On Being at the Center of a Controversy within the U.S. Jewish Community


Recently, due to my writing on the issue of boycotts and Israel, I was asked by a prominent Jewish organization to make a public, political statement before being allowed into its building to speak about my book, What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?
This request, as well as its troubling implications, are part of a sudden controversy which has arisen in the American Jewish community over what can, and cannot, be discussed regarding Israel.
My Story
I recently had the honor of being invited by the Israel Committee of Santa Barbara to be a keynote speaker at its annual, signature event this spring. The event is physically housed by Santa Barbara Hillel, which describes itself as a home for Jews open to all political and religious stripes, stating, “We are as diverse as the human race.”
At first, it was going to be my temporary home – a place in which I was to tell the narrative of my reconciliation with a Palestinian family. However, when a member of the Hillel staff found a political post of mine in which I attempted to argue that boycotts and sanctions against Israel are legitimate forms of nonviolent protest – and which understandably was misunderstood as my joining the BDS movement – I was no longer welcome.
Which is when the request, or pre-condition, came from Santa Barbara Hillel after it viewed my post as a violation of Hillel’s guidelines:

Make a political statement clarifying your position on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel, and you may enter our building. Otherwise, you are not allowed within our walls.

As a former Hillel employee, a current Jewish educator, and an author who has been touring the country and doing events for my book in diverse Jewish communities, the request from Hillel was surprising.
However, when one considers what has concurrently been happening in America these past few weeks, the request isn’t surprising at all. Rather, it’s part of a larger controversy in which some Jewish institutions, instead of fostering open debates on difficult, critical issues, are censoring dialogue on Israel by deciding who is, and is not, a sanctioned member of the Jewish community.
Swarthmore College’s Story
Hillel International is an enormous Jewish institution – the umbrella organization for Hillel centers on college campuses across North America (and beyond). And while it advertises itself as being a pluralistic home for diverse political views on Israel, it has created guidelines which exclude anyone who supports BDS or who might “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel.
Meaning: anyone who harshly critiques Israel’s geo-political policies – or does so without similarly critiquing all other nations worthy of rebuke – can be locked out of the building. Literally.
This means some prominent progressive Zionists – those, like myself, who share Hillel’s vision of Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state with secure and recognized borders” – have been blacklisted. Peter Beinart comes to mind. So too does Breaking the Silence, a group of Israeli army veterans who speak about the military’s abuses and their effect on Israeli society.
This blacklisting held true for all Hillel chapters until three weeks ago, when something important happened: Swarthmore Hillel became the first local center to defy Hillel International’s guidelines, declaring itself as an “open” Hillel willing to host anyone for debate or dialogue, regardless of their political views.
Its statement made clear that it no longer wanted to censor who could and could not speak within its walls, thus constraining the open dialogue on Israel its students wished to have:

[Hillel’s] policy has resulted in the barring of speakers from organizations such as Breaking the Silence and [members of] the Israeli Knesset.
All are welcome to walk through our doors and speak with our name and under our roof, be they Zionist, anti-Zionist, post-Zionist, or non-Zionist.

This declaration has made waves in the American Jewish community, sparking a renewed discussion about how the American Jewish community can solve some of its most pressing problems if, out of an existential fear for Israel’s survival, we exclude engaged and invested members of the community due to their political beliefs.
On Political Statements and Inclusion [My Requested Statement]
And so, we come to the political statement Santa Barbara Hillel requested – a statement I will now make not because I feel compelled to do so, but because it is a statement I believe, the articulation of which I have been contemplating for some time.
The statement itself will seem anticlimactic, for making reasoned political pronouncements should not be a particularly controversial endeavor. However, as I will explore after its articulation, what is problematic and controversial is a political statement being a prerequisite for anyone to enter a Hillel building, much less a Jewish author and educator such as myself.


