Yossi Klein Halevi penned a piece in the left-wing journal by the Forward, Sh’ma Now called “A Jubilee For Our Political Certainties.” The article advanced the notion that both the right-wing and left-wing camps have valid points regarding Israel’s administration of Judea and Samaria/ the “West Bank.” However, Israeli society – and increasingly the American one as well – has become more polarized and is unwilling to listen to the validity of the other side’s arguments. The goal of the center should therefore be to not have someone adopt their position, but to appreciate some elements of the counter argument.
In short, he argues for balance.
As someone right-of-center, I appreciate the sentiment of the article, but I disagree with the author’s contention that American Jews are simply engaging in “that dysfunctional Israeli debate.” Such language suggests that some American Jews are simply expressing a personal opinion. They are not.
They are actively pushing Israel’s largest benefactor – the USA – to abandon Israel.
Since 2008/9, the left-wing of the American Jewish community took a much more aggressive stance amid a backdrop of new wars from Palestinian Arabs and the ascendency of a liberal American president.
- November 2007: Palestinians launched a push for a global boycott (BDS) campaign of Israel
- April 2008: J Street founded
- July 2008: J Street pushed against naval blockade of Iran, as sanctions were pushing Iran to the negotiating table
- November 2008/ January 2009: Election and inauguration of President Barack Obama
- December 2008/ January 2009: First Gaza War
- May 2009: First meeting between Obama and Israeli PM Netanyahu in which Obama ignored Netanyahu’s argument for aggressively countering Iran and instead demanded settlement freezes
- October 2009: Daniel Sokatch takes over as head of the New Israel Fund
Peaceful protest against Iran nuclear deal in Times Square, NYC July 2015
- pushed the US administration to allow anti-Israel resolutions to pass at the United Nations
- pushed BDS proposals in universities, so schools could not invest in Israel and would ban Israeli speakers on campus
- rewrote Jewish texts (the NIF Haggadah) in a shared assault with anti-Zionists to undermine Jewish history
- supported a pathway for Iran, a state-sponsor of terrorism that has called for wiping Israel from the map, to obtain nuclear weapons
In short, the left has become an active participant in the attacks on Israel, not just a protestor. And they are pushing such arguments with Israel’s prime supporter, the United States.
And that is the main issue with Yossi Klein Halevi’s approach.
Klein Halevi is correct that the center can see the merit of the arguments of both the left and right. But many in the center cannot agree with ACTIONS taken.
While the right-wing may give money to support the “settlements,” those actions are: 1) supportive of Israelis; 2) limited in scope; and 3) can be reversed (such as Israel’s removal of settlements in Sinai in 1982 and Gaza in 2005, or adjustments to the path of the security barrier).
However, the actions of the left-wing are: 1) harming Israelis by advocating for Israeli boycotts and Iranian nuclear weapons; 2) done on an international level; and 3) becoming permanent international law.
As the left-wing has moved from personal opinions to dangerous global actions, the split in the American Jewish community has moved passed a civil exchange on matters of policy. It has become a fight between people.
As such, Klein Halevi’s conclusion for “each side to concede the enormity of our dilemma and the compelling arguments of the other,” is insufficient. The two sides need to withdraw the weapons and from the forums of their disagreement:
- The debate should be internal: Make the arguments about Judea and Samaria with the government of Israel, not with Israel’s key ally, the United States. It certainly should not be with Israel’s enemies or at the United Nations.
- The actions should not be malicious: Calling for boycotts of Israeli businesses and people is harmful to Israel on many levels. Argue about policies; do not hurt people with whom you disagree.
The “centrist” article ultimately suggests “an invitation to humility,” to appreciate the merits of both sides of the Israel/Palestinian Arab debate. I would suggest another form of humility: that American Jews realize that they are not Israeli citizens. While they are deeply engaged and attached to Israel for many reasons, the day-to-day ramifications of policies are only felt by the people who live there. Have some humility about the actions that you advocate to advance your personal sense of “morality” on the backs of people living in a dangerous part of the world thousands of miles away.
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