‘If I Forget Thee…’

Editorial

Published December 26, 2007, issue of December 28, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

It always happens when Israel approaches a peace agreement with the Palestinians: Noisy voices of protest arise within the American Jewish community, arguing that Israel misjudges the Palestinians, doesn’t understand the terrain, doesn’t understand the Middle East as well as rabbis in Brooklyn or lawyers and electronics salesmen in Philadelphia. So it is today.

This time, though, the protests are on a different scale. This time it isn’t individuals writing letters and carrying signs, but national organizations forming coalitions and lobbying Congress. They aren’t saying that Israel may be misjudging the situation, but that Israel has no right to do what it’s said to be planning — specifically, negotiating to share sovereignty over Jerusalem.

The holy city, they say, does not belong to the State of Israel but to the Jewish people. It’s not for Israel to decide what it’s willing to sacrifice for peace. No, Israelis must continue waiting — and continue dying — until Jews in Baltimore and Las Vegas approve the deal.

This time they’re not merely issuing declarations or sermons. The so-called Coordinating Council on Jerusalem — including the Zionist Organization of America, the impeccably mainstream Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, the controversy-shy Agudath Israel of America, the National Council of Young Israel and Christians United for Israel — is lobbying the White House directly. Earlier this month they met with National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley to protest Israel’s reputed plans. That’s a first for a major group of American Jewish organizations. Hadley reportedly surprised them by telling them that the idea of sharing Jerusalem wasn’t America’s but Israel’s.

Two weeks ago the protesters went a step further and engineered a vote in the 50-member Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, reaffirming that body’s commitment to “a united Jerusalem as Israel’s eternal, sovereign capital.” In effect, it rejects the idea of sharing Jerusalem as the capital of two states.

Presidents Conference leaders say they’re merely reaffirming longstanding policy. More candid participants say the vote effectively puts the organized American Jewish community on record against any emerging Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. That, too, is a first.

One could reasonably counter that the protests are wrong on substance, that peace is worth more than a few extra blocks in the holy city. It’s more common, however, to take the traditional American Jewish stance: that Diaspora Jews have no right to dictate Israeli policy. This page doesn’t take that restrictive position, even though we don’t make a habit of pretending we’re smarter than the Israeli defense and intelligence communities. Still, tradition is tradition.

Nowhere was that traditional stance ever articulated better than in a 1994 dissent registered with the erstwhile National Jewish Community Relations Council (a coalition of Jewish policy groups now known as the Jewish Council for Public Affairs) when it voted to endorse greater democracy and pluralism in Israel.

“We have long believed that public debate among North American Jews on questions of Israeli foreign policy, domestic political structure and religious integrity are divisive both to our own community and the people of the sovereign State of Israel. North American Jews do neither themselves nor the people of Israel a service by such involvement on this issue.”

The dissenting organization: the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations. But that was before — as the Talmud might say — their ox was gored.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.