Israel, Politics

The New Institutions: First Entry for JStreet contest with Jewschool

j_street_largeEditor’s Note: The following is the first winner of four recent entries by individual who will be heading to Washington, D.C. at the end of the month for JStreet’s first national conference: Driving Change, Securing Peace. The following post was written by Mark W. Sniderman of Carmel, IN. Yashar Koach – and see you in DC! To everyone else: there’s still time to sign up – and if you can’t come, check back here for live blogging by our contest winners as well as some of our favorite Jewschoolers.
What keeps you hopeful and/or invested in a two-state solution for the future of Israel and Palestine?
What gives me hope? It’s the new institutions: inspired by prophetic voices, the new American Jewish institutions have the potential to change the terms of the debate over the situation in a substantial and positive way.
This hope is born of a relatively straightforward argument: one doesn’t need to go whole hog with Mearsheimer and Walt. Let us instead merely agree that American policy has had a substantial impact on Israel over the last fifty years. And, in turn, Jewish Americans have been important in informing American policy. What falls out of this? Perhaps only the idea that Jewish American opinions will have considerable weight in future debates.
And until now, the institutional voices have been the loudest. They are the most powerful, and claim a broad mandate. Attentive observers know these organizations. They were born of reaction and caution. And understandably so. Their positions have been consistent, and will likely continue along the same lines. We know, in other words, what we are liable to get in the future.
The mandate claimed by these institutions, however, has unraveled. On the descriptive front, polling demonstrates that American Jews hold a deeper commitment to peace and an enduring two-state than the institutions that claim to speak for them. Normatively, the institutional perspective has utterly failed: the asymmetry and events of 2006 and the Gaza War confirm what a few have known for some time, but the institutions never could admit: The Israeli government (of all governments) fails to acknowledge that the blood of its people is no redder than that of others.
Hope springs from the margins, as it must. But the advent of the internet has facilitated new institutions, inspired by authentic grass roots. Jewish blogs abound. Rabbis are online. Rabbi Brant Rosen, for example, inspires people around the world from a computer in Illinois. This dynamic allows mainstream opinion to be informed – and represented – by sources other than the traditional institutions. A congregant can consult multiple rabbis, and not just one or two. Unaffiliated Jews now affiliate online together. J Street flourishes in this new world.
There is, to be sure, no new monolith. Critical differences abound. But on one broad idea there is agreement: Today, we shall challenge those who claim to speak in our name. Today, we shall advance – publicly and proudly – our vision of a just state. And we will compete for the support of our sisters and brothers in a way that was unimaginable twenty years ago.
The frustration with the old institutions is palpable. At long last, enough is simply enough: Let us now aspire to be fair brokers, charged with a respect for all, dedicated to peace and justice, and an Israeli government that does the same. This is the broad aspiration of our new institutions and our new rabbis who lead the way. This is the voice of our most prophetic Jewish leaders: Let us, at the end, be peacemakers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.