As Israel prepares to go to the polls, it is likely that PM Netanyahu will form the most extremist right-wing government in Israel’s history. His pledge over the weekend to annex the West Bank and foreclose the possibility of a two state solution thus compromising the Zionist dream of a Jewish majority democratic state in the Land of Israel ought to provoke despair in the hearts of every lover of the Zionist dream and enterprise.
There are two ways for liberal American Jews to support the liberal democratic Jewish State of Israel that we believe in. First, we need to work with groups on the ground in Israel that support pluralism, human rights, a shared society, and Israel’s democratic institutions. The Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) is the counterpart to the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ). Through ARZA we Reform American Jews must give our full emotional, financial, and political support.
Anticipating the World Zionist Congress elections in 2020, we need to be prepared to bring our congregations to the voting booth and vote the ARZA slate (the campaign will begin next year). This will mean more power in the Jewish people’s national institutions and a potentially larger share of financial pie to build the Israeli Reform movement (now supported by 11 percent of all Israelis, equal to the number of Israeli Haredim – ultra-Orthodox). The IMPJ and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), the social justice arm of the Israeli Reform movement, can influence the lives of Israelis and fight on behalf of maintaining a pluralistic and just Jewish state for all its citizens, Jewish and Arab alike.
Supporting ARZA is only half of the equation. We American Jews have a voice vis a vis Israeli government policy, even though we are Americans and not Israelis, and we don’t serve in the military or pay taxes. Only Israelis bear the consequences of their decisions at the voting book and we American Jews have to remember this. It is, however, in our interest as ohavei M’dinat Yisrael (lovers of the State of Israel) to support Israel even as we oppose a right-wing extremist government that intends to annex the West Bank (per Netanyahu this weekend) and destroy Israel’s Zionist and democratic dream.
The Congress of the United States is not anti-Israel. The Democratic party is not anti-Israel. The vast majority of American Jews, per all polls, are anti-Bibi and pro-two state solution.
We American Jews need to support, along with ARZA, the only effective organization in American Jewish politics that has created a safe space for American policy makers to support Israel and oppose Israeli extremist government policies – J Street.
J Street is a mainstream American pro-Israel pro-peace organization with more than 120 congressional and senatorial office holders accepting J Street’s endorsement. The only requirement J Street demands is that the office-holder supports a two states for two peoples resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
You can support J Street by going to its website – www.Jstreet.org. You can support ARZA by going to its website www.ARZA.org.