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Dear liberal American Jews: Please don't betray Israel

This letter is to you. You know who you are, but I can’t say your names. You don’t want to say what you think in public, in the United States of America, home of free speech. You are an American Jew, you are liberal, you believe in universal equality, minority, human and civil rights. You support those principles with your voices, your money and definitely your vote – except when it comes to Israel.

After two weeks in America visiting family (particularly, my new nephew) and friends, two observations struck me powerfully. First, the understanding that Israel is committing terrible deeds that are destroying itself and its neighbors, has penetrated among you, my American Jewish friends, family and colleagues, who now speak of this more openly and bluntly than in the past.

It has been a hard thing for you to admit. All these years, you supported Israel, because as a Jew you felt connected to the state culturally, spiritually, religiously, nationally, because of the history of persecution, or just because that’s what Jews did. You defended its existence for so long against formidable enemies.

But now, regardless of the enemy, Israel has crossed your political and social red lines.  You can no longer ignore the daily violations of human rights and general freedom denied to millions of Palestinians, the humiliations, the imprisonment, beatings, midnight arrests, lack of due process, circus military tribunals for children, killings, coerced confessions, let alone racist legislation and fundamentalist religious coercion and other things you would never, ever stand for as liberals in the United States. Some of you are confused because you still want to support Israel. Others, as Peter Beinart has argued, have dropped away. Some of you now feel alienated from Judaism altogether.

My second observation is that because of your fear – not of the goyim or the anti-Semites, but of yourselves! – you are keeping a low public profile. On this trip, I suddenly realized how naïve it was to imagine that J Street had sufficiently opened the door for anyone who cares critically for Israel to speak out. I underestimated how deep and terrible the intimidation has become and that one political lobby group is far from enough.

I do understand: those of you who still call the Jewish community home, are afraid of the onslaught that you will receive from your (our) very own people. I hold no illusions about how vicious the attacks might be. We Jews, not the goyim, will call you the most painful names, will threaten in various ways to label you as beyond the pale of your people, should you voice your critique. You might be chastised in your professional community. You will be hit not only by shadowy bloggers but by the very cherished and established groups you have loyally, even automatically, supported over the years. The anger might come from your friends and it might even come from your family.

But you are my family, too! You used to argue that I was too naïve and too idealistic. On this trip, I was stunned to learn that now you don’t even really want to visit Israel because you can’t face what you’re increasingly coming to see as a brutal occupying entity flirting with fascist notions. Amazement set in when it dawned on me that you, who used to visit and insist on buying blue-and-white, have effectively – if unwittingly – enacted a personal boycott. The irony is that your own community has pushed you there, by giving you no alternative and no freedom to express openly how you feel.

Here’s how that made me feel: abandoned, by the liberal Jews of America. You were swept away by Ruth Wisse’s thesis that liberals betrayed the Jewish cause by believing too much in rational universalism and failing to acknowledge the unique, everlasting threat of anti-Semitism.

I submit that your betrayal lies in not advancing those ideals enough. You hold the United States to the highest standards of freedom, but your liberalism fainted at the borders of Israel, and it died on the Green Line.

I became pained to think that as long as you could believe Israel was beautiful, you supported it.  When Israel’s beauty was marred, the Hasbara gurus tried to smooth things out. But when you correctly identified cheap emotional manipulation, you tuned out – and now you may be dropping out.

This is the time to speak out. This is the time to take a risk, as we Israelis who believe in change take the many risks involved in demanding that Israel stop what it is doing, for everyone’s sake.

You – the educated and highly educated, upper middle class and above, top-of-your-field professionals and intellectuals – you are in hiding from an absurdly illiberal discourse in American Jewish life. You’re not even in the ring.

If you’re not sure what to do, because there is no clear answer to the conflict, I say the greatest need is to fill the glaring void where there should be a voice, a presence: Start with calling for an end to any policy that advances the occupation. Say it in synagogues, in letters to the editor, in op eds, in rallies (remember the quarter-million march in DC to free Soviet Jewry?), signs, viral emails, anything to make your ideas louder. Talk to one friend. Talk to J Street which is struggling valiantly, or start your own group; take your donations away from those who help silence you. Send money to an organization if it reflects your thinking, but more importantly, just speak and keep speaking.

We need you. We’re doing everything we can from Israel. Ignore the bullies, let them scream. When there are enough of us, those who curse Israel with their complicity in its policies will be left behind and alone on the cold, dark side of history.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Jazzy

      The problem is: the meaning of the word ‘racist’ has been so watered down by this blog I don’t even know whether your definition of liberal is the same as mine. Is this ‘liberal’ in the classic sense or liberal in the ‘Zionism and liberalism are mutually exclusive’ sense?

