Where Our Advocacy Differs

Singling Out Israel for Criticism We believe that it is illegitimate to single out Israel for blame and censure in respect of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Even in the context of “blaming both sides,” offering general criticism of the Palestinians while specifically condemning Israeli policies and actions amounts to a double standard that obscures history in a morally questionable manner.

Seeking Unilateral Concessions from Israel – We believe that pressing Israel alone to make concessions is not only unjustified but frequently motivated by political interests, naivety, ignorance, misinformation or even anti-Judaism. Any concessions should be made in the context of the peace process and should be reciprocal in nature.

Advocating Boycotts, Divestment or Sanctions against Israel – We believe that actions designed to weaken Israel’s economy and harm her society should be viewed as being anti-Israel and must be opposed by Israel advocates. Those favoring these tactics are functionally negotiating for the Palestinian side and diminishing the likelihood that the Palestinians will enter into peace negotiations themselves.

Seeking Action by the United States to Pressure Israel to Yield to Palestinian Demands – We believe that America should support Israel in its efforts to negotiate a secure and lasting peace with the Palestinians by working with Israel and the Palestinians to reach that goal. America should not work against Israel on behalf of the Palestinians by pressuring Israel to accept Palestinian demands while receiving nothing in return. The mere appearance of one-sided pressure on Israel fosters Palestinian intransigence and encourages their refusal to come to the negotiating table. This tactic is neither pro-Israel, nor pro-peace.

Obscuring Palestinian Obligations and Commitments – We believe that heightening awareness of Palestinian obligations and responsibilities is a pre-requisite for advancing the peace process.  We believe this to be an essential part of Israel advocacy. These commitments include actively combating the use of violence against Israel, ending the glorification of those who have committed acts of violence, and ceasing the incitement of hatred against Israel and against Jews, especially in school curricula and in state sponsored media. Peace should be promoted.

Criticizing Israel When Israel Acts to Ensure the Safety of Her Citizens – We believe that Israel has an absolute right to self-defense. The only way to reduce significantly the need for heightened defensesincluding the naval blockade of Gaza and the West Bank security barrieris through the peace process. When difficult choices must be made between the safety of Israel’s citizens and the needs or convenience of Palestinians, the right to self-defense must come first.

Turning Support for Israel into a Partisan Issue – We believe that our advocacy should not be motivated or influenced by political party affiliation. The best course for Israeli advocacy is a non-partisan approach that welcomes support for Israel from all and eschews it from none.

Demeaning or Vilifying Israel’s Elected Leaders – We believe that Israel’s democratically elected leaders, no matter what their political leanings, should be treated with respect and offered support in the pursuit of the goals of security, prosperity, and peace.

Careless Words Exploited by Israel’s Detractors and Enemies – We believe that we must consider how others might use, distort or manipulate our words in reference to Israel. We have seen and heard the words of Jewish leaders and organizations, often offered out of concern for Israel, utilized by those who seek to harm her. This is especially so in the case of those promoting the use of boycott, sanctions, and divestment schemes.

7 Responses to Advocacy

  1. Ajit says:

    True; however, the Arab world will never use facts or logic!

  2. I’m curious about whether these criteria are to be applied even-handedly — in essence, whether or not one can be a “bad Zionist” (from Rabbi Kaufman’s Times of Israel article) from a right-wing vantage point. The suspicion, of course, is that this is a one-way ratchet, and that while leftish Zionists are saddled with a host of obligations limiting their ability to express policies they believe to be in Israel’s best interests, right-wing Zionists are given an entirely free reign. But perhaps not, and I’m curious as to your appraisal of some examples that would demonstrate this.

    1) “Criticizing Israel When Israel Acts to Ensure the Safety of Her Citizens”: Two recent high-profile acts Israel has taken with respect to its broader security posture vis-a-vis the Israeli/Palestinian conflict were its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, and heightened security restrictions at the Temple Mount which place some level of burden upon observant Jews. Both of these are security actions by Israel — the former, an appraisal that Israel’s long-term security (and democratic) posture was threatened by continuing the occupation of Gaza; the latter, based on security threats Israel perceived to Arab worshippers from Jewish extremists (as well as a general belief that tensions are best reduced with some degree of separation). The Zionist Organization of America has vitriolically criticized both — calling on Israel to “apologize” for the former, and decrying the latter as an unconscionable violation of religious liberty and freedom of movement. They would thus seem to be in clear violation of your principle, and deserve sharp chastisement. I have not seen any such criticism on your blog, but perhaps I missed it.

