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April 4, 2014

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PAGE 4A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, APRIL 4, 2014 Do something For the past decade or so I've been having a similar conversation with a friend of mine. Whenever we go out to lunch, he tells me about the latest change in his business as he works to reinvent it with a vision geared toward future relevance and sustainability. "We've redesigned the interiors of the restau- rants so they appeal more to young families," he tells me, "and we're adding a full-service bar." Or "we've gone completely paperless with all corporate records" or"we're looking at how we communicate with our franchisees" or "we're shifting our advertising dollars to take greater advantage of new media." Now this individual who shall remain name- less but who runs a large national barbecue chain, gets lots of kudos from me for a few reasons, and not the obvious "he's not afraid of change." He gets credit for understanding that a vision takes a long time to implement, and that it's hard work. As I put together the collection of columns that constitute my book "The Good Word: A Decade of Jewish Thought and Chutzpah," I came to realize that, if there is an overrid- ing theme to the compilation, it's change, or more precisely, transformation. Personal transformation, as I've attempted to look at myself and question my most basic beliefs, my sense of who I am, who I want to be, and in doing so, asked you to do the same. On a broad political level, I've challenged groups as disparate as Muslim fundamentalists and Israeli politicians to question a peace process that has never worked and try something new. And on a local level, I have consistently, over many years, asked our community and our agencies to look at themselves and ask the most fundamental questions. Are we relevant? As times have changed, have we? Are we us- ing best business practices, making decisions that take.not only who we are today, but who we want to be tomorrow into account, and reaching the right constituency in order to make that happen? I don't think I've ever said a single one of our agencies does a bad job. But I have confronted every agency with a simple statement: Do something! Do something different. Do something that lets me know you can change with the times. Do something that tells me you have a vision for the future. But please, do something. The old definition of insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting dif- ferent results. That doesn't mean it's easy to have vision, that it's easy to change. It's not. There are obvious reasons not to change. It's hard. It takes a long time. You have to be able to critique yourself honestly. And it can be scary. When it comes to agency change, or corporate or political change, it can be like steering an iceberg. But it can be done, and the corollary, the downside is eventual extinction. That's why this column is called The Good Word, even when people think I'm simply pontificating and spouting negativity. I'm the spaghetti on the wall, the jester to the king, the storm in your brain. I'm what happens when you ask, "What if...?" What if the Federation asked itself if there was a betterway to raise money than old meth- ods and messages, and then did it? What if the JCC asked itself what it wants to be to appeal to the next generation of Jewish families, and then worked toward that? What if the Jewish Academy asked itself whether it wanted to be a school for 150 or 250 or 350 children, and then put forth a plan to make it happen? What's so wrong with asking those ques- tions? What then? What if? My ideas, when I put them in columns, are just that: ideas. The concrete, determining, course-altering decisions must be made by those affected by them--the agencies, the constituents. But they must be made. And so far, what I've seen around me, has been intransigence. More same old with, for some reason, an inherent fear of trying something bold. Something new. Something different. I applaud people and companies like my friend's, who take on the challenge of fundamental change. And for the rest of us, individuals and organizations alike, I'm waiting, hoping, edge-of-my-seat praying to be impressed. Fingers crossed. And that's the good word. Send your thoughts, comments, and critiques to the Heritage or email By Josh Hasten visit was "about creating an honest conversa- tion regarding some of the most contentious Dear Harvard College Israel Trek 2014---As issues facing both Israelis and Palestinians you well know by now, your current trip to today...Whetherwelikeornot, YasserArafatis Israel has drawn international attention and important to the Palestinian narrative, and as media coverage. While a group of college educatorscommittedtoanhonestexploration students traipsing through the Jewish State of these issues we could not afford to deviate is probably not worthy of such focus, your from Trek policy that encouraged