      Reply to Comment
    2. In America, fear prevents liberal Jews from speaking out the most important feelings and ethical standards of — liberal Jews. Agreed.
      .
      Your essay, perfect and from the heart.
      .
      “You – the educated and highly educated, upper middle class and above, top-of-your-field professionals and intellectuals – you are in hiding from an absurdly illiberal discourse in American Jewish life. You’re not even in the ring.”
      .
      Request permission to republish. Advise.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Pabelmont, Thank you – sure, please republish (pls note both author and +972 – a link would be great too!)

      Reply to Comment
    4. Passerby

      Yes, endless propaganda by the Palestinians and their supporters, such as the many MSA chapters on various campuses in the USA have made many Jews ashamed of their affiliation with Israel. The shame lies with the propagandists.

      Reply to Comment
    5. aristeides

      Dahlia’s piece should be broadcast in every synagogue. It goes directly to the heart of the problem – the intimidation. No one wants to be treated like Richard Goldstone.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Seth Morrison

      WELL DONE! Thanks for sharing such a passionate and important perspective.

      I greatly admire your work.

      Reply to Comment
    7. A great piece Dahlia that also speaks to me as a liberal British Jew.

      btw, do you think the same might be said of the ‘deafening silence’ of liberal-thinking Israelis who also fear being labelled as anti-Zionist, unpatriotic traitors and worse if they speak out against such actions of their government?

      Reply to Comment
    8. Ari

      Does someone want to name for me a country with a better record on human rights in a similar situation or are we ignoring that fact?

      Are we also ignoring that the leadership of the Palestian people has never officially backed down off of their committment to destroy Israel?

      While we’re on the subject, we might as well ignore the fact that when referring to a “two state solution” palestinian leadership as never aknowledged that one of those states would be a Jewish state?

      Palestian leadership and many other area governments are to blame for the suffering of the Palestian and Israeli people.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Richard Witty

      Dahlia,
      A great deal of responsibility is on your shoulders.

      In two respects:
      1. The rest of the world is NOT well-informed of what Palestinians experience.

      2. Those liberal American and European Jews that are motivated by universalistic values and simultaneously care about Israel as the family of their family, need a path to express their discontent.

      The BDS path is not that. It is too imprecise, doesn’t distinguish between whether occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is what is targeted or all of Israel, and more importantly whether the targets of boycott are regarded as conditional targets or unconditional.

      BDS also appears to associate with some of the worst genuine anti-semites and blanket unconditional anti-Zionists. It is unpalatable for us to join in that. The clarification of two-state and occupation as meaning West Bank and Gaza only, clearly, would help.

      Most are loathe to object to the leadership of the vanguard, even if their leadership is flawed, and conflicts with universal values.

      Make a path. As irritating as it may be for others to not be as informed as you, or as you think an informed person should be.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Rakiba

      You are missing a huge part of why more American Jews don’t speak out against things they don’t like happening in Israel.

      They know that most of the hardcore supporters of Palestinian rights (where there are legitimate concerns) are in fact supporters of Israel’s demise, not at all equality minded democrats who would give Jews rights in a Palesitinan state.

      The universal rights arguments are a tactic not an end.

      If and wen there is a Palestinian rits movement that has the right of Jews to live in peace emerges, you will see many American Jewish liberals join that movement,

      Reply to Comment
    11. Richard Allen

      @ARI–Will you name for us another country that in recent history has occupied an area for over 40 years and installed its own civilian population in that area and holds them to a different set of laws than it does their neighbours of a different ethnicity? Israel has done quite a bit to put itself in a situation that doesn’t have correlaries, so no, no one can provide you with another country, but not for the reasons you think.

      Reply to Comment
    12. AYLA

      Sing it, sister!

      Reply to Comment
    13. Brent Sasley

      Dahlia, I share your concerns and frustrations. But I think you attribute too much interest in pushing for major changes among US Jewry, even among liberal Zionists. I’d argue that many mainstream Zionist Jews–not all by any means–aren’t afraid of a backlash but rather believe at some level that Jewish Israelis are in the metatheoretical sense living the fullest Zionist experience possible. So they want Israel to change its behavior but feel slightly uncomfortable *telling* it to change.

      The other consideration is that American Jews aren’t sure what the end goal is. What can we expect US Jews to promote? An immediate end to the occupation? That’s unrealistic, and in security terms not viable at this point in time. It is realistic to raise concerns about the occupation being tied into a broader dynamic beyond Israel’s ability to control on its own. A mutual friend who also shares our concerns accuses such arguments of being hasbara propaganda, but these are legitimate concerns. In the same way we criticize US Jews for being too naive about the realities of Israeli behavior, surely we cannot then tell them to transfer their ignorance to the realities of the conflict itself and the difficulties of making peace?

