Jeff Ballabon (Cont.)

Dear Jeff,

Please explain how one balances Zionism - the belief that an Israeli government making independent decisions is something that should not be undermined - with the desire to influence political decisions related to Jerusalem from the outside.

Or let me ask this in a more blatant way: is Zionism part of the equation?

Best

Rosner

Dear Shmuel,

I think the implication of the question is inapposite in this case since CCJ actually is working with, not against, a substantial majority of Knesset to try to remove pressure being put on Israel by the U.S. State Department.

I also am tempted to toss the question back at you and ask why Ha'aretz has never challenged Yossi Beilin and the Left this way. They invented the stratagem of forcing Israel's hand via foreign pressure.

But I think the philosophical point of your question is far too important to ignore, so I will do my best to address it.

First, if you reread your question, I think you will agree that what you describe as Zionism is - absent counterveiling principles - mere anti-democratic tyranny without any regard to Zionism's far more important objectives of establishing a safe and secure Jewish homeland.

Personally, I do not care to use the term "Zionist" to describe myself, in large measure because I think it is a term abused to the point of meaninglessness and from the beginning is a theory that ascribed far too much faith in and power to the state.

Similarly, the phrase "Pro-Israel" has been turned into a meaningless fundraising slogan, as it is applied to raise campaign funds for politicians who express nice vague sentiments about supporting Israel, even if they hold absolutely opposing ideologies and clashing policy agendas for Israel. It is farcical to hear major "Pro-Israel" groups reassure us that there is no difference whether Democrats or Republicans control Congress or that the choice between Bush and Kerry is "win-win" when it is abundantly clear the two candidates had drastically opposing ideas about how the U.S. should interact with Israel.

So I think it's high time that we eschew ideologies and labels and focus on actual principles and policies. And, in answer to your question, I think we should be far more concerned, for example, with protecting Jewish lives than with propping up any government.

I also think that the ability for the State of Israel to make independent decisions is not the same as the unfettered right for a particular Israeli prime minister to demand obeisance without regard to the content of his policies. We have a saying popular among conservatives and libertarians in America: "I love my country but I fear my government."

I would argue that that is a far more moral, useful and productive approach to "Zionism" than "how dare you challenge the prime minister" - which sounds eerily like "my country right or wrong."

If we were to accept your consideration as the only standard for Zionism, then Zionism also would be immoral by precluding individual and communal efforts to pursue policy based on conscience and faith.

Finally, if all that is too philosophical, I will make the argument in the most concrete way possible: it is the worst kind of denial for anyone to hide behind your proposed narrow definition of Zionism while watching the ongoing abandonment by Israel's current government of the Jews of Sderot.

So, it boils down to this: I reject the notion that Zionism has no meaning other than what Olmert says it means this week, and I may no longer know what Zionism means or how it enters the equation, but I'm pretty sure itis absurd to characterize as "Zionist" any government which refuses to act to protect Jewish towns and whose primary policy goal is the redivision of Jerusalem and the release and arming of terrorists in order to create a state for Israel's enemies along its most vulnerable border.

Jeff

Jeff,

Your response was provocatively honest. "Politics is about leverage and power", "we neither require nor request your permission". But here's the problem you have: by fighting for Jerusalem you might pushing for another round of violence in the region. If this happens, the blood of Israelis - for whom I know you care - will be spilled, while you're living your life safely in NY.

True, this might still leave you with the option to do whatever it is you want to do. But is this a moral position?

SR

Shmuel, the question startles me. You have stacked the deck in your phrasing, but it is a false dichotomy and you know it. I take it as given that neither side of this debate holds their position for any reason other than that they seek an end to bloodshed. So the real question is one of judgment ? will dividing Jerusalem cause more or less violence?

In my previous response, I alluded briefly to the fact that Israel's enemies have never and do not now seek peaceful coexistence.

So let me be even more explicit: Above all other considerations and factors, and I feel safe in this instance to say that I do speak for every organization involved in CCJ, our highest purpose in opposing the redivision of Jerusalem is that such a move, like similar efforts in recent years, inevitably leads to terrible bloodshed.

The notion of negotiating Jerusalem emanates from America?s State Department and Ehud Olmert, not the Israeli military or security sectors. Quite the contrary, they oppose it. Among the loudest voices of protest are former IDF chiefs of staff Bugi Ya'alon and Shaul Mofaz. Even the current chief of staff is openly expressing concern.

Personally, I think there are many aspects to Annapolis that have potential for triggering widespread terror and violence, but when it comes to dividing Jerusalem, there is broad agreement that the stakes are so high that it borders on national suicide as well as local bloodshed. By way of illustration, I would point readers to a graphic on CCJ?s website (http://www.ccjer.org/article.php?id=59) showing what parts of Jerusalem become instantly vulnerable to common weapons in the Palestinian arsenal. Every inch of Jerusalem would be, G-d forbid, within Qassam rocket range. My own son?s apartment would be, G-d forbid, in AK-47 range. (Feel free to read that last sentence twice.)

