It is becoming increasingly evident to me that while Jews need to be mindful of many existential threats outside our community, we are slowly killing ourselves with self-inflicted wounds. Our failure to come together to find common ground and our engagement in internecine wars for increasingly limited resources, soldiers and allies is stabbing us by our own hands.
I submit the following as evidence of these self-inflicted wounds and these are just the most recent.
AIPAC, an organization which tries very hard to remain bi-partisan has always invited all the presidential candidates to participate in its annual Policy Conference. Typically, all candidates come, from both parties to make their case before the largest group of bi-partisan Jewish people (this year a predicted 18,000 in Washington). Participants listen respectfully as the candidates make their case and everyone regards this as a show of solidarity for the American Israel relationship and all continue to work both sides of the aisle. This year, however two things are painfully evident. The one Jewish candidate running for president is boycotting the AIPAC meetings causing speculations that he doesn’t want to seem “too Jewish” or “too pro-Israel” or, for that matter, be booed because of the lack of support for Israel and his professed disdain for “organized religion.” How pitiful is this? On top of all of this, a group of Rabbis are threatening to disrupt/boycott/protest a very controversial and divisive candidate who may well be the party’s nominee and perhaps the next President of the United States. Instead of lobbying him hard on issues of importance to them and many of us, they are choosing to disrupt the proceedings and possibly alienate many of us who are members of their congregations and who may well agree with them in terms of our evaluation of that candidate, but believe strongly that AIPAC is not the forum to provoke this candidate’s well documented thuggery antics.
Furthermore that clearly growing influence of J-Street, with its narrow political agenda to pressure Israel from affair, as an anti-AIPAC has created a false comparison and ineffectiveness for our communities. J-Street is pushing a political agenda for Israel through the American political system and AIPAC is trying to create bi-partisan support for a strong American- Israel relationship regardless of who is in power either in Israel or in the United States. American Jews and politicians are now very confused about the needs of the Jewish and pro-Israel community with both saying they are pro-Israel, pro-peace, but sending mixed messages to our people and the public at large. They will not appear in the same venues to discuss their points. How self-wounding is that for our people.
Another piece of evidence from the “you can’t make this up department” are the recent efforts by members of the Israeli Sociological Association who are planning to boycott Ariel University, an Israeli University across the Green Line in the disputed territories. Can you imagine, Jewish scholars in Israel boycotting other Jewish scholars? The fact of the matter is that Ariel University is a respected institution in the territories with a history of Arab-Israeli cooperation and many Arab students receiving first rate educations from professors with joint appointments in other Israeli institutions as well, many of who have come through the various Israeli university systems. The university is a symbol of cooperation, education and hope and is continually upgrading itself in terms of research, teaching and community access. Furthermore, I believe this campaign is fueled not by some high-minded, but misguided political principles; but by the fact that the growth of Ariel University has increased the competition for funds allotted by the government for all Israeli universities and I would not be surprised if sociologists are feeling the pinch and using this as an excuse to protest their situation. In any event, the action simply is evidence that Jews are now boycotting Jews…AND, to add insult to injury, as of this writing there appears to be no response from any of the major Jewish driven anti-academic BDS groups towards this boycott action dispite over 40 Nobel Laureates, the American Association of University Professors and other significant groups are empathic about the wrongness of academic boycotts as a major threat to academic freedom, the free exchange of research, knowledge and ideas and academic integrity….These self-inflicted wounds are just as lethal as any of our enemies.
I am told by fellow Jewish leaders to try to remain optimistic as I read announcements every day of new organizations being formed by splintering groups to try to out do existing groups to compete for increasingly limited numbers of soldiers and resources, each demeaning the existence and disparaging the records of others. The Jewish community has always had more organizations per square Jew than most other ethnic or religious communities, but the numbers appear to be growing exponentially as our numbers are diminishing in the population. Instead of coming together to strategically plan to use limited resources, the splintering of our community is draining us of common communal interest and purpose…a development that will lead to a hemorrhagic bleed from the divisiveness of that self-inflicted wound.
Rightly or wrongly, I believe the Jewish people are once again at an existential precipice and need to step back, heal and regroup before allowing the weakness from these and other self-inflicted wounds cause them to tumble into the ravine. And these are things we are doing to ourselves and not being done to us by others.