      Reply to Comment
    14. AVIVA

      I don’t believe in publicly admonishing friends or parents (or anyone for that matter). When I disagree with a friend’s political position I will argue with that friend privately and with respect. I don’t fear making my leftist views known among North American ‘liberal’ (P.E.I) jews because I don’t pronounce my views loudly or contemtuously from rooftops. If I am pegged as one of ‘those’ jews (from either side) it saddens me but so be it. For me, initiating dialogue within a community, among friends or colleagues and voicing my disagreement gently without trying to alienate people is most palatable. But to each her own.

      Reply to Comment
    15. AVIVA

      The worst that happens with my method is that we agree to disagree. The best is that certain realities that people have refused to believe are considered for the first time. It’s slow–no doubt about it. But know one has told me to leave campus jewish organizations or teated me with anything less than reapect so far.

      Reply to Comment
    16. AVIVA

      Correction: *no one*

      Reply to Comment
    17. Seth Morrison

      A wonderful response to this article is to register for the J Street annual conference, March 24 – 27 in Washington DC.

      There will be great speakers and many opportunities to learn how to support Israel in positive change.

      Registration is as low as $36, pay more if you can. http://conference.jstreet.org/

      Reply to Comment
    18. Steve

      Question for Dahlia Scheindlin:

      Knowing that Israel is surrounded by insane Hamas, insane Hezbollah, insane Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, insane Iraq, insane Iran, and countless others who don’t necessarily want to bomb Israel but are obsessively devoted to making the world’s only Jewish state cease to exist, why do bunches of people obsessively criticize Israel, yet refuse to TAKE INTO ACCOUNT the fact that Israel isn’t up against regular everyday sane people, or regular everyday sane Arabs, or people who want peace with Israel. Israel is up against psychopaths who want to make Israel cease to exist.
      Israel recognizes this reality. Why do a bunch of people on the radical-left refuse to do the same?

      Reply to Comment
    19. Steve

      RAKIBA said : “You are missing a huge part of why more American Jews don’t speak out against things they don’t like happening in Israel.
      They know that most of the hardcore supporters of Palestinian rights (where there are legitimate concerns) are in fact supporters of Israel’s demise.”

      My reaction: Completely TRUE. And most of what’s happening in Israel is specifically because Israel recognizes they are up against people who want Israel wiped out. While bunches of misguided people on the extreme left want to IGNORE REALITY and just single Israel out and completely discount the fact that Israel is up against societies led by crazed third world militants, not peace-minded liberals.

      Reply to Comment
    20. politicaljules

      I could not even tell which side the author was rooting for. It is a very strange post indeed. It started out with a great idea but got all jumbled in the substance department. Very weird. Stepping out of the twilight zone now.

      Reply to Comment
    21. Poltergeist

      American Jews are already destroying themselves through their adherence to liberal/leftist ideology. The catastrophic rate of assimilation is one small example of it. And you are asking them to hurt their brethren in the Holy Land too. Way to go Dahlia.

      Reply to Comment
    22. texbork

      No I understood her just fine. She is wrong, but I can see that wrongness plain as day. The Jews in this country are more likely to be disenfranchised voters in the past. Which is why they appeared to be liberal. They are now waking up to realize ‘not voting’ is the wrong way to go. It is how they got obama, and that should never happen again. Jews are waking up to the conservative values they want their children to grow up with. Conservatism is making a quiet comeback in the Jewish community. People are starting to like themselves again. And realizing they can vote themselves a better life while supporting their Jewish brothers and sisters in the homeland. The state of Israel is much worse off than they were three years ago. All promises have been broken. Time for a change.

      Reply to Comment
    23. dina osullivan osullivan

      The problem also lies with the agencies that fund raise for Israel. The events you mention in your essay are not mentioned to the “liberals”. This does not affect good fund raising. The image portrayed outside of Israel is different from what exists inside. I support Israel in every way.I hate the racism and cruelties that occur, some out of self protection and some just because. it exists. There is a vast disconnect between the image of Israel to outsiders who don’t live there to the reality of those who do.It is an immense problem that needs to be dealt with in some way without diminishing what this land is for Jews and what it is for Palestians. It is not an easy problem to solve.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Piotr Berman

      Steve: “Knowing that Israel is surrounded by insane Hamas, insane Hezbollah, insane Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, insane Iraq, insane Iran, …”

      Steve, I worry about you. Do you know that hating so much can lead to ulcers and other disorders?

