I read Gary Rosenblatt’s column, “Advocacy Gone Awry” (March 18), and my initial reaction was to agree with its message almost completely. The protests against the JCC in Manhattan seem absurd, for all the reasons you outlined.
But as I thought about it more, I realized that while the column is right about the JCC (and similar) protests being off-target, it also reinforces the idea that what’s at issue here is merely a communications problem, not one about an on-the-ground reality. I’m referring to the reality that even someone like Ariel Sharon
ultimately embraced: that no matter what your views of Zionism and Israel more broadly (and Sharon’s were not in doubt), the Israeli occupation and oppression of several million Palestinians is just bad news for Israel. Whether you think Israel should go further and annex the land, or whether you think Israel should pull back and support a Palestinian state, all of this talk about how the Jewish community “communicates” is distracting from admitting that the status quo is extremely problematic, not to mention expensive to maintain, and damaging not just to Israel’s relationships with other Arab states but with other nations more broadly.
I work in communications and spend a lot of time dealing with institutions confronting a range of challenges. A precept of good communications strategy, especially in a crisis, is first to ask what will be done to address the root cause of the crisis — not what should be said about it. The problem with the American Jewish community is it’s much too concerned about what’s being said about this issue, and not concerned nearly enough with changing the reality on the ground. Even the persistent use of terms like “delegitimization” — which in turn get used to delegitimize the views of those who disagree with the dominant perspective —distracts from the fundamental issue.
Partner or no partner, until Israel comes to terms with the unsustainable nature of the occupation — and until the American Jewish community does, too — all of this talk and these small protests, and the talk about the protests, is just so much noise.