The "peace" camp's fantasies have spilled the blood of thousands. And so, Shmuel, you ask if it is moral for us to fight Annapolis? Yes because to be passive in the face of evil is collaborate with evil.

And, in turn, I would ask you, with the stakes so high, how can any moral person refuse to get involved in this struggle? How dare we, who do live safely in America, close our eyes to the pleas for help from our Israeli brothers?

They say the definition of chutzpa is the man who kills his parents and then asks the court for mercy because he is an orphan.

In this case, however, the man is asking the court to provide him a gun and time alone with his grandparents.

Our response is, "No thank you; not any more." The sound of our brothers' blood cries out to us from the ground.

Dear Jeff,

In Haaretz' Sunday edition, Uzi Benziman writes this: "Jerusalem as a whole is losing its productive backbone and is deepening its dependence on state handouts. Young, secular, educated people able to earn a wage are leaving it in droves, followed by their parents... That is the backdrop against which we should judge recent statements by groups that call on the public to keep Jerusalem united. A ludicrous gap exists between the organizations' rhetoric and the forces shaping the city."

What Israelis will tell you is this: if you want to fight for "united" Jerusalem, come and live in Jerusalem. What is it that gives you the right to fight for it from New York?

Best

Rosner

Thanks, Shmuel, for inviting me to participate. I will start by saying that I am presenting only my own point of view. The Jewish organizations - both American and Israeli - working with CCJ to ensure that Jerusalem is not a subject for negotiation have come together from many perspectives and for a variety of reasons. Many will not agree with my own point of view. So with the disclaimer that I talk only for myself, let's get down to it:

No country on the planet would allow its capital to be divided because of its economic situation. Benziman's challenge is weakness and prejudice masquerading as boldness and pragmatism.

Israel's enemies do not just want Jerusalem. To this day, they demand every inch from the "river to the sea." The "Green Line" is a bedtime story some Israeli politicians tell, but which has no influence on Israel's enemies. Shall Israel adopt the Benziman test and abandon any town or region where "his kind" - "young, secular, educated" - don't reside? Benziman and his friends may not understand it but no matter where Jews live, we are one People with one Homeland and one Capital.

A story: In the years before the Balfour Declaration, a member of the House of Lords asked Chaim Weizmann, "Why do you Jews insist on Palestine when there are so many undeveloped countries you could settle in more conveniently?"

Weizmann replied: "That is like my asking you why you drove twenty miles to visit your mother last Sunday when there are so many old ladies living on your street."

Benziman's construct neither shares nor understands the deep Jewish imperative that many of us (observant and nonobservant alike) do understand, but even for such a worldview it is necessary to acknowledge the Jewish dimension on a purely secular and strategic plane - Israel has a choice and it all boils down to a simple question: does Israel want to be a Jewish State? If it does not, then not only can it count on losing support from US Jews (obviously), it can count on losing economic, military and political support from the United States itself. Whether Benziman and his circle like it or not, Jewish history and the Jewish condition are the predicates for US support - rightly so, for if it is not a Jewish state ? if it indeed merely is "a state of all its citizens", the State of Israel has neither moral nor legal justification for creation or existence.

If the Benziman standard is correct, then Hamas and Ahmadenijad are correct and Jews in Tel Aviv also are just occupiers from Europe and elsewhere. The organic connection of the Land of Israel to the Jewish people explicitly is the foundation of the entire enterprise which is precisely why Israel's enemies - who have no deep historical connection to Jerusalem as a capital - spend so much time trying to deny the Jewish links to Jerusalem and make Jerusalem a sine qua non of their own demands.

The more clearly the inherent Jewish right to its ancient homeland is established by the State of Israel, the more right Israel has to continue to exist. No people in recorded history have ever willingly ceded their ancestral homeland and certainly not their capital. In the case of Jerusalem, such a move is tantamount to dismantling the State of Israel.

Second: the phrasing of the question is misleading. You pose it as though we are on one side and "Israelis" are on the other. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A solid majority of Knesset is working with us, including Labor and Kadima MKs. The mayor of Jerusalem is working with us. Dozens of Israeli groups are working with us. And even the "American" organizations are in fact "Jewish" and include many Israelis. For example, the National Council of Young Israel, which provided funding for the creation of CCJ, is an umbrella organization of synagogues about a quarter of which are in Israel. The executive who runs NCYI lives in New York, but his parents and brother and children are in Jerusalem. This is true for most or all of the "American" groups in CCJ. In short, we have, as we say, "skin in the game" every bit as much as Benziman and need not feel in any way less involved than Ehud Olmert, much of whose family lives in the US.

There are countless other justifications and space is limited, but now we have arrived at the real question: "what gives us the right?"

Those who do not understand the inherent oneness of the Jews with each other and with Eretz Yisrael will never understand what gives us the "right." My answer to them is much simpler: the question is not relevant. No one and nothing has to give us the right because politics is about leverage and power and we are exercising that which is available to us.

Jerusalem is the birthright of all Jews everywhere. The founders of the State of Israel understood it. The enemies of the State of Israel understand it. As for anyone who does not, simply contend with this: we neither require nor request your permission to fight for Jerusalem.