S. government for any policy they deem appropriate regarding Israel.

    However, if a group wants to organize and present itself as a lobby representing the best interests of the people in Israel, (a “pro-Israel lobby”) it should indeed respect the policies of the freely elected Israeli government–because that’s the best way to determine the desires of the people who live in Israel–or that group can change how it represents itself to the US government.

    I don’t care. I’ll just keep writing the same thing over and over.


    Jonathan1 · November 2nd, 2009 at 11:02 am
  59. Jonathan, and as you’ve seen 14,000 times, most people completely disagree with you.


    ML · November 2nd, 2009 at 12:05 pm
  60. ML, then they’re wrong on this issue.


    Jonathan1 · November 2nd, 2009 at 12:18 pm
  61. And you know what, ML, they should come out and say the whole truth. They should say, “You know what, I live in New York City, I have no interest in living in Israel, but I know (care?) what’s better for Israel than do the majority of people who live there, and I’m going to help save Israelis from themselves, out of my concern for Israel. And if the policy I’m lobbying for doesn’t work out, and it really affects the people in Israel poorly, I’ll sit here in NYC and come up with new ways to help save Israelis from themselves.”

    Just be honest, don’t make arguments that it is somehow undemocratic to not allow people who live halfway around the world to determine Israeli government policy . . . . or that American Jews care about Israelis like a father cares about a son . . . or that saying that an organized “pro-Israel” lobby should follow the freely-elected Israeli government’s policies is the same as trying to police the speech and thoughts of American Jews . .. . everybody should just be honest about where they’re coming from at least.


    Jonathan1 · November 2nd, 2009 at 12:28 pm
  62. “J-STREET AND AIPAC MEMBERS AREN’T AFFECTED BY EVENTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST”.
    Jonathan1, to be blunt, that’s just totally not true. My tax money goes to that conflict. It’s a global security threat. At the J Street conference, Gen. Jim Jones, Pres. Obama’s national security advisor, told us in his keynote address that if he could magically fix one foreign policy issue, it would be the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. People all over the world have a direct interest in the resolution of this issue.


    renaissanceboy · November 2nd, 2009 at 12:29 pm
  63. RB, just read what Jonathan1 said, 50,000 times. You simply have not allowed his words to sink in. You can believe whatever you want. You can lobby however you want. No one is shutting you up. No one is negating your self-narrative.

    If you call yourself a “pro-Israel lobby”, however, then you must represent the policies of the democratically elected Israeli government, which represents the will of the people of Israel. Otherwise, you’re not lobbying for Israel, you’re lobbying for yourself or some other constituency. No one has a problem with that. Just be honest that you’re not a “pro-Israel lobby”.

    Let’s focus on what part of that you don’t understand.


    Avigdor · November 2nd, 2009 at 12:43 pm
  64. This is an absurd conversation, and deserves an absurd analogy.

    It’s akin to a bunch of people in Russia lobbying the Kremlin to nuke major American population centers, and then calling themselves pro-American. Just think about the wonderful future America can have, they relate, with half the population it has now. People will have more food, more proportional access to raw materials, much reduced pollution, no crime, and the destruction of the American military will greatly lower the tax burden on the survivors. In fact, without a massive reduction in population, they say, America may not survive! They love America, and sincerely believe that nuking major American cities will result in a better America and a better, more peaceful world.

    Americans keep trying to tell them that no, you’re not pro-American, but these Russians keep insisting that they are. They know what’s best for America, they say, and are pressing for an expansion of the definition of “pro-American” to include things that Americans don’t actually want and didn’t vote for – in this case, getting nuked.


    Avigdor · November 2nd, 2009 at 12:59 pm
  65. TAL,

    I do not think of a child as an “it”, and find it distubing that others do.

    Jonathan,

    Your claim that policies of the Israeli government is best way to determine the desires Israelis is dubious at best, as I’ve seen plenty of polls suggesting otherwise, such as this one.

    Avigdor,

    No one is suggesting any violent action here, let alone nukes.


    kyleb · November 2nd, 2009 at 1:19 pm
  66. What about “absurd analogy” do we not understand? Analogy?

    Absurd.
    Just absurd.


