Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My beef with J-Street

She’s more of a fan of Israel than I am.  To me, Israel was the place that stole my mommy for over a week where she got to make new friends, see amazing sights and fall in love with a new land, and I was left at home.  Needless to say, not all that enthusiastic about the country myself.  But it seems I’m in good company judging from the book we finished last night.  Or rather the book she read while I stared longingly at her sending subliminal messages: play fetch, play fetch, give me treats, give me treats.  I haven’t fully honed this skill but I’ll get there. 

Either way, the author seems to be in my camp about Israel, this head of J-Street Jeremy Ben-Ami.  I’ll give her credit.  My mommy doesn’t just listen to people who agree with her about issues she cares about.  She likes to know what the opposition is saying so that she can make up her own mind.  And make up her own mine she did with every page she turned. 

Seems that this “A New Voice for Israel” would be more aptly titled “A New Voice for the Palestinians” and probably wouldn’t bug her as much had he not touted himself as a faithful Pro-Israel Jew.  But like I said, she just got back from Israel, and is kind of touchy about those who criticize without solutions, water down Judaism, and speak out of both sides of his mouth. 

Example: One of Ben-Ami’s complaints is that the Pro-Israel lobby casts blame on organizations merely based on the fact that they don’t like the politics of their supporters.  So J-Street has contributors that the mainstream lobby doesn’t like and therefore J-Street must be anti-Israel.  Ok, valid complaint.  But then the guy has the gall to turn around and criticize the other side for the exact same thing.  His beef (ah, beef…. I’d like some beef…must find some beef) is that the right wing conservative Pro-Israel groups ally with the Christian Right on Israel while ignoring the fact that they disagree on many other domestic issues.  This from a guy that’s advocating programs with Muslim Americans, setting up rallies for the rights of Palestinians, and is in bed with donors who seem to only have negatives to say about Israel despite their self-proclaimed devotion to the country. 

Can we say hypocrite? Technically I can’t actually say it, but I’m thinking it!

Ben-Ami reminds the reader over and over that liberal Jews are turning away from traditional Judaism and that their voices are being shut out in the discussion about Israel.  Maybe he’s right, but we disagree with the notion that the solution is to water down Judaism, creating a “pick-and-choose” religion filled with alternative rituals, new-agey programs, and services barely recognizable as Jewish. 

Judaism is a religion. Have we all forgotten this?? It’s not a nationality or a stand-alone ethnicity.  It’s a religion and when people try to separate it out, to claim their heritage without shouldering any of the responsibility or commitment to the religion, it makes us a little nutty (ooh, nuts…I’d like some nuts…nuts…feed me nuts…feed me nuts…)

Like I said, I may not be the biggest fan of Israel, but perhaps if I could visit it myself, I’d fall in love with the country just like my mommy did.  And maybe Jeremy Ben-Ami should come with me because I’m not sure which Israel he’s been visiting all of these years, but it’s certainly not the one my mommy just came back from. 

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