students to visit to Ramallah and specifically your smiley document and share their experiences with group photo at the grave of Yasser Arafat, the their respective communities." father of modern-day terrorism, has drawn So my question for you is this: if you were condemnation from many (myself included), looking for an "honest conversation," how At the same time your organizers on the was your experience conversing with a dead ground in Israel, as well as your sponsors back terrorist? in Boston including Hillel and thee CJP (Com- I'm assuming it was pretty one-sided. bined Jewish Philanthropies, unlder the um- Ifthat'snotthecase, mysincerestapologizes brella of the US Jewish Federation system), for misunderstanding. have vociferously defended your itinerary, and Perhaps what you meant was that you spent have made a point to attack those who have your day in Ramallah hearing that "narrative" come out against your visit, labeling them/us you were seeking from LIVING 'Palestinian' as fringe extremists, leaders. I have read all of your explanations, jus- I highly doubt though that the PA officials tifications, clarifications, etc. for the smiley you met with spoke about the town squares gravesite photo, and frankly I'm just not throughoutthePAnamedaftersuicidebomb- impressed, ers. I also doubt they gave you a glimpse into WhileyouclaimtobefullyawarethatArafat the PA's official educational system or media was behind countless Israeli deaths, I want to which daily incites against the State of Israel go over his abridged resume of mass murder and the Jewish people. just one more time to be sure you have the I'llsavewhatwasmissingfromyourvisitfor facts. Also, since you are representing a US another discussion, and give you time to ex- institution, it's important to note how many pIore that reality here. American citizens are deadasaresultofArafat's But back to the Arafat smiley. murderous ways. The bottom line is whether you like it or As chairman of the PLO, Arafat was respon- not, whether it was your intention or not--a sible for (or linked to): smiling group photo at the grave of someone The murder of 12 Israeli Olympians during who led a life of pure terror, murder, and evil, the 1972 Munich games DOES in fact honor his memory, and does The murder of the United States ambas- serve as a statement of approval. sador to the Sudan, Cleo Noel, in 1973 I have no doubtthatthe currentsocial media The bombing of the United States Marines explosion over your photo is delighting the barracksinBeirutin1983thatkilled241people Palestinian Authority leadership to no end. The hijackihg of the Achille Lauro cruise I'm sure they won't hesitate to use it for their ship in 1985 and the murder of hostage Leon public relations purposes in the near future Klinghoffer if they haven't already done so. The Oslo War (2nd intifada) that claimed Since you are students of Harvard, I don't the lives of over 1,000 Israeli civilians and doubtyourintellectualabilities, butIleaveyou soldiers, including US citizens with a piece of advice--next time, perhaps be But you probably knew all that, right? If a bit smarter. not, you do now. Josh Hasten is a blogger for The Times of Nevertheless, your organizers say that the Israel. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ON THIS PAGE ARE NOT NECESSARILY THE VIEWS OF HERITAGE MANAGEMENT. CENTRAL FLORIDA'S ISSN 0199-0721 Winner of 43 Press Awards INDEPENDENT JEWISH VOICE Editor/Publisher Jeffrey Gaeser Editor Emeritus Associate Editor Assistant Editor Gene Starn Kim Fischer Chris DeSouza HERITAGE Florida Jewish News (ISN 0199-0721) is published weekly for $37.95 per year to Florida ad- dresses ($46.95 for the rest of the U.S.) by HERITAGE Central Florida Jewish News, Inc., 207 O'Brien Road, Suite 101, Fern Park, FL 32730. Periodicals postage paid at Fern Park and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes and other correspondence to: HERITAGE, P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. MAILING ADDRESS PHONE NUMBER P.O. Box 300742 (407) 834-8787 Fern Park, FL 32730 FAX (407) 831-0507 email: Society Editor Bookkeeping Gloria Yousha Paulette Alfonso Account Executives Barbara do Carmo * Marci Gaeser Contributing Columnists Jim Shipley Ira Sharkansky David Bornstein Ed Ziegler Production Department David Lehman Gil Dombrosky Joyce Gore By Ben Cohen JNS .org Ah, the devious Benjamin Netanyahu! Just when we are on the cusp of a breakthrough in Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations, Israel's slippery prime minister introduces a potential deal-breaker, in the form of insisting that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. That, in essence, is the narrative that has emerged over the past fortnight, as shaped by the tiresome pundits who spend their days forensically examining Netanyahu's statements and actions. Writing in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Hussein Ibish, a faux moderate work- ing for the American Task Force on Palestine, described the "Jewish state" negotiating