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Jo-Ann Mort in TPM Cafe: Whose Israel is It?

For those who have not yet read it on TPM Cafe, here is a thought provoking blog posting by our Boar member, Jo-Ann Mort:

Whose Israel is It?

By Jo-Ann Mort - October 25, 2009,

I have spent the day in Washington, first at the Americans for Peace Now board meeting, where I am an officer, and later at the J Street conference, where I am a participant. I go to sleep tonight with this sentiment dancing on my brain: the promise of Israel needs to be embraced and supported, promoted and defended--fought for. That is not the case presently in much of American political discourse.

For me, Israel has always been about the promise of a Jewish identity that embraces social justice and otherness, that offers a safe haven for the Jewish people precisely because it is a state that embraces a notion of other-worldliness within its this-worldliness. But the Israel of today is not the Israel that I grew up yearning for; it is an Israel in dire need of a mid-century correction--and it is an Israel that --if we want a new generation to embrace--needs to change its own ideas of who it is and what it wants.

The J Street conference which has been the subject of much press and blogger debate is both a reunion of many of us who have fought for decades for an Israel that embraces democratic, Jewish and (yes, it is NOT a contradiction) pluralist and Jewish ideals and of young people, many presently in college, who are the product of youth movements, of Taglit/Birthright Israel or of their synagogues, who want to join into support for an Israel that supports their ideals. American Jewry remains the most liberal organized entity in American public life. We embrace ideals like human rights, pluralism and diversity. We cling to democracy as a way to defend our own rightful place in America's polity. And these are the values we want to see--but don't--in the Israel so many of us love.

The reason that I have spent decades suupporting the Peace Now movement in Israel is because for me, it holds the promise--the only promise--of nurturing and sustaining an Israel that becomes not just a light unto the nations, but perhaps even more importantly, a normal state--but a state that embraces democratic values by which it judges itself, the very same values that we, as Americans hold dear. This is something to be proud of, something worth fighting for. We can, as American Jews, cling to our particularism solely as a sign of separatism and in some cases, even superiority--or, we can promote our particularism as a way to weave into the pluralism that is America and we can, likewise, see ourselves and our Jewish future in a Jewish state that embraces the same values that we hold dear--democracy, support for human rights and the right to embrace your individualism. That is the essence of who we are as American Jews--it is why the American Jewish community still supports President Obama at a level of plus 74% and it is , in the end, what should guide us as a community when we support Israel-an Israel that supports values that are embedded in our Americanness and in our Jewishness.