Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Strenger than Fiction / Jewish liberals from all nations, unite

 
 

Diaspora Jews around the world are realizing the time has come to reject the right's dictate that being pro-Israel means that you need to support the policies of Israeli governments, no matter what they do.

The failure of the Camp David summit in 2000 and the onset of the Second Intifada have in stages swung the pendulum of Israeli politics to the right to the current government that includes Avigdor Lieberman - one of the most anti-democratic ministers Israel has ever had, who is moving Israel ever closer to the brink of total international isolation - and the Shas Party whose main impact is to push construction in East Jerusalem and the settlements.

This has been reflected in an amazing distortion in the Jewish voice from the Diaspora, primarily the U.S., in the last decade. Judging from the media presence, you might think that most Jews are right-leaning and support Israel's settlement policy and foot-dragging over ending the occupation. But this has never been true: most Diaspora Jews, including most of American Jewry, is committed to liberalism.

Bernard-Henri Levy

French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy in Geneva on April 20, 2009.

Photo by: AP

Now the pendulum is swinging back. Diaspora Jews around the world are beginning to realize that the time has come to reject the right's dictate that being pro-Israel means that you need to support the policies of Israeli governments, no matter what they do; that the Jewish right represents a small minority of the Jewish people. Caring about friends and family doesn't mean that we do not criticize them, when we believe that they are harming themselves. In caring for somebody's wellbeing, we are often required to make clear that they are going the wrong way. Hence Liberal Jews in the Diaspora firmly stand by Israel while trenchantly criticizing the occupation and settlements.

This week a delegation of J Street representatives visited Israel. They were hosted by President Shimon Peres, and they heard from central Israeli politicians like Labor MK Matan Vilnai and from opposition leader Tzipi Livni that ending the occupation is Israel's most urgent task to safeguard it as the democratic state of the Jewish people. The Netanyahu government's attempt to brand J Street as outside the legitimate Jewish discourse has failed, and finally, after refusing to attend J Street's first convention, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren met them a few weeks ago.

The movement initiated by J Street is now joined by the European JCall, which includes leading Jewish intellectuals like Bernard-Henri Levy and Alain Finkielkraut, and which will present its message to the European Parliament today. Their name is short for the Jewish European Call to Reason. This development is doubly important: first, because it gives a voice to the majority of European Jews, who, while caring for Israel, are liberal in orientation. Second: because its leaders are severely critical of Europe's anti-Israeli left, as shown in Bernard-Henri Levy's Left in Dark Times and Alain Finkielkraut's The Defeat of Reason.

http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/strenger-than-fiction/strenger-than-fiction-jewish-liberals-from-all-nations-unite-1.287913

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