    Avigdor · November 2nd, 2009 at 3:02 pm
  67. Avigdor, what I’m pointing out here is that saying that someone is not pro-Israel is a way of delegitimizing their opinions. By saying that I’m not pro-Israel, you’re claiming that I’m not working for what I believe to be the best interests of the State of Israel (and what kyleb points out they believe to be in their interests as well). J Street is all about allowing a discussion of what is in those interests, a discussion that you’re cutting off by saying that the only way to support Israel is to support its government. And comparing my opinions to nuking 150 million people is just ridiculous.


    renaissanceboy · November 2nd, 2009 at 4:13 pm
  68. Avigdor,

    My understanding of analogies requires them to be at least somewhat analogous, while your absurd argument was nothing of the sort.


    kyleb · November 2nd, 2009 at 4:32 pm
  69. If everyone will allow me to take a step back, I think we’ve become too embroiled in some small details, which, while relevant, are no longer yielding anything productive.
    As I understand it, Avigdor and Jonathan1 are arguing that being pro-Israel means supporting the decisions of the Israeli government. kyleb and myself are arguing that it doesn’t. Assuming that that is in fact what everyone’s saying (correct me if I’m wrong), I think that the argument kyleb and I are making is best summarized as this: “pro” does not mean “in agreement with”, it means “in support of”. Avigdor and Jonathan1, you are most definitely free to disagree with our interpretation of what does in fact support Israel, but not with our assertion that we are in fact doing what we believe is in support of Israel. And that’s what pro-Israel means. Supporting Israel.


    renaissanceboy · November 2nd, 2009 at 5:06 pm
  70. rb,

    Jonathan1 are arguing that being pro-Israel means supporting the decisions of the Israeli government.

    Not exactly, rb. I’m arguing that if an organized lobbying group (ie AIPAC and J-Street) wishes to lobby the American government from the standpoint of a “pro-Israel” lobbying position, then yes they must defer to the wishes of the people who actually live in Israel, which is best determined by the policies of the freely-elected Israeli government.

    I can’t speak for Avigdor, but I don’t wish to curtail anybody’s free speech, and I have no waying of knowing what is or isn’t a “pro-Israel” idea. Frankly, you are advocating that you DO know what is or isn’t a “pro-Israel” idea: supporting a two-state concept is “pro-Israel” and supporting the settlments is “anti-Israel.”

    I’m also in favor of a two-state agreement, and I also think the settlements were a mistake. BUT, the majority of the people in Israel–who will live and die by implementing a two-state idea, or by keeping the settlments (only time will tell)– have elected this government. I’m just not prepared to go to President Obama and tell him that I represent what’s best for Israel and that he needs to save Israelis from themselves. Maybe you are, I’m just not willing to do something like that.

    My tax money goes to that conflict. It’s a global security threat. At the J Street conference, Gen. Jim Jones, Pres. Obama’s national security advisor, told us in his keynote address that if he could magically fix one foreign policy issue, it would be the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. People all over the world have a direct interest in the resolution of this issue.

    Ok. But you DON’T have an interest in it from an Israeli perspective, unless you DO live in Israel. You have an interest in it from your persective, which is apparantly that of an American Jew.


    Jonathan1 · November 2nd, 2009 at 5:32 pm
  71. here rb:

    This is a clip of the writer Jeffrey Goldberg (who I’m guessing is not popular on Jewschool) and the Israeli journalist Ari Shavit discussing this very issue:

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=628m_a9M7lg


    Jonathan1 · November 2nd, 2009 at 9:07 pm
  72. To those who write “14,000 times” that to be “pro” a country is to support the policies of its government: repetition does not make it correct. I believe, along with many American and Israeli Jews, that continued occupation of the West Bank, and continued subjugation of Gaza, will lead to the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. Supporting the occupation is thus “anti-Israel,” insofar as it will lead to the end of Israel as defined by its Declaration of Independence. That assessment is an empirical, strategic, and moral evaluation, arrived at independently of contrary assessments by Israeli politicians, and backed up by most rational evaluations of the demographic and security situations. Now you may disagree with this position. But there are strong arguments in its support that many have taken, including some leading voices in Israeli politics and the Zionist movement since 1967 (including Ben Gurion). That the elected governmnent supports a policy dangerous to the survival of Israel does not make it right. To identify a country with its government is simply anathema to liberal democracy, which values the opinions of minority parties and sectors and rejects excluding them from the definition of “the country.” Only totalitarian “people’s democracies” or “volkish democracies” identify the government with the country as a whole. It is true that J Street is not an agent of the Israeli government and should not claim to be one. But then AIPAC also refuses this designation — otherwise, it would have to register as such under US law. Both AIPAC and J Street are independent organizations, independent of the Israeli government – neither of them claims otherwise. To say that “if you don’t live in Israel, you must support the Israeli government” is not an argument: it is a command, one that most American Jews refuse. It is also, it goes without saying, one that no American government could, in good conscience, heed. If the Israeli govenrment wants to go it alone, and refuse all help from the outside, including from American Jews and the American government, then it might have some ground, however dubious, from which to make such a demand. Given its current extreme dependence on all kinds of military, financial, and diplomatic help from America, it is hardly in a position to wax indignant about its sovereign dignity.


