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J Street: ‘pro-Israel,’ or pro-‘death of Israel’?

IT’S HARD to see fellow Jews advocate for the end of Israel. Harder yet to see such claims dishonestly veiled as Zionism and being “pro-Israel.”

Yet, J Street advisory council member Marcia Freedman said just that. She is suggesting that if Israel perfects its democracy to the point where minorities are completely protected, then thinking about an end of Israel as a state and instead as a homeland — a place for Jews to find refuge as a protected minority, living amongst a Palestinian Arab majority — is fine.

Her words: “If we think about Zionism as an attempt to create a homeland for the Jewish people, rather than a Jewish state, we have a lot of space in which to think about Zionism, we have a lot of space in which to think about what this country of Israel ought to look like, in particular with respect to the Palestinians from whom we took the land.

“And I think that’s another thing that we have to understand and keep in mind, always, that we took this land and we displaced a people who are now struggling for their place in the world and we are now opposing them.”

To think that it is acceptable to put forth such a simplistic and patently false narrative, without such demonization of Israel being contested, but rather accepted and, to boot, to a round of applause, is truly disturbing. Yet again, this is precisely what took place at the recent J Street conference.

Unfortunately, this is more confirmation of why I don’t choose to align with J Street.

My fellow Jews at J Street may have good intentions, but I do worry about their extremist position that can seriously damage the well being of Israel, and as far as I am concerned already has.

I believe in the Talmudic style of debating differing points of view. It is healthy, important and interesting. But when such discussions have pragmatic, real life, possibly even suicidal consequences for the Jewish people, it is not the time to focus on the value of increasing the spectrum of Israel-centered discourse, but rather on refocusing on doing what is safe and responsible in advocating for Israel in the world.

THERE ARE different ways to end something. A conclusion or destruction is not necessarily achieved by military means alone. Threatening the end of Israel doesn’t have mean only tossing the people of Israel into the sea. Marcia Freedman is not Hamas. She is not advocating destroying Israel from without. Destructions and endings can arrive by political means too, without one drop of blood shed in the process.

And that seems to be what Marcia of J Street, is conveying: End Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Freedman’s preposterous and delusional “solution” for the now stateless Jews, is, in her scenario, to provide them rights as a protected minority in an Arab State.

Just as the Dhimmi Jews of yesteryear lived for centuries in Iran, Syria and other Arab lands? Oh, they aren’t there any more, you say? They were expelled? Oh. I guess that plan didn’t work out too well, after all. Oh right, I forgot, that is part of why we are so grateful, after 2,000 years, to finally have returned to Israel.

Truly, Freedman’s remarks are unsettling. Because in reality, while in focusing on her academic and theoretical priority of achieving a perfect, pure democracy in Israel, she dismantles the one and only Jewish state for the Jewish people. And let’s be real. Her suggestion would not only dismantle the infrastructure of a Jewish state, but also the Jews as a minority within an Arab majority in today’s Middle East. Seriously. We all understand it means the physical destruction of the people.

To be sure, the situation in Israel is very complicated with difficult ramifications, even if, as I believe, Israel has no choice how to rule. I don’t know what the resolution is or will be; it pains me greatly. I do know that I choose to “err” on the side of standing firmly with my people, with Am Yisrael, in the land of Israel, in security, while interpersonally trying to do my tiny part in building trust, friendship and healing wherever possible on both sides.

THIS IS not the first time I have heard this radical idea that Marcia Freedman put forth. The first time was many years ago from Rabbi Menachem Froman, of blessed memory. He expressed with painful emotion that as a last resort, if Israel did become a Palestinian State, he would not leave his settlement, but would rather remain on his beloved land of Israel, even under Palestinian rule.

At the time, this new way of thinking made an impression on me. It made me stop and think how, on some spiritual, idealistic and fairness level, it made sense to me. A part of me felt inspired because of the way in which this principled man of peace conveyed it. His was a personal choice, reflecting the expression and sacrifice he would make for himself (risking his life, basically) out of his profound love and connection to this homeland.

Considering how fraught with obvious risk such a scenario would be, it was not something Rabbi Froman was casually imposing on a people, nationally, as an policy. Agree or disagree with his controversial positions — undoubtedly he was a maverick, a special person whose genuine relationship and connection with the land, as well as his inspirational reaching out to his Arab Muslim neighbors, all the while maintaining a staunch commitment to settlements and support of Gush Katif — they made for a complex, fascinating person, compressed into his radical-sacrifice-requiring decision (which is precisely why we fight for a Jewish state).

In the case of Marcia Freedman of J Street, her casual and dismissive attitude about the very real ramification of the fate of the Jewish people left me responding with the precise opposite reaction that Rabbi Froman generated. She left me uninspired, upset and concerned. Not to mention her historically false and simplistic accusation against Israel (as quoted above), leading up to her comment suggesting the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

I wonder how J Street defends such a point of view, and then claims with a straight face that it is pro-Israel.

Copyright © 2015 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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