The Awkwardness of the Backwards Walk

Between the twilight of Brazil and the daylight of New York, Dani Dayan was tripped up.

In an interview with i24News’ “FaceOff” program (at 15:30) broadcast last Saturday, Dayan said that endorsing “all the anti-Israel candidates”, which also means financially backing them, and a good few of these politicians are quite injurious to Israel’s standing and security, what develops from that indiscriminate policy is that “the more anti-Israeli you are, the more you are endorsed by J Street. That’s un-Jewish.”

As reported, J Street took umbrage and lashed out, releasing a statement that read,

“These kinds of slurs impugning our faith should simply be out-of-bounds for an official emissary of the Israeli government”

Furthermore, Dayan, now a full-fledged diplomat, took a walkback. On Tuesday, he announced that he is “humbly aware of the responsibility resting on my shoulders” and that

…I intend to engage in sincere, open and inclusive dialogue with all parts of the Jewish community and the general public, as I always have”

J Street then praised him for his “willingness to engage in dialogue and debate”.

By the way, there is an echo in Dayan’s estimation of something that was said back in 2009, when the funding of a liberal-less-than-supportive of Israel received some $30,000 for her campaign ‘infuriated’ some establishment Jewish leaders, one of whom perhaps told a New York Times reporter that

any group that would raise money for the likes of Edwards “is not a responsible Jewish organization.”

In that same story, we read that

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism and a natural ally, writing in a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger op-ed in The Forward, described Luria’s sentiments as “morally deficient, profoundly out of touch with Jewish sentiment and also appallingly naïve.”

Being a diplomat is serious, tiring and, at times, a thankless task. What a fellow left-wing Jew says is not allowed to be uttered by a right-wing Jew. But I have full faith in his ability to succeed, despite the cauldron that is being stirred by groups like (and not all are identical in program and ideology) J Street, IfNotNow, Open Hillel, Jewish Voice for Peace and such.

However, I think it need be pointed out that J St. made a sharp-turn in their statement that puts us in the wrong direction of dialogue.

My understanding of Dayan’s words was that the adjective “Jewish”, in the sense that I think he used it, was not specifically one that defined one’s faith or religious observance or adherence. After all, J St.’s head of its campus branch unit is … non-Jewish.  She’s a Muslim, in fact.

“Jewish” is also being a mensch, being fair, compassionate, reasonable but, ultimately, faithful to the success of the Jewish people, its values and, as regards Israel, to assuring that the Jewish people, as an ethnic community with a 3000-year old national consciousness, will be kept safe and protected.  To fund politicians who do not share that approach, but to provide persons whose personal ideological outlook can negate that aspect of what Jewishness is can be seen as being un-Jewish.

Jeremy Ben-Ami himself acknowledged in that 2009 story that there is an

emotional side and the communal history, and it’s the fear of not wanting in some way to be responsible for the next great tragedy that will befall the Jewish people.

What we may being witnessing, in J St.’s activity is that they are allowing, and even encouraging its members, by preferring his/her non-Jewish Diaspora personality, his/her non-Jewish politics, his/her non-Jewish agenda, to downgrade Israel’s needs as opposed to what some Jews and non-Jews think is their right in the lands of dispersion that are to be elevated above the Jews of Israel.

J St. is not a faith-based organization, self-evidently. We cannot allow it to walk itself backwards and now adopt a role and standing it has rejected.


About the Author
Yisrael Medad, currently is a Research Fellow at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem and Deputy Editor of the English Language Anthology of Jabotinsky's Writings. American-born, he and his wife made Aliyah in 1970. He resides in Shiloh since 1981. He was a member of the Betar Youth Movement World Executive and is a volunteer spokesperson for the Yesha Council. He holds a MA in Political Science from the Hebrew University and is active is many Zionist and Jewish projects and initiatives.
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