    Judah Magnes · November 2nd, 2009 at 10:59 pm
  73. I believe, along with many American and Israeli Jews, that continued occupation of the West Bank, and continued subjugation of Gaza, will lead to the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

    Can you please show me where I wrote that this is untrue?

    Supporting the occupation is thus “anti-Israel,” insofar as it will lead to the end of Israel as defined by its Declaration of Independence

    Can you please show me that I wrote that anybody has to support the occupation?

    Now you may disagree with this position

    Actually, this is what I wrote above: I’m also in favor of a two-state agreement, and I also think the settlements were a mistake

    But there are strong arguments in its support that many have taken, including some leading voices in Israeli politics and the Zionist movement since 1967 (including Ben Gurion).

    Can you please show me where I implied that this is not the case?

    That the elected governmnent supports a policy dangerous to the survival of Israel does not make it right

    Can you please show me where I wrote that the policies of this Israeli government are right?

    To identify a country with its government is simply anathema to liberal democracy, which values the opinions of minority parties and sectors and rejects excluding them from the definition of “the country.”

    YOU’RE NOT PART OF THE MINORITY PARTIES AND SECTORS IN ISRAEL, BTW!

    Why stop here? Maybe we should open up voting in Israeli elections to New York’s Jewish community.

    Only totalitarian “people’s democracies” or “volkish democracies” identify the government with the country as a whole

    Can you please show me where I wrote that this Israeli government represents Israel as a whole? I wrote that the best way to measure the views of the people who actually live in Israeli is to look at the policies of the freely-elected Israeli government.

    To say that “if you don’t live in Israel, you must support the Israeli government” is not an argument: it is a command, one that most American Jews refuse

    Can you please show me where I wrote that? I’m sorry. That’s just not what I keep writing.

    It is also, it goes without saying, one that no American government could, in good conscience, heed.

    Not only does it go without saying, BUT I NEVER WROTE THAT THE AMERICAN GOVERNMENT SHOULD DO THAT.

    If the Israeli govenrment wants to go it alone, and refuse all help from the outside, including from American Jews and the American government, then it might have some ground, however dubious, from which to make such a demand.

    But the Israeli government isn’t requesting help from J-Street!

    Given its current extreme dependence on all kinds of military, financial, and diplomatic help from America, it is hardly in a position to wax indignant about its sovereign dignity.

    Nobody is talking about the American government, though.

    What the hell is going on with these extrapolations????


    Jonathan1 · November 2nd, 2009 at 11:23 pm
  74. Miri,

    Are you reading any of this? (If you are, sorry.)

    Can you please explain to some of these people that I’m not writing what they’re saying I’m writing.

    Explain to them that even if I’m wrong, they should criticize what I’ve written at least, and explain why it’s wrong . . . . not to just, over and over, put words into my mouth which I clearly haven’t written.

    KFJ? BZ? Amit? Anybody?


    Jonathan1 · November 2nd, 2009 at 11:38 pm
  75. Reply to “Jonathan”: if you agree that the occupation is wrong, settlements are wrong, and that such policies will lead to the end of Israel as defined by its Declaration of Independence, I am simply at a loss to understand your position that you must support an Israeli government who upholds these policies in order to “pro-Israel.” Moreover, you write that “that the best way to measure the views of the people who actually live in Israel is to look at the policies of the freely-elected Israeli government.” Well, this is empirically very dubious. If we count among the “people who actually live in Israel” all those under Israeli rule, then your proposition is demonstrably false. If we add all those who voted against the current government, plus all those living in the West Bank and Golan who have no right to participate in Israeli elections, and would definitely vote against the Netanyahus of this world if they did have that right, then it is undeniable that the majority of the people under Israeli rule (those who “actually live there”) oppose the policies of the current government. Furthermore, I can only conclude from your statements that you implicitly see AIPAC as an agent of the Israeli government, rather than an independent organization taking its own positions on what is best for Israel. And I know you didn’t write that – however, since you think that only those who support the policies of the current Israeli government should present themselves as “pro-Israel,” then I think my characterization of your opinion is reasonable. AIPAC, of course, would reject the notion that it is anything other than an independent organization — and indeed, would be in violation of US law if it were not and failed to register as the agent of a foreign government. Your demand that a “pro-Israel” organization defer to the Israeli government on all things goes beyond what AIPAC itself would claim. Finally, it is true, of course, that the Israeli government, as you note, has not requested help from J Street. It has, however, accepted massive military, financial, and diplomatic support from the American government and American Jews. If it wishes to declare that only those who support its self-destructive policies can be considered “pro-Israel,” it should make that very clear. I suspect, though, that the billions of dollars in aid, the heavy and costly diplomatic support, and the massive military cooperation from the US, would be put in serious jeopardy. In summary: You want to maintain that “only those who actually live there” should have a say in what is “pro-Israel”? Fine – then draw two consequences: 1) a precondition of this position is allowing all those who “actually live there,” including Palestinians on the West Bank and Golan, to vote in Israeli national elections; and 2) Israel should forego all external aid – no aid is without strings, and massive aid comes with many strings, so the only way to have full autonomy for those “who actually live there,” is to forego the massive external aid Israel has accepted throughout its history. Give the Palestinians the vote and end all external aid: then we’ll see what “pro-Israel,” as defined by those who “actually live there” will come to mean. If you reject these conditions, then spare us the pieties about the need for deference of the aid-givers, both governmental and non-governmental, to the views of those who “actually live there.”


