NEW YORK (Dec. 20)
The muting of dissent within the American Jewish community is causing more harm to Israel than its enemies, according to Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, a vice president of the World Jewish Congress and the former president of the American Jewish Congress.
Speaking at the annual Chanukah dinner of Americans for Progressive Israel-Hashomer Hatzair, Hertzberg warned that “the single most dangerous thing that can happen to Israel is the muting of dissent. ” He noted that when American Jews wish to debate the issues that are reported on and discussed every day in the Israel press, there are some in the American Jewish community who charge that it would be “treason” to do so.
“Dissent in the Jewish community was always legitimate in this country on the right,” Hertzberg said, noting that no one faulted the critics of the Labor Party government. He recalled that the history of the Zionist movement is replete with dissent. He pointed out that “Jabotinsky walked out of the World Zionist Organization” to pursue on independent policy. “For his heirs to say it is dangerous to dissent. is nonsense, ” Hertzberg declared.
HISTORY OF DISSENT IN ZIONIST MOVEMENT
The Zionist movement, he continued, was in dissent since its beginning. Chaim Weizmann opposed Theodor Herzl on cultural issues and Herzl saw no room for Socialist Zionism in the Zionist movement, Hertzberg said. He noted that since the founding of the State of Israel, American Jews have been asked to unequivocally support the policy of the “in” government.
Most Prime Ministers since Levi Eshkol have come to the U.S. and “called together the Jewish leadership and told them that they were going on a dangerous mission to Washington and must have the unanimous support of the Jewish community. They then returned to Israel and parlayed this domestically into a claim that American Jews are unanimously behind their policies. “Hertzberg said he finds that Israelis believe “that all you have to do is push the button and out comes support for the government.” The myth then, he said, is created of American Jewish unanimity.
Hertzberg opined that the future of Israel lies with organizations such as Americans for Progressive Israel and individuals who defend Israel for its lasting values, who are against “occupation” and who see Palestinians as having a national consciousness of their own. He characterized the “Israeli right as indistinguishable from the Ayatollahs.” The authentic voice of Zionism is “not in the leadership of the organizations but that of the people who still speak out, ” Hertzberg asserted.