Culture, Israel, Politics

standing up for our progressive zionist selves

Since the AJCommittee diatribe last fall and the subsequent ZOA/Israel on Campus debacle about the Union of Progressive Zionists sponsorship of the “Breaking the Silence” tour, I’ve heard a lot of muttering in the form of emails and blog comments, but aside from formal efforts to keep UPZ in the Israel on Campus Coalition, nobody has stepped up to say — stop bullying us. we won’t allow it.
On a more recent smaller matter, however, Ken Bob, of Ameinu and my hometown, has a letter to the editor in the March 1st Forward, explaining the real story of a recent Conference of Presidents meeting at which Morton Klein claimed to have dressed down Richard Jones, US Ambassador to Israel, about towing the Jewish-American “line” and not working with the PA under Mahmoud Abbas. Bob called Klein on his lie that the whole room broke out in applause after his lecture. In fact, according to Bob, when he got up to show support for Jones’ diplomacy, there may have been even more applause.
Also, the CA-based Jewish Voice for Peace (not expressly Zionist) has launched a new blog, MuzzleWatch, ostensibly, as their deck says, to “track efforts to stifle open debate about US-Israeli foreign policy.”
Keeping the topics on the table of public debate, seems a wise move in an attempt to prevent the individual-bashing and marginalizing tactics that have been par for the course for too long now.
As Mobius mentioned last month here, it is high time for the Jewish left fractions to unite, but there seems to be only divisiveness and no willingness to unite above egos. I think the “two Jews, three opinions” thing is coming back to bite us in the ass.
But seriously, this reminds me of a room full of amazing people in which I had the pleasure of being, at the Boston Workmen’s Circle-sponsored screening of the recent documentary “Young, Jewish and Left.” The event, featuring one of the filmmakers, Idit Reinheimer, was artfully put together by our good friend Lauren Herman. The combination of packed audience and hot discussions left many feeling that something should be sparked by this film- it was able to get so many awesome and potentially allied folks in a room together like nothing else in Beantown could. except maybe my 2nd home, the Kavod House.

15 thoughts on “standing up for our progressive zionist selves

  1. It’s awesome that progressive Zionists are finally coming out of the closet. However, we also need to start taking on the “Israel is an apartheid state run by Nazis” rhetoric that comes from much of the left wing both here in the U.S. and in Europoe. Also, Jewish Voice For Peace is not a Zionist organization; they are neutral on Israel’s right to exist.

  2. Wow. “MuzzleWatch”. Now a group of Jews can talk all about how ZionistFascistNeoConOilHungryMessianicChristianWarMongeringExtremists “stifle open debate” about “US-Israeli foreign policy”. Uh-huh. And divert mega war profits to evil Halliburton in meetings with wily Dick Cheney, Exxon Mobil and the Saudi princes….
    Here’s a tip: If “progressive” Zionists want to become more popular maybe they should “progress” away from linking themselves up with antisemitic conspiracy theories.
    Newsflash: disagreement is not a “muzzle”. If you think it is, it’s because your arguments are weak.

  3. There’s disagreement, and then there’s intimidation, threat, and being shut out from mainstream debate circles. Don’t pretend one is the other.

  4. Maybe the answer is to follow the apparently only successful modle for cooperation – the Union of Progressive Zionists which is a student body. In the UPZ we have seen the partnership of 4 ProgZi (my new word for Progressive Zionists) organizations who have then reached out and worked with even more groups.
    Maybe it’s time we use the same model for Progressive Zionist Congress. In much the same way that the Union of Progressive Zionists has taken on specific aims and objectives and has used the talents of various groups to make it happen a Progressive Zionist Congress could do much the same.
    I believe the stated goals should be:
    1) the sharing of programming and information
    2) the ability to support one another when under attack
    3) the ability to serve as a unified voice in times of crisis or media comment
    I would also, out of my own selfish interest, hope that this would be a North American body with a Canadian branch, because many of these organizations do reach accross the 49th Parallel (the US-Canadian Boarder).
    If people think this a good idea let me know. If not that also works. But if there’s interest we can probably actualize this.

  5. With regard to point one, I suppose you are also correct and in support of your suggestion, I will add that Meretz USA and Ameinu hosted a panel discussion (which I did not attend) responding to three recent “attacks” on Israel from the “left”:
    Why on earth is the word “attacks” in quotes. Judt is an anti-Zionist who supports the dismantling of the Jewish state – surely his writing is an attack on Israel. Mearshimer and Walt posit a wide-ranging American Jewish conspiracy to hijack American foreign policy in the service of Israeli foreign policy objectives – surely that is not only an attack on Israel, but also American Jewish Zionists. Carter plays fast and loose with the facts in his book in an effort to have Israel threatend with the pariah status of apartheid-era South Africa – surely that is an attack on Israel as well. Why is it so difficult for most progressive Zionists to display the same passion in defending Israel’s legitimacy as they show in attacking misguided Israeli polices and right-wing Zionism? I would feel a lot more comfortable identifying as a progressive Zionist if more “ProgZis” took their Zionism as seriously as their progressivism.

