Friday, March 23, 2018

Lauder uses wrong venue for mostly misguided remarks

The following was submitted as a letter to the Jerusalem Post but was not published because I had another letter published shortly before. Let me emphasize that, though I disagree with most of Lauder's criticisms, I believe he has an obligation to express them, but in the proper forum, directly to Israeli Jews and Israeli government officials. The New York Times is not a proper forum; it both discredits him in the eyes of most Israelis, thus actually diminishing our willingness to listen to him, and provides the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people with ammunition to use against us. 

To the editor:

Of everything about Ronald S. Lauder's op-ed "Grave threats to Israel as a Jewish democratic state" with which I disagree, I disagree most with the attribution "This article first appeared in the New York Times."

If someone has advice for a friend or relative, the appropriate way to give that advice is to speak with or write to that person. One doesn't send an op-ed with that advice to the New York Times and hope it's read.

By publishing a critical op-ed in the New York Times, Lauder behaved, a la J Street, like an adversary rather than like a loving member of the Jewish people and thus forfeited any ability to be taken seriously by Israelis.

In terms of his critique, Lauder wrote as if the only alternative to the so-called "two-state solution," one the Palestinian Arabs have repeatedly rejected and which Mahmoud Abbas has emphatically said he would never accept, is a "one-state solution." However, there's absolutely no chance of a "one-state solution." We long ago turned over governance of almost all the Arabs in the disputed territory to their own government and we're not going to take that over. We'll just persevere until the Palestinian Arabs are willing to live in peace, at which point we'll come up with some arrangement.

It's instructive that the bias against Israel that permeates the media and the demonization Israel that permeates college campuses has had far more effect on the American Jewish community than on the non-Jews, whose support for Israel is at record highs. This indicates a potentially disastrous failure of the leadership of the American Jewish community.

The one kernel of a real problem Lauder mentioned was the stranglehold of the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate on government actions relating to Judaism here. However, despite Lauder's blaming that for alienation of American Jews, it's basically a domestic issue, one that we will resolve, and it has virtually no practical effect on Jews in the United States. I can give that assurance from personal knowledge, as someone who was born, raised and spent his entire working life in the United States and still spends nearly half of each year there.

American Jewish leaders, like Ron Lauder, need to figure out what they need to do to reverse the decline of their community, of which I am still a part, part-time. And if they believe Israel should be doing some things differently, they need to convey their opinions appropriately, not broadcast them in the New York Times.


Alan Stein

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