Towards a New Pro-Israel Left

I started dinking around with ideas for what a “new” Left-wing pro-Israel movement’s platform might look like. Just thought I’d run it by the peanut gallery for critique:
End the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
Negotiate Israel’s withdrawl from the Occupied Palestinian Territories with Israeli, Palestinian, and international partners.
Stridently pursue a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that satisfies the legitimate concerns of both Israeli and Palestinian people.
Invest in interfaith initiatives that seek to resolve theological conflicts between Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Pursue economic interdependence between Israel and its neighbors.
Pursue, in the long term, a regional disarmament treaty.
Go beyond the security question:
Actively fight government corruption in Israel. Put an end to the reign of “protektzia” and “combina.” Combat bureaucracy, root out entrenched cliques, and agitate for new leadership and new thinking. Provide scholarships to incentivize the study of government and progressive social and economic theory.
Address concerns of civil rights, social welfare, religious pluralism, environmental defense, education, and corporate responsibility. Invest in social policy initiatives that improve the quality of life of all Israelis, and promote economic policies that balance needed growth with social responsibility.
Demand moral conduct:
End Israel’s sale of arms to parties known to be complicit in human rights abuses. Strictly enforce the provisions of the Kimberly Agreement and criminalize the trade of arms for conflict diamonds.
Eliminate human trafficking in Israel. Pursue stricter penalties for traffickers and a more compassionate policy towards trafficking victims.
Defend Israel:
Defend the Jewish people’s right to self-determination and of the legitimacy of Jewish statehood as the collective determination of the Jewish people.
Combat antisemitism and its conflation with anti-Zionism.
Reject anti-Zionism as moot point: The state exists. Getting sidetracked in the question of Israel’s legitimacy, in the eyes of either Torah or post-colonialism, hinders the ability to collectively pursue common goals.

22 thoughts on “Towards a New Pro-Israel Left

  1. I would add a focus on ending antiSemitism in the progressive Left and ending Islamophobia, Homophobia, Racism and Bigotry in the Jewish Community.
    I would also stress a concept of “coalition” or “congress” by which all member organizations who meet requierments agree to work together to develop this one voice to speak for us. A good example of where this has worked is the Canadian Jewish Congress for the general Jewish community.

  2. Good start.
    Minority rights in Israel has to be a primary agenda item….
    Did you purposefully avoid calling for a two-state solution? Or do you take it as a given?

  3. What you’ve just written should be pretty obvious, unfortunately so many Jews just don’t see it this way.
    Some feedback for the new site design:
    Keep the Blogroll on the front page
    Add a Facebook option the share feature

  4. Mob, I’d sign on to this…. I will quibble though with a few points…
    1. The conflict diamond thing is mostly moot because of the end of most conflicts in those parts of Africa.
    2. A laundry list of concerns isn’t as effective as a strong focus. Some groups do great work around environment, inter-religious dialogue and social struggles. These make more sense to me than some of the other things you take note of.
    3. As an Israeli, I’d like to have Israel as MY state, and not have to share it’s identity with Americans who flood J’lem in the summer. Can’t Israel be a Jewish state just like France is French? France isn’t the state of ‘all those who speak French’ in the world…. Israel should be Israeli, and my ID card should say ‘Israeli’ under nationality instead of ‘Jewish.’
    4. The struggle against left wing anti-semitism needs to take place WITHIN the left. For that reason, one must work at times with groups that contain anti-Semites. I think this is a better approach for such a group – get to where your education and commitment to shared goals can make a difference; don’t be outside pissing in.
    Best of luck!

  5. “Reject anti-Zionism as moot point: The state exists. Getting sidetracked in the question of Israel’s legitimacy, in the eyes of either Torah or post-colonialism, hinders the ability to collectively pursue common goals.”
    Anti-Zionism is NOT a moot point. Or rather, post-Zionism isn’t. The fact is, a lot of people disagree on religious or other grounds to the idea that Jews have a right to their own state. In a way, Post-Zionism is a form of anti-Zionism in that it seeks to disestablish the claims of Jewishness from the state and create a purely egalitarian state of Israel, devoid of special priveleges for the Jewish community, under the same borders.
    Personally I tend to be more of a non-Zionist (don’t agree that we have a “right” to a State but don’t think it should necessarily be abolished either).