  6. perhaps its because zionism and liberalism ARE actually incompatable. If liberalism demands equality under the law, and zionism works to promote Jewish hegmony within the state, then they are fundamentally at odds with each other. While liberal zionist policies are certainly preferable to right wing zionist policies, its difficult to see how anyone who takes liberalism seriously can support an ethnic national state (this includes Israel and Palestine).

  7. I would feel a lot more comfortable identifying as a progressive Zionist if more “ProgZis” took their Zionism as seriously as their progressivism.
    That’s just nonsense – becuase for progressive zionists, the more progressive you are, the more zionist you are. THe zionist part is the *motive* – why am I progressive? b/c it is the moral way to serve the interests of the Jewish people. What is the moral way? Progressivism. Its not like how Israel is “Jewish and Democratic”, but that’s how it should be: How do we do the Jewish thing? by promoting democracy and equality.

  8. “Why is it so difficult for most progressive Zionists to display the same passion in defending Israel’s legitimacy as they show in attacking misguided Israeli polices and right-wing Zionism?”
    I can’t speak for UPZ but Meretz and Ameinu certainly defend Israel’s legitimacy and they get a lot of crap from the anti-Zionist left for it.

  9. “There’s disagreement, and then there’s intimidation, threat, and being shut out from mainstream debate circles. Don’t pretend one is the other.”
    If the “Jewish Voice for Peace” is being “shut out from mainstream debate circles” it’s because they’re (er, how can I say this nicely?) NOT mainstream. They are on the extreme Left of American politics. Their message has been out there for years and hasn’t found many takers (though in Israel the Hadash (formerly Israel Communist) party seems consonant with their views). So now they’re crying (rather adolescently in my view) that the reason for their failure is that they’ve been “muzzled”. Oh, please!
    Their whole name is an unfair and anachronistic throwback to the 1960s anyway. Are they more “for peace” than the Reform movement, the OU, the USCJ? No. But they are more for Leftism than those groups. An accurate name for the group would be Jewish Voice for Leftism–it’s what they stand for and care about, and they should be open and proud about saying so.

  10. UPZ: Student Activists for Peace
    Stongly suggest people “here” consider reaching out to the UPZ, contact info below, and if you’re not currently in college, well, consider reaching out to Meretz USA, also below.
    Both groups might be what you’re looking for.
    Union of Progressive Zionists
    114 West 26th Street #1004
    New York, NY 10001
    Meretz USA
    114 West 26th Street 10th Floor
    New York, NY 10001
    and also see weblog http://www.meretzusa.blogspot/com
    >> Arieh Lebowitz / Secretary / Meretz USA

  11. Kol ha k’vod to the speakers on their panel for dealing honestly with Mearshimer & Walt, Carter & Judt’s attacks on Israel rather than worrying about reinforcing right-wing Zionist narratives.
    Dan Fleshler on Mearsheimer & Walt: “The paper written by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt was an attack ad filled with unsubstantiated assertions, and I was deeply disappointed by it.”
    Doni Remba on Carter: ” If he had written a factually accurate, even-handed book, it would have been relegated to the back shelves instead.”
    Ralph Seliger on Tony Judt: “…he insisted that the Law of Return is uniquely unjust in privileging Jews over non-Jews. Among the thousand or so in the hall, nobody responded that Germany and other European countries have legislated a similar right of return for their ethnic kin and that Israel, although far from perfect in civil rights terms, is more liberal than any other country in the Middle East in social policy, and in the access of all its citizens (including Arabs) to judicial redress and the democratic process. One also might have added that Israel’s Law of Return can be regarded as affirmative action for a minority group that has widely suffered persecution and discrimination throughout history and needs a safe haven.
    What is profoundly disturbing to me is that a liberal such as Tony Judt, not an extremist, questions Israel’s right to exist.”

    I’d stand up for this type of ProgZi against Morty Klein’s bullying any day of the week.

  12. Hadash is not ‘formerly the Communist Party of Israel.’ Hadash is the party fraction that runs for elections; the CP of Israel is the largest component of that electoral alliance. However, the CP is changing, and it’s relationship with Hadash is evolving as well.
    JVP is actually to the ‘left’ of Hadash, as Hadash does not question Israel’s right to exist – it positively affirms it, as it’s main goal is a two state solution.

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