I was disappointed to learn that the annual General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), which will meet in Jerusalem next month, will not include any discussion of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. The JFNA boasts on its web site that the gathering “tackles the most critical issues of the day” and brings together Jews “from North America and Israelis from across the political spectrum to discuss issues facing Israel.”
According to reporting by “The Forward,” when asked if topics would include the occupation, Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the JFNA, said, implausibly, that the JFNA does not get into political issues. He also said that he doesn’t use the word “occupation” to describe Israel’s military control over 2.6 million stateless Palestinians.What word does he prefer, “truthiness”?
Instead of avoiding the issue, the General Assembly should issue a strong, public statement of support for President [Barack] Obama’s and Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to negotiate a two-state solution. Alas, Federation leaders prefer to stick their heads in the sand.
Perhaps it is because of leadership like this, which increasingly follows more than it leads, that, as the Pew survey has recently reported, Jews are drifting away from both Jewish communal institutions and attachment to Israel, especially in the younger generations.
Editor’s Note: Nina Tannenwald teaches international relations at Brown University. In 2012-2013, she served as an advisor in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation in the U.S. State Department.