I am a progressive Zionist who believes firmly in the idea that Israel should be a Jewish, democratic state, despite the inherent challenges and contradictions such an existence presents. I am also one who fully supports a two-state political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which each side is able to live within defined, secure borders.
I believe that economic sanctions, such as boycotts, are legitimate forms of nonviolent protest, in contrast to, say, violence or vandalism. I do not, however, subscribe to the BDS movement or its implicit vision of a single, bi-national state as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While I am saddened by the fact that Palestinians do not have full academic freedoms, I do not support the academic boycott of Israeli universities and institutions as a productive tactic. And while I have written extensively on the suffering Israel’s continued occupation has brought upon Palestinians living in the West Bank, and while I support pressure being brought to bear upon Israel to reject its settlement enterprise and push toward a final peace agreement, I reject those anti-Semitic streams which unofficially surface within the BDS movement.
In short, when I endorsed the concept of boycotts and sanctions in 2012, my intention was not to join the BDS movement or endorse its outcome (as Haaretz noted). Rather, it was to express the idea that economic sanctions are a legitimate, nonviolent method for countering undesirable policies and change behavior, regardless of the country being targeted. (It’s a position U.S. politicians understand intimately with regard to Iran, and a position I knew would be difficult within the Jewish community.)

Now, the above statement is not one I should have been compelled to make in order to gain entry into a Jewish building – a statement which will now allow me to speak on issues of dire importance within Hillel’s walls in Santa Barbara.
It’s also a statement and political view which can, and should, be legitimately criticized or debated by people on all sides – Jews and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians, progressives and conservatives.
For I don’t pretend to possess all the answers, nor all the ‘correct’ views. More importantly, I believe that the world is complex, and that it can only be viewed fully by recognizing nuances and making distinctions. This is a view the Rabbis of the Talmud shared – Rabbis who refined the art of recognizing nuances and making distinctions as a matter of legal discourse. In truth, this art of arguing – of parsing complex legal issues in order to solve problems – is the intellectual lineage from which we as Jews come.
Unfortunately, when it comes to political discourse on Israel, the American Jewish community has become partially paralyzed by our collective inability to recognize nuances and distinctions – to engage fully in open debates and dialogues.
I have now experienced this personally.
Why? Perhaps because, in self-identifying as a progressive Zionist while also sharply critiquing Israel’s geo-political policies, I am seen as one who “demonizes” Israel. Or perhaps by stating that I want Israel to thrive as a Jewish, democratic state while recognizing boycotts as a legitimate form of nonviolent, political opposition (in contrast to violence), I am viewed as an enemy by zero-sum advocates who choose to ignore nuance.
But we ignore nuance at our own peril. Or rather, Jewish institutions today do so at their own peril. For we, as a people, have always debated those issues of critical importance, be they how to properly scour a pan to make it kosher (700 CE) or where to build the future Jewish state (1897).
We will always debate them. Which is why the historian Gershom Gorenberg recently wrote:

The American fight about what you can’t say about Israel, and where you can’t say it, will always sound to an Israeli as if Lewis Carroll scripted it.

The only fights we should be having are about the issues at hand, and not about whether or not they can even be discussed. Which is why, to those who might oppose my views, and who would wish to respectfully debate or discuss them, I welcome such dialogue with open arms. Because only by engaging the toughest issues can we solve them.
It’s a perspective I hope American Jewish institutions will recognize as the only productive way forward. A path Hillel and Shammai would have chosen.


What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, just out from Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.

0 thoughts on “On Being at the Center of a Controversy within the U.S. Jewish Community

  1. Good for UCSB… I knew I went to a great school.
    They should have asked you how feel on Palestinian RoR (which is also maintained as a condition by the B.D.S. Movement). You have never answered that question.
    You say you will debate? Well David, I AM a real Progressive Zionist (as opposed to you who enables those who would actively advocate for the destruction of Israel – I mean Mondoweiss on your blogroll and tweeting out messages from Stephan Walt…really????) and I am asking you formally to debate me regarding outcomes and policies.
    Will you take that challenge? Just a straight discussion regarding the issues.

    • Jon,
      The reason I have never debated you is because the operative words — respectfully debate — are not words you have ever been able to apply when “debating” with me.
      These three posts are tame examples of your idea of publicly “debating” me:
      If you were able to move away from anger and demonizing — calling me an anti-Semite and a self-hating Jew — I’d consider having a dialogue with you.