      Reply to Comment
    25. Serge

      Sorry, Dahlia. If we lived in some kind of genteel debating club, I would gladly get involved. We don’t. I’m afraid that, like many Jews in the West, I do not live my life in a bubble of the Jewish community — I live it in the wider public community. In that community, I am surrounded by folks who constantly, loudly, and successfully tie any missteps by the Israeli state to their basic thesis that there ought not be an Israeli state, whose very existence is an injustice.

      That is no doubt a legitimate position to take — all states are an injustice, perhaps — but what many Israelis appear not to get is that it stems from a basic rejection of the idea that there exists a distinct Jewish people with its own history and culture. With respect, that basic rejection has nothing to do with you Israelis. It is about undermining our identity as diasporic Jews, and about negating the diaspora as a very possibility.

      I’m sorry it has to be so complicated. If Israeli policies were up for debate here in the way that Swedish or Hungarian policies were debated — although, to be honest, there is a great hunger to debate Israeli policy here in our countries that is unlike that of Sweden or Hungary or most other countries — then I suppose this piece would be a logical motivator to get involved in those debates, and maybe I would. But, as long as the debating forum is not just poisoned or acid but in fact is underpinned by the basic current of questioning my identity, I’m afraid that I cannot see it as the genteel debating club whose image forms in my mind when I read your article.

      So, no, I will not get out in the streets and march against Israel. I suppose that, if I lived my world in the Jewish bubble you paint, and the mainstream alongside me was a different one, I might feel differently. But I don’t. So please understand. I am not “intimidated” by other Jews, or by any mainstream group. To the extent I am “intimidated” it is by what I am afraid I see as a hate-filled, negationist, and unjust movement that I refuse to be a part of, and to which I refuse to lend my voice. Things are polarized, I’m afraid, and every time I think I might want to speak out against something Israel is doing, some BDS call or another rant against “Zionism” reminds me that, if that is where the two sides line up, I know which one I am on. If I lived in Israel, I suppose, I might feel differently. But I am not Israeli. I am Canadian.

      Reply to Comment
    26. aristeides

      Serge – I find a huge disconnect in your position. You agree that “there ought not be an Israeli state, whose very existence is an injustice” is a reasonable position, but you claim that “it stems from a basic rejection of the idea that there exists a distinct Jewish people with its own history and culture.”

      .
      This just doesn’t follow. The Jewish people existed for centuries without a state of Israel, and the existence of the diaspora community is only undermined by Israel’s existence, which is based on the premise that the only authentic Judaism is within its borders, and that Juadism is now to be subordinated to Zionism.

      .
      The injustice of Israel’s existence is really not Jew-specific but stems from its founding on the act of expelling the existing population. This would be true of any ethnic-based state. I can’t see how it denies Judaism to protest the fact.

      Reply to Comment
    27. BOOZ

      Aristeides :

      Upon reading Serge’s post, I wondered whether he wasn’t a fellow citizen of mine ( I am posting from France). Serge in fact could have expressed my point of view.

      It is indeed a respectable-though utopic point of view to deny the existence of any state, or Leviathan. I would not say the same about denying the right of existence of any particular state. Israel is just as ethnic-or little ethnic-as present-day Germany.

      You are supporting the idea that “The Jewish people existed for centuries without a state of Israel”. Indeed. And at a cost.

      I am also under the feeling that you have a quite outdated idea of Zionism when you assume that “the existence of the diaspora community is only undermined by Israel’s existence, which is based on the premise that the only authentic Judaism is within its borders, and that Juadism is now to be subordinated to Zionism.”

      Reply to Comment
    28. @Serge – First, I am Canadian too! (And Am/Isr) Secondly, I am aware of all the dynamics you cite and I have no illusions about the complexities, I know that I also defend basic rights of the Jewish people in Israel when that underlying premise is fundamentally attacked. But we disagree on one extremely fundamental point: I am calling to demonstrate FOR Israel. Ending the occupation is the only way to save the country. Contributing to its perpetuation, including by silence (if one is concerned – I’m not talking about those who are disconnected from the whole topic, which is their right) – is the true destruction of the state.

      @Aviva – More power to you. Talking with one person, privately and however you want, counts 1000% as activism, in my opinion.

