Nothing will change public discourse in the United States about Israel more than opening up the mainstream Jewish community’s conversation. The establishment Jewish discourse on Israel is far removed from reality–this is why the five young Jews who interrupted Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly was so important. It represented a small break from the delusions of the recent assembly, which was all about how Israel’s so-called enemies are “delegitimizing” the state.
Josh Nathan-Katzis (h/t Phil Weiss) of the Forward highlights this in his report from the New Orleans General Assembly (my emphasis):
And though conference leaders claimed to distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from delegitimization, the panels promoted as addressing the issue contained no public critics of Israeli policy. The audience heard instead from Republican messaging guru Frank Luntz and from representatives of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the right-leaning Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.
And Joseph Dana, the excellent American-Israeli Jewish blogger and activist, makes a similar point in a must-read piece titled “Letter from America: I Long For the Days When I Can Speak to Community from Which I Came” (emphasis mine):
I am an American Jew who immigrated to Israel and is now working with the Palestinians in non-violence and solidarity. I am also completing a PhD in Jewish History at the Hebrew University. It is a testament to the openness of Palestinians and Palestinian groups in the United States that I am invited to speak as an honoured guest. It is also a reflection of the American Jewish community that they will not even listen to one of their own (American Jewish groups such as Hillel have turned down all of my invitations including at my alma mater where I graduated in the Jewish Studies program) on the issue of Israel’s occupation and non-violence.
Much work remains to be done on opening up the discourse in the U.S. Jewish community. I like to think of myself as something of an idealist, and I admit that, so I’ll say that I think we’re getting somewhere.