      • David,
        I am asking you for a debate free of invective, or accusation.
        Part of our concern stems from the fact that you don’t seem to want to and simply will not address the issues that I and others bring up. We would appreciate hearing your perspective on many of the long standing questions that we have been asking. If you would simply answer those then I think that we can have the discussion you claim you want to have.
        I am offering you the opportunity to dialogue regarding this issue in a respectful manner. IF you are willing to stay on point and address questions directly (and of course I would promise to the same), then I cannot see why we can’t discuss the issue.

        • When you say “part of our concern,” by “our” you are referring to a small cadre of people who, like yourself, regularly engage in personal attacks and hate speech (both here and in forums together elsewhere) as a form of ‘debate.’
          My not responding to any of “you” has not been from a lack of wanting to have dialogue on these issues, as I do with many others, but due to my desire not engage with you, period. The only reason I’m doing so now is because the topic of this piece demands a clarification on why I engage in dialogue with others, and not with you.
          If you want to debate issues with me, you must first prove that you are serious about this desire to have respectful discourse. I suggest writing a blog post at the Times of Israel, which you can publish at will, denouncing your past demonizing of me, and your recognizing my voice as a legitimate one within the panoply of Jewish voices to be heard.
          Otherwise, why on earth would you want to engage with me? Someone who you view as anti-Semitic, and enemy-of-the-Jewish-people, a kapo?
          If you mean what you say, make it public where you regularly write, as I have done here, and I will know your desire for true dialogue is real.

          • Yes I do, and it not analogous since I am very forthcoming regarding my beliefs, and political positions.
            That said… I would happily invite you to a reasonable discussion/debate at Progressive Zionist and at Times of Israel. Look David, I am telling you where I get my impressions from. I am asking rather simple questions that you evade in your answers. Have you ever directly discussed Palestinian RoR?
            You can read about my positions in very direct ways. I am asking for you to be direct and I think your discussion with MrJayTee inadvertently shows it. MrJayTee asks you if you have written on how Israel can remain Jewish and Democratic. You comment back that you have written at length regarding Israel’s anti-democratic measures (and there are a number of them), however, you are stuck at responding towards a solution.
            Can you see that your constant pointing out of negatives without posting positives or solutions certainly leads myself and my “small cadre” to take issue with your writing?

          • Sure, I’ll gladly discuss issues with you in your next TOI post, which I assume – since it will contain an invitation for me to dialogue with you – will also contain apologies for your past invectives against me, and your view of my voice as a legitimate one within the Jewish community which should be respectfully considered.

          • David,
            Don’t count on apologies until I can see that you are willing to discuss in a substantive manner the issues at hand.
            I am happy to have you prove me wrong regarding my impressions and thoughts. I believe that I pointed out just such an issue tonight down below this comment. Perhaps we can start there.
            My next TOI piece (and PZ piece) will appear tomorrow, inviting you to dialogue in a collegial manner (as this discussion has been for the most part). In that piece I will ask you to defend certain positions and then go forward with proposed solutions. AS you can see, from one of my latest pieces at TOI titled “Moving Left to Center”: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/moving-left-to-center-a-personal-journey/, I am giving you very specific positions.
            I would ask the same from you.

          • I look forward to seeing your post. Though I will say that your inability to apologize for calling me a “kapo” — one of your tamer monikers — speaks volumes about your intentions and capacity.

          • As I said David, I am happy to have you prove me wrong.
            My intentions are exactly what I have stated. My capacity to discuss with you (as is evidenced here) is fine as long as you will discuss issues in a substantive manner (something you are not presently doing).
            So let’s start this new phase of discussions with some of the concerns I am asking here and I will ask again…
            David, where are you on Palestinian Right of Return? What is your position? You know mine.
            Also, why during your discussion with “Don Midwest”, why are you NOT taking him to task on his over the top rhetoric?
            Finally, MrJayTee asked a very substantive question and in my opinion you punted. You talk about 1P1V (which is similar to the BDS call for 1S1P1V) and while Israel may have issues with its treatment of it’s Arab MK’s, their rights to franchise ARE protected and enforced. Why is that not reinforced in your comment? And since you have not endorsed a way forward, perhaps you can do that without what I consider an attack on Israel.

          • The reason that you earned that particular moniker is because of the way you provide cover to antisemites. It is accurate and Jon need not apologize. Tell me, since you endorse Judith Butler, do you agree with her that Hamas and Hezbollah are part of the left?