    judah magnes · November 2nd, 2009 at 11:50 pm
  76. if you agree that the occupation is wrong, settlements are wrong, and that such policies will lead to the end of Israel as defined by its Declaration of Independence, I am simply at a loss to understand your position that you must support an Israeli government who upholds these policies in order to “pro-Israel.”

    Read very closely: I don’t know how to define “pro-Israel” or “anti-Israel” It’s not my job, and I’m not judging anybody on their views.

    Moreover, you write that “that the best way to measure the views of the people who actually live in Israel is to look at the policies of the freely-elected Israeli government.” Well, this is empirically very dubious. If we count among the “people who actually live in Israel” all those under Israeli rule, then your proposition is demonstrably false. If we add all those who voted against the current government, plus all those living in the West Bank and Golan who have no right to participate in Israeli elections, and would definitely vote against the Netanyahus of this world if they did have that right, then it is undeniable that the majority of the people under Israeli rule (those who “actually live there”) oppose the policies of the current government

    Ok. You are correct that millions of stateless people live under Israeli rule in the West Bank, and I’d include Gaza too. (Btw, the Druze communities on the Golan do have the right to obtain Israeli citizenship and to vote.) I don’t consider Gaza and the West Bank to be part of Israel in the political sence. If you do and you want to lobby the US government for that view, then present yourself as representing what’s best for Israel/Palestine or pro 1-state, or anti-Netanyahu, or as American Jews against the occupation.

    As for Israel inside of the Green Line (and the settlements too,) I don’t know of any better way to measure what the people there want then by the policies of the freely-elected government.

    Furthermore, I can only conclude from your statements that you implicitly see AIPAC as an agent of the Israeli government, rather than an independent organization taking its own positions on what is best for Israel. And I know you didn’t write that – however, since you think that only those who support the policies of the current Israeli government should present themselves as “pro-Israel,” then I think my characterization of your opinion is reasonable. AIPAC, of course, would reject the notion that it is anything other than an independent organization — and indeed, would be in violation of US law if it were not and failed to register as the agent of a foreign government.

    Whether they say it or not, that is the reality. What I keep writing, btw, is that organized lobbying groups who wish to present themselves to the US government as “pro-Israel” should indeed defer to the Israeli government’s policies, or they should present themselves as something else to the US government.

    Finally, it is true, of course, that the Israeli government, as you note, has not requested help from J Street. It has, however, accepted massive military, financial, and diplomatic support from the American government and American Jews. If it wishes to declare that only those who support its self-destructive policies can be considered “pro-Israel,” it should make that very clear

    Hold on, nobody is saying that the American government needs to be “pro-Israel,” or that American Jews need to support Israel, or that America needs to support Israel. (I don’t think this government would have a problem if J-Street ceased its support of Israel, btw.) Really, though, I can’t argue in favor of something I haven’t written. I simply haven’t written that the American government has to give Israel a dime and, even more, J-Street is not the American government.

    1) a precondition of this position is allowing all those who “actually live there,” including Palestinians on the West Bank and Golan, to vote in Israeli national elections;

    Again, (I’m trying to help you out here,) the people on the Golan do have the right to obtain citizenship and to vote in Israeli elections. For your point, though, again, I don’t consider Gaza and the West Bank parts of the state of Israel. I consider those areas undefined areas, home to millions of stateless people, living under Israeli military rule. Maybe I’m confused, is J-Street’s position that Gaza City and Nablus and Jenin part of Israel, and that the people who live there should become Israeli? You can’t have it both ways either. If this is the case, fine, then J-Street should change it’s name to “pro one state for Jews and Arabs in Israel/Palestine.” I wouldn’t object to that.

    2) Israel should forego all external aid – no aid is without strings, and massive aid comes with many strings, so the only way to have full autonomy for those “who actually live there,” is to forego the massive external aid Israel has accepted throughout its history.

    I agree that it is a terrible situation (for both Israel and the U.S.) that Israel receives such massive aid. Of course that aid comes with strings, FROM THE US GOVERNMENT, NOT FROM AIPAC AND J-STREET. I’m going to tell you a little secret, that aid would still keep coming even without AIPAC and J-Street (although it likely would be less.) Do you consider J-Street part of the US government?

