|The Judgment of Solomon, by Leonaert Bramer (Metropolitan Museum of Art)|
Writing for publication is daunting. Even for a single twig snap in the vast bonfire of the internet. So when I mentioned that I would consider submissions from readers for EGD's "Works in progress" Saturday feature, I did not expect a lot of waving hands. In fact, there was only one, this week’s guest writer, Steve Sheffey, active in Democratic and pro-Israel politics. In college he submitted a piece to NU's humor magazine, “Rubber Teeth,” which we rejected. I can’t say that it was an error or that I regret, or even remember, it. But he requested another chance to submit a piece, and this time the answer was yes.
Thank you, Neil, for inviting me to pinch-hit today. I’ve been reading your work since college and it’s an honor to contribute.
You would think that someone who’s been writing a weekly newsletter on pro-Israel politics for 17 years would have come up with a simple definition of “pro-Israel” by now, especially since he calls his newsletter “Steve Sheffey’s Pro-Israel Political Update, which The Forward referred to as “the Chicago Jewish newsletter that even Republicans have to read.” But it’s not that easy.
Israel is different from most political issues because disagreements stem from a common understanding of the facts. No one wants to get Covid; whether you favor wearing or mandating masks depends on whether you think masks work. Whether you favor getting vaccinated or mandating vaccines depends on whether you think the benefits of vaccines outweigh the risks. These are facts.
Aside from the extreme right, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and settlement expansion in the West Bank is accepted as fact. The historic, national, and religious connections of Jews to the land that is today Israel and the West Bank is accepted as fact by all but the extreme left.
But these facts lead to different conclusions. Someone who supports the concept of a Jewish, democratic State of Israel, as I do, will oppose the occupation and oppose settlement expansion because only a two-state solution, one state with a large Jewish majority and one Palestinian state, can guarantee Israel’s survival as a Jewish, democratic state.
Someone who opposes the concept of a Jewish state can point to the occupation and argue that the answer is one binational state, a state that might have a lot of Jews but that will be democratic and not necessarily Jewish.
Similarly, one can oppose proposals by Israel’s ruling coalition to eviscerate Israel’s Supreme Court because one sides with the Israelis who want Israel to remain democratic, or one could look at the same facts and see proof that Israel’s government does not support democracy and is not worthy of U.S. support.
I call my newsletter “pro-Israel” not because I reflexively support any decision made by Israel’s government: I differentiate between supporting the State of Israel and the government of Israel, just as I differentiate between supporting America and supporting Donald Trump (or, for that matter, Joe Biden).
Rather, I call my newsletter “pro-Israel” because I want my readers to know that the candidates and policies I support are consistent with the belief that only by working toward a two-state solution – and giving up the notion of a Greater Israel comprising Israel and the West Bank – can the State of Israel remain safe, secure, Jewish, and democratic. Anything less than that is not good for Israel, good for the Jews, or consistent with the values that form the bedrock of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
A two-state solution is not politically possible now. Israel’s current government doesn’t want it and whether current Palestinian wants it or not, the Palestinian Authority is too weak. But Israel needs a two-state solution for its own sake, let alone to realize the aspirations of the Palestinians, which is why those of us who support Israel should oppose steps by Israel’s government that make a two-state solution less likely.
Some argue that it doesn't matter what Israel does because the Palestinians want not an end to the occupation of the West Bank but an end to Israel itself. Some probably do, just as some Israelis want a Jewish state from the river to the sea. The reality is that millions of Palestinians aren't going anywhere. Millions of Jews aren't going anywhere. Palestinians see the rebirth of Israel as a catastrophe, a nakba that conflicted with their national aspirations and led to displacement and worse. Jews see the rebirth of Israel as a modern miracle that realized 2,000 years of national aspirations and provided a needed safe haven from centuries of antisemitic persecution.
Neither side has to give up its narrative or accept the other side's narrative, but both sides must realize that the only path forward, a two-state solution, requires both sides to give up sovereignty over land that they believe should be theirs and both sides to accept that previous sins of the other side may never be fully redressed. And everyone who cares about Israel has a duty to speak up, whether for or against the policies of whatever government is in power.