  6. I’d add support for a Jewish cultural, religious, academic, and educational reneaissance: supported as central to the idea of what it means to be a people with a faith and a homeland, and enacted in a pluralistic way that encourages the development of new and varied forms of Jewish-&/Israeli civilization, without being ignorant of its histories.

  7. What he said! 🙂
    >I’d add support for a Jewish cultural, religious, academic, and >educational reneaissance: supported as central to the idea of what >it means to be a people with a faith and a homeland, and enacted >in a pluralistic way that encourages the development of new and >varied forms of Jewish-&/Israeli civilization, without being >ignorant of its histories.

  8. Ta da! Your wish has been granted (in part), since several Jewish organizations already do this work. The terms are mostly as Mobes described, but with the diamonds bit a new entry, and of course a special shout out for the return of the Second Lebanon War hostages.
    Brit Tzedek v’Shalom stands squarely on top of the conflict platform and defense of Israel’s right to exist within the left; New Israel Fund sends several millions of dollars a year into interfaith, inter-ethnic, inter-group organizations and trains the latest generation of social service sector leaders. Rabbis for Human Rights has taken on the trafficking, plus a score of more established American Jewish orgs. Amienu is out to put the progressive Zionist voice into AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents.
    Amit points to a good question of turf: combating bureaucracy and corruption is an issue that American Jews might find hard to swallow — practically speaking, what can they contribute towards? Meanwhile, Brit Tzedek sticks with influencing only the US Government and NIF only invests in the Israeli (not Palestinian) nonprofit sector.
    The big question to me is, so when are we going to stop theorizing and start organizing? These platforms are laid out by others, and to substantial effect even though the collective effect of more right-wing elements may seem more apparent. We don’t need new initiatives or coalitions — we need members, leaders and donors. So if you’re inclined to support this “new left” then take it beyond a blog and a listserv membership, and get involved.
    Two ideas: (1) take a crack at Brit Tzedek’s “Let’s Talk” campaign here to reach the 70% of folks who already support a two-state settlement now, or (2) join NIF’s 2007 Benefit Committee and help NIF raise a ton of cash for civil and religious rights in Israel. More info on their sites.

  9. Dan,
    are you really moving back to the states?
    have you written about what it means to you to be an active zionist from afar? that is, is there a difference for you in being a zionist in israel as opposed to zionism in golus?

  10. questions/comments:
    1. what about religious pluralism in Israel?
    2. what about the wider Arab/Muslim-Israeli conflict?
    3. is this intended to be a US-based movement? or an Israeli political party?
    4. contrary to what some have suggested here, I think a renewed focus on Israel-Diaspora relations is essential (no, not to the detriment of Israeli Arabs).

  11. This is an excellent start.
    One question is how much room for intellectual honesty is there going to be in this movement? (For example one poster candidly admitted that portraying AIPAC as nothing more than a raging band of fundamentalist Christians and neocon warmongerers while not accurate, was necessary to make space for progressive alternatives.)
    Are difficult facts about the strength of rejectionism in Palestinian and Arab circles going to be dealt with directly or swept under the rug because they feed into right-wing talking points (the uncritical adoption of Palestinian talking points on Camp David and the 2nd Intifada are particularly egregious examples)? How do we balance the need to instill a sense of urgency without falling into the trap of hyperbolic rhetoric that feeds into attacks on Israel’s legitimacy.
    I can not emphasize enough how critical the domestic piece is. As for priorities, I would probably go with (1)Improving the conditions of Israeli Arabs has to be at the top of the agenda; (2) ending sex-trafficking and (3) civil rights (inclduing religous pluralism).
    A progressive Jewish movement that thinks outside the box rather than following in the standard time worn path is definitely a project worth investing in.

  12. [Sorry, directed that response to Amit and not Jew Guavara. My apologies for my mix up, guys.]
    I just want to put this out there. Like Greg said, yes, many Jews feel otherwise, but not most Jews, interestingly enough. We know the political opinions of American Jews, and they consistently poll as liberal stalwarts. And as far as Israel-Palestine matters, 70% poll consistently for a two-state solution with Israel’s security threats met and a viable Palestinian state — and fast, surprisingly enough.
    We need to reframe this discussion. There is no “new” Jewish left. The left is mainstream! The “left” is the center. The employees and layleaders of American Jewish institutions, however, of the AIPAC and AJC and federations, by and large poll to be in the 30% minority of the community — who exert an unequal sway on communal voice because they, as the professionals and layleaders, are the ones crafting the messages. This cohort (so to speak) does not represent the Jewish community at large, and the spate of Jewish grassroots start ups over the last decade is evidence for that. The “left” is the center, and the “mainstream” is less main than it’s given credit for.

