Are Jews not supposed to talk to other Jews about the Israel lobby?

Concerns have been raised on this blog and others –and in private communications to me– about the panel discussion I’m participating in: “How to Talk Candidly About Israel — A Conversation Among Progressive Jews.” As noted on the previous post, Philip Weiss, Anne Roiphe and JJ Goldberg will be joining me on June 21st at the Steven Wise Synagogue in NYC. We will discuss the obstacles to candid conversations in the public arena about the occupation and U.S.-Israel relations, and what can be done to overcome those obstacles.

So why are there only Jews on this panel, some people want to know? Isn’t this a conversation that all Americans should be participating in? Shouldn’t there be at least one Palestinian or Palestinian American on the panel?

Of course this can and must be a larger conversation. The organizers did not intend to indicate otherwise. But this is just one, public event. Much of it will focus on an internal, communal struggle among American Jews over the current limits and protocols of honest conversation about a topic that has global significance.

All of the people on that panel would like an environment in which it is possible to speak publicly about Israel and The Situation with the same candor that one finds in the Israeli media. Within the American Jewish community, there are people who cannot abide that kind of candor. So this is an issue our community should address.

We are always hearing from blogs on the left –including, sometimes, this one– about the “muzzling” of criticism of Israel by right wing American Jews. We are always hearing that liberal American Jews, as a whole, have been too timid about objecting to Israeli policies they abhor. I believe the far left is responsible for a different kind of muzzling, as I will discuss during the panel. If a few American Jews talk about their experiences within the community and outside of the community, and gauge the extent to which muzzling –or self-muzzling– is going on, and suggest ways to open up the conversation, surely that is relevant to anyone who wants to change the domestic political context of U.S. Middle East policy.

But some of the objections appear to be based not merely on the conviction that more viewpoints should be offered, which is a perfectly reasonable contention. Some of the objections appear to be based on a suspicion of any conversations between American Jews about, well, virtually anything.

I am baffled by this sentiment and by those who express it. Maybe others can help me deconstruct the alarming mind of a character whose tag name is “David.” He frequents MondoWeiss and other blogs. It is worth quoting some of his comments.

A few weeks ago, on MondoWeiss, he ventured his opinion about this blog (he refers to me as ‘Tough Dove,” the moniker I once used):

Best of luck to ToughDove’s blog. But it’s clearly just another J-blog — Jews talking to other Jews, endlessly debating how long our side curls should be this year.

He seems to have completely missed the glorious experiment being blazed by Weiss and a few others: Jews participating in an AMERICAN conversation. Not defending themselves, not marketing themselves, not educating the goyische kopf, not policing the subject matter, but talking and listening as members of a community.

The most earthshaking statement on this blog — and there’s been a few that have been pretty remarkable — was when Phil called for “privileged Jewish writers to write for American readers.” But I’m pretty certain Dan Fleshler doesn’t even know what that means.

…make sure you’re kosher before you head over.

Posted by: David | April 20, 2007 at 02:27 PM

Later, in another comment about the approach this blog is taking, he wrote:

It isn’t useful because sooner or later the analysis always comes down to justice vs. “is it good for the Jews,” and the framework ToughDove has adopted means there’s only one way that can ever be resolved. Why else would someone treat subjects which are affecting the entire country and the entire world as “Jewish subjects”…?

Posted by: David | April 21, 2007 at 10:16 AM

More recently, ‘David” commented on the June 21st panel discussion noted above:

Fight Night!

I see Phil will be participating in a discussion about the lobby on June 21. With him is Dan Fleshler, whom old-timers at this site will remember as ToughDove, that doughty man of the Left. (That is to say, the Tribalist Left.)

It appears to be one of these Jews-only klatches — I assume ToughDove only agreed to participate under the condition that he would not have to speak with Gentiles. But I personally find it disappointing that Phil is collaborating with this kind of thing. This is not a “Jewish” subject.

The title, “How to Talk Candidly About Israel,” reveals the problem. Because of course this is not really the subject at all: Jews know perfectly well how to talk about Israel and do it interminably. What they really meant to say, but don’t have the courage to admit, is “How to Talk About Israel in front of the Gentiles”.

When you start out on a false note like this, it doesn’t bode well for the endeavor.

Posted by: David | June 10, 2007 at 04:28 PM

David is one of those people who is obsessed with exposing the perfidy of American Jews and and the conventional Israel lobby in the U.S. Yet, when American Jews get together and try to change at least some of what David objects to, it is the act of getting together, or talking together, or thinking about something together, that is suspect.

You might ask, “Dan, why are you wasting digital space on this guy, this mentality?” One reason is that it is, sadly, not uncommon. It is one of the weapons used in the far left’s assault on any form of Jewish self-determination, of any identification with Israel. It is also characteristic of those who believe that Jews are ruining the world. It appears to be based on a conviction that there is something inherently wrong with Jewish bonding, Jews identifying themselves as Jews, Jewish community-building…and, therefore, Jews.

But, as I noted, I don’t get it. I don’t know exactly what we’re dealing with here.

Comments are closed.