          • Wow, I had forgotten about David’s Daily Kos ZOG diary until I read your post, Jon. I would be even more concerned about his tendency to push memes like that. Jon’s not the one who needs to do the apologizing here, if you ask me.

  2. Tell you what… Let’s start with “Don Midwest’s” comment on Daily Kos.
    While you address his issue regarding Max Blumenthal’s book and state that you may disagree with him you are willing to read his tome, you allow Don Midwest the following loaded statement: “Their policy is the Iron Wall – the only way to handle indigenous people is to eliminate them.”
    Now first off, the Israeli Government rejected the Prawer Plan. But second of all, and probably most important you are letting him slide on commentary that they Israeli Government is following a plan of “elimination”. I think that you and I would agree that Israel’s treatment of the Bedouin here is not optimal, it is far from eliminationist. Don’t you feel as the author of the diary that you should at least also set “Don” straight on his rhetorical excess?

    • Well David, I tried to reply above but the strand seems too long.
      Anyhow, as I stated in the comment that is now “invisible”, I would be happy for you to prove me wrong.
      I look forward to your addressing issues directly in a substantive manner from my TOI Post.
      David, that is all that I am asking, that you address the issues raised and give us your opinion of a positive strategy going forward. I look forward to knowing once and for all where you actually stand on things like Palestinian Right of Return, or why you have not substantively addressed the question of how we move forward.
      My TOI piece will be out tonight / tomorrow.

  3. David, first of all, let me agree with you that you should not be banned from a Hillel . . . and your statement should not be a prerequisite to speaking there. And I join you in your support of Swarthmore’s Open Hillel.
    But David, you clearly are not being honest in your statement above. You did not merely endorse “the concept of boycotts and sanctions in 2012.” You very clearly and directly aligned yourself with the global BDS campaign. The BDS goals of a full right of return and a single non-Jewish state are not at all consistent with Progressive Zionism. Indeed, true Progressive Zionist organizations, like Ameinu, J Street and New Israel Fund, reject BDS. And, anti-Zionists who want Israel gone are the backbone of that campaign. Moreover, your refusal to write anything positive about Israel (EVER), or to ever say anything critical of Israel’s enemies, also gives rise to questions as whether your claim of being a Progressive Zionist is disingenuous and is being used to sell books.
    The criticisms are legitimate, as they are about the words you have written, words that Israel-haters on the web have rejoiced over. You should at least acknowledge the legitimacy of the concerns that have been raised.

    • 1) Glad we agree about Hillel, and Jewish institutions in general, needing to be open.
      2) Regarding my 2012 piece and commentary afterward, I was clear about my support of two states, My intention was not to officially join an official “BDS movement,” but to offer legitimacy to this form of nonviolent protest. This can be seen clearly in my conversation at the time on Twitter with a Haaretz writer (https://twitter.com/David_EHG/status/223508706153865216). My mistake then was to use BDS as a concept, when others identified it as an established, defined movement.
      3) Criticisms that are intellectually grounded are always legitimate. And I recognize them in other forums with pleasure. I simply choose not to engage with particular individuals who frequent here, like … hmm … a commenter named fizziks, who seems to have made his predicted, disrespectful appearance below.
      Ignoring those who hate doesn’t mean that I ignore critiques. I embrace them, and the dialogues which ensue. Always have. My best moments this year have been such dialogues, both in person and online in other forums.

      • David,
        Here we have our first disagreement….
        You claim in your response to Albert that you used BDS as a concept stating that you did not formally endose BDS as a strategy and that your “mistake” was to say that BDS is legitimate as a tactic but only from an intellectual standpoint.
        YET in your piece of July 2012 you state: ” And so we come to the confession, to the coming out: as an American Jew invested deeply in Israel’s success and survival — which in turn drives my investment in stopping one of the greatest moral challenges of my generation: the occupation — I have no choice but to formally endorse and embrace BDS.”
        and: “As it is, I have long been uncertain about supporting such measures, afraid of the long-term damage a sustained BDS movement might do to Israel, and concerned about the anti-Israel motivations of segments who push to sanction Israel.
        However, I know this for a fact: those who claim in Israel that there is no occupation have only one goal in mind: a single-state solution, a Jewishly-controlled Israel stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
        And it’s an unworkable, unsustainable goal that will be realized — one state — unless outside forces are brought to bear.”
        Given these comments I am uncertain as to how you can say that when you speak of BDS, you are only speaking in conceptual terms. Your statement is that you “embrace and endorse” this and then you go on to express that though you are wary of aspects of it, you feel it is necessary to bring necessary “force to bear”.
        David, I find your two statements not easily reconciled.
        Can you please square your terms here?

