Across Israel, Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs.
It was one of those American Jewish dust-ups that play out along predictable lines and concluded with a predictable outcome.
The left outrages the right, and the right responds in knee-jerk fashion by calling for banning the left from something that most people had never heard of. In the end, the left emerges with its right to speak triumphantly undiminished while the right skulks away muttering.
Seen that movie already? So have we all. Ad nauseam.
But sometimes, even these boring ideological struggles are worth looking into. And the more you think seriously about the underlying issues, the less comfortable you may be with the stereotypical outcome.
In one recent case, the role of the right was played by the Zionist Organization of America and its outspoken leader Morton Klein. Klein who has often been portrayed by rival groups and press critics as something of a bully and an enforcer of a pro-Israel standard that few support, was the perfect antagonist for the left-wing Union of Progressive Zionists as they battled recently over whether the UPZ should be allowed to remain part of something called the Israel on Campus Coalition.
The coalition is a group of 31 groups that says it seeks to advance a pro-Israel agenda on American college campuses, and is funded by Hillel and the Shusterman Foundation. Founded in 2002, its purpose was to make it possible for students to hear Israel’s side of the story at a time when anti-Zionist propaganda was drowning out the truth about the Palestinians’ terrorism and rejection of peace.
The controversy arose when the UPZ chose to sponsor a speaking tour of Israeli critics of their country’s policy in the territories on the coalition’s dime. The program, titled “Breaking the Silence,” repeats a view that is often heard on the extreme left of the Israeli political spectrum, and speaks of the nation’s measures of self-defense as illegitimate and illegal. The speakers are Israeli veterans who believe that the Israel Defense Force counterterrorism mission is, as practiced, dehumanizing and immoral.
And even though it seems to complement the well-publicized views of anti-Israel groups, there shouldn’t be any question of their right to be heard – both at home and in this country – wherever people wish to listen to their message.
But when Klein petitioned the coalition’s governing board to expel the UPZ for promoting an anti-Israel agenda, the reaction from other groups was eminently predictable. A committee that deliberated on the subject unanimously refused last week to contemplate banning the leftists. Nor was it prepared to revisit the coalition’s membership criteria or mission statement.
It’s no surprise that they wouldn’t listen to Klein, who has been playing the proverbial dog in the Jewish organizational manger since the signing of the Oslo peace accords. The fact that he was right about that issue hasn’t improved his popularity. In recent years, ZOA’s highly critical attitude toward the Israeli governments led by Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert has effectively marginalized it again. As such, the chances that most other groups would join ZOA to do something that could be labeled as censorship were slim and none.
But in this case, was he really in the wrong?
The premise of the UPZ and its supporters is that their goal is to educate students about the diversity of Israeli opinion. In an environment in which anti-Zionism is the norm, they reason that putting forward a leftist critique of Israel from an Israeli frame of reference is the best way to reinforce support for it.
They say that getting students to support Israel’s extreme left-wingers, who criticize the country from within, is far preferable to having them become activists on behalf of groups that oppose its existence in principle.
Since the playing field of academia is so skewed, seen this way, banning sponsorship of “Breaking the Silence” would be hamstringing the pro-Israel community’s best way of getting through to young people who will not listen to anything that doesn’t originate on the left.
But perhaps the question we should also be asking is: What exactly is the difference between a Jewish group bringing in Israeli extremists who bash Israel, and an Arab group bringing in a Palestinian to do the same thing?
About the Author: Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com, where this first appeared. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The answer is an emphatic no.
The meaning of “God’s watch” here is not entirely clear.
Don’t Israelis and Arab Palestinians deserve more than this? Is it not time to stop the insanity?
At age 104, my mother was still concerned about her relationship with Hashem.
Obama’s incompetence, the way his naive worldview and credulity have made a fool of him, are equally frightening
“The only difference between this world and the time of Meshiach is our bondage to the gentile kingdoms.”
You’ve discovered our little secret!
Klein’s challenger has demonstrated a propensity to unleash poisonous vitriol, even to other Zionists
President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy.
Welcome the book of Leviticus!
If the nationalist Knesset members don’t provide the answer, the Arab MKs will do so in their place.
International Agunah Day falls annually on Ta’anis Esther, this year on March 13.
Yeshiva University Museum recently hosted an exhibit titled “Threshold to the Sacred.”
Even a foxhole Yid has to admit that antisemitism is on the upswing.
When it became known in May 2008 that Malley had met with Hamas terrorists, the Obama campaign severed ties with him.
Issuing a statement dredging up Wildstein’s life, Christie’s office raised as many questions as it answered.
No matter how wrong Israel’s leaders may think their American counterparts are, little good comes from public spats.
Lieberman has repeatedly dismissed the Palestinian Authority as not being a peace partner.
This is a political version of replacement theology.
Like Chamberlain, Obama sued the ayatollahs for peace, insisting the only alternative to appeasement is war.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/who-will-speak-for-the-jews/2007/02/07/
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