My politics are Israeli politics and a lot of the discourse that takes place in the UK, also takes place in Israel. Dinner tables, ‘ul ha esh’ (BBQ), restaurant gatherings, pubs, coffee shops or even in a taxi, these are all places where vibrant and agitated political disagreements take place. Everyone in Israel is a budding Prime Minister.
So let us not pretend for a moment that the ‘annexation’ or ‘reclamation’ isn’t divisive. Israel arrives at this point after a long road has been travelled, and the decisions being made now are the result of decades of political struggles and the failure of peace talks.
Which means that when a few hundred kids in the British Jewish diaspora write a letter begging the Board of Deputies to represent them and speak out – we should listen – right? Wrong.
The BOD letters
The activists on the left are good at writing letters. Lots of names quickly appear. Most Jewish, some not. Many chose to sign – and there are others who had their names added to the list without permission by their friends. But still, several hundred of our Jewish youth signed a letter to the BOD.
The letter makes a few key mistakes.
Firstly, it suggests that if the BOD fail to speak out against annexation, it will be in violation of the Board’s own constitution. The letter then links to a constitution that makes NO mention of a two state solution at all. The legal standing is all in their heads.
Secondly, there is a hypocritical element to this. The signees want the board to speak out and represent them. But if the BOD does speak out and represent them, then the BOD will not be representing anyone else. The letter doesn’t demand an acknowledgement of their position – it demands an occupation of the BOD’s voice. They want the BOD to look, act and think like them – and nobody else. They are demanding the BOD become the mouthpiece of these left-wing activist groups.
Finally, the letter suggests that the annexation of the Jordan Valley is the end of a two state solution. This is absolute bunkum and was a scare tactic used to gain signatures. The use of terms like ‘viable’ is meaningless raw Palestinian propaganda. The letter even goes on to suggest Israel cannot be both democratic and Jewish if it annexes all of the territory. But that isn’t even on the table. Israel is not annexing all of the territory. What is being discussed is some strategic land along the Jordanian border and the small number of Palestinians inside – will be offered citizenship. None of this means there will be no future Palestinian state.
When did our youth completely leave the Israeli Zionist spectrum and become part of the Palestinian propaganda machine? And how did this happen?
Left wing propagandists jump on situations such as this and use them as a recruitment tool. Groups such as Yachad probably don’t believe for a minute that the BOD will actually make that statement. But it creates an illusion through which they present themselves as the legitimate voice of the young – as hard-left organisations always do.
Yachad’s political positions include dividing Jerusalem, negotiating with Hamas and labelling settlement products. They opposed the US declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Yachad’s position is that everything must be decided through negotiated settlement. All of it. If Israel is to do anything they have to have the agreement of the Palestinians. However, when the Palestinians do something, for example when they seek international recognition as a state, Yachad supports the move.
Yachad’s mirror on the left is not with any of the parties that would sit in the current government. It is Meretz. The same Meretz who no longer define themselves as Zionists and need to align with other parties at election time to ensure they pass the minimum threshold. Meretz currently have just three members of Parliament. Yachad meet up with all those NGOs that the fringe Israeli peace groups meet up with. They worship B’tselem, Breaking the silence and others of similar ilk. Their Twitter feed shares the rants of anti-Zionists who write for 972 magazine. This week they are hosting an event with a representative of the PA who has suggested Jews ‘fabricate’ the story of the Holocaust.
Another group called ‘Na’amod’ is the fallout from some of Yachad’s youth wanting to say Kaddish for Hamas terrorists. When Yachad realised the political cost of supporting them publicly, Yachad left them to stand alone. Feeling abandoned and without a voice – they created a new group – Na’amod. It straddles Zionist / non-Zionist politics. A holding of the hands if you like between the fringe group Yachad and the fringe group Jewdas.
These groups politically wish to tie Israel’s hands. Israel cannot move unless it is in the framework of a negotiated two state solution. Anyone who disagrees with them is labelled a far-right extremist by a handful of delusional online supporters. Another far-left strategy.
The negotiated two state solution
Between the Israeli left wing electoral victory in 1992 and their devastating electoral collapse in 2008 the vision of Oslo (the negotiated two-state solution) fell apart. When Israelis were slaughtered in the violence – they stopped believing. When the Palestinians REFUSED to sign a deal, the Israelis realised they had been conned. These days at election time, the issue isn’t even on the agenda. The question for Israelis is not ‘how do we make peace with the Palestinians’, but rather ‘as the Palestinians are not capable of making peace with us – what do we do’.
