On Israel Engagement, De-Legitimization and Our Community

The Washington DCJCC is proud to present professional and authentic examples of Israeli culture in film, theater, art and music. The artistic output of Israel is one of its great achievements, and we were privileged to host the Cameri Theatre of Tel Aviv’s production of RETURN TO HAIFA at Theater J. The sold-out run was hailed by audiences and critics alike and brought together individuals from all over our community to engage in serious conversations not just about the politics of the Israel, but about the underlying humanity of the men and women on all sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict. There was no single message to be derived from the play, nor were the reactions of any two theater-goers alike — well-wrought dramas can elicit complex and contradictory thoughts and emotions. It was gratifying that our audiences received the production in the spirit it was offered; that rather than shielding ourselves from difficult histories and complex questions, we can engage them with our intellect, our humanity and our capacity to see beyond political sloganeering. We feel that such programs constitute Israel-engagement in the very best sense of the term and make no apology for the art or the artists we present. Increasingly, there is an acknowledgment in the public square of the American Jewish community that fighting the de-legitimization of Israel is poorly served by attacking organizations and individuals within the Jewish community who present challenging portraits of the Jewish State. Implying that such Jewish organizations serve as Trojan horses for those bent on the destruction of Israel plays to our worst fears. While such campaigns may throttle funding to this program or that organization, its ultimate effect is only to narrow the boundaries of allowable conversations and alienate all members of the Jewish community who dare to think outside those strict confines. If we continue down this path, the result will be less Israel engagement, fewer advocates for its cause in the court of public opinion and a poisoning of the intellectual well of American Judaism. The Washington DCJCC will present nearly 100 programs this year that deal with some aspect of Israeli life: some will make you proud, some will make you laugh, some will make you cry and many will make you think. Occasionally one might make you angry. But that is okay, so long as the conversation continues and we express our love for Israel by our honest engagement, through wrestling and hugging and through our ability to disagree civilly.

3 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Washington DCJCC, Washington DCJCC. Washington DCJCC said: On Israel Engagement, De-Legitimization and Our Community http://wp.me/pbbaC-AG […]

  2. What mindless blather! Josh Ford ducks the issue of Theater J and other DCJCC “political” activities that serve the determined international campaign to delegitmate Israel, dismissing objections out of hand as he does with a tendentious claim that, “Increasingly, there is an acknowledgment in the public square of the American Jewish community that fighting the de-legitimization of Israel is poorly served by attacking organizations and individuals within the Jewish community who present challenging portraits of the Jewish State.” Does Mr. Ford count, for example, Jewish Voices for Peace an organization within the Jewish community?

    He will not maintain, will he, that the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center is an organization either within the Jewish community or not very much about delegitimizing Israel? Sabeel’s founder Naim Ateek regularly uses classic antisemitic tropes when calling for dismemberment of the Jewish state, and in Easter sermons he likens the Palestinians to Jesus and their suffering to Jesus’ suffering on the cross. Does Mr. Ford think it just fine for his subordinate Ari Roth, Theater J’s director, to participate in a Sabeel conference here in Washington and let Roth’s participation be advertised by Sabeel and on Theater J’s blogsite, as it was?

    And there has been a good deal more consorting with those who would delegitimize Israel than just that Sabeel conference at which Roth represented Theater J. There is also the Peace Cafe initiative that Roth co-founded along with Andy Shallal, who was quoted by the WJW as telling an “End the Occupation” crowd on the Mall that inclued JVPers and ANSWER that Palestinians have been “ethnically cleansed, serially murdered and assassinated.” Lest anyone see that as unmistakeably anti-Israel, Roth hastened to excuse his collaborator. (“He can be a rough critic,” said Roth, but he said Shallal supports Israel’s existence and is committed to the “tenants[sic] of the Peace Cafe.”) How reassuring that unlike Ateek, Shallal support’s Israel’s existence, or so Roth assures us.

    When Mr. Ford has a substantive response to protests over Federation funding of the DCJCC and its enablement of Roth’s political efforts, he should return to give it. In the meantime, this long-time Federation donor has decided he will not give through Federation again until it prohibits any use of the funding it provides the DCJCC or any other Federation beneficiary for that which can fairly be seen as anti-Israel, which Seven Children of Gaza certainly was. I would urge others, especially those who have been donors, to let Federation know how they feel about its money going to support Roth’s endeavors, including his outreach to the likes of Sabeel.

  3. […] support in public,” he said. “For all the waffle from the federation supported DCJCC about ‘honest engagement’, they are remarkably reluctant to discuss the antics of Theater J […]

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