    Give the Palestinians the vote and end all external aid: then we’ll see what “pro-Israel,” as defined by those who “actually live there” will come to mean.

    Again, I don’t consider Gaza and the West Bank parts of the state of Israel, and I’m not saying that the US needs to aid Israel. (I’m still a bit unsure as to how you’re confusing President Obama with Jeremy Ben-Ami, but fine.) Israel has gotten by without US aid before, btw, and it could again.


    Jonathan1 · November 3rd, 2009 at 12:28 am
  77. I’m looking at some of these statements again, and I’m just starting to wonder how people can write such things.

    implicitly see AIPAC as an agent of the Israeli government, rather than an independent organization taking its own positions on what is best for Israel

    Of course AIPAC doesn’t take its own positions. Look at its complete support it gave to the Shamir government in 1990, and then the Rabin government of 1993, just three years later.

    What is this?


    Jonathan1 · November 3rd, 2009 at 1:12 am
  78. I don’t represent J Street in any way at all and am puzzled by your insinuations here. I also don’t support a “one-state solution” either (I think it’s unrealistic) – I was just responding to your “only those who actually live there can decide what’s good for Israel” mantra. Whether or not you personally consider the West Bank legally part of Israel, the plain and simple empirical fact is that for the vast majority of Israel’s existence (over 2/3 of Israel’s history), it has ruled over the people in the West Bank while giving them no say over Israeli policy. If you are a democrat (small ‘d’) and claim to care about the views of those “who actually live there,” you can’t blithely ignore the views of those who “actually live” under Israeli rule and have done so for over 2/3 of Israel’s existence. “Pro-Israel” in your definition includes only those who voted for the Israeli government and excludes most of those under Israeli rule (those who voted against and those who don’t have the vote). This is not democratic by any definition and is certainly opposed to liberal democracy which does not exclude the minority parties from the country’s identity (i.e., wouldn’t identify “pro-Israel” with the “pro-the-current-parliamentary-majority”). Finally, though you would deny it, depriving supporters of J Street the right to call themselves “pro-Israel” is obviously an attempt to silence them, because their intended audience thinks of itself as not wanting to adhere to any positions that aren’t “pro-Israel.” You may deny this and say you’re for free speech, but just want the labels correct, but this is just disingenuous given the political weight that the label “pro-Israel” carries. For the last time: being “pro-government” is not the same thing as “pro-country” and to identify the two is anti-democratic. A last word: I don’t often write in on these threads because of the doggedness of the genre, the way in which only those determined to have the last word seem to prevail. So I give up here and go back to my life – sorting through all the non-sequiturs and disingenous denials you put forward here is too time-consuming. I remain “pro-Israel” even though determinedly “anti-Netanyahu,” just as I was “pro-America” even though determinedly “anti-Bush,” and “pro-Jewschool” even though I am “anti-Jonathan1″… Good-bye and have fun attacking me in your response!


    judah magnes · November 3rd, 2009 at 1:24 am
  79. How about this: We’ll just have to let everybody else read these comments and decide for themselves.


    Jonathan1 · November 3rd, 2009 at 1:33 am
  80. This has been fascinating to read, truly.

    Question: Are Iranian Americans who lobby the American government to hold positions that are anti-Ahmadinejad (sp?) are they being anti-Iran? Are Cuban Americans who lobby the American government for anti-Castro positions being anti-Cuba?


    uzi · November 3rd, 2009 at 4:44 am
  81. Uzi, are you claiming that Iran and Cuba are representative democracies? I think the millions of protesters who filled the streets of Tehran and the fields of murdered Cuban dissidents will disagree with you. Are you suggesting that Israel is not a representative democracy?


    Avigdor · November 3rd, 2009 at 8:32 am
  82. No I was certainly not suggesting that. I was trying to give a parallel to what J1 was writing that “pro country-x” means pro the particulars of that country’s current government because that’s what they said they wanted in their democratic process. Perhaps Iran and Cuba were less than exact comparisons.


    uzi · November 3rd, 2009 at 8:51 am
  83. There is just such incredible arrogance among some people to claim to speak for seven million people, without actually representing the wishes of those people as expressed in their elected leadership, and without bearing the burden of consequences for those decisions, except in the most superficial way.

    Case in point, today the US Congress votes on a resolution to denounce the Goldstone report – a symbolic bipartisan act representing solidarity with the Israeli people and the policies of their elected government.

    Where, might you ask, is JStreet? Urging the resolution be watered down to gain their support. Fine. I suppose on the heels of their “give us a minute, we’re moving to the center” conference, that’s progress.

    Where is Goldstone? Fighting the resolution.