      @Brent – very complex problem. But certainly airing the issues freely, talking and brainstorming, is the best way to get ideas flowing and help hammer out new approaches, rather than chewing the cud of the stale old ones. ULtimately, i believe we must separate what we can control, from what we can’t. There will always be a security threat. There does not always have to be an occupation, which is wrong in its own right – sadly, the two may not be related. Short answer for very long conversation.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Philos

      Forget them Dahlia. The Likud masterfully subverted the national interest of the country to the “Jewish” interests of groups like ZOA, AIPAC and others along with the “Christian” interests of CUFI and Hagee. Forget them all.
      .
      It’s time to take the “social justice” protests to their next logical conclusion. National self-determination for the ISRAELI PEOPLE from Zionism, from the Third Estate of the Rabbinate, and from the yolk of American Jewry.
      .
      The only way to be free of the occupation, free of fascism and free in our country is to claim this country for OURSELVES as ISRAELIS and tell the rest of world Jewry to shove it.
      .
      It ain’t polite but it’s the only way. We’ll be better off and so will they. The current situation is corrosive to both Jews and Israelis the world over. We’re letting a minority of ideological, racial and religious supremacists dominate the discourse in both communities.
      .
      I, as an Israeli born here and raised with about as much “Jewish” learning as the average Israeli, want a divorce from the Jews of the world.
      .
      Viva la revolution!

      Reply to Comment
    30. Steve

      What nonsense. The vast amjority of American Jews (and Americans in egenral) support and love Israel and belive in the settlement movement. Keep buiding, israel! Don’t let these haters get to you. They’re irrelevant.

      Reply to Comment
    31. aristeides

      Philos – it seems like irreconcilable differences. You want a divorce from diaspora Jews, and some disapora Jews want a divorce from Israel.

      .
      Contrary to the opinion of Booz, I think it’s Israel that’s exacting the cost from the Jews of the diaspora, financially and morally, as well as religiously. Reform congregations in particular need to wake up to the fact that Israel’s religious establishment doesn’t consider them actual Jews, although this doesn’t stop the schnorrers from taking diaspora money.

      Reply to Comment
    32. James North

      Dahlia: Thank you for a terrific post. I was especially impressed by this statement, in which you recognize a different kind of boycott is underway:

      On this trip, I was stunned to learn that now you don’t even really want to visit Israel because you can’t face what you’re increasingly coming to see as a brutal occupying entity flirting with fascist notions. Amazement set in when it dawned on me that you, who used to visit and insist on buying blue-and-white, have effectively – if unwittingly – enacted a personal boycott.

      (Other commenters who mention BDS should be aware that new Israeli laws prevent +972 posters from expressing any opinion on BDS.)

      Reply to Comment
    33. zvi

      I also subscribe to Aviva’s perspective about engaging people: I prefer to share my opinions in a personal conversation (or via FB), not by shouting them at people. Through random exchanges (not all of them overtly political) I have encouraged many people to appreciate the complexity of the situation and to understand that both sides have legitimate points of view.

      I am particularly proud of the “true enemies” who I have engaged with (ie Palestinians, Lebanese, Iranians, etc. many of whom support and may even be members of Hamas and Hizbollah). It is rare that these people ever have “normal” contact with an Israeli, so this type of exchange can be illuminating. Of course we probably do not talk politics, but I truly believe that we can see beyond our differences and learn to respect the humanity which resides in all of us.

      Yet I rarely engage with North American Jews on the sensitive topic of Israel. I just find it too painful and futile. I suppose that was your point! I certainly do agree that Israel is tearing itself to pieces, and external influence (Jewish and otherwise) is not helping the situation.

      Reply to Comment
    34. klang

      In Syria and Iran, people protest despite the presence of snipers. However, in America, the fear of protesting against Israel is higher than in Syria and Iran. What exactly are liberal antizionists afraid of? One antizionist published in the new york times that the Israel lobby bought and sold the US Congress, and used it without attributing its source to white supremacist literature. His punishment-fame and fortune. Hate of Israel is a path to fame and fortune in the US and Europe. Fiction writers have to work long and hard to achieve fame and fortune, but all one has to do is write a column on you you used to love Israel, but now Tel Aviv is worse than Rwanda and you are an instant star, feted all over Europe. It is the gold rush of the 21st century.

      Reply to Comment
    35. Steve

      99% of the BDS people seek Israel’s destruction, via the “one-state solution” that ends Israel’s existence and turns the world’s only Jewish state into a Muslim-majority state of people who just spent the last 60 years trying to blow Jews up.

      Reply to Comment
    36. Rand

      This an interesting but somewhat bizarre article. The author acts as though she is speaking to a specific individual, but ascribes such precise beliefs to that individual that it is hard to imagine that she’s actually hitting her target (i.e. his/her reaction to Ruth Wisse).

      More importantly, this individual seems to run a tremendous gamut. She seems to be simulatanously speaking to a moderate democrat J-Street supporter, who sees two sides to the issue, recognizes that both Israelis and Palestinians are at fault, and wants to help advance a two-state solution. At the same time, she’s speaking to a supporter of the Palestinian Solidarity Movement and the BDS campaigns, someone who believes that Israel is “a brutal occupying entity flirting with fascist notions”, who perceives only one side of the issue, and may not support a two-state solution at all (and possibly even condones terrorism).

