Tuesday, November 12, 2013


By Alan Edelstein

In my October 20 post, I wrote about how the latest thing amongst some in the American Jewish community is to spend inordinate amounts of time discussing and debating what it means to "support" Israel and, in the course of twisting and turning, to conclude that "support" can mean lots of things that are anything but.

It seems that the appetite for this seemingly endless discussion is unabated.  Even someone at my own hometown Sacramento synagogue, Mosaic Law Congregation, long a bastion of the unabashedly pro-Israel crowd, with a lot of smart people who always seemed to know what supporting Israel meant, now seems to think the congregants need assistance on figuring out what it means.

It's upcoming program is entitled "How Best to Support Israel," and its publicity invites one to an "intriguing discussion on how best to support Israel at this challenging time in its history."  The organizer sent out an e-mail saying "'No one has a stronger voice in this than the American Jewish community.' So said Secretary of State John Carry [sic] in a speech to the American Jewish Committee, refereeing [sic] to the renewed peace negotiations." 

Really? Apparently Secretary Kerry and the organizer of the program forgot about the voices of the Israelis and Palestinians whose lives and futures are involved.

Just 15 minutes west in the university town of Davis, the Israel Matters Committee of the local Reform synagogue, Congregation Bet Haverim, seems to have figured the puzzle out with no discussion necessary.  They advertise that they are "beginning a year-long project to raise funds for portable bomb shelters in southern Israel--especially for kindergartens in Israeli communities along the Gaza border. In the last week alone, more than 15 rockets and mortars have been indiscriminately fired at southern Israeli men, women, and children."

How did the folks in Davis figure out this question of what "support" means so easily and quickly, while folks in Sacramento seem to be devoting countless hours to exploring the meaning of the word.  Could it be all of those PhD's? 

Or could it be that the folks in the Israel Matters Committee are devoted to supporting Israel while some in Sacramento are devoted to rallying the community to support positions they think are right for Israel even though Israel's people, through their elected representatives, reject those positions?  Could it be that they want the word "support" to mean taking positions contrary to the positions of the people who live with the consequences of the decisions?

Prime Minister Netanyahu just made it clear what he, the elected leader of the people who live with the consequences, thinks needs supporting.  Speaking yesterday to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America's annual meeting in Jerusalem, he unequivocally stated that the possible deal between Iran and the P5+1 is a "bad and dangerous deal that deals with a thing that affects our survival."  Emphasis on "survival."

According to the Jerusalem Post, the Prime Minister said "And when it comes to the question of Jewish survival and the survival of the Jewish state I will not be silenced ever.  Not on my watch."

(Interestingly, the same person organizing and moderating the "How Best To Support Israel" program at my Sacramento synagogue recently wrote a piece in which he called for Israel "to come clean" about its nuclear capabilities.  He suggested that Israel clearing the air in this regard might convince others to desist from nuclear development and might create a more peaceful Middle East.  No kidding.)

The Prime Minister went on to  call for the strong support of the American Jewish community in opposing any deal that does not truly strip Iran of its nuclear capabilities.

 As the Jerusalem Post reported, "'When the Jewish people were silenced on matters relating to our survival, you know what happened,' he continued.

'This is different. We are the Jewish state. We are charged with defending ourselves. And we are charged with speaking up. And it is time to speak up. All of us need to stand up and be counted.'

'I can think of nothing that is as important and as crucial.'" 

"Nothing."  I'm assuming that includes discussions of what "support" means or how best to "support."

Would all that energy and time going into discussions of what "support" means be better spent answering the Prime Minister's plea?  Do Israelis know what is best for them?  Is taking positions contrary to them still "supporting" them?  Not by any definition I know of.  But, then, one can always stretch definitions if one wants to justify a position.                              

Speaking of stretching definitions, and sometimes just outright lying, few can compete with J Street and its founder and leader, Jeremy Ben-Ami.  This is the organization that first denied and then disclosed that it received funding from George Soros.  Then it denied that it tried to assist in arranging meetings with members of Congress for Judge Goldstone. Then it said that it placed some calls but that that did not mean it assisted. 

J Street's linguistic acrobatics can make the matter of defining "support" seem simple and easy.

