Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Ah, the Joys of Centrism!

June 25, 2013 10:47 am 0 comments

Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett. Photo: Screenshot.

We live in such a sharply polarized world that, regrettably, centrism, independence, and, yes, nuance are alien to many.

Instead, too often, it’s a bifurcated liberal-conservative, hawk-dove, with-us or against-us environment.

But AJC has been fighting mightily against such binary thinking for a long time – and well before Bill Clinton’s “triangulation” or Tony Blair’s “third way” entered the political discourse.

It’s not that we were necessarily so visionary, but rather that we saw the complexity of certain issues, which couldn’t easily be placed in a convenient, airtight, doctrinal box.

Take the Arab-Israeli conflict. We stubbornly refuse to be quarantined in one ideological corner within the pro-Israel community, of which we are among the staunchest of members.

That, though, can lead to some telling and even humorous moments. The last few days are an illustration.

On June 17th, AJC condemned the statement of Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who declared that the “attempt to establish a Palestinian state in our land has ended.” He called on fellow Israelis to “build, build, build” in the West Bank.

Bennett is a pillar of the new Israeli government. He is also at odds with the prime minister, who has supported the vision of a two-state accord. And he contradicts the chief negotiator for Israeli-Palestinian talks, and fellow Cabinet member, Tzipi Livni, who declared earlier this month, at the AJC Global Forum, that the vision is of “two states for two peoples.”

We believe in a democratically-elected Israeli government that speaks with one, not multiple, voices. And, above all for Israel’s sake, we believe in the pursuit of an enduring peace based on two states, even as we noted in our statement that “we are under no illusion about the difficulties of achieving a two-state accord.” So we chose to speak up. It wasn’t the first time, nor is it likely to be the last time, but this time, for some reason, it was widely noticed.

Along came voices on the right.

One columnist asserted that ours was “an act of sheer lunacy.” He claimed our statement “condemned a democratically-elected Jewish government.” For good measure he added, “In an act of even more sheer lunacy, this organization [AJC] which speaks for probably no one – other than a handful of wealthy liberals – says ‘Bennett contravenes the outlook of Prime Minister Netanyahu…'” Moreover, he alleges that our job is to “assail Jewish organizations which criticize [President] Obama’s support of the Palestinian Arabs.” And last, he claims to have visited our website and found “nothing on the Arabs, naturally – but condemnation of Jews, sure they step right up.”

Not to be outdone, a fellow ideologue wrote a public email claiming we were doing irreparable “harm to the Jewish State and putting its very existence in jeopardy.”

And then there were the voices on the left.

There was the assertion that “This is certainly not the first time the AJC has issued a statement of criticism, but it’s still quite a rarity. The last known time was in March 2011…” Then came the charge that “These days, the AJC is more likely to criticize the U.S. government on Israel’s behalf…” Finally, we were accused of having ignored the comments a few days earlier by Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, which were very much in the spirit of Bennett’s. The writer then asked rhetorically if AJC would also take him on, replying to her own query with the words: “It is doubtful.”

Meanwhile, an editorial welcoming our statement on Bennett nonetheless slipped in that: “It’s good to see they’ve [AJC] begun applying the same standard to officials of the Israeli government” as to other governments and officials, whose actions AJC has challenged when they “endanger the Jewish people or the Jewish state.”

It makes you want to laugh – or cry.

Here are the facts, all of which are out there for anyone who cares to grapple with them. But then again that would undermine the zeitgeist, wherein inconvenient truths are too often best ignored, lest they upset one’s carefully constructed outlook.

How could we “condemn a democratically elected government,” when we specifically supported the prime minister who was challenged by one of his deputies? And isn’t Netanyahu on record in support of a two-state agreement, whereas Bennett opposes that objective?

As for our approach to the administration, I’ll let our left-wing and right-wing critics thrash that one out, since one sees us as the nemesis and the other as the handmaiden of the White House. Maybe, just maybe, our stance is precisely what a non-partisan group is supposed to do – support when appropriate, criticize when necessary.

And if there’s nothing on the AJC website about the ongoing Arab campaign against Israel, then this observer has failed to see the hundreds, if not thousands, of national radio broadcasts, blogs (including dozens on this Jerusalem Post website), columns, letters-to-the-editor, analyses, and advocacy and diplomatic campaigns that we continue to author.

As for his mirror image on the left, equally blinded, it seems, by an all-encompassing ideology, she could easily have found our June 12th press release criticizing the remarks of the very same Danon to whom she refers. And she could have located other statements repeatedly supporting the objective of a two-state accord, including after the speeches of Secretary of State John Kerry and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni earlier this month at the AJC Global Forum.

So, too, the editorial writer could have found the same things, challenging the paper’s notion that we’ve only now “begun” speaking up.

