Bob Kunst of Miami Beach is mad as hell at Israel. He's not going to take it anymore.
- Obama meets Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams at White House
- American Jews are part of the Israeli-Palestinian problem
- 140 U.S. Jewish leaders sign letter urging PM to 'compromise' in peace talks
- Miami Jewish population grows for first time since 1975
"Dear Chosen Activists," began the e-mail I received from him at the weekend. The subject of the mass mailing was the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, but it was the tack taken by the subject line that I found particularly arresting:
"BIBI GIVES NAZIS #1 VICTORY"
Bob Kunst is president of a Miami-based, hard right organization called Shalom International, which this week is organizing demonstrations against the U.S.-brokered talks. Kunst and his group are strongly pro-settlement. So strongly pro-settlement that since the talks began, it is no longer clear that they still consider themselves pro-Israel.
"Bibi is even worse than Rabin," Kunst wrote, warning that in selling out half a million settlers, Israel's prime minister had given the "Islamic Nazis" who call themselves Palestinians "their greatest victory yet."
"Israel can't give up what G-d gave us and millions of Jews were murdered for," he continues. "Will the Jews ever learn?"
Then Kunst, in admitted desperation, turns to Israelis as a whole: "The lack of response from Israelis to all of this is mindboggling, and repeating 1938 politics that led to the Holocaust."
"Israelis are so busy making shekels, they have no clue what is worth fighting for, and those that do have been isolated and treated as extremist."
"If the Israelis have an ounce of integrity left in them, the issue is very clear. Speak out now or lose it all. Bring Bibi down."
Both the Israeli in me and the American in me recognize that I have much to learn from Bob Kunst.
He is telling both of us to relate seriously to these peace talks. Not to dismiss them as smoke, mirrors and gossamer sham.
He is telling both of us to open our eyes and our mouths, to know what we want to see and speak up for it.
Specifically, he has a message for North American Jews: You have every right - and, if you feel it, every responsibility – to speak out for the Israel and for the peace you want to see.
It's your future, too.
There was a time abroad when Jews on the right would routinely try to shut the traps of Jews on the left, by arguing that criticizing the government was by definition anti-Israel.
There was a time abroad when Jews on the right would argue that leftist criticism of Israel was anti-Zionist at best and anti-Semitic at worst, because the fates and lives of the leftists would not be affected by policies such as peace or its opposite.
The American in me salutes Bob Kunst, Floridian, for speaking out in favor of the Israel he wants to see.
I don't agree with a single word he says. But he should put it out there, every word.
This is what I've seen of my people in the Old Country: As more and more North American Jews become involved with Israel through Birthright and other programs, more and more members of the North American Jewish community recognize the importance of supporting an Israel whose agenda is bound up with an honest search for peace, and an honest commitment to human rights.
The Israeli in me salutes you.
Go for it. Work for it. It's your future, too.