  13. Nice sentiments but aren’t a lot of Israeli and Jewish organizations already doing this sort of work, as KFJ points out?
    “The struggle against left wing anti-semitism needs to take place WITHIN the left. For that reason, one must work at times with groups that contain anti-Semites.”
    Good luck with that one. From my 20+ years of experience on the radical left, most self-proclaimed revolutionaries (anarchist, communist, syndicalist, socialist) could care less about anti-Semitism. Or, another way of putting it, they view anti-Semitism as a red herring to deflect attention away from the genocidal policies of the Euopean apartheid Zionist settler-state.
    Look at the lunacy taking place right now within the anti-Zionist left in the U.K. A small group of individuals tried to bring up the topic of anti-Semitism and they were denigrated as crypto-Zionist stooges.
    See ENGAGE:
    Palestine Solidarity Campaign almost unanimously rejects two motions against antisemitism
    P.S. Che Guevara was responsible for the murder of trade unionists and democratic leftists in Cuba.

  14. How different is this from the “old Left” then?
    The sad fact is these ideals have failed becausee they fail to address the reality of the situation. Then someone new comes along, with the exact same bullet points, give or take, and articulate it as if no Leftist had ever tried such an approach. Let’s face it, unless you are willing to call the conflict by it’s true name, a war of genocide by the Islamic States against Israel, then the list your forming will ultimately never solve a thing. Unless you put “Defend Israel” at the top of that list, there will be no reason for Israel’s enemies to resolve the issue mutually.
    It’s also rather peculiar that you avoid the phrase “co-existance”, and call for a withdrawel of “occupied palestinian territories” without even making it a priority to arrive at a clear understanding of what territories you refer to. What happened in Gaza, for example, is not co-existance.

  15. Yes, we know… there are literally dozens of organizations that do all of that stuff we’re talking about… the question is how do we create the political and organization will to create an umbrella organization that can take the lead on these things. That can say that it has the voices of all of its member organizations’ members behind it.
    That’s a big part of how you get attention. Politicians listen to you if you can speak for a lot of people. Media will by your creadibility if you speak for a lot of people.
    I think the manifesto, while an important step, is actually the easier part. The tough part is how do we, as a disparate groups of progressive jews, members of different organizations build a common umbrella?

  16. What about an initiative to investigate what has gone wrong in the treatment of the Gaza (and Samaria) evacuees after the Disengagement, and exploration of ways to a) find solutions to these problems and b) better prepare for a possible future, much larger evacuation of West Bank and/or Golan Jewish residents?
    Whether or not one was in favor of pulling settlers out of these areas is besides the point…we still have to treat them with compassion and Jewishness.
    Otherwise, I really like the platform, but at the same time, it remains only just that, a platform. Specific plans about negotiations with Palestinians with relation to specific issues, as well as thinking out what happens if the negotiation do not bear fruit? Or what if the proper ‘Pro-Israel Left’ to Palestinan terrorism or Hezbollah rocket attacks? The negotiations with Israel’s neighbors are crucial for a long-term solution, but bearing in mind that violence against Israelis is very much a part of reality, a person in voting for such a party would want to know the feelings with respect to the IDF and security services.

  17. “Or what if the proper ‘Pro-Israel Left’ to Palestinan terrorism or Hezbollah rocket attacks?”
    That should read “Or what is the proper ‘Pro-Israel Left’ response to Palestinan terrorism or Hezbollah rocket attacks?”

  18. Also…would there be a push for a constitution? If so, what would be the proposal for the issue of the State’s “Jewishness”?

  19. Jason,
    The proper pro-Israel left response to suicide bombings is what is has always been and to Hezbollah rockets it remains what it was during the summer: the Prime Minister should act to defend Israel’s security — a primary element of which is proportional military restraint and the use of diplomacy first.

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