theme as a "new demand" deliberately engineered to undermine what he termed "the greatest of Palestinian concessions, their 1993 recogni- tion of the State of Israel." Also in Haaretz, Peter Beinart, a professional Jewish critic of Israel, opined--without offering a scintilla of evidence--that what Netanyahu really wants is a Jewish state that rides roughshod over its non-Jewish minorities, so as to ensure that "Jewish political power trumps pretty much everything else." Ibish, Beinart, and their co-thinkers have made much of their dubious claim that Israel has never defined what a Jewish state means. For Ibish, the problem is that the Jewish state demand "suggests a trans-historical claim to this land on behalf of an entire but undefined ethno-religious group the world over"---this typically dense and obfuscatory language is Ibish's way of arguing that he rejects Zionism. As for Beinart, the type of Jewish state he believes Netanyahuwants--one thatwill use any means to entrench its Jewish majority, and which regards democratic norms as an irritant--isn't worth endorsing in the first place. In this, Ibish faithfully echoes Beinart, asserting that the PLO will never endorse a formula that cements "the restrictions Palestinian citizens of Israel now face." (This, by the way, is the same logic that underpins Vladimir Putin's declaration that he invaded Crimea to secure the rights of vulnerable Russian citizens facing vengeful Ukrainian nationalists.) Once you cast aside these caricatures, though, two facts become clear. Firstly, the demand for recognition of Israel's status as a Jewish state is hardly new. The Israeli archivist Yaacov Lozowick has revealed that, within the context of negotiations with the Palestinians, the demand emerged as early as 2001, a few months into the second Palestinian intifada, articulated by a group of Israeli leftists, no less. Wrote Lozowick:"The Palestinianswere willing to join in stating that there should be two independent states alongside one another, but the Israelis, alerted by the fiascos of Camp David and Taba to a nuance they had previ- ously overlooked, demanded that the statement clearly say that Israel would be a Jewish state and Palestine anArab one. The Palestinians refused. Jews, they said, are a religion, not a national- ity, and neither need nor deserve their own state. They were welcome to live in Israel, but the Palestinian refugeeswould come back, and perhaps she would cease to be a Jewish state." This brings us to the second fact: rather than being an afterthought designed to derail negotiations, the Jewish state demand gets to the heart of this conflict. The Palestinians and the Arab states have never conceded that there is a legitimate connection between the Jewish people and the land of ISrael that is expressed through the reality of self-determination. Hence, aworld of difference separates'the moral recognition of Jewish national legitimacy from the tactical recognition, in 1993, of Israel as a state. As Lozowick documented, and as Ibish implicitly acknowledged in his article, the Palestinians reject the idea of the Jews as a nation wholesale, whether that's through the theological baggage of Islam, which recognizes the Jews only as a subordinate religious group, or the ostensibly secular reasoning of Ibish, which faithfully reflects the reactionary nine- teenth century conception of the Jews as an unnatural, "non-organic" people whose claim to self-determination is necessarily based upon historical falsehoods. Andwhat is it, precisely, that is being rejected here? If you comb through the archive of Zion- ist writings, you will find that there are many definitions of what a Jewish state means. In my view, the most succinct and modest definition was coined by Leo Pinsker, a Russian Zionist who founded the group "Hovevei Zion," or "Lovers of Zion." In 1882, almost two decades before the first Zionist Congress, Pinker wrote a tract entitled "Autoemancipation" in which he pleaded, "Grant us but our independence, allow us to take care of ourselves, give us but a little strip of land like that of the Serbians and Romanians, give us a chance to lead a national existence." It is this Jewish desire to lead a normal national existence, like the "Serbians and Ro- manians," that underpins both Zionism as an ideology and Israel as a Jewish state. In rejecting the Jewish ambition to be a nation like other nations, Israel's opponents distortthe debate by insinuating that the Jews--who aren't really a proper nation anyway--want special treatment, even if that means trampling on the rights of the true indigenous people, the Palestinian Arabs. For more than a century, Zionists have been countering these slanders. It looks like we will continue doing so for some time yet. And still they ask why there is no peace! Ben Cohen is the Shillman analyst for JNS. org. His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in Com- mentary, the New York Post, Haaretz, Jewish Ideas Daily and many other publications.