J Street’s Response to Eric Yoffe

Rabbi Eric Yoffe, President of the Union of Reform Judaism, recently took to the pages of The Forward to attack J Street for expressing skepticism about the Gaza adventure. You can read J Street’s response here. Key quote:

And, when tens of thousands of pro-Israel American Jews are joining with statements made by J Street, Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek, Israel Policy Forum and others calling for a ceasefire — it is simply wrong to call these views out of touch with Jewish sentiment.

American Jews are, as Rabbi Yoffie says, by and large sensible and centrist, and they support Israel in her hour of need. But many of those same Jews — and their friends who want the best for Israel — are well within their rights and within the centrist mainstream to question the wisdom of the actions taken this week, to question where they will lead and to ask the US and others to help bring an end to the violence as quickly as possible.

They are also in line with many in Israel, where on Friday, 30 peace organizations (including the Peres Center for Peace, the Geneva Initiative and Peace Now) signed a public call for an immediate ceasefire, joining such pillars of the national conscience as David Grossman and Amos Oz.

There’s more at the link. In addition to whatever I’ve already said about Gaza, let me just say that I find it very troubling how frequently rabbis in the United States decide that adhering to a strong form of Israeli nationalist politics is or ought to be constitutive of being Jewish. You see this all the time in the domestic context, of course, when it’s a commonplace of crank rightwing discourse that failing to muster enthusiasm about any American military endeavor no matter how misguided makes you somehow less American than the proponents of bloodshed. But that really is a crank rightwing position. And Rabbi Yoffe isn’t a rightwing crank — or, indeed, any kind of rightwinger at all. But it’s really just the same situation.

And I think that if people want to be honest, they need to ask themselves how many of them were sitting around the day before Israel started this action not only feeling that it would be smart for Israel to start a massive military action in Gaza but feeling so strongly about it that one would question the Jewish credentials and basic intelligence of anyone who didn’t agree. Frankly, I didn’t hear a lot of Americans taking that position. Then the Israeli government changed its policy, and a lot of Americans decided to agree with the new Israeli policy. Which is fine as far as it goes. But people who didn’t regard the previous policy as unconscionable at the time have no business suddenly deciding that it’s unconscionable to disagree with the new policy.