      In her conclusion, though she is careful to mention J-Street, her tenuous connection to the actual ranks of liberal American Jews, she demand “this is the time to speak out. This is the time to take a risk, as we Israelis who believe in change take the many risks involved in demanding that Israel stop what it is doing, for everyone’s sake.” And there she will lose people. Because she is no longer calling for support of a just resolution to the conflict, one that respects the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians, but a targetted attack on Israel, along the lines of “Apartheid Week” or the movements mentioned above.

      This will not work, and it frankly should not work. Blankly condemning Israel, without recognizing its circumstances, will not sway anyone, and it will not add to the debate. I’m surprised to cite Norman Finkelstein as a voice of moderation, but he strongly makes these points here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=725EZ6neT1I

      American Jews should not be indifferent to the suffering in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. But at the same time they should not “betray Israel” due to a need to swing to either side, rather than arguing for moderation. It’s a tough issue, and I don’t think we need any more screaming extremists.

      Reply to Comment
    37. Rand, your comment is a poignant attempt to reject a painful principle by delegitimizing the characters and style of the article. The word ‘you’ in English can be plural too; I explained that the observations here were drawn from a number of people and conversations (involving at least eight different individuals). So yes, they ‘run the gamut’. Apparently the point about the personal boycott was not clear so I’ll give a few more details: that particular person is a vital member of the Jewish community, up to the recent past an extremely mainstream (forgive the oxymoron) figure in terms of Israel politics, and a stalwart Israel supporter for decades – about the furthest you can get from the Palestinian Solidarity Movement. While reading these comments, that person asked me what “BDS” stands for. So you’ll just have to face the fact that sane israel-lovers are increasingly repelled by Israel’s policies and behavior. I know this is hard for you to accept, but try.

      Reply to Comment
    38. CarolS

      This thread is both so depressing and so predictable; the same old canards that I hear over and over again from people in my synagogue and community are showing up here, and they are just as wrong. Steve, I have no idea where you are getting your “statistics” from regarding the supposed American support for the settler movement, but you may want to take a second, third and even fourth look at opinion in both the US and Israel. The settler movement is a cancer that is quite literally killing Israel. Regarding those comments about how American Jews feel badly telling the “real” Jews (i.e., those who live in Israel) how to act, the fact that we send millions and millions of dollars to Israel, both through government grants and private philanthropy, should alleviate any concerns in that arena. As my synagogue continues to promote membership in AIPAC, we continue to send the money we used to give to the synagogue to J Street and New Israel Fund. We try to have civilized one-on-one conversations with friends and colleagues, and have been called anti-Zionists and self hating Jews to our faces. I love Israel. I fear that I will see the end of the modern State of Israel in my lifetime. So, in addition to the seemingly futile quiet conversations, we are talking with our dollars and our presence. Dahlia is right; we need to stand FOR Israel by refusing to continue the blind adherence to Israeli policies that are inimicable to its continued existence. No more settlements. No more evictions. No more laws requiring fascist loyalty oaths. No more Orthodox Rabbis deciding who is and who is not Jewish enough. No more hate-filled invectives thrown in the faces of people who are proud to be Jewish and to stand up for what is humane and right: human rights for ALL humans.

      Reply to Comment
    39. zayzafouna

      Everyone knows what the final borders will be. One Palestine from the River to the Sea. Zionists will have to return home. Mairav, most of your colleagues and commenters acknowlege this

      Reply to Comment
    40. Yes, Zionists will return home – to Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    41. Passerby

      “Everyone knows what the final borders will be. One Palestine from the River to the Sea. Zionists will have to return home.”