      • Oy vey, David. BDS is not a “concept.” It is a campaign with specific goals (and none of them include Israel’s existence as a Jewish state). In the title of your piece in 2012, you left no doubt that you stand in solidarity with the BDS campaign. If you had based your position on a misunderstanding of the true goals of BDS, as well as the fact that it is a playground for those who hate Israel and don’t particularly care for Jews, you have had more than ample opportunity to retract your position and admit you were wrong. And, if you are going to bring up the subject of your twitter account, how about explaining all of your tweets that have been supportive of BDS and those who favor a full right of return and a one-state solution?
        David, you choose not to answer legitimate criticisms and concerns about your writing, concerns that come from those who seem to favor a two-state resolution to the conflict: a resolution — I might add — that you give lip service to but never seriously advocate for. Instead you readily and happily express solidarity with those who want Israel gone. The condemnation you have received is legitimate and fair.

        • I’m sorry you don’t view my answering your questions, as well as my clear statements in this piece, as enough for you. Such is life – not much I can do about it. I’ve made myself clear regarding this issue. Be well.

          • No David, you have made yourself anything but clear. As has been repeatedly documented, you “talk” out of both sides of your mouth. You make statements in support BDS, and then when called out on it say, well . . . I didn’t really totally endorse BDS. You say above that you support a two-state solution, but you refuse to take a position on Right of Return, which would render Israel a non-Jewish entity. You express solidarity with those who want Israel gone, and then claim that being called out on that is disrespectful. Elsewhere on the web, your diaries become a haven for comments that seek to delegitimize Israel and that express hatred toward its very existence, and you never call out those comments and the hideous ideas they represent. You don’t seem to mind one bit that the comment section of so many of those diaries become an Israel-hating playground.
            David, it is not a question of whether you have said enough for me. Your commentary is full of contradictions, and your refusal to deal with them, even when challenged to do so, strongly suggests a desire not to reveal your true feelings. Again, as long as you continue to do this, it is more than fair to call you out for it.

          • You owe me no apologies, David. Just know that the criticism you receive, while indeed harsh, is principled and fair.

          • I embrace respectful criticism and intelligent discourse, no matter how forceful or blunt. Always have. (Unfortunately, it happens more often on other sites, though that’s no fault of Tikkun).
            What I don’t accept, and never will, are invective-filled rants and hate speech that masquerade as ‘critiques.’ I simply ignore them, and will continue to do so.

          • No, David. You use that as an excuse not to answer legitimate criticism of your work. It is your right not to do so, but it is not unteasonable to draw certain conclusions from your failure to respond to legitimate questions and concerns.

          • In your 2012 piece, you said that you “formally endorse and embrace BDS.” But you write today as if you never said such a thing. It is one thing to change your mind; it is quite another to pretend you didn’t utter that statement.

          • This is the last time I’ll address this, since I already have in a prior response. Quoting what I wrote in my initial reply:
            >>My mistake then was to use [the initials] BDS as a concept, when others identified it as an established, defined movement.<<

          • “Others” have identified BDS as an established, defined movement because it is an established, defined movement. Which you certainly know. This ‘clarification’ actually provides a clear example of precisely the kind of behavior fizziks mentions elsewhere throughout this thread. The only way your explanation logically works is if you plan to argue that you did not know what BDS was when you wrote about… BDS. The ‘I meant to say this even though I said that’ defense just isn’t believable, coming as it does from as good and professional a writer as you, David. If nothing else, you choose your words deliberately.

          • BDS has never been identified as a “concept.” It has always been a campaign with specific goals. Your explanation is laughable and devoid of integrity. Everyone sees through it.