    Who is fighting back? Rep. Howard Berman (D. CA)


    Avigdor · November 3rd, 2009 at 8:59 am
  84. I understand, uzi.

    Jonathan1, perhaps you should compile your thoughts, written repeatedly throughout this comment thread, and offer to submit a post on Jewschool on this issue. After all, isn’t the point of JStreet and RB’s post to expand the conversation about what it means to be a “pro-Israel lobby”? Given the heat you took, it seems reasonable that you are the minority opinion here, and thus your opinion should be given attention as an important, dissenting voice.

    I think you have important things to say on this subject, along with the credibility and technical ability to relate them in an appropriate fashion.


    Avigdor · November 3rd, 2009 at 9:06 am
  85. Look Avigdor,

    If you read the comments I wrote above and the responses they solicited, then it becomes apparant that I should just drop this subject.

    (Other than you, renassainceboy, Justin, Miri, and maybe KFJ, nobody would ever even consider my opinions here–that’s just the name of the game in the blogging world.)


    Jonathan1 · November 3rd, 2009 at 10:37 am
  86. Jonathan1, I’d encourage you to do so.


    renaissanceboy · November 3rd, 2009 at 10:37 am
  87. Jonathan1, are you saying the readership of Jewschool is so closed minded that they won’t even think about evaluating the merits of your perspective? That seems terribly unfair.Jewschool regularly publishes controvercial material. Isn’t the very basis for this website to examine perspectives that challenge intellectual inertia in communities?


    Avigdor · November 3rd, 2009 at 11:43 am
  88. Avigdor, I’d be comfortable saying that not all people living under Israeli control are a part of a representative democracy. Judah Magnes laid that out pretty clearly.


    ML · November 3rd, 2009 at 12:01 pm
  89. Jonathan1, are you saying the readership of Jewschool is so closed minded that they won’t even think about evaluating the merits of your perspective?

    I guess I’m saying, Avidgor, is that I’m not under any delusions that I’m swaying hearts and minds in writing comments here. I read Jewschool because I love hearing all sorts of perspectives, and I write comments because I love the intellectual debates (ironically most of those debates have been with you–and KFJ.)

    At some point, though, I do wonder why I post comments, considering what I’ve written above, and some of the responses I’ve elicited. The only person in this stream who seems to be curious at least in my thoughts (even though he disagrees) is renaissanceboy, who apparantly is an 18-year-old college freshman.

    This is what judah magnes (who apparantly is a university professor) has to say: Finally, though you would deny it, depriving supporters of J Street the right to call themselves “pro-Israel” is obviously an attempt to silence them, because their intended audience thinks of itself as not wanting to adhere to any positions that aren’t “pro-Israel.” You may deny this and say you’re for free speech, but just want the labels correct, but this is just disingenuous given the political weight that the label “pro-Israel” carries. For the last time: being “pro-government” is not the same thing as “pro-country” and to identify the two is anti-democratic. A last word: I don’t often write in on these threads because of the doggedness of the genre, the way in which only those determined to have the last word seem to prevail. So I give up here and go back to my life – sorting through all the non-sequiturs and disingenous denials you put forward here is too time-consuming. I remain “pro-Israel” even though determinedly “anti-Netanyahu,” just as I was “pro-America” even though determinedly “anti-Bush,” and “pro-Jewschool” even though I am “anti-Jonathan1?… Good-bye and have fun attacking me in your response!

    What’s the point, Avigdor?


    Jonathan1 · November 3rd, 2009 at 3:20 pm
  90. What’s the point, Avigdor?

    There are two answers to this – one immediate, the other more fundamental. I think the perspective you brought to this specific conversation was invaluable. The argument you laid out, without getting into it, was very reasonable. I have yet to see a single person actually address the substance of this argument. That could be from a lack of interest, or more likely, from no desire on the part of Jewschoolers to read through 80+ repetitive comments, mostly made by 3 people.

    The reason I asked you to submit a post using the comments you’ve made is that I believe more people should be exposed to the line of reasoning you lay out, in a concise fashion, whether they ultimately agree with that reasoning or not.

    Will some misread what you have to say and write goofball remarks having nothing to do with the argument you make? Yes. We are not guaranteed a high level of discourse, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge ourselves and others to deliver on it.

    I remember I wrote something once in response to a controversial comment thread, some months ago. I laid out my case as best I could, really thought through the analogy, tried to flush unnecessary emotion and provocation out of it and hit submit expecting to be just pilloried. The first person who responded said that they never comment on Jewschool, and that they still don’t agree with me, but that I showed them a perspective they had never before contemplated, which actually makes sense to them. And then I was pilloried.