    2) One-stateism. Establishing “one state”, from the river-to-the-sea, would quickly lose either its Jewish or democratic character, and thus bring about the end of Israel as we know it. For that reason, the mainstream Jewish position is that one-stateism is inherently anti-Israel (this is, for example, the position of the ADL and AJC, as well as that of Israeli President Shimon Peres), and groups that have hosted or tolerated one-stateism are generally considered to be intrinsically outside the boundaries of the pro-Israel camp. However, promoting a one-state solution is conspicuously absent from this post, and one can’t help but wonder if that’s related to its growing traction amongst some right-wing elements in the “pro-Israel” camp. Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum recently endorsed a one-state solution, and South Carolina, Florida, and the Republican National Committee recently passed a ZOA-sponsored resolution likewise promoting a “one state” outcome. In defending a position that most Israelis and American Jews think is intrinsically incompatible with the preservation of a Jewish democratic state, this would seem per se beyond the borders of acceptable conduct by pro-Israel actors — and is generally recognized to be so when the call is made by leftist persons who desire a one-state solution.

    To be clear, I agree with at least some of what you’re doing here, though many of your admonishments are either too vague to constitute workable standards or are expressed in absolutist terms that are unworkable. But it is a two-way street. It can’t be the case that right-wingers are free to be Zionist however they choose — even when they criticize Israeli security determinations, even when they advocate a one-state solution — while their leftist peers are constantly put under the microscope. To the extent that “pro-Israel” is not just about subjective intentions but also about staying within certain broad but important discursive boundaries, there are borders on both sides, and we can’t place one under stringent surveillance while leaving the other entirely unpoliced.

  3. David, I think you have missed our Mission Statement ( as such which makes all of these points clear, especially that we are a TWO-STATE organization. Our belief is that those who advocate for one state solutions are indeed not helpful. There is quite a bit of lee-way in considering just how to go about accomplishing a two-state solution both on the left and the right of the spectrum. We are not really speaking to a right wing audience (most of our readership is Reform or Conservative) and therefore have not spent much time addressing the positions of the ZOA. We would not agree with their positions on either Gaza or the Temple Mount (as you presented the issue), though I have not read the ZOA’s statements about the Temple Mount. The “Where Our Advocacy Differs” statement was primarily aimed at the political left, whereas our Mission Statement is aimed at both the political left and right.

  4. Rabbi Kaufman,

    I had no doubt your organization was a two-state organization — were it not, I’d have considered the appellation “We are for Israel” to be simply untrue. But your mission statement raises more questions than it answers, and your cavalier assertion that your aren’t “speaking to a right wing audience” rings very odd. Facially, your mission statement explicitly casts its audience wider — targeting Jews and non-Jews of all political persuasions (and this post says — rightly — that pro-Israel advocacy ought be bipartisan, implying that all sides have obligations that must be met).

    But more importantly, the thrust of your mission statement is a deep concern that words and proposals by certain groups are interfering with Israel’s security and longevity as a Jewish, democratic state. Those concerns are quite valid. But it is not a concern that needs to be expressed solely to a left-wing audience. Indeed, to a large extent it is the right-wing that needs to hear it more, and the choice not to focus on that audience is, I respectfully submit, itself obscurantist and a case where you’re biting into your own critique — specifically, it is a case of careless words and arguments finding themselves easily contorted to support one-stater groups which genuinely believe themselves to be pro-Israel, take your silence as consent to their agenda, and are growing by the day more powerful within the “pro-Israel” community and the American polity writ large as groups such as yours allow them free reign. While I have no doubt you do not intend to give such groups the “green light”, because they view themselves as the true heirs of the pro-Israel position and watch as groups such as yours overwhelmingly target their enemies, but not them, as “the problem”, they are interpreting your silence as consent or even support.

    To be sure, I have no qualms about critiquing left-wing groups which are not pro-Israel, or criticizing the tactics of left-wing groups which are pro-Israel but whose agenda one believes is in effect harmful to Israel (and I do this regularly on my blog). Why wouldn’t I? I care about Israel, so of course I’m going to criticize statements or acts that I think do it harm, regardless of source. But the same has to be said for right-wing groups, and here some prioritization has to be in order.

