From Shalom Hartman Institute Scholars
The Iran deal and Palestinian issues are widening the gap between Israeli and American Jews, Hartman Institute Research Fellow Yossi Klein Halevi says. Past existential threats to the Jewish people, such as the Yom Kippur War, used to unite Jews around the world, but current threats are doing the opposite. When Israeli and Diaspora Jews are at odds Halevi says, that is itself an existential threat. Navigating this challenge requires us to overcome both external threats and our deep division.
Anti-Israel and BDS movements are not uncommon on university campuses in the US, says Hartman Institute President Donniel Hartman , but what’s more threatening is the increasing alienation between American Jews and Israel. As Jews in America have found themselves at home as a beloved minority and have been able to participate in Jewish life, they increasingly feel disconnected from Zionist ideals, which hold that a sovereign Israel is necessary for Jews to survive and flourish. To nurture good relations between American Jews and Israel requires their engagement in Cultural Zionism.
The Gaza War in 2014 prompted many to think that liberal Zionism is in crisis, as support for both Israel and progressive values seem to be increasingly difficult, Shalom Hartman Institute North America President Yehuda Kurtzer says. The problem with liberal Zionism, Kurtzer argues, is that it is misrepresented by both the right and left. Zionism no longer involves the imaginative discourse that accepts diverse ideas; the discourse of loyalty now dominates, and have led to deep consequences. Retrieving the imaginative Zionism is the best way to save liberal Zionism from crisis.
Most Jews regard Shavuot as a commemoration of the Giving of the Law at Sinai, Hartman Institute Senior Fellow Menachem Fisch says, but a closer look at the Bible shows that it is more a political celebration of independence than a religious one. For hundreds of years, however, Jews have viewed it as a religious commemoration, and thus the idea of a Jewish state hadn’t been prevalent until the emergence of Zionism in the 19th century. The religious narrative of Shavuot still dominates today even as the State of Israel was established.
As Israel celebrated its 67th year since independence, Leon Morris , Shalom Hartman Institute of North America Vice President for Programs in Israel, reflects on his decision to come to Israel with his family and the current state of the Jewish people. Even as Israel faces an increasing number of challenges, such as regional instability, terrorist attacks, income inequality, and racism, this is the best time in history to be a Jew. Faith in Israel is not easy for many of its people, but it is necessary in order for Israel to flourish.
Talking About Israel: The Need for a New Conversation
Donniel Hartman speaks at a New Jersey synagogue about the need for a new conversation. He says that Jews have more differences than they have in common, and this diversity is what characterizes the Jewish community. He urges members of the Jewish community to foster tolerance for each other and for a conversation that accepts a wide spectrum of views on diverse, including Israel.
Should Israel Speak for the Jewish People? (Call & Responsa Vol. 1, No. 4)
Yehuda Kurtzer answers a question as part of Call & Responsa: “Should Israel speak for the Jewish people?” More specifically, he mentions a recent statement made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he speaks for the Jewish people. Kurtzer says that in the case of Iran, where Netanyahu urges the US Congress to reject the deal, the Prime Minister’s political interests are alienating American Jews from Israel. Nevertheless, Kurtzer says, it is in the interests of Jews to have an elected leader to speak on their behalf, as long as the leader is attempting to represent all Jews and not narrow political interests.
From Outside Sources
Antony Lerman, a former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, describes what he sees as the decline and end of liberal Zionism, as Israel and pro-Israel institutions in the US shift to the right. He says that liberal and Zionist values are not compatible with each other at this stage, and that liberal Zionism cannot realistically fulfill the two-state solution. He urges liberal Zionists to embrace this challenge and create a movement to guarantee equal rights for all in Israel-Palestine.
It is notable that today there is an increasingly wide gap between American and Israeli Jews when in terms of Israel. But why? This article, about a landmark study from two years ago, depicts eight significant trends within different demographic and religious groups in the United States, regarding their stance and attitudes toward various issues involving Judaism, Israel, and Israeli-American relations.
