The state of Israeli civil rights alarms me. Since my last update on the damage Bibi Netanyahu’s goalitzia is doing to civil rights in Israel, the country has offered us only a field hospital in Haiti to stem deepening concern. Since that post, the government has come for women’s rights activists. Then humanitarian aid workers. Then opposition journalists.  And now civil rights leaders. All in January 2010. As Jewish progressives in Israel and the Diaspora who give a damn about whether Israel is a model society — and who support justice anywhere, everywhere — we’re facing difficult questions.
Say Yes to a Better IsraelThe New Israel Fund hosts a town hall at Bnai Jeshurun this Sunday, 4 – 6 pm, called LEFT AND “RIGHTS”: Visions of Social Justice in Israel where four illustious and opinionated social justice leaders will debate issues without easy answers:

  • Avrum Burg, former Speaker of Knesset, author of The Holocaust Is Over. Infrequently do I think books deserve the word “revolutionary” — but his does. In it, this member of Israeli societal royalty assaults Israelis’ (and Jews’) Holocaust paranoia, vowing to destroy its sufficating choke on our people’s universal values and construct a positive frame that could replace it. Fuck yes. (He’s also shamirpower’s crush.)
  • Naomi Chazan, former Deputy Speaker of Knesset and President of the New Israel Fund. I’ve seen Chazan speak three times — she’s fiesty, opinionated, and has no patience for Jewish handwringing. She said during her last NYC visit, “It’s as if there’s a total disconnect between the liberal values of American Jews and their attitude to Israel…On one hand we have Ahmadinejad spouting vileness, on the other Jews who support Israel no matter what it does. I can’t stand either.”
  • Martin Indyk, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, a chief U.S. negotiator at Camp David, and present-day director at the Brookings Institution Saban Center for Middle East Policy. He’s attacked regularly by the right for being an “appeaser” and by Walt and Meirsheimer for being too Zionist. Sounds like the right place to be.
  • Daniel Sokatch is the new CEO of the New Israel Fund, founder of the Progressive Jewish Alliance, and briefly CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco. His speech at the J Street conference placed social justice as the missing ingredient in our community’s approach to Israel.

Over 450 people have registered to attend at B’nai Jeshurun (257 W. 88th Street, NYC) and 1,000 for the webcast at www.nif.org/townhall day-of. It’s not going to be another BJ celebrity deathmatch — more like four brilliant thinkers with positive visions of a better Israel.