      And that, in a nutshell, dear Liberal American Jew, is why you should think carefully about whether all these attacks on Israel are indeed fair, and whether Israel’s good faith efforts to make peace in the last 12 years are far more meaningful than writers such as those on 972 would have you believe.
      ——–
      What Zayzafouna is stating is not some extremist dream. It is the stated dream of the two main parties leading the Palestinians, Fatah and Hamas. Hamas says what Zayzafouna says openly, and Fatah says it cagily. But they both say it, and these are the parties which lead the Palestinians.
      ———
      So consider the following, dear Liberal American Jew, Israel is not out of the woods as many would have you believe. It is not an established country that can stop worrying about its existence or the intentions of its enemies. And these enemies are just as relentless and just as aggressive as they have ever been. By using the excuse of their supposed victimization under the Israeli occupation as a cudgel with which to beat Israel, they are tapping into your good nature, your instincts for seeking justice and equality and your desire to see peace.
      ——-
      But make no mistake, this is the desire of most Israelis as well, including most of those on the Right of the political spectrum. It’s just that Israel can’t afford to be wrong. It simply can’t. And it can’t afford to give in to those who seek “One Palestine from the River to the Sea” just because they have representatives who are Jewish doing their bidding for them (knowingly or unknowingly, not all Palestinian advocates are maliciously trying to destroy Israel, but there are many who are).
      ——–
      If the people who are appealing to you to give up on Israel, or to attack it in political forums, or to speak up against the occupation, etc. are as serious about peace as they claim, then they will also be respectful of the right of the Jewish nation for self-determination. For the right of the Jews to have a state, and it is a small one, where they live in peace.
      ——-
      If they are respectful, then you can demand of these Palestinian supporters like the writer of this article, before you give the Palestinians any more ammunition to destroy Israel with your support, that they prove to you that they have made just as much effort to criticize the Palestinians and their leadership and especially to apply pressure on them to make peace and compromise with Israel.
      ——
      If they haven’t. If all they do is pressure Israel and hide behind the claim that Israel is the stronger party or that they are Jews and as Jews they can only pressure Israel, then tell them that before you throw Israel under a bus, you demand that they treat both sides equally and demand of the Palestinians that they give up their goal of replacing the Jewish state with an Arab Palestine.

      Reply to Comment
    42. “You – the educated and highly educated, upper middle class and above, top-of-your-field professionals and intellectuals – you are in hiding from an absurdly illiberal discourse in American Jewish life. You’re not even in the ring.

      “If you’re not sure what to do, because there is no clear answer to the conflict, I say the greatest need is to fill the glaring void where there should be a voice, a presence: Start with calling for an end to any policy that advances the occupation. Say it in synagogues, in letters to the editor, in op eds, in rallies (remember the quarter-million march in DC to free Soviet Jewry?), signs, viral emails, anything to make your ideas louder.”

      Up until the 1950s Zionist discourse was only one of competing discourses among American Jews. Liberal discourse in the European sense was confined only to the German Jewish elite. While the conservative non-Zionist component of the American Jewish population was larger than generally assumed, probably the greater part of American Jews leaned toward progressive, socialist, or communist discourse, and religious Jews were primarily anti-Zionist.

      Today Zionist discourse is the last Jewish discourse standing, and hyperwealthy Jewish Zionists like Michael Steinhardt and Seth Klarman fund Jewish education to make sure Jewish discourse remains primarily Zionist.

      Reply to Comment
    43. Kibbutznik

      ” Ending the occupation is the only way to save the country. Contributing to its perpetuation, including by silence (if one is concerned – I’m not talking about those who are disconnected from the whole topic, which is their right) – is the true destruction of the state. ”

      Yup .

      Reply to Comment
    44. Kibbutznik

      ” It’s time to take the “social justice” protests to their next logical conclusion. National self-determination for the ISRAELI PEOPLE from Zionism, from the Third Estate of the Rabbinate, and from the yolk of American Jewry.
      .
      The only way to be free of the occupation, free of fascism and free in our country is to claim this country for OURSELVES as ISRAELIS and tell the rest of world Jewry to shove it.
      .
      It ain’t polite but it’s the only way. We’ll be better off and so will they. The current situation is corrosive to both Jews and Israelis the world over. We’re letting a minority of ideological, racial and religious supremacists dominate the discourse in both communities.
      .
      I, as an Israeli born here and raised with about as much “Jewish” learning as the average Israeli, want a divorce from the Jews of the world.
      .
      Viva la revolution! ”
      .

      Yup .
      So who are you going to vote for Philos ?
      Might just join you ;)

      Reply to Comment
    45. Rand

      Dahlia you seem to have misunderstood my response. I wasn’t responding to your friend’s “personal boycott” (in fact I had to do a “find on page” to figure out what you referring to) and I certainly wasn’t trying to deny “that sane israel-lovers are increasingly repelled by Israel’s policies and behavior.” In fact this response was originally penned to such a sane Israel lover who ‘shared’ your article on Facebook; in copying it to this forum perhaps I should have a few edits to clarify that it wasn’t meant as an attack on the yourself or your broader views, merely the conclusion of your article.

      As to that conclusion, and what I called a “targeted attack on Israel”: Towards the end you increasingly call for Foreign Jews to take a stand, and specifically a stand against Israeli’s treatment of Palestinians (no mention is made of support for a two-state solution). How should we take this stand? I know that you mention organizations, but organization only serve to combine our voices. But what should those voices be saying? Should they be calling for condemnation of Israel? I don’t support that, I don’t think it’s effective. Other solutions (i.e. BDS) will likely be worse, and hurt Israelis and Palestinians alike. So what should we be calling for?

