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Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace

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"Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace"

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I was debating with Jon Chait at a J Street panel this morning on the subject of “what does it mean to be pro-Israel?” As expected, we disagreed on a number of points, most of which I was right on and he was wrong on. But one thing he said in his opening remarks that I really disagreed with was that there was an ambiguity running through the J Street constituency as to whether the group was or should be pro-Israel at all.

That just struck me as kind of nuts. My J Street button said “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace.” It’s not a subtle aspect of the messaging. But when we moved to the Q&A time it became clear that a number of people in the audience really were quite uncomfortable self-defining as “pro-Israel” in any sense and that others are uncomfortable with the basic Zionist concept of a Jewish national state. I was, of course, aware that those views existed but it had seemed to me that it was clear that that wasn’t what J Street is there to advocate for. Apparently, though, it wasn’t clear to everyone.

Which I think is interesting. Readers will know that I’m not a big fan of nationalism and I am a big fan of trans-national projects like the European Union and the United Nations. And it’s even true that I really kind of hope that hundreds of years from now there won’t be national states at all, instead we’ll all be lumped in with the Vulcans and the Andorians in a United Federation of Planets and off we’ll go. But there’s clearly no prospects for the abolition of the nation-state in the short-term. And the Jewish people’s claim to a nation-state is just as strong as the Finnish or Dutch or Thai claim. Or, for that matter, as the Palestinian claim. By far the best way to secure a just resolution of those conflicting claims is through a two-state solution—an independent Palestine, and a democratic Jewish Israel.

I completely grasp the pull of radical cosmopolitan values, but I think people who think that the area west of the Jordan River would be a great place to try implementing them in the short-term are being a bit crazy. It’s not even clear that Belgium or Canada will be able to survive as bi-national entities.

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