I have been very impressed with JStreet.org, "the political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans." I was therefore shocked when I learned that the Israeli Knesset was holding hearings on the organization as a danger because it does not support Israel reflexively and unconditionally. Harold Meyerson nails Israel's problem with young American Jews, who see Israel losing its democratic flavor and moving toward apartheid:
J Street is one of the few points of connection between those younger Jews and the Zionist democratic ideal. “You’d think a country as small as Israel would want to broaden its base of supporters,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s executive director, told me. Declaring groups such as his to be enemies of the state, he notes, “isn’t much of a survival strategy.”
It also doesn’t comport, he might have added, with the most fundamental Jewish traditions. If the Old Testament were purged of its prophets’ attacks on the Israeli people for failing to live up to their ideals, it would be about half its length. In the Book of Isaiah, Israel is described as “a sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil-doers.” In Jeremiah, the Jews are a “foolish people” who “have eyes and see not, that have ears and hear not.”
Maybe the Knesset’s Un-Jewish Activities Committee should hold hearings on Isaiah and Jeremiah. Pretty subversive stuff, if you ask me.
The Knesset's action, combined with a new law that removes money from municipalities or Israeli Arab groups that commemorate Independence Day by noting the destruction of Arab villages and the exile of Palestinians, suggests Israel is in danger of tragically losing its sense of political diversity.
Nations often feel a tension between freedom and security -- when feeling insecure, they reduce the amount of individual freedom allowed to citizens and increase their investment in national security apparatus. With so much change and turmoil among its neighbors, Israel is obviously having difficulty figuring out where to draw the lines in its own democracy.
Fortunately, two-thirds of Israelis come to the support of JStreet, according to polls: 40% said American Jewish organizations should defend Israel’s right to exist, but not necessarily Israeli government policy; 27% said American Jews should promote what they consider best for Israel, even if it conflicts with government policy. Some 19% of Israeli Jewish respondents called for unconditional support of Israeli policies from American Jewish organizations.
- J Street, a Moderate Voice, Stirs Up America's Jewish Lobby (NYTIMES)
- Israeli Knesset hearings (NYTIMES)
- Harold Meyerson column (Washington Post)
- Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic: "Those Israelis, and those American Jews, who believe that J Street, and the spirit it represents, are fleeting phenemona have absolutely no idea what is happening in the Jewish world."
- Why J-Street Speaks to Us
- A Changing American-Jewish Landscape (Boston Globe)