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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Discussions of Israel

This is the 3rd time in less than a year (see 5/1/11 blog entry) that I've attended a discussion of Israel at my synagogue with an "Israeli" present (though in this most recent instance, the woman is American, but lived in Israel for 15 years as a young adult).  In all 3 instances, the Israeli took the standard hard line against the Palestinians. I realize there's plenty of Israelis who feel this way, but there's also plenty who actually favor a 2 state solution and actually think Palestinians are human beings deserving of dignity and consideration . . . none of those people ever seem to visit us though.

I've gotten to the point where I'm actually bored listening to American Jews trot out the same tired arguments about how superior we are, and how no one has suffered like we have, so we should get a pass on, well, everything.

I thought it was the height of irony that the section of Israel history that we read prior to the class makes extremely clear how divided the various factions of early Zionists were and how much they despised each other.  Why should things be any different now?  But we sort of glossed over that aspect.  As soon as the discussion got a bit heated, the rabbi defused things with a long lecture about Harry Truman's role in the establishment of Israel (he wrote his thesis on this, or something).  I suppose he didn't want us coming to blows, but I think we need more discussion about these issues, not less.  I don't think disagreements should be avoided, though I realize this is not prevailing opinion.

Less than 2 weeks later, I heard Jeremy Ben Ami, the founder of J Street, speaking in Syracuse.  There was a respectable sized crowd, and the questions were noticeably lacking in hysteria, rather to my surprise.  It's so refreshing to hear a committed Zionist make the case for a reasonable and equitable solution, without demonizing the other inhabitants of the area.  It's an uphill battle to change the conversation of American Jews, but there's clearly substantial interest in Syracuse for a chapter of J Street, and I look forward to being involved with other Jews who share my more nuanced view.



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