HaTikvah Slate for the World Zionist Conference

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When I received a phone call from my cousin Larry Lerner whom I deeply esteem asking me to be part of the slate of HaTikvah for the World Zionist Conference in Jerusalem, I had to decline. Though I am pro-Israel and brought my son to high school in Israel and supported him by living in Israel while he was serving in the IDF, I am equally pro-Palestine and have never described myself as a Zionist, so how could I become a delegate to this convention? Moreover, upon reading their platform, I know that I’ve been a strong critic of the Israeli Labor Party and its failure to attempt to educate Israelis about what kind of a peace settlement would actually work, much less endorsed anything like the one I’ve proposed in my book Embracing Israel/Palestine (which you can order at www.tikkun.org/eip).

Jewish students waving Israel flags

Credit: Creative Commons / Lilach Daniel

I am particularly unhappy with all those Jewish organizations which oppose the Occupation of the West Bank solely on “Jewish self-interest” grounds without ever really addressing the ethical issues involved in that Occupation causing so much pain and violence to the Palestinian people. When the Torah commands us to “love the stranger” and “do not oppress the stranger,” it must be read today as applying to the Palestinian people – and Meretz and the Labor Party should say that clearly in their platform. Nor could I sign on to a platform that summarily opposes the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement. I reject a general boycott of Israel and I am aware that when talking about their demand of “ending the Occupation” some activists in the international BDS movement believe that “the Occupation” started with the creation of the State of Israel and hence aim at ending its existence. On the other hand, I do support BDS in regard to the Occupation of the West Bank, and favor using that tactic against any products produced in the Settlements or any firm that produces goods or services that are used primarily to support the Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza (e.g. Caterpillar).
So when groups or political activists fail to distinguish between those two different positions, I have a problem. I have trouble joining the BDS movement on the one hand, and trouble joining the opposition to the BDS movement on the other hand. Nuance may not work well when trying to build a large-scale movement, but it is critical for those of us who approach Israel/Palestine with an ethical, spiritual, and/or religious commitment to the well-being of everyone on the planet, not just Jews. This position would make most sense to you if you read my book Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation (though the actual “Jewish Renewal” movement to which I belong is far less clear on these issues than I had hoped it would be).
Nevertheless, I do believe if you, dear reader, happen to be a Jew who does identify as a Zionist, I think it plausible that support for the HaTikvah group described below would be a very good thing to do at this point. In the context of Israeli politics, they are as good for Israel as the left wing of the Democratic Party is good for the U.S. So I hope those of you who do identify as Zionists will actually vote in the election. I have great respect for many of the people on this slate, many of them among the most principled people in the organized part of the American Jewish community, and I believe that they will introduce important peace-and-justice-oriented ideas into the discourse of the World Zionist Conference should they be elected.
We never endorse candidates for office in US elections, but we can certainly pass on this letter from my cousin Larry Lerner to you addressing an election not to a public office but to an international organization.
Please read:

Hannah Lerner and I (granddaughter and grandfather) are delegates on the HaTikvah = Hope slate running as possible delegates to the World Zionist Conference in Jerusalem in 2015. We strongly urge you to register and vote for the HaTikvah = Hope slate at www.myvoteourisrael.com. Any American Jew who identifies him/ herself as a Jew and is over 18 years of age can and is encouraged to vote.
The Platform of the slate is attached. The slate is a strong supporter of a secure peaceful two State solution to the Palestine-Israeli conflict. The slate also supports an end to the discrimination against the non-Orthodox Jewish religious streams in Israel. The 72 (four chai) delegates on the slate are equally men and women and one out of every four is under the age of 30. The delegates (organizational mention is for information only and is not an endorsement of the organization) are not listed with information on the official slate because the right wing Zionist Organization of America and others did not want voters to know who were the delegates. Below are some of the important delegates on the HATIKVAH = HOPE SLATE.
Theodore Bickel – folk singer, stage and movie star, and civil rights activist
Debra DeLee – President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now
Benjy Cannon, – President of J Street U.
Ken Bob – President, Ameinu
Randi Weingarten – President, American Federation of Teachers
Daniel Sokatch – CEO, New Israel Fund
Rabbi Kevin Bernstein – Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
Rabbi Israel S. (Si) Dresner – Reform Rabbi, Freedom Rider, Civil Rights activist
Rachel Lerner – Senior Vice President, J Street
Sam Norich – Publisher and CEO, Forward
This is an important election, all of the Progressive Zionists are united behind the slate. We need your vote and the vote of your family and friends to show that there is support for the HATIKVAH=HOPE platform. Remember to go to www.myvoteourisrael.com.
Larry Lerner
President, Union of Councils for Jews in the former Soviet Union (UCSJ)
Former President, Partners for a Progressive Israel