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.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Education Haredim and Bedouin: A Tale of Two Communities Transformed by Vocational Education

    Haredim and Bedouin: A Tale of Two Communities Transformed by Vocational Education

    JNS.org – Low enlistment rates in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). High rates of poverty. Communal resistance to traditional schooling. Difficulty finding employment or a lack of motivation to be employed. These conditions are shared by two sectors of the Israeli population that the casual observer likely wouldn’t group together: haredi Jews and Bedouin. Through its operation of schools for each population, however, the Israel Sci-Tech Schools Network seeks to give haredim and Bedouin a brighter future in the Jewish [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Theater US & Canada New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    New Play Explores the ‘Arrogance’ of American Jews Critical of Israel, Playwright Says

    In his new play Mr. Goldberg Goes to Tel Aviv, playwright Oren Safdie tackles an issue that he has a major concern with: the relationship between Israelis and left-leaning Diaspora Jews with their “I know better” critical views. At the heart of the one-act play is Tony, a Jewish and gay Palestinian sympathizer who expresses strong anti-Israel sentiments when the play begins and at one point even sides with a Palestinian terrorist who holds his captive. Tony, who is also an [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    Hassidic Parody of Taylor Swift Song Apes Long Jewish Holidays (VIDEO)

    A Jewish comedy troupe released a parody video on Wednesday of Taylor Swift’s hit song Shake It Off in which they joke about taking extensive time off from work for Jewish holidays. “And the goyim gonna stay, stay, stay, stay, stay. And the Jews are gonna pray, pray pray, pray, pray. I’m just gonna take, take, take, take, take. I’m taking off,” goes the chorus for I’m Taking Off. Menachem Weinstein, the video’s lead singer, is the creative director at [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    On 75th Anniversary, Looking at the Jewish Influence on Gone With the Wind

    JNS.org – The 75th anniversary of the premiere of “Gone with the Wind” on Dec. 15 presents an opportunity to examine the Jewish influence on one of the most popular films of all time. That influence starts with the American Civil War epic’s famed producer, David O. Selznick. Adjusted for inflation, “Gone with the Wind” remains the highest-grossing movie ever made. It earned the 1939 Academy Award for Best Picture, the same honor another Selznick film, “Rebecca,” garnered in 1940. Selznick [...]

    Read more →
  • Featured Music US & Canada EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    EXCLUSIVE: Matisyahu Provides Most Extensive Analysis Yet of His Religious, Musical Evolution (INTERVIEW)

    Matisyahu got candid in an exclusive interview with The Algemeiner on Monday about his religious and musical journey – after shedding his Chassidic skin, yarmulke, long beard and all – from the start of his career in 2005 when he became a reggae superstar with hits King Without a Crown and Jerusalem. The singer-songwriter embarks on his Festival of Light tour this month, an annual Hanukkah event that stops in Montreal, New York, and other cities before ending in San Juan, [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Personalities ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    ‘Sheriff of Mars’ Unveils Endearing Life of Jewish Music Star Hidden in the Fields of France

    JNS.org – It was an era of steel strings, guitar heroes, and storytellers—high on heroin, rebellious. Outlaw country music, the hallmark of Nashville’s powerful and angry music scene of the 1970s, was the brew of greats such as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt. But there is another, little-known music hero of that era: Daniel Antopolsky. A Jewish lad from Augusta, Ga.—the son of immigrants who settled in the south and ran a hardware store on Main Street—the [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian Actress Replaces Israel’s Gal Gadot for ‘Ben-Hur’ Remake

    Iranian actress Nazanin Boniadi replaced Israeli star Gal Gadot as the female lead in the new Ben-Hur remake, Hollywood.com reported on Tuesday. The Homeland actress will play Esther, a slave that Ben-Hur sets free and falls in love with. Gadot quit the movie when it became clear that filming conflicted with her schedule for the Man of Steel sequel. The Israeli actress plays Wonder Woman in the superhero film Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Actor Jack Huston takes on the [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.