From Alan Sokal:
Dear signers and supporters of the “Open Letter from American Jews”:
A long time has passed since we last communicated back in 2006.
Though many things have changed — the emergence of J Street,
the Arab Spring, the Palestinian request for recognition by the U.N. —
the key facts remain: unconditional U.S. financing has permitted
the right-wing Israeli government to expand the settlements and
undermine the possibilities for peace; and American Jewish opinion
continues to play a key role in securing political support for that
These days there are hopeful signs of greater independence of mind
among American Jews, but those signs haven’t been broadcast widely enough
and haven’t made it to the ears of Congress and other policymakers.
Two years ago, one of us (Bruce Robbins) undertook with several
colleagues to make a documentary film highlighting the views of
American Jews who dissent from the standard AIPAC line on Israel
and the Middle East. Carrying the wry title “Some of my best friends
are Zionists”, the film does not try to push any one view. Some of
the interviewees would consider themselves Zionists, others not.
One fought for Israel in 1948, another volunteered to fight in 1967.
The real heart of the story is how they changed their minds,
how they gave up on the Israel-right-or-wrong policy of the mainstream
American Jewish organizations, how they settled on a sense of Jewish
identity that involves basic fairness.
We have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the completion of the film.
Small contributions are very welcome. The website only lasts for 3 weeks,
so time is of the essence.
Here’s the link:
This web page also contains a 10-minute trailer giving a taste of the film.
We think that a film centered on how people change their minds
will be more effective with the broad American public than a film
that argued for one particular view. In this sense we think that
the film is true to the ideas and motives of the signatories of the
Open Letter, who wanted to get the word out that we American Jews are
much more varied and independent-minded than the world thinks we are.
PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST:
AN OPEN LETTER FROM AMERICAN JEWS TO OUR GOVERNMENT
In the wake of the recent bloodshed in the Middle East, many Israelis and
Palestinians — and their supporters in the United States — have reverted to
an us-versus-them thinking in which they see themselves as righteous victims
and ignore or minimize the injustices they have done, and continue to do,
to the other people.
In fact, both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples have suffered great
wrongs at the hands of the other, albeit in different and unequal ways;
both have legitimate grievances, legitimate fears, and legitimate distrust
of the other people’s willingness to compromise for the sake of peace.
Though the signers of this letter have a wide range of views about the
blame for the present situation, we have a common view of what a solution
will have to consist of.
Incremental attempts at building trust have reached an impasse. The only
alternative to endless war is a comprehensive settlement based on simple
but radical principles:
— Israeli and Palestinian lives are equally precious.
— The Israeli and Palestinian peoples have equal rights to national
self-determination and to live in peace and security.
— The Israeli and Palestinian peoples have equal rights to a fair share
of the land and resources of historic Palestine.
Fair-minded people throughout the world have long understood with some
precision what a tenable solution, respecting these principles, would entail:
— Two national states, Israel and Palestine, with equal sovereignty,
equal rights and equal responsibilities.
— Partition along the pre-1967 border as modified only by minor
mutually agreed territorial swaps.
— Israeli evacuation of all settlements in the occupied territories
except those within the agreed swapped areas.
— Palestinian and Arab recognition of Israel and renunciation of
any further territorial claims.
— Palestinian acceptance of negotiated limitations on the “right of
return” in exchange for financial compensation for refugees.
Several years ago, polls showed that majorities of both Israelis and
Palestinians were willing to accept a compromise settlement of this kind.
Despite the current carnage, that may still be the case; but compromise
is difficult when majorities on both sides support provocative military
actions that they view as purely defensive, while powerful minorities
pursue maximalist territorial aims.
If Israelis and Palestinians are unwilling or unable to negotiate
a workable peace, the international community must take the lead in
promoting one. This is in the long-term interest not only of Israelis
and Palestinians, but also of Americans: recent events have made
painfully clear that our own national security is deeply undermined
by instability and injustice in the Middle East.
The U.S. bears a special responsibility for the current tragic impasse,
by virtue of our massive economic and military support for the Israeli
government: $500 per Israeli citizen per year. Our country has an
extraordinary leverage on Israeli policy, if only our government would
dare to use it. As American Jews who care deeply about the long-term
security of Israel, we call on our government to make continued aid
conditional on Israeli acceptance of an internationally agreed two-state
Rejectionists on both sides will of course attack any such settlement.
Foreign troops may well be required to enforce it, and they must be
prepared to accept casualties. One may nevertheless hope that majorities
of both Israelis and Palestinians will realize that an imperfect peace
is preferable to endless war.
There is no guarantee that this approach will work; but it is virtually
guaranteed that all alternatives will fail.