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September 19, 2013 - Image 41

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-09-19

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Guest Column

The Hubris Of J Street


hat if a political organization
in Israel was formed to force
broad reforms in American's
immigration policy because the organiza-
tion proclaimed such revisions are needed
to assure the wellbeing of the U.S.?
The organization, in promoting its polit-
ical agenda, states unabashedly that it has
a "responsibility to fix" the policies of the
U.S., in a sense, to protect it from itself.
The reaction in this country, one can
safely assume, would be to tell that orga-
nization to mind its own business, to
worry about the politics of Israel; but if it
really felt so strongly about its charge, the
organization and its members might con-
sider moving to the United States.
The hypothetical situation above is a
mirror image of J Street, the political action
organization which has taken it upon itself,
as stated on its website, "to fix the broken
policies in America around Israel."
Let us set aside the issue of whether a
two-state solution (which J Street sup-
ports) is the solution to the Middle East
crisis. All the plans offered for some 40
years are extremely complex, and J Street's
unmitigated hubris to propose that it has
the answer is the ultimate in arrogance,
and "arrogance" seems a mild description
of the organization's charter. The com-
plexities are staggering, but that does not
inhibit J Street.
But even more unsettling is the fact
that J Street wants to help decide Israel's

future while living here in the U.S. After
all, it is the lives of Israelis and the blood
of their children and grandchildren that
are at stake. It is not the place of "outsid-
ers" to tell them what policies will best
protect them in the future. Indeed, not
only tell them, but twist the arms of U.S.
lawmakers to adopt policies that may
undermine the goals of Israelis.
It's one thing simply to
criticize Israeli policies but
quite another to work ardently
to undo with policies imple-
mented by the duly elected
government of Israelis. If that
isn't chutzpah, what is?
J Street's stance (let us put
aside its policies/statements
and some of its alliances in
pursuit of its agenda) is not
only arrogant, but also smacks
at hypocrisy. If J Street feels
it wants to participate in forming Israel
foreign policy, let it move its offices, let's
say, to Sderot, which has suffered from
unrelenting rocket attacks. Also, J Street
members and supporters might consider
such a move as well.
Now, that would represent a commit-
ment and also that J Street understands
that to become involved in Israel's foreign
policy decisions, it must bear some direct
responsibility. It cannot play loosely with
the lives of Israelis when J Streeters face
no risk. J Streeters seem to have forgotten

that Israel is a sovereign democracy, and
that it can and will decide — at the ballot
box — what is good for the country.
Israel's Peace Now organization shares
the philosophy of J Street. While one may
disagree with its position, it deserves
respect since the group resides in Israel. It
has a right to whatever position it adopts.
Has J Street considered
that it might be wrong in its
proposals? What if the poli-
cies advocated by J Street are
adopted and they turn out to
endanger Israel? What then?
What price does J Street pay?
Need one point out to J Street
that it can afford to be wrong
while Israel cannot.
J Street's troublesome med-
dling — meddling it is as
well as potentially politically
dangerous — reminds one,
locally, of suburbanites who have left the
city of Detroit, but keep touting that they
are "Detroiters." They may continue to
be supporters of Detroit, but they aren't
Detroiters. Do we really need to be con-
descending and define what makes a
To their credit, these suburban
Detroiters, at least, do not try to dic-
tate from West Bloomfield, Southfield,
Birmingham, etc., what policies the city
they so love should adopt to solve its
many problems. The support is generally

Even more unsettling
is the fact that I Street
wants to help decide
Israel's future while
living here in the U.S.

philosophical, and not much more.
J Street states on its website: "Rooted
in our commitment to Jewish and demo-
cratic values, J Street is redefining what it
means to be pro-Israel in America."
In the process, J Street has also
redefined the concept of Jewish and
democratic values. Those values hold that
people whose lives are in peril have the
right to decide on their own how to pro-
tect themselves without interference from
others, particularly from those who are
not in danger.
While a cliche, it seems apropos to
point out that with "pro-Israel" friends
like J Street, who needs enemies? If J
Streets feels it must become involved in
fixing "broken politics" in the U.S., there
is no shortage of issues in Washington.

A veteran West Bloomfield journalist and
author, Berl Falbaum teaches news writing and
news media ethics at Wayne State University
in Detroit.


Detroit's Bnei Akiva: Thank You!



srael's isolation in the world is not
just diplomatic; it's oppressive. Every
day, it seems, Israel is pilloried or
condemned by another country and
another United Nations organization.
Every day, it seems, Palestinian Arabs
are threatening another bloody intifada,
Iran inches closer to a nuclear bomb and
more NGOs (nongovernmental organi-
zations) call for Israel boycotts. Uber-
columnists froth against Israel, compet-
ing with the U.S. Department of State
and European Union foreign ministries.
Even more depressing, Israeli artists,
actors, literary elites, leftist politicians
and professors join them. The situation is
a psychological tsunami from within and
without; you have to wonder if anyone
cares about Israel's survival.
Then, suddenly, a bright ray shatters the
darkness and a song emerges amidst fears.

There's a YouTube video of young people
from Detroit's Bnei Akiva flashing across
my computer screen. Enthusiastic about
making aliyah, these hopeful young peo-
ple smash the pessimism that
threatens. I want to reach out
to them and embrace them for
reminding us that we are not
alone, and that Israel does mat-
ter. And this is coming from, of
all places, where I grew up!
Memories of Detroit
Mumford High and Livernois
Avenue have faded into the
Kotel (Western Wall) and the
Machane Yehuda Shuk (an
open air market). After 30
years, I am an Israeli, more or less.
But that old heartthrob connection is
still there, and it comes back in the form
of these young people who got together
in a synagogue social hall or a JCC to
cheer us with their idealism. Bridging

continents and generations, the bagels-
and-lox of their commitment is an infu-
sion of inspiration.
In Jerusalem, these last days of sum-
mer are unusually warm; we
pray for desperately needed
rain. I traded the glorious col-
ors of the leaves and whirling
snowfalls to live in the most
famous city in Jewish history,
Ir HaKodesh, and the only one
that claims a spiritual replica
in heaven.
Terrorist attacks are rare
now, thanks to seemingly
daily (and nightly) raids into
Palestinian Arab villages by
special Israel Defense Forces units. But
there are heartbreaking tragedies, like the
murder of four people (and one unborn
child) by terrorists near Hebron. I was
at the funeral; the cries of the orphans,
widow and widower still echo. We should

not take what we have for granted.
And the Bnei Akiva hope and promise,
I do not.
How inspiring and daring! How unique
and courageous!
It's never easy to leave the land where
you live comfortably and go to the land
that God promised to the Jewish people,
the land of our forefathers and foremoth-
ers. The Bnei Akiva young people are
coming home.
Welcome, with all my heart.
It won't be easy, moving from familiar
homes and building others. But it will be
most rewarding and enriching, as indi-
viduals and as Jews.
Thank you, again. Thank your parents
whose nurturing and education made
you what you are. You made my day, my
year and so much more.

Moshe Dann, a journalist and writer, is a
former Detroiter who lives in Jerusalem.

September 19 • 2013


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