    I can’t motivate anyone on Jewschool with emotions, because I usually don’t emotionally connect on the same issues that many progressive Jews do. All I can do is lay out the best logical argument I can conceive of, supported by the strongest facts I can muster, defend it, and count on the strength of the argument to pierce someone’s natural resistance to change their mind. Maybe they won’t agree with me today, but if they understand the reasoning they can always come back to it. This is often how I myself am impacted by Jewschool writers – well reasoned arguments have an impact, even if it’s not immediate.

    That’s what opposition blogging is. We’re not in an echo chamber, preaching to the eager choir which hangs on our every word. We have the margins, and in the margins, over time, after learning to communicate with a hostile audience and defending ourselves and our arguments ad nauseum, we can have an impact. And we ourselves are impacted; certainly I have been since I started coming here.

    The material is already there. I think you hit on something important, and expressed it in a simple yet effective manner. I don’t know if Jewschool will publish it, and if they do, I don’t know what the response will be. Think about it, put it together in a clear, concise way and hit submit.


    Avigdor · November 3rd, 2009 at 6:36 pm
  91. Avigdor,

    Given the heat you took, it seems reasonable that you are the minority opinion here, and thus your opinion should be given attention as an important, dissenting voice.

    Why do you not show similar concern for the voice of those dissenting from the Israeli government? Besides, in regards to the two state-solution, polls show them in the majority opinion, yet you lay on the heat to those of us who support them.

    Jonathan,

    I do give consideration to all the comments I read, and I wouldn’t bother responding if I didn’t.


    kyleb · November 3rd, 2009 at 9:03 pm
  92. Why do you not show similar concern for the voice of those dissenting from the Israeli government?

    I don’t understand the question, as I myself dissent, early and often, from the Israeli government in many policy areas. That said, I strongly lobby for the policies of the government of Israel where they intersect with my beliefs. I’ve spent a good chunk of my twenties working on a local level towards the general, bipartisan strengthening of the US-Israeli relationship as a whole, with some success.

    Once again, to be clear, when my beliefs do not intersect Israeli government policy, I make my views known privately to those who request them, but I would never lobby elected officials against the policies of the Israeli government. In my view, that’s somewhere on a spectrum between silly and unthinkable.

    Elected officials aren’t concerned with yours or mine wrenching personal moral dilemmas, and they are not interested in the nuance of diplomacy halfway around the world. Their only concern is hearing what they need to do to survive the next election, and I remind them, early and often, that this means supporting the State of Israel, its people and their elected government. Thanks to AIPAC, I’ve rarely needed to explain to a public official what that means.

    Believe me, had Olmert pursued Disengagement II, a policy I strongly oppose(d), you would not have seen me on the phone with my congressman demanding that Israeli aid be cut off, or that supply of laser guided bombs should be halted.

    The two state solution is a case in point. I do not believe it is fundamentally viable, as I’ve explained in the past, and worry greatly that even talk of concessions of land threatens Jewish life. At the same time, I realize that ultimately this decision is up to the Jews of Israel to decide – a debate I try to influence in private conversations.

    I don’t see my opposition to a two state solution being inconsistent with my working through AIPAC to further strengthen the US-Israeli alliance in all sectors, because I see that alliance as strengthening Israel regardless of the decisions Israelis make. No matter what the Jews of Israel decide, I will be on the phone with my congressman reminding him that I appreciate his continued support for Israel.


    Avigdor · November 3rd, 2009 at 9:50 pm
  93. Avigdor,

    It is your deriding of renaissanceboy over his stated position which I find inconsistent with the attention you suggest Jonathan’s dissenting voice merits.


    kyleb · November 4th, 2009 at 8:50 pm
  94. kyleb,

    Let me take a crack at explaining my radical position:

    1) I’m a bit uncomportable with people living in country X organizing a lobby to present the “pro-country Y” position to country X’s government.

    Maybe nobody else is uncompfortable with something like that.

    2) If a group does feel the need to organize a lobby to present a “pro-country Y” position (or in this case a “pro-Israel” position) then I do believe that the lobby should defer to the wishes of people in Israel as to what is the “pro-Israel” position.

    That’s because if a “pro-Israel” lobby convinced the American government to help increase settlement activity in the territories, and Israel eventually crumbled under the settlements’ burden, then it would be the Israelis who would suffer.

    Similarly, if a “pro-Israel” lobby convinced the American government to implement a two-state agreement, and that agreement led to a Palestinian/Israeli war, then it be the Israelis who would suffer.

    [[I know that Palestinians also would suffer under such situations, but we are discussing self-proclaimed "pro-Israel" lobbies.]]

    Maybe nobody else thinks it is necessary to defer to Israelis’ desires as to what is “pro-Israel.”

    3) The best way I know of to determine what the people in Israel want is by looking at the policies of the freely elected government. It’s not a perfect method, but it’s the best method I know of.

