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  • Fed up with myths, these American Jews are challenging their Israel education

    They grew up on the myths of a heroic Jewish state, joined Zionist organizations, and learned the talking points. But something along the way made them question everything. By Tom Pessah Some of the strangest encounters I had in the years I spent living and studying in the United States were with American Jews. I often felt like I had been dropped into a musical, with people expecting me to fit the mythical image of how an Israeli was supposed to behave. The only problem: I had no idea what my lines were supposed to be. [tmwinpost] I was asked about my time in…

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  • ‘Open Hillel’ seeks to redefine U.S. Jewish debate on Israel-Palestine

    A student-led movement is seeking to 'open' a prominent U.S. Jewish campus group to a broader range of voices, and it's gaining ground. This weekend, Open Hillel will seek to model an inclusive Jewish community that embraces marginalized voices.  By Naomi Dann “What’s wrong with conflict?” A professor once challenged me, a student of peace and justice studies and non-confrontational by nature. “Points of tension and moments of debate are productive, we learn from them.” This weekend, a student movement known as Open Hillel will host a historic conference that promises vibrant debate and plenty of conflict over the relationship…

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  • 'I am pro-Israel too': Reflections on +972's use of the term

    The term 'pro-Israel' should mean anti-occupation, support for human rights, equality, democracy for all peoples under Israel's control – not hard-line Zionism. Reflections and commentary on +972’s use of the term. My colleague Noam Sheizaf's article about the addition of David Makovsky to the American negotiating team for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process carries the following headline: 'A pro-Israel hawk to draft Kerry’s peace plan?' The subheading reads, with some indignation: 'That one must be a pro-Israeli Zionist in order to be eligible for the State Department’s Israel-Palestine team is indicative of the problem with U.S. policy in the region.' I disagree…

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  • Jewish Agency plans most exorbitant 'pro-Israel' campaign ever

    A new initiative to market Israel to American Jews is expected to cost up to $300 million annually, three times the Birthright budget. But a cheaper project for both Americans and Israelis that could bolster Israel's image much more effectively is not on the table: Ending the occupation.  The Jewish Agency is reportedly developing its priciest campaign ever to connect Jews and Israel and it's going to cost a lot of money. The budget is expected to reach $300 million per year in the next five years, The Forward reported. The massive operation is expected to launch in 2014 and…

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  • A house divided: Campus divestment reveals cracks within the American Jewish establishment

    How can a community which so highly regards deliberation and dissent demand such unwavering unity on what is, perhaps, American Jewry’s most controversial issue? By Roi Bachmutsky Uproar recently broke out regarding world-renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking’s recent decision to cancel his headline appearance at the fifth annual Facing Tomorrow Presidential Conference hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres. Gil Troy penned an opinion piece in response, in which he argued that by boycotting the conference, “[Hawking] suggested that the dynamics of the conflict are mutually exclusive… to prove he is pro-Palestinian he had to act anti-Israeli.” My Facebook newsfeed is often filled…

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  • What do 'pro-Israel' image-mongers actually stand for?

    A lengthy Forward article by Nathan Guttman describes the makeover of The Israel Project (TIP) following the replacement of its founder and leader, with erstwhile AIPAC killer-shark Josh Block. The breathless description of his battering-ram personality almost had me swept along – almost. And when I say swept along, I mean that it is tempting to jump into the ring and do battle – fight fire with fire, stake out the liberal ground in the professional ring of image-peddlers for Israel (IPFI?). Just what we need. What really grates is the author’s description of Block’s self-image as a defender not…

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  • WATCH: 'Would you do that, for Israel?'

    American comedy writers are discovering the wonders of the pro-Israel world. After this Onion piece, comes Saturday Night Live's version of the Chuck Hagel Senate confirmation hearing, which ended up not being part of the show, probably because the real-life event turned out to be just as absurd. Related: The Chuck Hagel affair and the American 'pro-Israel' litmus test The Washington witch trial of Chuck Hagel

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  • With (pro-Israel) friends like these, who needs enemies?

    While the mainstream debate over Israel in the U.S. is changing as more people challenge the traditional 'pro-Israel' paradigm, it must also be accompanied by a shift in rhetoric. Roger Cohen, one of the New York Times writers I like most, wrote an op-ed this week called "Israel's True Friends." In the piece, which is centered around the Chuck Hagel nomination, Cohen argues, as I and many have, that those opposing Obama's nomination of Hagel may consider themselves "true friends" of Israel, but in fact can only be accurately defined as friends of the Israeli right - those who, among other things, are dismissive of a two-state solution,…

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  • Despite dissatisfaction, U.S. Jews won’t be abandoning Israel that soon

    It is true that many in the U.S. Jewish community are not happy with current Israeli policies. But in the face of countervailing trends, it is not clear this will change the community’s overall levels of attachment and support. By Brent E. Sasley In a recent op-ed in Haaretz, Bradley Burston argues that U.S. Jews are moving away from Israel because of the government’s illiberal domestic politics and intransigent foreign policies. He believes that by 2013 they may just “secede” altogether from a country doing things they don’t want done in their name. There are certainly signs pointing in that direction. Peter Beinart…

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  • The Chuck Hagel affair and the American 'pro-Israel' litmus test

    In the controversy over Obama's candidate for the next U.S. Secretary of Defense, the right-wing American Jewish elite has once again asserted that the term 'pro-Israel' is a code word in Washington for, among other things, a belligerent foreign policy on Iran and enabling Israeli occupation.  The sheer volume of articles that have appeared in American media over the last few weeks surrounding Obama’s potential appointment of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as next U.S. Secretary of Defense is astonishing. Everywhere you turn, there are reports, op-eds, features and blogs about Hagel. It almost feels like the issue is making more noise…

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  • 'Pro-Israel' figures who rebuked Obama now endorse him for president

    While happy to harp on U.S. President Obama at every opportunity if he veers from their demand for unconditional support for Israel, when it comes to U.S. elections, prominent "pro-Israel" American Jews prefer him to Romney because when it comes to everything else, Obama is more in line with their liberal ideals. With the U.S. election only 3 days away, a variety of high-profile American Jewish "pro-Israel" figures who have previously lambasted President Obama decided to come out publicly in support of his candidacy for a second term. Last week, former New York Mayor Ed Koch officially backed President Obama for…

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  • NYC subway ad: When 'pro-Israel' rears its ugly head

    Some of you may have noticed the drama surrounding an ad that first appeared last month in several New York City subway stations that looks like this: Sponsored by the fanatic, Islamophobic, hate-mongering American Freedom Defense Initiative headed by Pamela Geller, the ads were initially rejected for being incendiary. But the AFDI sued on First Amendement grounds and won in a federal court, so the ads went up. The question of where the limits of free speech should be drawn is an interesting and important one - but what I'm consumed with is how this ad is being described in the…

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  • Is an attack on Israel an attack on individual Jewish identity?

    A report by a University of California advisory council threatens to limit free speech on its campuses by determining that dissent of Israel can amount to an attack on one's personal identification with the state.  By Tom Pessah In February of this year three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot were jailed after they performed a song in a Moscow cathedral, calling on the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out.” The performance was condemned by the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, who felt he was “under attack by persecutors” and called the song “blasphemy.” Charged with “hooliganism…

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