Word on the Street: Time to Lead

September 27, 2011

Let’s be honest: events in recent weeks around the UN meeting could have driven even the strongest of us to despair. How do you not feel desperate when the President of the United States won’t use the word “settlements,” the Israeli Prime Minister won’t talk of the 1967 lines with swaps as the basis for a two-state deal, and the Palestinian leader won’t acknowledge the Jewish connection to the land of Israel. But despair won’t bring peace and security to Israel and the Middle East. It’s easy to react to current events in the region by pleading helplessness and nursing anger while blaming others. But in a wonderful essay[1] this week, Rabbi Donniel Hartman of Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute challenges the Jewish people to remember that with sovereignty and independence comes the power to control our own destiny. As Rabbi Hartman says, “Whether a reality was avoidable or not is one question. What you do about it is a second.” The challenge is to lead. He goes on: “We seem content with expending our efforts to ignore the inevitability of Palestinian statehood and to [convene] Jewish assemblies in which we talk to ourselves and bemoan the injustice. It is time to reawaken the consciousness of sovereignty and lead. It is time to declare that Palestinian statehood is also an Israeli interest as long as it can be accompanied by peace and security.” We can, he says, control our own future, even as we acknowledge the risks inherent in accepting a Palestinian state and dismantling settlements. “Uncertainty,” he concludes, “is no excuse for passivity, but the impetus for action.” What a clear mandate for J Street heading into these most important days of contemplation on the Jewish calendar. Now is not the time for us to step back in despair. It is time for us to step forward to help lead in the American Jewish community. We can and must shift the communal discussion away from an unproductive blame game to a recognition of the urgency of a two-state solution if Israel is to remain both Jewish and democratic. It is time for us to lead in American politics. We have to stop politicians from taking positions that are, in the long-run, counterproductive for Israel and the U.S. while searching for short-term political gain. And it is time for us to lead in the global Jewish community. We must tell our brothers and sisters in Israel the truth: the path that our national homeland is on is unsustainable. We must change course before it is too late.  Your support made it possible for 10,000 emails and hundreds of calls to reach Congress this week to oppose cutting aid to the Palestinian Authority. Your support made it possible for us to deliver 40,000 postcards to your elected officials in support of the two-state solution on our August Day of Action. Thank you for your partnership in all these achievements. A Quick Aside Last week, I was very pleased to bring our important message to an unusual audience with an appearance on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.” I parried jokes and questions with Stephen Colbert on everything from the Rapture to the UN and the kosher status of goose.

Jeremy Ben-Ami on The Colbert Report

Please forward this link to friends who may enjoy the clip! It’s a great way to introduce them to J Street. I wish you and your family a sweet New Year. Thank you as always for all that you do, Jeremy [1] – A Response to Palestinian Unilateralism: A Time to Lead, by Donniel Hartman.