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Discerning The Boundaries

Discerning The Boundaries

I strongly agree with John Ruskay’s spirited call for maintaining a “big tent” of Jewish opinion on Israel that can hold the line against those who would question our very right to live as a free people in our own democratic Jewish state (“Combating Delegitimization Requires A Big Tent,” Opinion, Feb. 18).

Indeed, the work of the Jewish Agency is an example of what the global Jewish community can accomplish when those who disagree on many things can come together in pursuit of the larger goal of building a stronger, better Israel and strengthening the bonds that tie us Jews to each other.

Yet as important as it is to keep the conversation on Israel as broad and diverse as possible, it is also obvious that there is a very real need to develop criteria for discerning the boundaries of this tent.

Clearly an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who travels to Tehran to attend a conference of Holocaust deniers is outside the pale. But what of a European entertainer who intones that he “loves Israel” but will not perform in the Jewish state until the occupation of Palestine is ended? Is he participating in legitimate criticism or delegitimizing Israel’s existence?

What of the Jew who honestly believes that the Jewish state constitutes an immoral colonialist project? Or what of an activist on the opposite side of the political spectrum — who argues that Israel’s founding mistake was that it was established as a democracy rather than a halachic theocracy? On what side are these individuals in the battle against Israel’s delegitimization?

As Ruskay rightly notes, it is dangerous and wrong to exclude those with whom we disagree. Yet it is also dangerous and wrong to fail to discern the difference between those who are in this debate to help build Israel and the Jewish people, and those who are in it to dismantle them.

I hope that, as a world Jewish community, we turn Ruskay’s thoughtful remarks into the start of a much-needed discussion on how to build a broad, inclusive debate that nevertheless has a coherent direction toward a stronger, more connected and more promising Jewish future.

Chairman of the Executive
Jewish Agency for Israel

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