Continuing this tradition of turning English and the truth upside down, J Street recently sent a letter to its members clearly identifying why negotiations for a two-state solution have failed.  In a letter attempting to rally support for Secretary of State Kerry's efforts, J Street lays the blame for the failure of previous efforts not on the Palestinians, not on the Israelis, not on terrorism, not on misguided strategies. 

Nope.  According to J Street's letter, sent over the signature of its Assistant Director of Government Affairs, Joy Langley, "Every round of negotiations has been undermined by concerted right-wing campaigns that oppose the two-state solution."

What? Ms. Langley does not say that the right-wing opposed a two-state solution, which is true.  She does not write that some in the right-wing attempted to undermine a two-state solution, which is true. No, according to Ms. Langley and J Street, the right-wing undermined the two-state solution.

I support a two-state solution, as does the current Prime Minister of Israel.  But I know that "supporting" Israel does not mean taking positions that it believes is against its interest.  And I certainly know that the right-wing did not undermine prior efforts at achieving a peace agreement.  My guess is so does Ms. Langley and J Street. 


The Israeli media is full of stories about Secretary Kerry's recent interview with an Israeli journalist and a Palestinian journalist, a rather unique venue given the tendency of Palestinian members of the press to not associate with Israeli members of the press out of fear of advancing normal relations (or, as some would call it, peace.)  

It was a rare opportunity to speak to both peoples about the Secretary's plans, his hopes for peace, and what he believes each side needs to do to achieve peace.  Did the Secretary take advantage of this unique opportunity?

No.  Instead the Secretary chose to lash out at Israel.  Apparently forgetting that President Obama helped put the peace process on hold for several years by making settlements (i.e. communities of Jews) the major issue early in his first term, the Secretary focused almost exclusively on Israel's recent approval of additional houses for Jews across the 1947 truce lines. 

The Secretary was visibly upset with Israel regarding the lack of movement in peace negotiations and basically invited and justified a third Intifada as a consequence of Israel's alleged intransigence.

The Secretary made no mention of the "right-wing" Netanyahu, at substantial political cost, halting "settlements" for nine months to no avail. No mention of  Netanyahu, at substantial political cost, releasing murderers from prison in an effort to coax Abbas back to negotiations. (Ever wonder why someone who supposedly wants a state has to be bribed to come negotiate for it?) 

No mention of the Prime Minister endorsing a two-state solution despite overwhelming opposition in his own party. No mention of the P.A.'s continued refusal to recognize the right of Jews to have a state in part of their historical homeland.  No mention of Abbas' continued denial of any Jewish connection to Jerusalem.

No mention of Abbas' continued demand to not just have one new Palestinian state, but to also make Israel into a Palestinian Arab state via his insistence on a "right of return" for descendants of refugees. 

No mention of the 1.7 million Palestinians governed by Hamas, which continues to declare its intention to destroy Israel and which would very likely take over an independent Palestinian state. 

One could easily conclude that the Secretary of State is either a well-intentioned fool or an ill-intentioned political hack.

The Secretary has lately gotten into the fairly nasty habit of telling Israelis that we are blind to the situation of the Palestinians, that we are going about our lives ignoring their problems, and that we do not know the terrible catastrophe that awaits us if we do not accept his dictates. 

Apparently, according to the Secretary, we've just got our heads buried in our cappuccinos.

Secretary Kerry does not seem to understand that lecturing Israelis that they do not recognize or do not care about the situation, i.e. that we are numb and dumb, is not the most compelling way to build trust and confidence.

In response to Prime Minister Netanyahu's setting off alarms about the possible deal with Iran, Secretary Kerry took very public umbrage at the mere hint that Israel might think for a minute that he and President Obama don't  recognize what is good for Israel and the world, that they might cut a bad deal, or that they might get hoodwinked. 

The Secretary seemed indignant that we might think he and President Obama could be sold a bill of goods or that they might fold too early.The Secretary's view of what is appropriate behavior in international relations apparently depends on whether he is the giver or receiver of  warnings and words of caution.

If one did not know that Secretary of State Kerry is a sophisticated player on the world stage, one might conclude that he does not see the inconsistencies in his reaction to the concerns of others versus his expressions of criticism and concern.  Or, if one assumes that he is sophisticated and recognizes the inconsistencies in his words and behavior, one might conclude that he is a hypocrite. 