Those parties who firmly push a negotiated two-state settlement are no longer part of mainstream discourse. They have been firmly discredited. The notion that the split Palestinian factions could somehow present Israel with a viable partner is the stuff of Narnian tales. For the time being it is no longer mainstream Zionist policy.
It has nothing to do with what you would want to happen, or whether you wish there to be a Palestinian state. Israel is navigating an environment in which there is no partner. At no point did the Palestinians EVER give up their right of return and they still seek the eventual destruction of Israel. Their ‘rights’ might not really exist, but no Palestinian leader can sign them away and survive. Those on the left who think differently are not paying attention.
So when groups like Yachad suggest Israel cannot do anything but negotiate a final settlement – they are saying Israelis MUST make a deal with the conman. If Israel doesn’t – then the representative of British Jews should speak out loudly against them. This is the message in the letter from our youth.
The shame of our Jewish community
For much of the 1990s the British Jewish political spectrum aligned with the Israeli political spectrum. When the violence started we came out in sympathy. Eventually, through the security fence and the containment of Hamas, Israel managed to bring the terrorism under control. Since the 2006 Lebanon war, the northern border has been relatively calm.
100000s of rockets are pointed at Israeli cities, the PA are scared of elections because of Hamas and the Iranian threat has rarely loomed as large. But on a day-to-day basis, Israelis are not dying in numbers anymore.
Which means the political vision of our Jewish youth is shaped AFTER 2010. The reference points are not the Lebanon war, the Second Intifada or the failed Oslo process, but rather Israeli actions in Gaza. Their opponents in university hold up images of dead babies and they have no answer to them. Instead they mumble the rhetoric given to them by our community organisations. They respond with nonsense about a ‘viable two state solution’. No wonder we were losing debates. Our community organisations no longer represent any serious faction in Zionist Israeli politics. To support Mick Davis following his recent article, Jewish News needed the old head of Meretz, Zahava Galon to do it. This is where our institutions publicly align now. Somewhere around Meretz.
This is our shame. Our doing. How did we let this happen?
Where do we sit now? What happened?
The current coalition is a national unity coalition. It comprises the Likud and the centrist Blue and White Party, sitting with a couple of allies from the Labour Party. It has an impressive majority. Such as union should find widespread support in the UK Jewish establishment. The only semi-significant Jewish voice on the left not in the coalition is Yair Lapid. Outside of Meretz none of the parties support dividing Jerusalem, none support giving up the Jordan Valley and whilst some give lip service to theoretical negotiations, none are emphatically behind the Oslo vision anymore. Not one.
As Meretz no longer calls itself a Zionist party. There is absolutely NO Zionist support in Israel for the 2SS of the Oslo Process. So just which Israel are these signatures asking the Board of Deputies to speak against? All of it? Every single Zionist party?
Israelis know the truth. They were there when Barak was rejected in 2000, they remember the failure of Olmert’s deal. They understand that the factional infighting in the Palestinian street leaves them without a partner. Why didn’t we follow them through these experiences?
When Muslim representative bodies enter Parliament, most don’t mince words. There is support for BDS, the Right of Return, Jerusalem to be taken away from Israel and so on. They are not shy. Our MPs on the one hand are hearing a persistent demonisation of Israel from constituents that dwarf the number of Jews in the UK. On the other, our representatives keep mumbling about a ‘viable negotiated settlement’ that isn’t realistic and few in Israel believe in.
The PSC, PRC, Amnesty – all of these groups are also inside Parliament. What is the best the Jewish organisations can do to counter the smear of ‘Apartheid, racist, colonial, genocidal, ethnic cleansing’? Is it really to offer support for a ‘two state negotiated settlement’ with a people that want to see you destroyed?
No wonder our youth live in Narnia. We let the Israelis walk on alone and we don’t even make sense to ourselves. Which organisational body is out there telling the truth – that the negotiated 2SS is currently dead – and Israel is looking for a way forward? Because this is what we should have been screaming for a decade. Like a drumbeat. Our children would have picked up the message.
Instead – they mumble about negotiated settlements. If this is what we have spent the last decade teaching our youth, this letter should come as no surprise to anyone.
These kids are a product of our schools, our synagogues and our youth groups. Rather than look to them for an explanation, we really need to turn our attention to the organisational bodies that are meant to teach them. For this letter is a catastrophic indictment of all of them.
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