    If you’ve noticed, none of the other posters–other than kyleb–have offered a better way of determing what the people in Israel want. kyeb has indeed offered a poll to demonstrate Israelis’ views, but I reject that as an effective measure, because there are so many variables in poll-taking. This is clear, for instance, by the fact that there are all sorts of recent polls saying that most Israelis support (a) two-states (b) expelling all Palestinians from the territories (c) expelling all Arabs who live inside the Green Line (d) greater civil rights for Arabs inside the Green Line, etc., etc.

    All of the other posters above are simply not offering a better way to determine what Israelis want.

    Let’s put it another way: Ehud Barak was elected in 1999, and he promised that he would put any agreement involving relinquishing the Golan to a national referendum. Let’s say that Barak and Assad came to an agreement and that the Israeli public approved of that agreement by 55%-45%. There is just no way I would walk over to Capitol Hill, and present myself as a “pro-Israel” lobbyist, and work to prevent the implementation of such a deal.
    I just couldn’t do something like that. Mabye everybody else could.

    Frankly, I was living in Israel during Barak’s government, and I would have been furiuos if a “pro-Israel” lobby had worked on Capitol Hill to prevent such a deal under those circumstances–even though I was/am adamantly opposed to such a deal.

    Apparantly, this all is a very radical idea.


    Jonathan1 · November 4th, 2009 at 9:52 pm
  95. Avigdor, I was with you in your last comment, until this part: “I would never lobby elected officials against the policies of the Israeli government. In my view, that’s somewhere on a spectrum between silly and unthinkable.” Based on everything you’ve said about your hopes for Israel and its relationship, that really doesn’t make much sense to me. Lobbying is about arguing for what you believe to be true or necessary. Why wouldn’t you do that if your belief of what was true or necessary happened to be different from Israeli policy (as it seems has been the case for you)?
    Re: the definition of supporting Israel: “Thanks to AIPAC, I’ve rarely needed to explain to a public official what that means.” and ” I see that alliance as strengthening Israel regardless of the decisions Israelis make.”
    Thanks to? The entire point we’re discussing here is whether or not it’s a good thing that supporting Israel means one thing. It’s certainly true that it does, to a large extent because of AIPAC. But the U.S.’ unequivocal support of Israel as it actively pursues policies that will lead to the deaths of more civilians, Israeli and Palestinian, and ultimately in the political and societal unfeasibility of Israel as a Jewish democratic state cannot be considered a good thing.
    When I say this, I don’t mean to imply that I any more than AIPAC have all the answers as to what those policies are or are not. But I don’t claim to. AIPAC does.


    renaissanceboy · November 5th, 2009 at 2:18 am
  96. Why wouldn’t you do that if your belief of what was true or necessary happened to be different from Israeli policy (as it seems has been the case for you)?

    I don’t see the American political system as a lever through which I can or should control and manipulate Israeli policy to my liking, against the wishes of Israelis. Israelis are free to plot their own course, and to bear the consequences of their decisions. When I agree with them, I will support them. When I disagree with them, I’m not going to vindictively punish them for disagreeing with me. As I said, strong, bipartisan American support for Israel is an asset for Israel’s security (my first and foremost concern) regardless of what choices the Israelis make to either enhance or undermine their own security.

    But the U.S.’ unequivocal support of Israel as it actively pursues policies that will lead to the deaths of more civilians, Israeli and Palestinian, and ultimately in the political and societal unfeasibility of Israel as a Jewish democratic state cannot be considered a good thing.

    I agree with you completely that by conceding to a Palestinian state and withdrawing from territories, Israel is pursing “policies that will lead to the deaths of more civilians, Israeli and Palestinian, and ultimately in the political and societal unfeasibility of Israel as a Jewish democratic state”.

    ;)

    Nevertheless, as I said, I don’t believe in forcing my will on millions of Jews, or punishing them for making decisions I don’t agree with. I want the best for my people and I’m not going to abandon them, or punish them, for any reason. To quote something my father used to tell my brother and I, (rough translation from Russian) when one finger hurts, the whole body hurts. That’s how I grew up.

    In my view, whatever happens, we’re all in it together, wherever in the world we may be, and in whatever capacity we can help one another. If you see someone you truly love making a mistake, you don’t handcuff them to the table until they submit to your authority – that’s not loving them, it’s loving yourself. If Israelis make the right decisions, American support will extend their success. If Israelis make the wrong decisions, American support will soften the blow.

    I argue with Israelis, as I argue with you, in private conversations, to advance my ideas. However, none of that is the concern of American policy, and certainly not of my elected representative. Their responsibility, as I urge them, is to strengthen the US-Israeli relationship, period.


    Avigdor · November 5th, 2009 at 5:18 am

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik