We Must Not Be Afraid to Stand Up for Israel

So I’m playing a little over my head here, in that I am pretty much not a political commentator. I don’t even play one on TV, or online. But I feel compelled to share my thoughts, fears, concerns, and maybe even a little hope about what will come of the Palestinian petition for statehood at the United Nations, expected to be presented by the end of this week by Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority.

 

I feel compelled to put down thoughts on paper because I know many of you have your own thoughts, fears, and concerns and I want to believe that there’s a little hope out there. And I want to remind myself — and you as well — that there are things we can do, every day, to stand up for Israel at what I believe is one of the most dangerous turning points in her history.

 

Over the last several months, reams of newspaper and magazines, and pixels beyond imagination, have been devoted to the possible results of a unilateral declaration of statehood by the Palestinians. I’ve tried to read as much analysis as I can. Although I care deeply about this issue, it can all start to blur together after awhile.

 

The pundits range from the opinion that it’s a terrible blunder by Abbas, to the current situation being the result of the failures of Benjamin Netanyahu and/or Barak Obama, to the pretty much universal conclusion that Israel and the United States will be isolated from the rest of the United Nations. There is talk of a third intifada, of rioting, should the universal declaration actually occur.

 

Most chillingly, I keep reading that as part of diplomatic efforts to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table rather than going to the U.N., Israel has sought the recognition by the Palestinians that Israel is a Jewish state. They have refused. Somehow, according to Abbas, the Palestinian people deserve a homeland, but the Jewish people do not. I’m afraid this is due to the fact that, ultimately, the homeland the Palestinians seek is not one created by returning to pre-1967 borders and/or land swaps or any such thing. The homeland they want is the one we have, however much of it we are allowed to retain.

 

What I don’t understand is the world’s failure to see what is happening here. The Hamas charter still calls for the destruction of Israel. The question of a Palestinian “right of return” to Israel still appears to be something to be considered, at least according to the Palestinians. Although what the point of that would be if there was a Palestinian homeland is not clear to me. No, it is not surprising that the Palestinians seek both a homeland of their own and a right of return, since such a “right” would really be another path towards stripping Israel of its status as a Jewish state. Without one more Katyusha being fired, without one more sniper’s bullet, the Palestinians seek what they have sought since the partition of Palestine in 1947 — to push the Jewish people into the sea. 

 

I fully understand that continued building in the West Bank has been the equivalent of someone sticking her finger in the eye of the peace process. But the struggle for the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state long predates the 1967 Six-Day War and the establishment of settlements in the West Bank.

 

Frankly, it gives me a headache just to write all of this. I’m sure there are people more knowledgeable than I am who will want to correct my facts or my viewpoint. All I want to say is that the idea that recognition of Israel’s identity as a Jewish state is something to be negotiated makes me sick to my stomach.

 

My entire identity as a Jewish American — (or American Jew? There’s a whole night’s debate at a BBYO convention) — is wrapped up in the idea that, as they say about your family, there’s always a place for you in Israel. My life experience as a child in a very non-Jewish world, in a synagogue built by the descendants of Jews who had to run for their lives, informs my daily gratitude that the State of Israel exists as a Jewish homeland. Yes, the American Jewish community is one of, if not the most, vibrant and successful Jewish communities that has ever existed outside of Israel. But without a safe and secure Israel as a state for the Jews, that vibrancy and success is very much at risk. I also believe that Israel is a safer, more secure, and more vibrant place because of the support and caring of American Jews. We need each other, we make each other better — talk to the Peoplehood Project members to learn all about that.

 

So this, then, is my hope. My hope in all of this darkness is that we, as American Jews, or Jewish Americans, shed our fear of speaking up. We may not know the intricacies of the peace process and Israeli-Arab negotiations. We may not know whether we think Barak Obama is the “first Jewish president” (a la New York magazine) or the worst thing that has happened to Israel since Jimmy Carter. 

 

But if you believe that Israel is the Jewish homeland, you can stand up for Israel. You can support a negotiated two-state solution, one that recognizes Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. You can talk about this with your Jewish and non-Jewish friends. You can say “I am a Jew, and my ancient homeland was restored to me after 3,000 years. I was at risk without it and I will not give it up again.”

 

You can still sign the petition against a unilateral declaration of statehood by going to the Community Relations Council of MetroWest (CRC) website. You can learn more and gain confidence by attending one or more of the CRC’s Stand Up for Israel educational programs being held in synagogues across MetroWest.

 

And you can attend the Step Up For Israel Advocacy Summit on Sunday, October 16, at the Aidekman Family Campus in Whippany from 9 a.m.–1 p.m., with optional workshops beginning at 2 p.m.  

 

I’m speaking up. Are you?

 

Leslie

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