In a recent Chronicle op-ed, “Why Israelis have left the left behind” (May 17), software engineer Anat Talmy and writer Abby W. Schachter described two right-wing populist negative views about the left wing in Israel and about the liberal and progressive Jewish communities in the U.S. The first section of the op-ed stressed the fact that previous prime ministers, such as Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, had failed to create a permanent solution regarding the continual Jewish-Arab antagonism in Palestine, in the Israel of today, and in the Occupied Territories. At one point, they wrote that the liberal and progressive American Jewish majority is “stuck.” The writers do not seem to understand that we are “stuck” within our own value system that includes now and always has included social justice positions and a hope for peace in Israel and in other parts of the world. (Most polls state that the voting record of the American Jewish community on all issues is 75% liberal or progressive.) It is unlikely that their points will convince us to change our philosophy or our social and political positions. We are not likely to ever view positively “King Bibi” or his right-wing cohorts nor any other aspiring monarch or authoritarian leader.
We know that it is the Likud and its former right-wing partners that are in a crisis. We know that the crisis includes the disassembling of the coalition and the need to call for new elections because, otherwise, President Rivlin would have to officially ask the newly relevant centrist Blue and White Party to form a coalition. In the meantime, progressive groups have been winning local elections and the left-wing Zionist party Meretz has begun to discuss aligning with the Labor Party and with one of the Arab parties from the Arab List.
Netanyahu was the one who failed by not being able to stitch together the torn seam between the nationalist and secular party of Avigdor Lieberman (the former defense minister) and the haredi United Torah Judaism and SHAS parties. The recurring issue over many years has been the issue of military service for yeshiva students. Netanyahu also fired the minister of education, Naftali Bennett, and the minister of justice, Yael Shaked, both of whom vocally favored the Knesset being able to override Supreme Court rulings and have worked toward ousting Netanyahu from power. Immediately, Netanyahu chose a new justice minister whom, he hoped, would rescue him from his three indictments.
As a veteran and involved member of the American Jewish community, I would politely suggest that the writers study the American Jewish community and what its Jews stand for. For example, in Israel, freedom to pray at the Kotel for all Jews, male and female, in whichever Jewish stream of Judaism they follow; recognition of other streams of Judaism, in addition to Orthodox. The vast majority of the Jewish population of the U.S. votes for Democratic candidates on such issues as gun control, health care, immigrant rights, minority rights and minimum wage. This same population favors more equity and social justice in every aspect of our lives. A number of Democratic senators have already signed a resolution against annexation of the West Bank, which Netanyahu had expressed as his next step. In May, a similar resolution was passed in the House of Representatives. In late May, a letter signed by nearly 300 high-ranking generals from the Israeli Defense Forces and security services warned Prime Minister Netanyahu that annexation would “harm Israel’s economy, its regional and international standing, and especially its security.”
In recent months, there have been serious conversations among college students, synagogues and organizations planning trips to Israel about the important need to include tours of the West Bank and of Palestinian and Bedouin villages in order to see and to understand the totality of life on both sides of the Green Line.
Despite the concerted efforts of right-wing Israeli and American organizations, the majority of Jews who live in America continue to love the people and the land of Israel. They visit Israel, celebrate life events there, send their children to Israel on tours and on youth movement programs, support the IDF and contribute financially to the many American organizations that raise money for a better and peaceful State of Israel. They actively work for and continue to hope that Israel will live up to its values clearly expressed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Those values include equality and justice for all of its inhabitants. pjc
Ivan C. Frank lives in Squirrel Hill.