Mon 6 Feb, 2012 01:42 pm
A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation
Many Americans who care about Israel’s future are questioning whether the hard-line, uncritical stances adopted by many traditional pro-Israel advocates really serve the country’s best interests over the long-term. Moderate Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder of J Street, the new pro-Israel, pro-peace political movement, punctures many of the myths that have long guided our understanding of the politics of the American Jewish community and have been fundamental to how pro-Israel advocates have pursued their work. These myths include:
• that leaders of established Jewish organizations speak for all
Jewish Americans when it comes to Israel
• that being pro-Israel means you cannot support creation of
a Palestinian state
• that American Jews vote for candidates based largely on
their support of Israel
• that talking peace with your enemies demonstrates
• that allying with neoconservatives and evangelical
Christians is good for Israel and good for the Jewish community.
Ben-Ami, whose grandparents were first-generation Zionists and founders of Tel Aviv, tells the story of his own evolution toward a more moderate viewpoint. He sketches a new direction for both American policy and the conduct of the debate over Israel in the American Jewish community.
“Provides an arsenal of logistical and moral arguments stressing that not only is Israel’s occupation over another people a threat to the Zionist dream and American interests in the region, but that it also runs counter to rabbinic values…Ben-Ami’s analysis of the American Jewish vote and his fervent plea for a new voice reads like a compelling last call.”—The Washington Post
“A clarion call for American reasonableness in the Middle East…With the Arab Spring, the United States has a chance for a new beginning in the region. But that will require Washington to adopt a more balanced policy. Maybe, just maybe, J Street will help create the political space to enable that to happen.”—Nick Kristof, The New York Times
"A New Voice for Israel is a gripping family story, a shrewd analysis of American and Mideast politics and a rousing call to action. Most of all it is a book animated by deep love of Israel. I defy anyone to read it with an open mind and believe otherwise."—Peter Beinart, Senior Political Writer, The Daily Beast
“The author convincingly establishes his case that a two-state solution may be the only way to preserve Israel as a democratic homeland for the Jews…Certain to provoke strong reactions from supporters and detractors, this is a must-read for anyone with a stake—or even an interest—in this difficult issue.”--Kirkus
“Argues for nuance rather than rigidity… Most important, Ben-Ami rejects the luxury of pessimism, the laziness of giving up on Israeli-Palestinian peace. His idealism consists not in idealizing Israel (or vilifying it) but of working to make it a better place.”—Gershom Gorenberg, The American Prospect
"Jeremy Ben-Ami has articulated a clear-sighted, important argument for why it is time to rewrite the 'rulebook' that governs the conversation on Israel. Time is running out on a two-state solution. Ben-Ami issues a clarion call for more focused, determined U.S. efforts to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians before it is no longer possible. A refreshing, must read for anyone who wants to understand the dilemmas facing American Jewry as it wrestles with what its role should be in Israel’s future.”--Janine Zacharia, former Jerusalem Bureau Chief, Washington Post
"A New Voice for Israel is a must-read for every Jew who, like me, struggles with balancing her devotion to the state of Israel with her moral and political values. Before being inspired by Mr. Ben-Ami's example, I had become one of his ‘Generation Oy,’ my discomfort with right-wing Israeli governments and even more conservative American Jewish organizations alienating me from the country itself. Jeremy Ben-Ami has provided me with a blueprint on how to be a Zionist in the twenty-first century, without compromising my commitment to human rights and democratic values."--Ayelet Waldman, author of Red Hook Road and Bad Mother
"This seamless blend of Israeli history, American/Jewish politics, family memoir, and J Street's vision culminates in a rousing call for change in the U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A New Voice for Israel is both a compelling personal narrative and a must read for all who care about peace and security in the Middle East."--Letty Cottin Pogrebin, former president, Americans for Peace Now and author of Deborah, Golda and Me
“Ben-Ami speaks with honesty and trenchancy about how American Jews think, hope, and organize. He shows why a democratic Israel needs peace, indeed, that democracy is a peace process without end. A New Voice For Israel, in its disarmingly truthfulness, explains why J Street is not only changing Americans politics but Jewish identity as well.”—Bernard Avishai, the author of The Hebrew Republic
About the Author
Jeremy Ben-Ami is the founder and president of J Street, an advocacy group and political action committee that is both pro-Israel and pro-peace. Ben-Ami has been profiled in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, CQ Weekly, and The New York Times. During his 25-year career in government, politics, and communications, Ben-Ami has served as President Bill Clinton's deputy domestic policy adviser, and as national policy director on Howard Dean's presidential campaign, and has helped run numerous political campaigns, including one for mayor of New York City. He also started the Israeli firm Ben-Or Communications while living in Israel in the late 1990s. He lives in Washington, D.C.
By Tucker Lieberman (Boston, MA USA)
This book is a must-read for anyone following the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the peace process, and particularly for those interested in the phenomenon represented by the rapid growth of J Street in the American Jewish scene. Jeremy Ben-Ami opens with a gripping memoir of his father's activism for Israel and traces his own path to founding J Street.
The rest of the book focuses on Ben-Ami's analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what is needed to assure Israel's peaceful future and survival as a Jewish democratic state. He makes a compelling case for the importance of a two-state solution and the timeliness of the issue. Ben-Ami cites polls showing that two-thirds of Israelis and three-quarters of American Jews support a two-state solution. "The creation of a political home for the Palestinian people at some point in the coming years is inevitable," he writes. The question is whether Israeli leadership will compromise now under peaceful and favorable conditions.
Only a small percentage of American Jews vote primarily based on whether a candidate shares their views on Israel. Yet Ben-Ami posits that many politicians still have the misperception that they must lean right to be perceived as "pro-Israel" by Jewish voters. In fact, there are multiple ways to support Israel, and one study found that American Jews' sense of attachment to Israel is not predicted by whether they lean right or left.
Ben-Ami acknowledges generational differences between American Jews regarding their ideas about Israel. For people under 30 today, Israel "is less a miracle than a fact." He says the Jewish community "establishment" should recognize that younger Jews are correct in their simple moral observation that it is possible for Israeli policy to be wrong. The younger generation, in turn, "will benefit enormously from listening to their elders who can ground today's events in historical context".
The Jewish people's own history, he says, should generate sensitivity to the treatment of minorities in Israel. He believes that a diplomatic "win-win solution" can be found to address what is essentially a "national and territorial" conflict. After all, as he says, "the values we've been taught on all other issues also apply to Israel itself."
Ben-Ami's book is a great read, accessible and interesting to readers with varying levels of knowledge on this topic, and a persuasive call to action.
In the race for survival with the bed bug and the cock roach I would put all my money on the Jewish Nation which as not much to do with the State of Israel...
Ben-Ami's stance doesn't go nearly far enough. The problem with wanting to preserve Israel as a "democratic homeland for the Jews" is that it repudiates the Palestinian's Right of Return as stipulated in the United Nations' Resolution 194, and as such, puts the preservation of a necessarily oppressive and discriminatory regime in the name of ethnocentric exclusivism above the human rights of the Palestinian peoples. A better stance is the support of the creation of a truly democratic, egalitarian and pluralistic government in Israel/Palestine to replace the repressive Zionist regime for the benefit of all of the peoples of Israel/Palestine.