Forward Thinking

'Criticize Away': Hartman Institute Debates Debating

By J.J. Goldberg

Havruta, a journal of the Shalom Hartman Institute, features a symposium on whether and how to criticize Israel in its February 2012 issue. It makes for interesting reading, with special shout-outs to Yossi Klein-Halevi’s thought-provoking letter to a right-wing friend and editor Stuart Schoffman’s delightful introduction.

My own contribution is below. I would link directly to it from Facebook, but there’s no way to link directly to the articles in the journal - you have to page through the full issue (which has its own joys).

Criticism and Civil Conversation /// A Symposium

J.J. Goldberg: Criticize Away

J.J. Goldberg, editor-at-large of the Jewish Daily Forward, has covered the politics and culture of American Jewry for a quarter century in a variety of American and Israeli publications. He has served as editor-in- chief of the Forward and U.S. bureau chief of the Jerusalem Report, and is the author of Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment.

IN LATE 1993, SHORTLY AFTER YITZHAK RABIN and Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn, Rabin’s predecessor Yitzhak Shamir appeared in New York with a surprising message that seemed to surprise no one in his audience. Addressing a packed gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Shamir said (I’m paraphrasing only slightly): I have often urged you to refrain from criticizing Israel’s democratically elected government, because Israelis alone bear the consequences of its decisions. Now I’ve changed my mind. This elected government is making bad decisions. Please, criticize away.

The moment perfectly encapsulated the nonsensical dishonesty that characterizes the debate over whether and how Diaspora Jews may criticize Israel. In reality, there is not and never has been a taboo against Jews criticizing Israel. There is a taboo against Jews urging Israel to adopt more liberal policies toward the Palestinians and the neighboring Arab states. There is no taboo against urging more hardline policies.

The unstated logic behind this one-sided stricture is readily apparent. Advocating a more conciliatory policy can be depicted, fairly or not (usually not) as siding with the enemy. By contrast, no one argues seriously that urging greater inflexibility is meant to weaken Israel and strengthen its foes, even though that may well be the practical result.

Read more


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yitzhak Shamir, Yitzhak Rabin, Yariv-Shemtov Formula, Victor Shemtov, Stuart Schoffman, Simcha Dinitz, Los Angles International Airport, Seattle Jewish Federation, Havruta, Empire State Building, Criticizing Israel, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Breira, Aharon Yariv, AMIA Bombing, Yossi Klein-Halevi




Find us on Facebook!
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.