          • You said that you formally endorse BDS. A formal endorsement is not just using the letters as a concept. A formal endorsement is a formal endorsement. Those are your words and you own them. Your attempt to deny your very own words is isn’t honest.

    • Albertk:
      Why should Hillel be obligated to provide space for those who are one-sided Israel-bashers?
      There are myriad other forums where those views dominate. It is not like they are lacking space to be aired. Why must Hillel spend its resources to be yet another? I’m sure that doing so runs contrary to the will of its donors and mission.

  4. As usual David, you are an infinite hypocrite. You ask here for “nuance” from others who owe you nothing and yet you yourself have never, ever, had anything non-negative to say about Israel, nor anything non-positive to say about Palestinian Arabs. Nuance starts in th e mirror, chief.

  5. Thank you, Mr. Harris-Gershon, for speaking out so courageously.
    And thank you, Jon & Albert, for providing real time examples of the problems Mr. Harris-Gershon was describing. You two, and those like you, have appointed yourselves as arbiters of what are acceptable opinions in the Jewish community. And all one has to do to be accepted is say nice things about Israel and not so nice things about Palestine. But what is missing is discussion about what is right and what is wrong. Period. Either the Occupation is right, or it is not. And if we can agree that it is not, then the discussion should be about how to end it – as expeditiously as possible.
    Under the Hillel guidelines, Martin Buber, Albert Einstein, and Hannah Arendt, to name a few, wouldn’t be allowed to speak at Hillel. And the sheer chutzpah to not allow soldiers from Breaking the Silence to speak there blows my mind. There is NOTHING Jewish about that.

    • Well Lisa, First of all the only person in this conversation talking about what it is to be Jewish or not is you.
      Not Albert and not I. Just you.
      Please feel free to point to anything I said in this conversation that talks about what are acceptable opinions with regards to the Jewish community. Feel free to quote me here while you are at it…..
      Anyway, regardless of Hillel policy, I have asked David to discuss his thoughts and opinions with me. I don’t particularly see the harm there. But I do have questions for him and I think they are questions that should be answered so that when we do discuss solutions we know where the other is coming from. Whether one agrees with the Occupation or not (but it is something I stand mostly against), is a complex question. The Occupation does not exist in a vacuum. Don’t you think it is relevant to discuss those aspects as well?

    • Lisa, please don’t lump people together and make assumptions about their views. If you would read a little more carefully, you would see that Jon and I disagree as to whether David and his ilk should be permitted to speak at the Hillel. While I respect Jon’s view, I come out in favor of open dialogue at Hillel. When I went to college (admittedly decades ago), my Hillel was open to all Jewish points of view. The Hillel allowed Meir Kahane to speak there, and Jewish one-staters also freely used the Hillel premises to air their views. Hillel was truly a place where all Jews were welcome. Apparently, that has changed, and not for the better in my view. I think that open dialogue is the best way to expose extremist and hateful views for what they are. That’s what happened when Kahane and the one-staters spoke at Hillel decades ago, and the little bit of dialogue here has now exposed David’s views as being less than honest, to put it mildly. So, I think it would be terrific if he could go from Hillel to Hillel and allow his views to be scrutinized and challenged. That is far preferable than limiting the expression of his views to cheering audiences of Israel-haters.

  6. If Australia where I live were to become a Christian country I would feel it would no longer be a democracy as the current definition of democracy obliges the state to make no ethnic or religious distinction among its citizens and I am a Jew. The same goes for Israel. A democratic state must make no distinction among its citizens based on ethnicity or religion. Israel cannot be both a Jewish state and a democracy.

    • I respect that position, and understand very well the inherent challenges and conflicts that exist with regard to Israel attempting to simultaneously be Jewish and democratic.
      It’s an external conflict that presents internal conflicts for me as well, for intellectually I know that my emotional position regarding this desire (for Israel to be both Jewish and democratic) is in many ways an untenable one. But I do want Israel to be a Jewish state — for there to be one small island in the world where such can be the case — despite my general aversion to religious states.
      In another forum, I highlighted an example of the inherent conflict that presents itself all the time in Israel, in which it both succeeds and fails to be both Jewish and democratic:
      >>I’ll give you an example: on the one hand, all citizens of Israel are given direct representation — one person, one vote. On >>the other hand, Israel has had past issues with banning Arab political parties.
      >>Here’s a Haaretz article on the issue: http://www.haaretz.com/news/israel-bans-arab-parties-from-running-in-upcoming->>elections-1.267987
      >>Reconciling Jewish and democratic is a difficult challenge, and one Israel is not always up to.

