The Kushner affair: what kind of pro-Israel movement do we want?

In view of the furor over CUNY’s decision to revoke an invitation to playwright Tony Kushner to receive an honorary degree, first reported in the Jewish Week, I would just ask this: what kind of pro-Israel movement do we want?

(On the same subject, the Jewish Week’s Doug Chandler reported last night on former Mayor Ed Koch’s call for the “resignation or removal” of the trustee who attacked Kushner.)

Do we want one that’s as broad as possible, encompassing Jews across the political spectrum and non Jews who support Israel for a wide range of reasons? Do we want a movement that brings together ZOA, APN, AIPAC and – yes – J Street – around the central principle of support for Israel, no matter how much they disagree over the best way to ensure the Jewish state’s future?

Or do we want one defined by narrow ideology, with everybody who doesn’t support a particular perspective on Israel and the conflict with its neighbors excluded, every critic of specific Israeli policies branded an enemy?

The former guarantees support regardless of the vicissitudes of politics in this country and Israel. Under Likud, Kadima or Labor, Democrats or Republicans, support has growing over the decades, in large measure because of the diversity of the movement of Americans who believe Israel’s existence is important.

The latter, it seems to me, guarantees an ever-shrinking, if more ideologically pure pro-Israel movement, and it means support for Israel will be subject to political changes in both countries.

Forget about whether Tony Kushner is right or wrong about Israel’s current policies or the conditions of its creation; what this debate is really about is the kind of pro-Israel movement that will protect the U.S.-Israel relationship for decades to come: broad or narrow, growing or shrinking, able to come together around core principles or forever waging internal warfare over fine points of ideology. Or so it seems to me.

For another really sharp take on the CUNY controversy, check out a blog by the Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg, who calls the CUNY action “unconscionably stupid.”

And JTA’s Ron Kampeas, who blogged that “’Vicious’…may describe the public humiliation CUNY’s board delivered to Tony Kushner.”



About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.