Back in the UK, the talk continues

The Guardian’s Comment is free continues to publish opinion pieces on the launch of Independent Jewish Voices, the initiative that could otherwise be called “Communal Jewish leaders don’t speak for me.”

Richard Silverstein of Tikun Olam has added his voice this week with Cracks in the wall:

AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee have enjoyed virtual hegemony as the voice of American Jewry on Israel. It is why presidents, senators and Congress members have voted AIPAC’s way (until recently) on virtually all legislation of interest to the group.

But now, if you put your finger to the wind, you can sense a change. Jimmy Carter’s book is a sensation, having sold 200,000 copies as of January 14. The more Jewish greybeards attack it, the more it sells. The book seems to have struck a chord.

The old Israel “consensus” and leadership approaches are ineffective. When AIPAC speaks, politicians no longer salute quite as crisply as they once did.

Well-known British feminist scholar Jacqueline Rose writes on The myth of self-hatred, the so-over-used-it’s-meaningless insult against Jewish critics of Israeli policies. Rose fights back:

To anyone who wishes to charge us with self-hatred, I would reply that it is not those who can withstand the pressure of internal and external criticism who hate themselves.

Arthur Neslen, in Let a thousand flowers bloom, says, “The Jewish establishment never spoke for us, nor allowed us to speak for ourselves.” He goes on:

Over the years, a highly conservative communal leadership has encouraged its flock to experience their Jewishness vicariously through an identification with Israel. Embourgeoisement, assimilation and a long-term decline in anti-semitism have eroded the basis of alternative identities once championed by the Jewish left.

In the current climate, any attack on Israel’s actions or ideology from within the Jewish community can easily be dismissed as, at best, lacking communal legitimacy. At worst, it is experienced by many British Jews as an attack on Jewishness itself. This gives an easy “in” to anti-semites in some sections of the pro-Palestinian camp, who blame Jewishness for everything from Israel’s expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948 to the Iraq war. A dangerous nexus is developing. One way to break it is to allow dissenting voices into the fray.

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