      • Ummm not so fast David… Israel while banning SOME Arab parties has also banned Jewish Parties as well. Remember Kach? What they have done is regulate parties that don’t have eliminationist or hateful planks in their platforms. You should recognize this as well… even if you disagree with it.

    • What a ridiculous comment, Fisher.
      Israel provides equal rights to its citizens. It is not a religious state but rather a national homeland for the Jewish people, just like Greece is a national homeland for the Greek people. Do you oppose the existence of Greece?

    • m d, the very premise of your statement regarding Israel and Democracy is flawed from the start. You talk about the U.S. or Australia becoming a “Christian” nation as opposed to Israel “becoming” a Jewish nation. BUT m d, Israel was formed to be a Jewish State, not as a theocratic state but to be identified as the national homeland and state of the Jewish people. Therefore it’s symbology is Jewish, it’s state institutions are run with an eye towards Judaism and its traditions, it’s national holidays are Jewish. However, all this said there is a strong secular tradition there and as of this writing the religious parties are NOT part of the government.
      Honestly m d it would behoove you to read up a bit more on the founding of Israel from the Israeli / Jewish perspective. If nothing else it may give you a sense of balance and information that you seem to currently be lacking with regards to this.
      BTW, Israel can very much be a Democracy and Jewish. What it cannot be is all three of a Democracy, Jewish State, and State from the Med. to the Jordan. But it can be two of those things.

  7. m.d. fisher makes a salient point and one which leads to many of the problems regarding Israel. It is a limited democracy, which means not a democracy at all. Israel is a religious state, a state which has embraced extreme violence to achieve its goals.
    Given where we humans find ourselves, on a ship in extreme danger of “going down” we need to contextualize this debate. Saving Israel is meaningless if The Earth is lost. But, I agree, if would could solve the problem of/in Israel, it would be a beginning.
    I’ve always thought that the reason Israel and the US are such good friends is that the US provides an example for how to deal with indigenous people. Kill most, round up the rest and put them on reservations. The trouble with marginalizing anyone is that power concentration inevitably increases over time, marginalizing more and more people. We, 99% of Americans, have been rounded up. Our labor unions stripped and our jobs shipped to slave states.

    • Please learn the difference between Jews as a people and Judaism the religion. Israel is a Jewish state in the former sense, which is just like many other states in the world.

    • If you’re truly a supporter of labor unions, then you’d be pleased to know that Israel is a rare example of our movement increasing strength these days. As for the rest of your comment, you should probably refrain from displaying concern over matters involving indigenous people if you’re going to trivialize the very real plight of Native Americans in the next breath with a silly analogy of your somehow being ’rounded up,’ with an actual, historic genocide. Something which is also NOT going on in Israel, btw, while we’re on that point…

    • No G. Mandel, m d does not (make a salient point) and frankly neither do you.
      There is no “problem” OF Israel. Israel is not a “problem” to be solved. It is a nation that exists and has for almost Seventy years (though really the people / nation of Israel have existed for far longer). IF you want to combat nationalism then Israel is exactly not the place to start being that the other side, is not arguing for some kind of Federation (as in Star Trek) utopia. In fact, in poll after poll the Palestinian people overwhelmingly REJECT a State where Jews and Arabs have equality.
      Saving Earth and the existence of Israel are NOT mutually exclusive ideas. Just letting you know.

  8. Haha.
    You want to sell books at Hillel but your previous full endorsement of BDS is proving inconvenient. This is the fatal flaw in your strategy to ride Israel bashing to fame and then pivot to the center.

  9. David, I have read your anger and bias filled articles. Choosing one side over another is not the path an honest journalist takes. Supporting a boycott does not serve the cause of peace, it only gives further comfort to the Palestinians that the elimination of Israel is within reach. We here sitting comfortably in the US are not the ones who will make the difficult decisions to on concessions for peace. Most Israelis support that notion but are also consumed by the trust issue. Oslo did not spell the end of terrorism. It continued well into the process. I suggest you show a little empathy to those who have to make those whose future existance rests in those tough decisions. By supporting a boycott you have chosen the path of trying to force Israel into making a bad decision. But sitting where you are, you would not suffer the consequences.

