Is Israel a Jewish state or the state of the Jewish people?
That’s the question that faced voting representatives at this week’s conference of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. Many voted in favor of amending the language of a 2008 JCPA resolution in support of a two-state Mideast solution to remove the words Jewish state. The motion, which was not carried, was sponsored by the JCRC of St. Louis.
While advocates of the change said “state of the Jewish people” is more in line with terminology used by the Israel’s prime minister, David Luchins of the Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs says it was pretty clear from the debate that they were concerned about the notion of Israel as a theocracy, in light of recent tension there between synagogue and state.
“I told them I’m not happy about the women on the back of the bus either, but that’s no reason to rewrite the title of Theodor Herzl’s book,” said Luchins. Also backing the status quo was the American Jewish Committee and several major city JCRCs.
“It was interesting to listen to the two points of view,” said JCPA executive director Rabbi Steve Gutow, who said the debate was impassioned but civil. “It wasn’t contentious in any way.”
In a compromise during discussion before the vote, the amendment advocates called for including both Jewish state and “the nation state of the Jewish people.” But by then, the point seemed lost. And some noted that, with a Palestinian state, that sounded like a three-state solution.
When the votes were tallied, the nays had it. The measure was defeated 258-229.
And so it’s resolved as a matter of official Jewish community public policy. Israel is still the Jewish state. At least until next year.
“It could easily come up again,” said Rabbi Gutow.