That’s not everyone’s idea of “pro-Israel,” but it's mine. If you like what you’ve read, or if you’re curious, I’d love for you to join the thousands of people who read my newsletter. It’s free, it’s once a week, and you can sign up here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
feeble as it was . I emailed you a contributionReplyDelete
Did I react? Maybe I missed it? Maybe I thought you were being sarcastic.Delete
Very nice, rational, clear-headed, easily understood exposition of a highly emotional, frequently ambiguous, and alway contentious issue of Israel, Palestinians and the 2-state solution.ReplyDelete
Wish Steve would have included a map for the new dividing of The Levant.
Meanwhile, more endless Democratic Party wars, which one (current Biden regime) will end of all humanity, is anyone's guess. Thanks for the enlightening Israel newsletter right or wrong, I plan to subscribe but wonder about the con-.
Any pro-Arab newsletters allowed or is that dissing, missing the point?
And I wish you would sign your name, though that might have taken more intestinal fortitude than you can muster. Why don't YOU start a "pro-Arab newsletter," and then I'll link to it? Oh right, that's a lot more effort than lazy anonymous suggestions of hypocrisy.Delete
To be fair, the "comment" section lately kind of favors commenting as "anonymous." One has to make an effort to identify oneself, which I always make due to my excessive regard for my own point of view. Other commenters might have less regard for their own opinions or be a bit paranoid about identifying themselves.Delete
As I've pointed out on multiple occasions, there's what I consider a "happy medium" alternative. Identifying yourself with a pseudonym via the Name / URL option in the commenting box, so that readers can become familiar with your point of view, while you needn't use your actual name (or have a URL for that matter) on the wide-open internet. (Shudder!) I'm assuming that your name isn't actually tate, for instance, but EGD regulars know what you think about a lot of things. You're correct, of course, about it requiring slightly more effort.Delete
I realize that our host probably disdains that option, since he values the intestinal fortitude of those who proudly stand behind their signed opinions. So, I appreciate the fact that he allows the opportunity to comment to weasels such as myself all the more, and I remain of the opinion that seeing pseudonyms or just first names is less annoying than a fleet of anonymous comments.
Since this site will not allow you to access it if you have a VPN running, I try every couple of days to turn it off so I can continue to enjoy this column and then turn it on afterwards. I still don't understand why running a VPN prevents me from reading your column since I could do so until recently. If you're getting less hits then this new "feature" may be the cause.ReplyDelete
By encrypting your internet traffic, VPNs hide your IP address and physical location, so that no one can tell who you are, where you are, or what you're doing online. That's why VPN means virtual private network — it's a private tunnel through the internet.Delete
1. Either that painting needs a really good cleaning or the artist is incompetent!ReplyDelete
2. My only objections to the West Bank settlements is that Israel should've confined them to the contiguous parts of Israel, making them an expansion of the really narrow parts of the country & also making them far more defensible in military terms!
Good selection. A reasoned, honest opinion. And a new word (nakba) for me.ReplyDelete
Steve's simple but very accurate description of the only solution has been known for decades. It is why I'm pessimistic. Even if there was an agreement to a two-state solution there would still be fighting by those who are so locked in to their beliefs.ReplyDelete
Lifelong Democrat, third-generation antifa, and generally progressive. Jewish roots in Russia, Poland, Lithuania, and Chicago. I have always believed in Israel's continued existence, but I have never supported the bully-boy, land grabbing policies that go back to 1967. I despise the authoritarian government of Israel, its appropriation and continued occupation of Palestinian land, the brutality of the occupation forces, and the ultra-right politicians and settlers. I have wished and hoped for a two-state solution for decades, but it is not going to happen for a long, long time. Maybe never. Not with the continued presence of Trumpian wannabees at the helm.ReplyDelete
Not surprisingly,I have taken a lot of heat for my stances on Israel for many years. Much of it is deeply entwined with conflicted feelings about my ethnicity in general, and my strong antipathy toward Judaic orthodoxy and ultra-orthodoxy. I posted at a good-sized private message board for eighteen years. It died after its owner died of Covid. A number of other members were constantly in my face about Israel, and accused me of deficiencies in self-esteem. One of them even labeled me as being a "slef-hating Jew." He was right on the money. I readily admit to hating the Slefs...and I will neither forgive them nor forget them.
Let us all get over our prejudices. White Apartheid South Africa was afraid they'd be genocided the day after Mandela came to power. And, then, life went on. What a beautiful Democracy South Africa has become, for ALL people. Don't trash your legacy, Mandela said it the best "these people ALWAYS win".ReplyDelete