Not The Jewish Voice of Peace

— Kenneth Bob

When I was a teenager, the late Phil Ochs was a folk-singing hero of mine. In his classic song, “Love Me, I’m a Liberal,” he skewered armchair liberals who talked a good game, but wouldn’t go as far as their more radical comrades. This attitude, of course, appealed to many in my generation as we took to the streets and demonstrated for civil rights, against the Vietnam War and to free Soviet Jews.

I was reminded of Ochs’s song when Jewish Voice for Peace demonstrators disrupted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in New Orleans. While I agree with JVP’s opposition to the occupation of the West Bank and the proposed loyalty oath, I am afraid that I am feeling like the liberal in the Phil Ochs song, as I will not join arms with the more radical JVP.

Why can’t I find common cause with this self-defined Jewish group that opposes Israeli policy toward the Palestinians?

More after the jump.

Note that the Philadelphia Jewish Voice is unrelated to the Jewish Voice of Peace, The Berkshire Jewish Voice, The Jewish Community Voice, The Deep South Jewish Voice, Kol Yehudi, Jewish Voice and Opinion, and The Progressive Jewish Voice.
My opposition to the ongoing occupation, the proposed loyalty oath, the treatment of non-Orthodox religious streams and other troubling developments in Israel all stem from my commitment to a Jewish, democratic Israel that realizes the vision of a state “based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets” as described in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. I oppose destructive policies of Israel’s government precisely because of my love for Israel and my concern for its security and well being.

Unfortunately, JVP refuses to support the notion of Israel’s existence as a sovereign state, much less as a homeland for the Jewish people. Instead, JVP states that it “endorses neither a one-state solution, nor a two-state solution… we have members and supporters on both sides of this question, as well as many others who, like the organization as a whole, are agnostic about it.”

That is what separates progressive Zionists from JVP. We cannot be “agnostic” about the most central issue in the conflict, the importance of a solution that includes two states for two peoples, Israel and Palestine. It is ludicrous to suggest that one can be involved in the Jewish communal discourse about the future of the Middle East without having an opinion on whether Israel should exist. In addition, JVP’s stated support for a complete suspension of American military aid to Israel just emphasizes the organization’s cavalier attitude toward Israel’s survival.

News reports from New Orleans quoted G.A. participants who expressed support for the sentiment expressed by the demonstrators, if not for their tactics. This is understandable, since many young Jews are looking for ways to voice their own criticisms of Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West Bank. This should motivate the Jewish community to increase its efforts to foster open and frank discussions around controversial issues related to Israel, both in our local communities and at national events like JFNA’s G.A. Unfortunately, our communal track record has not always been good in this regard.

While those of us who are committed to Israel’s survival won’t be joining JVP’s demonstrations, we also cannot afford to emulate the liberals depicted by Phil Ochs, settling for reading the correct magazines (or blogs) but avoiding direct action. We need to find our own ways of letting the prime minister, as well American political leaders, know that American Jews strongly support action to bring about a two-state solution. Raising our voices can hopefully influence the decision makers and let concerned young Jews know that there is a place for their voices within the Jewish community.  



  1. treyfe says

    This piece is all about how Ken Bob doesn’t like feeling like a weakkneed liberal and him taking it out on him. I believe he could more profitably channel those impulses into more effectively opposing the occupation as he calls others to do so. Also, he wants “to foster open and frank discussions around controversial issues related to Israel” even as he tries to shut down any discussion with Jewish Voice for Peace, who I work with in Philadelphia (though not affiliated with  Philadelphia Jewish Voice) . Fortunately, the open discussion is going forward anyways, here’s some much more thoughtful pieces, including from Bob’s camper!

  2. says

    My impression is that the current Israel government like past administrations would like to pursue land for peace. The problem is that when Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon and when Israel withdrew from Gaza these withdrawals were not reciprocated with any gestures on the Arab side (such as recognition of Israel), and Southern Lebanon and Gaza continue to serve as the base for terrorist attacks against Israel.

  3. treyfe says

    I think it is fair to ask what “pursuing ‘Land for Peace'” would look like. Would such pursuers:
    1) assemble a coalition of parties opposed to any territorial compromise
    2) refuse to stop settlement construction, even in a temporary limited fashion, even when they were offered a ridiculously generous package.
    3) Ignore the Arab Peace Initiative that offers it “normal relations” with its neighbors.
    4) pass laws that make it more difficult to withdraw from land
    5) Lash out at those who support an Israeli actor’s boycott of Ariel, which lies many miles into the West Bank?
    The example of unilateral withdrawals are not good examples, actual bilateral deals have been by and large successful, witness Egypt aiding Israel in its horrible blockade of Gaza, Fatah largely crushing violent resistance in the West Bank. The above examples on the other hand speak much louder than any profession of seeking peace by Netanyahu’s government.  

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