Whose Israel is it anyway?

March 27, 2011

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The ongoing controversy about J-Street’s place at the table continues to rumble.

After accusations and counter-accusations in North America, last week J Street came to Israel. The Knesset, in an unprecedented move, chose to debate whether or not J Street could be classified as Pro-Israel.

While of course in some senses this is a debate between left and right, there is a more fundamental question chunnering around the increasingly political and polarized atmosphere in the North American Jewish community.

On the one hand, a basic principle of being pro-Israel would be to support the existence of Israel as a sovereign state. A sovereign state makes decisions for itself.

Some may say that the moment a non-Israeli organisation, Jewish or non-Jewish, attempts to use its local power and influence to alter decisions made by the government of Israel, it is acting against the sovereignty of Israel. Irrespective of the issue they are engaging, a challenge to Israel’s sovereign right to decide for itself is a challenge to Israel itself.

On the other hand, anything more than cursory glance at the modern world will reveal that concepts such as sovereignty and independence are far more liquid than once they seemed, and most importantly – relations between Israel and the Jewish world have never been cut and dried.

Some say that If we are to see Israel as the State of the Jewish People in the broad sense, then what is more natural and healthy than Jews employing the means at their disposal to better (not batter) Israel?

This underlying issue may be just as important to clarify as others that seem more pressing.

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