Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Decision on Who Is To Be the Future of Pro-Israel

J Street's latest campaign is called the Future of Pro-Israel. It makes the point that it is the younger generation -- my generation -- that will be picking up the future of pro-Israel advocacy, and that we want and demand an Israel that is safe, secure, democratic, and living side-by-side in peace with a Palestinian state.

But of course, we're not the only players in the field. Who is and isn't pro-Israel, now and in the future, is always up for contestation. Folks closer to the middle of Jewish institutional life have to make calls everyday over who they align with and who they oppose. At a recent New York conference on Israeli affairs, I think Alan Dershowitz might have gotten a taste of that, after witnessing a largely conservative crowd boo several members of the Israeli security establishment for disagreeing with the Netanyahu government, and loudly applaud denunciations of President Barack Obama by unhinged Israeli columnist Caroline Glick.

Dershowitz was furious: "Do not ever, ever boo a president of the United States” when “speaking in the name of the state of Israel," he scolded. And he was then booed in turn. The people at this conference have a very particular outlook on Israel, and they have no compunction about booing either the President or Israel's security leaders when the deviate from the One True Path.

I'd feel bad for Dershowitz, but I can't help but think he's reaping a bit of what he's sown here. After all, it was Dershowitz who endorsed Jonathan Pollak in his futile quest to knock off Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a pro-Israel lawmaker whose sin was ... being too close to Barack Obama. At the time, Dershowitz was quite alright with trying to exclude the pro-Israel left from the community of pro-Israel, trying to act as if support for Obama's aggressive pro-two-state efforts was a betrayal of Israel. And wouldn't you know it if some people take Dershowitz seriously, and start treating Obama as if he was a threat to Israel and its long-term security.

The point of this is that Dershowitz has to take a breath and ask himself who he wants to align himself with. There are competing camps of pro-Israel advocates in the United States, and one cannot straddle the line forever. When Dershowitz gives a wink and a nod to effective one-staters, when he plays in the fever swamps that treat Obama has basically Yasser Arafat in drag, he's using his influence in the Jewish community to make that the future of pro-Israel in this country.

I think, at this conference, he got a taste of where this all leads. I don't think he likes what he saw.

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