Will diaspora Jews find their voice?

Opinion polls indicate that a majority of Israelis would accept Palestine

 Yet none of the words on any of the blogs hosted by newspapers make a blind bit of difference to progress towards a just solution to the conflict. The power that derives from the barrel of a gun or the bombs of an F16 appears to be what does make a difference, although not to achieving peace.

But at some point, if the conflict is ever unlocked on the basis of universal standards of justice, words will have played a central role. I don’t mean in the form of an agreement that fudges fundamental differences, but as a tipping point, in the form of a truth, previously unsayable, that is finally told.

What seemed obvious in Washington, when Prime Minister Netanyahu met President Obama, was that Bibi is a long way from expressing any form of words that might lead to the tipping point. The disturbing truth is that, despite opinion polls indicating that a majority of Israelis would accept an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, there are powerful forces stiffening Bibi’s resolve so that he will have all the arguments he needs to dictate his solution.

American Jewish support for the Shalem Centre and other Rightwing intellectual, political and religious forces in Israel is indicative of the important role a certain activist element of diaspora Jews play in propping up an expansionist Israeli stance. And Netanyahu can still rely on the quiescence of the mass of diaspora Jews to be able to claim, as all Israeli governments have done, that Israel acts on behalf of all Jews.

But you need hardly dig more than an inch or two to find deep disquiet and confusion following the Gaza war and the appointment of the racist Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister. And some of that concern is being channelled into a form of lobbying that challenges Aipac, philanthropic activity supporting human rights organisations in Israel-Palestine and social activism based on Jewish universalism.

Now, speaking a unsayable truth
These activities represent the growing strain of diaspora Jewish opinion desperate for a new way, which sees the damage being done to Israel and recognises the necessity of supporting Palestinian rights. Might this lead diaspora Jews to find a voice capable of speaking a previously unsayable truth?

A public meeting organised by the London Jewish Community Centre titled ‘Can we talk about Israel?’ provides a clue. The discussion was about the limits of what Jews can say when they want to be critical of Israel. One of the key voices on the panel, the Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland said he dreamed diaspora Jews would one day say to Israel what the Irish-American community told Gerry Adams that they had had enough of the terror and the murder. If it continued Sinn Fein-IRA could no longer rely on Irish-American support. That was the point at which the Republican strategy changed to embrace the path of peace and led to the Good Friday Agreement.

Freedland’s dream, predicated on the fact that Israel is heavily dependent on the support of diaspora Jewry to legitimise its actions, was that diaspora Jews would finally turn round to the Israeli government and say “Enough is enough. The occupation must end. The Palestinians must have their independent state. If not, however much we are with you, we can no longer support you.”

If the tipping point comes and leads to a just peace, perhaps it will be triggered by a form of these true words spoken to Israel by an overwhelming tide of assertive diaspora Jewish opinion.

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