Title: Power Military Issues Abstract: Hartman scholars discuss issues related to the Israeli military and its power, such as the ethics of war, asymmetric war, geopolitics in the region, war tactics, and Haredim in the army.
From Shalom Hartman Institute Scholars
Shalom Hartman Institute North America President Yehuda Kurtzer offers his immediate thoughts about the Iran nuclear deal as he heard the news in Hebron. He writes about the complexity and anxiety that arise from settlements, such as the one in Hebron, and existential threats from Iran. He urges negotiation, activism, and legislation to bring hope to Israel and the region.
Since the Gaza War in the summer of 2014, Israel has been accused of killing innocent civilians and oppressing Palestinians by many countries, Hartman Institute President Donniel Hartman says. At the same time, Israeli settlers in the West Bank refuse to leave because of security concerns. Donniel says that we should not apply this logic and “be the victim,” but instead should let others know that our values are worthy of identification, in order to shape a new “math” in the Middle East.
Hartman Institute scholars Alexander Yakobson and Yitzhak Benbaji discuss the method and strategy of Hamas during the 2014 Gaza War. They say that some argue for the legitimacy of underground militias attacking military and certain other targets, but they also say that Hamas’s tactics of targeting civilians through missiles and terrorist attacks are inhuman and war crimes, especially as it is no longer an underground militia but the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip. Hamas’s strategy, they write, harms both Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Critics of Israel have questioned its motives of attacking Hamas, given the high costs. Hartman Institute research fellow Alexander Yakobson , however, raises the question about the cost of not attacking Hamas. He also cites the cost of both partition and non-partition of the land between Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. He concludes that, because Hamas is not interested in peace whatsoever, the cost of not fighting it is much greater.
Hartman Institute research fellow Yossi Klein Halevi discusses the goals and strategies of terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, which seek Israel’s destruction. Despite Israel’s technological and military advantages, Halevi says, Hamas and Hezbollah’s psychological tactics have affected world opinion and Israeli morale. Furthermore, the prospect that Hamas would take over the West Bank if Israel pulls out adds to the complexity of the situation.
Donniel Hartman: Sovereignty & Identity for Jews and Israel
Hartman Institute President Donniel Hartman discusses the meaning of Jewish sovereignty in the State of Israel.
Hartman Fellow Shlomit Harrosh Defends Haredi Draft Bill in Debate
Hartman Institute research fellow Shlomit Harrosh debates Jonathan Rosenblum on the legislative proposal to expand conscription to all Israeli youths, including haredi (ultra-Orthodox) men and women, who have had a special exemption since the founding of the State of Israel. Harrosh says that drafting all Israelis would strengthen its democracy by sharing the burden equally among various religious and demographic groups.
From Outside Sources
The Economist: The Israel Defense Forces: Taking Wing
In 2013, the Knesset approved a military restructuring plan that aims to professionalize the army. In an analysis of this move, the Economist wrote that it reflected the trend within the Israeli military to shift from conventional armies to the air force, intelligence gathering, and cyber warfare. This is a result of the decreasing threat of its neighbors’ (Egypt, Syria, etc.) conventional militaries and an increasing one from Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran.
A government report from July 2015 proposed deep cuts in the IDF’s spending plan and pension plans, a sharp reduction in the duration of the compulsory service, a fixed five-year budget, and reducing the terms of noncombatant soldiers from three to two years. The report’s commission is headed by Maj. Gen. Yohanan Locker. The report has been criticized by the IDF, including Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, for harming “IDF’s ability to fulfill its role.”
Jerusalem Post: Lessons from Gaza
Since the pullout of Israel from Gaza and the subsequent rocket attacks from Hamas, many Israelis have been convinced that disengagement is a failure, a Jerusalem Post editorial writes. The editorial says, however, that disengagement is not the root of the problem; any disengagement or territorial concession without direct negotiation would strengthen terrorist groups like Hamas. Any negotiation for a two-state solution must keep this in mind, the Post says.