The bottom line:

First, all I can say is Caveat lector. Let the reader beware.

And second, at AJC, we’ll proudly continue to defy ideological pigeonholing and call them as we see them.

This article was originally published by the Jerusalem Post.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture First English-Language Trailer Debuts for Natalie Portman’s Hebrew Film ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Based on Amos Oz’s Memoir (VIDEO)

    First English-Language Trailer Debuts for Natalie Portman’s Hebrew Film ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness,’ Based on Amos Oz’s Memoir (VIDEO)

    The first English-language trailer for Natalie Portman’s directorial debut — A Tale of Love and Darkness — based on Israeli author Amos Oz’s memoir, was released on Thursday. The movie, originally filmed in Hebrew, tells the story of Oz’s childhood in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate and the early years of Israel’s independence. Portman, who was born in Israel and speaks fluent Hebrew, plays the lead role of Fania, the author’s mother. She struggles to raise her son as she deals with inner demons, a […]

    Read more →
  • Features As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    As Berlin Prices Rise, Israelis Turn East for German Real-Estate Bargains

    JNS.org – Sonnenallee, a street in Berlin’s Neukölln district, looks like it comes straight out of an Arab city — so much so that it goes by the nickname “Gaza Strip.” Kebab and bakery shops are advertised in Arabic; men sit in men-only coffee shops; and bridal shop windows showcase glittery, not-so-stylish gowns. But take a random turn, and you’ll find a swath of bars, burger joints, and Indian restaurants where hip Berliners announce that they have arrived to urban coolness. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot Slays in ‘Wonder Woman’ Trailer (VIDEO)

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot engages in fierce action sequences in the new Wonder Woman trailer, which Warner Bros. premiered during the San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday. The nearly 3-minute trailer, the first to debut for the superhero film, shows scenes of Diana, princess of the Amazons, fighting alongside men in the battle against the world’s toughest enemies. The first shot of the video shows Wonder Woman discovering a man, Steve Trevor (played by actor Chris Pine), washed ashore. The clip then takes viewers to the all-female island where Wonder Woman was born. […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    A Theatrical Look at Diplomacy and the Oslo Accords (REVIEW)

    Is diplomacy worthwhile, even if the end result isn’t what we hoped for? That is the question, among many others, posed by the new play Oslo, by J.T. Rogers. Making its New York debut at Lincoln Center, the play examines the secret diplomatic process that led to the historic 1993 peace accords. The character of Shimon Peres makes an appearance onstage — and he, along with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, tower over the proceedings. But they mainly do so in absentia. Instead, […]

    Read more →
  • Spirituality/Tradition Sports Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    Israeli Trailblazer Dean Kremer Brings Jewish Values to Nascent Pro Baseball Career

    JNS.org – Other than being part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, Sandy Koufax and Dean Kremer have something else in common: a respect for Jewish tradition. Koufax — who was recently ranked by ESPN as the best left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball (MLB) history — decided not to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell on Yom Kippur. “I would do the same,” Kremer said in an interview. Last month, the 20-year-old Kremer became […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    Lead Guitarist of British Rock Band Queen Asks Adam Lambert to Sing in Hebrew During Upcoming Israel Concert

    The famed lead guitarist of British rock band Queen, Brian May, encouraged Jewish singer-songwriter Adam Lambert to perform in Hebrew during their upcoming joint concert in Israel, an entertainment industry advocacy organization reported on Tuesday. During a recent interview with Israeli television personality Assi Azar, May was played a 2005 video of Lambert singing the popular song Shir L’Shalom, (Song for Peace). May was so impressed by Lambert’s singing of the Hebrew track that he told the American singer, “We have to do that. Let’s […]

    Read more →
  • Sports Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    Kenyan Marathoner to Compete for Israel in Rio Olympics

    JNS.org – Kenyan-born marathoner Lonah Chemtai is expected to compete for Israel at the Olympics Games in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil next month after gaining a last minute approval. “I am very proud [to represent Israel] and I hope to achieve a new personal best time,” Chemtai told Reuters. Chemtai, who grew up a rural village in western Kenya, first came to Israel in 2009 to care of the children of her country’s ambassador to Israel. The 27-year-old runner recently gained […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    Will Laughs Lead to Love on Show About Orthodox Dating?

    To date or not to date? That is not the question for most Modern Orthodox singles in New York. The question is when will they find their future spouses, and when will their families stop nagging them about having babies? Inspired by the success of the Israeli show “Srugim,” Leah Gottfried, 25, decided she would create and star in her own show, “Soon By You.” “Dating is so serious already,” Gottfried said. “We wanted to take a lighter approach and laugh at the […]

    Read more →