  10. First of all, I’m always pleased to read what you write, David.
    But about your statement: did it make a difference to your hosts?
    Having a similar position to you, I rather wonder whether I’d cave in to the pressure and make the statement myself. I also wonder whether I’d be welcome at our local Hillel, for the same reason. It’s a more general issue what to do about all the efforts to read people out of the Jewish community; this has been going on for years, of course, at all levels.

    • Larry,
      1) I’ll find out this week as to whether or not I’ll be allowed into the SB Hillel building.
      2) Interestingly, I am being welcomed by other Hillel centers to speak. And I ended up making the statement not because I felt compelled to (I don’t need SB Hillel any more than they need me). I did so because of how much I value the dialogue that will take place upon my visit, and how strongly I felt it was to highlight how problematic it is that I’ve even been asked to make a statement in the first place.

  11. You are at the center of a controversy within the U.S. Jewish community of your mind. Really, not a whole lot of people care all that much about this. Nice PR for your book (and yourself), but not much more here to chew on.

  12. David,
    I appreciate your thoughts. As an experiential educator and former Hillel staff member I have been struggling with what the “best path” is for our continued challenging conversation about Israel is. I am a firm believer that one needs to take responsibility for holistically educating themselves on a topic/situation, remaining open to listen to as many perspectives as possible before reaching a personal decision of what they believe to be right for them. I support Hillel’s work, my children have benefitted by being part of their Hillel communities. And yet I continue to question the current decision. The benefit is what I see as an important discussion, albeit difficult for those caught in the crosshairs. But this questioning is healthy and I hope will lead to deeper and more open discourse, and learning about ourselves as Jewish individuals, and a Jewish community connected to the existence and health of Israel.

    • I agree with you fully that the benefit of this is that it forces us to engage with the meta-conversation that must happen: how are we to solve our most pressing problems if we cannot even talk about them?

      • David,
        I have now tried twice to leave you a respectful rebuttal but for some reason it keeps “disappearing”. There is nothing insulting there and it contains zero invective. IF we are talking about substantive replies. Why is it being “edited”?

      • David I am still baffled… Again this is time # 3 I have sent in a respectful rebuttal yet strangely it is not showing up. AND now my short but certainly NOT caustic comment to G Mandel is not being allowed either. There has been no name calling nor invective used yet these comments are being made to “disappear”. Can you tell me why this might be?

  13. Here we have our first disagreement…. (this comment mysteriously seems to have disappeared)
    You claim in your response to Albert that you used BDS as a concept stating that you did not formally endose BDS as a strategy and that your “mistake” was to say that BDS is legitimate as a tactic but only from an intellectual standpoint.
    YET in your piece of July 2012 you state: ” And so we come to the confession, to the coming out: as an American Jew invested deeply in Israel’s success and survival — which in turn drives my investment in stopping one of the greatest moral challenges of my generation: the occupation — I have no choice but to formally endorse and embrace BDS.”
    and: “As it is, I have long been uncertain about supporting such measures, afraid of the long-term damage a sustained BDS movement might do to Israel, and concerned about the anti-Israel motivations of segments who push to sanction Israel.
    However, I know this for a fact: those who claim in Israel that there is no occupation have only one goal in mind: a single-state solution, a Jewishly-controlled Israel stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
    And it’s an unworkable, unsustainable goal that will be realized — one state — unless outside forces are brought to bear.”
    Given these comments I am uncertain as to how you can say that when you speak of BDS, you are only speaking in conceptual terms. Your statement is that you “embrace and endorse” this and then you go on to express that though you are wary of aspects of it, you feel it is necessary to bring necessary “force to bear”.
    David, I find your two statements not easily reconciled.
    Can you please square your terms here?

  14. BTW David, I have screenshots of your relevant Daily Kos diaries, such as where you “endorse” BDS, so don’t try to go back and change them as you tend to do.
    You have tried this strategy of using a fanatical fringe to get your book published then pivoting to the center – let’s see if it works…

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