I’m on TV again

I’m on TV again

My return engagement on Shalom TV, a panel discussion on the flotilla incident, was very much skewed by the other three panelists and the moderator toward a more hawkish line. This experience was a lesson to me on how emotionally defensive and intellectually rigid even moderate American Jewish opinion is today regarding Israel.

I suggest you view it online at www.shalomtv.com. The program’s video is currently accessible by clicking the top right box. It goes on rather long (over an hour), but one can fast forward the online video with your mouse. It will be accessible in cable on-demand channels beginning today, Sunday, June 13, through Saturday night, June 26.

Beginning today, viewers may go to www.shalomtv.com and click on “Find Us” on the menu line to learn how to find it on their cable system. The program can be located in the category, “News and Israel.” It is described online as follows:

A superb Round Table analyzes world reaction to Israel’s stopping the flotilla, and what the events mean both for Israel and for American Jewry. Hear the thoughts of Neal Sher, former executive director of AIPAC; Steven Bayme, who heads AJC’s Koppelman Institute on American Jewish-Israeli Relations Department on American Jewry; Seth Mandel, managing editor of “The Jewish State,” New Jersey’s independent Jewish newspaper; and Ralph Seliger, editor of Israel Horizons of Meretz USA.

This show was more frustrating for me than my one-on-one (occasionally two on one) with Isi Liebler, because too often it was four on one. (My appearance with Liebler will have an encore on-demand run from June 13 through Saturday night, July 10. ) The bottom-line contentions that even the more moderate of the four–moderator Mark Golub and Steven Bayme of the AJ Committee–were adamant about, is that the blockade is Israel’s only recourse and a negotiated solution is not possible.

I do not propose an overall settlement of the conflict with Hamas; it does not have the legal authority to negotiate for the Palestinians nor does it appear ready. But Hamas does have to be negotiated with for a new arrangement on the ground. The blockade does not seem tenable politically for Israel. It may already have cost Israel the vestige of its alliance with Turkey, which had remained in full bloom militarily despite the increasingly pro-Arab and pro-Iranian tilt of its Islamist ruling party. Increasingly–especially in the wake of the interdiction that came off to the world as a deadly assault–Israel’s blockade is the issue and not Hamas violence and extremism.

Israel needs to offer to end the blockade in exchange for a credible mechanism to control imports into the Strip that ends weapons smuggling. Part of this reasonably might include Israeli observers alongside UN, NATO or other international teams of inspectors.

Israel is understandably skeptical of international peacekeeping, as it seems to have broken down in the case of Lebanon. Yet it should be easier re Gaza, because the Egyptian-Gaza border is smaller, and Egypt’s government is more hostile to Hamas than Lebanon dared be to Hezbollah, especially with Syria next door resupplying Hezbollah. But on the Egyptian border, Syria and Iran have no direct access to supplying Hamas.

Israel must be seen as trying sincerely for a peaceful resolution. In light of the now famous NY Review of Books article by Peter Beinart, Israel being seen as sincere is almost as important for Israel’s relationship with American Jewry (not to mention internationally) as the actual success or failure of such efforts.

By | 2010-06-13T21:01:00-04:00 June 13th, 2010|Blog|3 Comments


  1. David June 19, 2010 at 3:36 am - Reply

    I don’t think it is accurate to portray the discussion on Shalom TV as skewed. The Meretz perspective is, in fact, quite marginal. This can be seen from the most recent Israeli election results. I think they have been quite charitable by giving you a seat at the table. And I am actively involved in the Geneva Initiative, so I’m not coming at this from the right. We just need to accept what the distribution of opinion truly is amongst Israeli Jews and American Jews who are actively engaged in Israeli affairs.

    -David Lebowitz

  2. Ralph Seliger June 19, 2010 at 3:29 pm - Reply

    I wasn’t there as a representative of the Meretz party in Israel. I actually also wasn’t a spokesperson for Meretz USA, since I didn’t appear with its knowledge and approval (not that they’d likely disapprove).

    But in light of the enormous growth of J Street, and the growing unease of liberal American Jewish opinion regarding Israel, I don’t think I represented a “marginal” perspective at all. In fact, I’ve been heartened that even the government of Israel itself has announced a move in the direction I had discussed—of focusing the blockade more on arms than on consumer goods.

  3. David June 19, 2010 at 8:33 pm - Reply

    You may not have been an official spokesperson, but you were certainly there as a representative of the Zionist left.
    I think you are exaggerating the importance of J Street. While J Street has certainly garnered much press attention, it remains very small compared to AIPAC. I think you are also exaggerating the degree of liberal American Jewish unease with Israel due to the circle you associate with. If you were to follow certain blogs you would think that Jewish anti-Zionism is also a meaningful force. I think that the vast majority of American Jews fit within two camps. There are those who care very little about Israeli affairs, and there are those who are strongly supportive of whatever Israel does. You may get a different impression based upon the circle that you associate with, but active critical Zionists and anti-Zionists are very small forces within American Jewry.

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