(February 12, 2020 / JNS) Voices poking holes in America’s previously widespread, collective bipartisan support of Israel have in recent years been increasingly critical towards Israel in public fora, supportive of dangerous concessions to the Palestinians and in agreement with the appeasement of Iran, putting Israel in existential danger of a nuclear attack.
This past week’s question, posed in New Hampshire by IfNotNow’s Sarah O’Connor to Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, should elicit chills down the spine of anyone who cares about a strong, bipartisan U.S.-Israel relationship: “I’m an American Jew and I’m terrified by the unholy alliance that AIPAC is forming with Islamophobes and anti-Semites and white nationalists and no Democrat should legitimize that kind of bigotry by attending their annual policy conference. And I’m really grateful that you skipped the AIPAC conference last year and so my question is if you’ll join me in committing to skip the AIPAC conference this March.”
“Yeah,” responded Warren.
To be quite frank, these aggressively anti-Israel voices, cheered on by columnists like Peter Beinart and J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami, are extremely dangerous to Israel and the future of world Jewry.
And now, arguably aligned with those promoting the “post-Zionist narrative”—like IfNotNow, Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine—the Hatikvah slate, headed by Beinart and Ben-Ami, wants a seat at the Zionist table.
Make no mistake, progressives are seeking to use their election to the World Zionist Organization to effect a worldwide change of Jewish priorities. This should concern all of us.
I recently interviewed Rav Doron Perez, chief executive of World Mizrachi, part of slate No. 4, the Orthodox Israel Coalition, which includes Religious Zionists of America-Mizrachi, AMIT, the Orthodox Union, Yeshiva University, Touro College, Bnei Akiva, Torah MiTzion, National Council of Young Israel and the Rabbinical Council of America. He exhibited concern regarding the progressive elements trying to pierce the classical Zionist viewpoint.
“We need to love all Jews and live together with all Jews, but with any election there is often a radical element that unites the others,” Rav Perez told me. He said he sees the other slates, including two Sephardi communities, the American Conservative and Reform movements, and other haredi slates, as sharing the same basic perpectives as Zionists with differences in nuanced ways, but that the slate representing the progressive Zionist narrative—Hatikvah—seeks to question the shared viewpoint of all the others.
Rav Perez noted, however, that five years ago there was more apathy present in the American voting. About 56,000 people voted, with around 20 percent for Mizrachi. “There is a greater peak of interest this time because if we want our people and our perspective to be heard, success for us will not just be the people who vote, it will be the proportion of people who vote.” In this way, he intimated, the presence of the progressive Zionist slate could wake people up and encourage them to vote for an unapologetic Zionist voice.
In her JNS op-ed endorsing slate No. 11, the Zionist Coalition Platform, representing 27 pro-Israel organizations including Zionist Organization of America, American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, Aish HaTorah, NORPAC, One Israel Fund, World Likud and many others, Laureen Lipsky also addressed the threat that the World Zionist Congress faces from BDS advocates. “While Israel continues to be a strong nation, our historical homeland is maligned by the BDS movement and its goods mislabeled across the European Union. Additionally, the terrorism threat Israel faces daily has not dissipated. The issues we face as a community may seem overwhelming at times, but the main purpose of the World Zionist Congress is to strengthen our declaration of Jewish values and move forward on an agenda on behalf of Israel and Diaspora Jewry,” she wrote.
Also, it’s fascinating to note that the progressive Jewish left is even throwing the liberal Jewish publication The Forward under the proverbial bus. As JNS editor-in-chief Jonathan Tobin so eloquently stated, The Forward “appears open to publishing occasional dissent against its liberal editorial stands on American and Israeli politics.” It’s difficult to even enumerate how tone-deaf this should sound to the lion’s share of world Jewry that generally loves Israel and supports the safety of its citizens, and for the most part appreciates America’s strong support of its special partnership, in both military and diplomatic realms.
Diaspora Jewry has until Shushan Purim (March 11) to elect those who will hold seats in the World Zionist Congress (WZC), the legislative body that determines the policies of the world’s leading Jewish organizations: the World Zionist Organization, the Jewish Agency of Israel, the Jewish National Fund and Keren Hayesod.
The congress awards major funding, and thus impacts policy decisions that affect the future of Zionism, aliyah and absorption, Israeli advocacy worldwide, Jewish education, physical security, the war against anti-Semitism and settlements in Israel.
Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) and other progressive voices have been largely out of power in Israel for many years now, ostensibly because Israeli Jews now understand that appeasement of the Palestinians doesn’t work, and that the Palestinians simply want to eliminate the Jewish state. But the progressive voice has the potential to get much bigger if the Hatikvah slate succeeds within the WZC, due to attempts to align with the liberal Diaspora Jewish community, some voices of which are already part of the WZC, such as the slates of Vote Mercaz (the voice of Conservative/Masorti Judaism) and Vote Reform (ARZA representing the Reform Movement and Reconstructing Judaism).
This means that every single vote counts in an election open to all Jews above the age of 18. There’s a minimal cost, but it’s worth it. Vote at: https://azm.org/elections.
The opinions here reflect those of the author and the slate, and not of JNS.
Elizabeth Kratz is associate publisher and editor of “The Jewish Link of New Jersey” and “The Jewish Link of Bronx, Westchester and Connecticut.”
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