      Stephen Harper is possibly the most pro-Israel foreign head of government in that country’s history and among the most trusted by Israel. If I thought it would help, I would bombard him, and his representatives, to help ease the Palestinians plight. But even if we somehow got Harper to convince the Honourable Irwin Cotler to go to Israel, to explain to them that their actions towards Palestinians were unacceptable morally and under international law, I can’t imagine that we would get results.

      So how do we get results? I think the best we can do is try to pull people towards a two-state solution, to make that the consensus in every country including Israel. I think we should elect a President who will carefully push them in that directions. But to join ourselves (as foreigners) to people who are campaigning solely for the Palestinians, while ignoring Israel’s side of the issue, will just further isolate them, and decrease our ability to solve this conflict. It’s tough, and I don’t have good or quick solutions, but simply speaking out against Israel doesn’t seem like it will do anyone any good.

      Reply to Comment
    46. Rand, sorry if I misunderstood you – your second comment raises very substantive issues which I can try to address but only in brief: 1. My call here is focused on American jews – and I think they are most effective in speaking to Israelis. Sure, the Palestinians need to have their own conversations, with their own interest-groups, and take responsibility for the things they should do, or change. And of course it is fair to condemn them if they commit crimes or injustice. However, Israel is still the party controlling the life of the other party in the conflict, on the ground – so nothing will really change without an israeli political decision. 2. what shd the answer be? Wish i had it. the 2-state solution seemed like the best approach for a long time; unfortunately i have grave doubts about whether it’s possible now. But my secondary point here is that too many N. American jews aren’t even thinking solution – b/c they’re not even allowing themselves to admit that the present policy is a problem – no square 1. When millions of people start admitting that, i’m sure they’ll invest much deeper thought into the solution that seems best. btw, many israelis share the same unwillingness to face the fact that the present (status quo) is a nightmare. So why change? So we sit around, waiting for things to explode. When they do, this justifies continuing what we’ve done until now, which got us here. A fairly tragic cycle.

      Reply to Comment
    47. Passerby

      And a solution exists to the status quo, Dahlia. Olmert proposed it. What efforts are you making to exhort the Palestinians to accept it? If they do, liberal American Jews won’t have to worry about the occupation any more. Actually, then neither will Israelis or Palestinians. Doesn’t it seem appropriate for the group which is closest to the Palestinians, “progressive” activists on their behalf such as you, to be the ones to bring this message to the Palestinians?
      ———
      But we agree that if this isn’t done, things will explode and it becomes a tragic cycle.
      ——–
      The cycle can be broken, but not at the expense of Israel’s existence. This is the plain truth. To break the cycle, it’s not the Israelis you have to convince since all the polls for years have shown they are ready to compromise and their leaders have indicated as much and have even offered tangible peace deals. It’s the Palestinians you have to convince.

      Reply to Comment
    48. Steve Kowit

      Israel’s existence is based entirely on having stolen, through a war of brutal conquest and dispossession, the Palestinian homeland, now called Israel. I don’t understand how anyone can justify the existence of such a racist, brutal, settler-colonialist state. Ethnic cleansing is, according the the UN definition, a form of genocide. Justifying the existence of a racially supremacist state on land stolen from another people, a people sent fleeing into refugee camps, is Hitlerian. As a Jew I am absolutely ashamed of the brutal, expansionist, racially supremacist state of Israel. Hey, dear savage tribalists,how about a democratic, egalitarian, non-racist state and the end of the pretense that Israel —i.e., Occupied Palestine— can justify its existence on any grounds? The end of a racist “Jewish” state would be the best thing that can happen to the Jewish people… & the rest of the world, just as the end of the Third Reich was the best thing that could have happened to the German people… & the rest of the world. In solidarity with the Palestinian resistence, BTS

      Reply to Comment
    49. Itay Ben Eliezer

      Dahlia

      Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful article articulating a very important argument. As an Israeli with American roots who works with many American Jews, this really hits home. I am truly moved.

      Reply to Comment
    50. Our author is a citizen of three States. This violates the concept of the nation state. Something must be done.
      .
      Once again, your Declaration of Independence provides a place to stand where I truly believe you can succeed. This is not about the destruction of Israel but its strengthening. To get there we have to fight the fear within ourselves–and in others. Pleas based on civil and human rights are not based on a solution, but rather risk based on principle beyond any category of safe haven. When you rule in favor of rights, you declare yourself open to risk. No way around that. Force the Arab Israelis and occupied Palestinians to bear it–or share it, in hope of transformation. The only way out of the Israeli dark time in law I can discern.

      Reply to Comment
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