    There are left-wing groups that have an overtly bad agenda (the BDS crowd, again). But they’re fringe — their biggest victories are a food co-op in Washington and a few half-baked academic conferences. By contrast, the one-staters on the right are on the verge of going mainstream — getting one-state resolutions passed in South Carolina and Florida as well as by the Republican National Committee, and securing the support of high-profile presidential contenders like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee. Theirs is not a situation of pursuing good ends in a bad manner — the end result they seek (one-state) is itself a malign objective; indeed, the same objective as the BDSers. Moreover, while the left-wing BDS crowd rarely is under any conceit that it is anything but anti-Israel; Santorum, Huckabee, et al all believe themselves to be pro-Israel, and will continue to do so for as long as we don’t disabuse them of the notion. One might argue that when you ignore these groups, or “offer[ only] general criticism” , such as a generic proclamation that right-wing one-staters are unproductive and wrong too, “while specifically condemning [left-wing] policies and actions”, that this “amounts to a double standard that obscures [the debate] in a morally questionable manner.” To be clear: It’s fine to call out the left for their foibles, but doing so while disclaiming a serious interest in combating the far greater threats to Israel emanating from the mainstream political right opens yourselves up to the challenge that your advocacy isn’t serious one.

    And that’s a shame, because Israel needs serious defenders, who will stand up for it against serious threats. We’re lucky that in the US, there are no major groups in the “We are all Hezbollah” mold; BDS is largely a failed project, and most squabbles are over tactics, not over the basic principle that Israel and Palestine must come to an agreement that respects the democratic national aspirations of both people and allows them to live in peace. But to the extent that project is being seriously challenged, it’s coming from groups like ZOA and people like Huckabee, and it’s past time they stopped getting a free pass. As you recognize, it’s not just what you say, it’s how others interpret and manipulate what you say — such is the burden of being a pro-Israel advocate. And with respect, I submit that where your advocacy differs from mine is that while I have no qualms challenging all the sources of Israel’s threat — yours carelessly allows people like Huckabee to get away with inverting one-stateism into a pro-Israel position, with blurring history so that anti-Israel groups get to claim the mantle of pro-Israelism, of obscuring the obligations persons of all political backgrounds have with respect to advocating for Israel, and thus — unintentionally, of course — harming the pro-Israel community and Israel’s long-term security and democratic sustainability.

  5. David, I liked your posting on your blog, though I disagree with your conclusion about supporting single state solutions. That is a huge stretch. For those who are interested, David’s posting may be found at:

    We Are For Israel has written about this before and I have personally as well.

    I wrote specifically about the possibility of one state solutions on almost to years ago, right before we began We Are For Israel.

    We Are For Israel doesn’t ignore any groups. I regularly interact with Christian Zionists, whose support for Israel I value, but criticize them when they do offer One State solutions. I disagree with you that One State solutions are becoming mainstream. One State is not a realistic option at all. It CAN never happen. Israel would need to remove the Palestinian population for it to happen. That isn’t going to happen. Israel certainly isn’t even considering it. If Israel didn’t remove the population, you would not lose the Jewish character of the state, you would instead have a massive bloody civil war which would turn into a regional war. That won’t be allowed to happen. Two states, or three states potentially, are the only options. I believe that the consequence of not pursuing peace is not a non-democratic Israel or a non-Jewish Israel, but a civil war between Jews and Palestinians that would end up being a very bloody Jewish-Arab war.

    I think you misunderstood what I was saying about our Mission Statement and Advocacy Statement. The Mission Statement sets a centrist position. The Advocacy statement is in essence one delineating what separates We Are For Israel from the left, that is what I meant when I said that it does not really address the right wing. Our primary audience until very recently was the left, Reform and Conservative Jews in America. You are probably right that we should now create a statement delineating us from the right wing as well or modify our existing one. To be honest, it has not been an major issue for us to this point because we have been working within the American Jewish community where the debate is about how to achieve a two state solution, not about whether or not one should pursue a two state solution. Our obvious support for a two state solution separates us on the primary issue of the religious right, the one state solution.

    Meanwhile, Israel isn’t going to change its views and try to expel the Palestinians because some Fundamentalist Christian politicians think a two state solution is unworkable. Additionally, poll numbers in Israel would indicate that those Jews who support a single state solution are not gaining strength. Roughly two thirds of Israelis support a two state solution and have for years. Of the third that does not, one would imagine that a substantial percentage of that third do not support it because of various bogeymen connected to the process (losing all of Jerusalem, facing rockets coming out of the West Bank, etc…) that may well not be the actual results of negotiations. A two state solution that addresses security and provides sane and realistic borders is alive and well.

  6. I’m entirely in agreement about the infeasibility of a one-state solution, including the likelihood it would collapse into civil war. This, of course, makes it even more incumbent to push back against putatively “pro-Israel” actors which are pushing it, and inform groups like ZOA, the RNC, and the SC and Florida legislatures that their actions are inconsistent with anything remotely resembling a pro-Israel framework.

    However, I acknowledge with gratitude your promise to more sharply delineate yourself from the right and the corresponding commitment to “hold their feet to the fire” to the same extent one does left-wing groups. I look forward to seeing the fruits of that commitment on this site and in the other fora you contribute to in the near-future.

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