Should Diaspora Jews act politically re Israel?

Should Diaspora Jews act politically re Israel?

Veteran Israeli journalist, Gershom Gorenberg, writes a biting piece on the right-of-center commentator and think-tank intellectual Daniel Gordis, at his “South Jerusalem” blog (“Arrogance 101. Lecturer: Daniel Gordis“).  Gordis reportedly took a visiting J Street delegation to task, but left before hearing them out in turn.  This is a selection from Gorenberg’s post:

 …. Gordis asserts that J Street’s members should not be taking a position on Israeli policy because its members don’t live here and don’t understand the situation. He strongly suggests that those who do live here, who do know more about “the complexity of this conflict,” don’t want “to give away the store” by making the territorial concessions necessary for peace at present. Reading his words, one is supposed to think that “we Israelis” all agree with him.

Interestingly, though, Gordis himself works for a think-tank that has received funds from Diaspora Jews such as Ron Lauder and Sheldon Adelson, who have extremely strong views on what policy Israel should take. The Shalem Center is devoted to spreading  neoconservative and hawkish ideas in Israel, while also serving as a bullpen for right-wing pols such as Moshe Ya’alon and Natan Sharansky when the right is out of power here.

One of Adelson’s other projects is the freebie newspaper Yisrael Hayom, which has earned the nickname “Bibiton,” the Bibi Times, for its unstinting efforts to sell the current prime minister. As a 2008 New Yorker profile noted, Adelson is also a major contributor to the loudly right-wing Zionist Organization of America, and bitterly opposes a two-state agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Would Gordis give the same admonition against interfering in Israeli affairs in conversation with Adelson or at a meeting with a ZOA delegation? Perhaps. After all, he has great self-confidence.

As it happens, quite a few people who not only live here and who, I suspect, have more grasp of the “complexity of this conflict” than Gordis does, have directly expressed support for J Street – such as ex-general Shlomo Brom, a former head of strategic planning for the IDF; ex-foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami; ex-general Ilan Paz, the former head of the Civil Administration in the West Bank; and – all right, you know I could go on and on. Others, who may not be on J Street’s list of supporters, are deeply concerned that Israel isn’t acting more assertively to make peace now. For instance, Meir Dagan, the recently retired head of the Mossad, asserted last week that Israel should have accepted the Saudi initiative.

Of course, not all ex-generals are on the dovish side of the spectrum. Besides, Israel’s decisions should not be based purely on the latest expert opinion from a former general or diplomat. There are also questions of values, of what you think Israel should be. Gordis suggests that Diaspora Jews should not be weighing these issues. Instead, they should remain inside a supposed “big tent” of Israel supporters, of which Gordis has appointed himself the doorkeeper.

But Diaspora Jews no longer have the option of not taking a position on Israel’s policy, because silence has also become a stance. The supposed “big tent” organizations and especially AIPAC are responsible for that. On one hand, AIPAC has presented itself as the voice of Israel’s supporters in America. On the other, its positions are distinctly hawkish. It has put its energies into restricting or foiling U.S. relations with the Palestinians, not into supporting peace efforts (as I described in greater depth in this 2008 article). It has been far warmer to right-wing Israeli governments than to dovish ones. …

By | 2011-06-06T13:52:00-04:00 June 6th, 2011|Blog|0 Comments

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