For those interested in a more sophisticated analysis of the situation than Secretary Kerry's if and immediate solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is not forthcoming, see Aaron David Miller's recent piece in Foreign Policy Magazine.  Miller, a Middle East specialist in the Clinton Administration, offers a realistic prognosis, in contrast to Secretary Kerry's rather hysterical predictions that come close to justifying violence.
(Originally published in The Times of Israel)


  1. well said as some continue to grapple with their confusion on what it means to support Israel. The only clarity should be a clear, unequivocal and mutual expression that Israel shall forever be the Jewish nation. Until people come to this realiztion there will be this confusion, even in your old hometown.

  2. Great blog. I'm a big Obama supporter, but when you're right you're right.

    There are too many idiots out there spouting off crazy solutions.

  3. Nicest thing anyone has said about our town, the City of Davis. With all our wackos, we seemed to have gotten this one right!

  4. Well said. I am embarrassed and frightened by Obama and Kerry everyday. Thank you for so clearly articulating the situation.

  5. In some places people are shouted down as heretics if they stray from AIPAC's party line. It isn't pretty when Jews can't be civil to one another. The Israel Civil Voice Alliance hopes to correct this, and their current effort appears to be aimed at expanding the "socially acceptable" range towards the left.

    With that in mind, demonizing J Street is decidedly unhelpful. J Street says "We are devoted and committed to Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic homeland" and proclaims that J Street can't be part of any group that advocates BDS.

    I want the Jews who find AIPAC too far right for their tastes to stop at J Street and never fall in with Jewish Voice for Peace.

  6. I agree with Alan Edelstein sentiments to some degree as what could be done, but his suggestion, that he finally gets to, is just a Band-Aid reaction. What I think is needed is a very strong reaction be sent to the Obama/Democratic regime that Israel will not appeased out of existence.

    I am outraged about this agreement that our Secretary of State, Kerry, and Obama have gone into with Iran behind Israel's back or input. Maybe when Israel is BOMBED out of existence Kerry will say, like Hilary said regarding the deaths in Bengazie, "What does it matter".

    When are we going to learn from history. See what the following:

    The Munich Agreement was a settlement permitting Nazi Germany's annexation of portions of Czechoslovakia along the country's borders mainly inhabited by German speakers, for which a new territorial designation "Sudetenland" was coined. The agreement was negotiated at a conference held in Munich, Germany, among the major powers of Europe without the presence of Czechoslovakia. Today, it is widely regarded as a failed act of appeasement toward Germany.

    Appeasement in a political context, is a diplomatic policy of making political or material concessions to a dictatorial power (or powers) in order to avoid a threatened conflict. Appeasement was used by European democracies in the 1930s who wished to avoid war with the dictatorships of Germany

    Send this message, Israel will not be appeased out existence, to Jewish Organizations, Jerusalem Post, Congress men and women, Obama.

  7. Very well written Alan!!

  8. Enjoyed your writing, directly to the point, especially re. Sacramento search for "new" ways to "support Israel." Since I was part of this Ticva group, I know first hand its true goals: to give legitimacy and spread the goals of groups who think Israeli are stupid and act against their best interest. Only these groups know what is right for a miniature country besieged by unstable Arabs on all sided eager to eliminate Israel, while they sit here in the vast US protected by the mighty US military. What audacity.

    Matania Ginosar

  9. Won't be attending the program at KOH. It is Hillel Damron who organized it. He is an Israeli with extremely left wing opinions.

  10. How ironic that this post showed up at the same time that the "How to Support Israel" announcement did. One email expressed the point of view from an informed individual, the other one advertised that there are idiots amongst us.

    Which is which?

    Hint: I do not take the time to correspond with idiots.

  11. You are so right. People spend too much time talking about what to do – rather than just doing something. It is easier to talk than work.

  12. You accurately described the programs at the two synagogues, except that readers outside our area need to realize that the weak-on-Israel group at Mosaic Law in Sacramento is small and that the synagogue leadership and most members are very strongly pro-Israel. The opposite is true in Davis. The Israel Matters Committee of Congr. Bet Haverim was founded as a reaction to the lack of strong pro-Israel leadership there. Also, I understand that many members of CBH belong to organizations such as Peace Now and JStreet. Several years ago CBH invited the regional head of CAIR, the Muslim Brotherhood spinoff, to speak there in spite of protests from both within the congregation and other parts of the greater Sacramento Jewish community.

  13. Another gem. I think you meant the 1949 armistice line and not the 1947 though.

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