Israel In the News - June 26, 2020

The Skanner News Group, with a readership of over 75,000, has advanced the cause of the Black Press in the Northwestern United States since 1975. Please read our JCRC Director, Bob Horenstein’s letter to the editor that was published in the paper. As Bob mentioned to me, the letter is the easy part. Now the task of -- and challenge to -- our Jewish community is to back up with concrete actions this statement of solidarity with the Black community.
Making major news is the expected announcement as early as next week that Israel is “normalizing the legal status of Jewish settlements in the West Bank by fully applying Israeli civilian law.” For many this means “annexation” and for others it is “applying sovereignty” to areas of the West Bank. Definitions of these terms under international law mean very different things.
The Jewish Federations of North America provided a webinar on this topic earlier this week with Dan Shapiro, former US Ambassador to Israel, Dr. Shira Efron, Special Advisor on Israel for the Rand Corporation, and Oded Revivi, Mayor of Efrat and Chief Foreign Envoy for the YESHA Council. It was an interesting conversation with various points of view and I encourage you to listen to it here.
Here are some additional resources that may provide greater context:
Our Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), which has representation from all local synagogues, various Jewish organizations, and at-large community members recently discussed and proposed a position on this issue. It was approved unanimously by the Jewish Federation Board.
Statement of Principles Around
Possible Israeli West Bank Annexation
Proposed actions in Israel of unilaterally annexing and/or extending Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank could have deep consequences, including undermining efforts towards achieving a two-state solution and the creation of a future viable Palestinian state. It could also further damage the broad bipartisan support for Israel in the United States, including among Members of Congress.
The Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and Jewish Community Relations Council believe:
  • A two-state solution, achieved through direct bilateral negotiations conducted in a spirit of reconciliation and compromise, is the surest path to a permanent resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
  • The two-state solution envisions two independent states -- the Jewish and democratic state of Israel and a future demilitarized state of Palestine -- living side-by-side in peace and security.
  • In present and reasonably foreseeable circumstances, unilateral actions undertaken by either side that change the status quo of the West Bank (e.g., a declaration of statehood by the Palestinians; the extension of sovereignty by Israel) are unhelpful and will only serve to extend the impasse.
  • Both the Israeli and Palestinian people have legitimate historical and religious claims to the land that comprises the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). However, it is unconstructive in the pursuit of peace for either side to insist on exercising their full claims to the territory (i.e., peace envisions an eventual territorial compromise).
  • The preservation of broad bipartisan support for Israel in the United States is vital for Israel’s well-being.
Our JCRC and Board leadership felt it was important to make our statement prior to any actions by the Israeli government. We recognize that any time you make a statement, there will be people on all sides of the issue.
Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, wrote an excellent piece in The Times of Israel:
I have long believed that Diaspora Jews not only have the right but the responsibility to criticize Israeli policies that seem to them either inimical to Jewish values or to Israel’s own best interests. This applies equally to Jews on the right and the left and the center, to Orthodox and Reform and secular Jews, or to Jews objecting to the Oslo process or to the annexation of territories. 
Israel has the responsibility to pay attention to Diaspora concerns for at least two reasons. The first is ideological: If Israel is truly the project of the Jewish people, and not only of those of us privileged to be its citizens, then we are bound by Zionist principle to listen to our fellow Jews. In the end of course, Israeli policies are determined by those who live here and bear the consequences. But we can’t expect the help and solidarity of Diaspora Jews without being prepared to treat seriously their critique of our policies, however uncomfortable the criticism.  
The second reason why Israel needs to listen to the concerns of the Diaspora is pragmatic: Living under relentless siege and periodic war, Israelis don’t always clearly perceive the political and moral consequences of all our policies. Sometimes we need our closest friends, who see us with the perspective of distance, to hold up a mirror and help us see ourselves, help us be more faithful to our own interests and principles. 
Finally, don’t confine your relationship to Israel through criticism. David Suissa, publisher and editor of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, has cautioned Israel’s Jewish critics who pride themselves on their “tough love” to show more of the love: “I feel the tough,” says David, “I don’t always feel the love.” 
On a different note, I am delighted to share with you how our community is impacting Israeli society via “Overseas Special Projects.” We make grants to relatively small social service organizations in Israel that serve the most vulnerable and marginalized populations there. All allocations from the Jewish Federation to programs in Israel go to social service organizations and no funding goes to the Israeli government.
I am very proud of the nine organizations selected this year and you can read more about each of them by clicking here.
Shabbat shalom.
Marc N. Blattner
President and CEO


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