Yom Rivii, 19 AdarI 5781
Wednesday, 3 March 2021
Why solidarity matters PDF Print E-mail

Lucian J Hudson outlines LJ’s commitment to Israel 

LIBERAL JUDAISM is Zionist, in favour of a negotiated two-state solution and in opposition to all boycotts. Our members hold a range of views on Israel. Some still do not countenance any criticism, but most make a distinction between support for Israel’s ideals and, when appropriate, questioning of its policies.

The challenge for Liberal Judaism is to ensure that its children retain Israel within their DNA. Like it or hate it, Israel is part of what we Jews are. We can argue with it, shout at it, but never walk away from it completely. We have no choice but to engage.

Convene a panel of Liberal rabbis – I suggest Danny Rich, David Goldberg, Charley Baginsky, Shulamit Ambalu, Elli Tikvah Sarah and Neil Janes – and add myself to the mix, and you’ll quickly see the breadth and depth of our thinking as a movement. There will be many common strands, but some different perspectives. This is not just healthy but vital, if we are to engage effectively.

We should watch for two trends. The first gives up on the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora, leaving each to go its own sweet (or rather sour) way. The other is a binary choice between unqualified support for the actions of Israel’s government and knee-jerk condemnation.

My recent visit to Jerusalem also revealed a third trend, which diplomats fear has gained ground and needs to be reversed - growing doubt that a lasting peace can ever be achieved. I have come to mistrust the distinction between optimism and pessimism, as it implies a belief about a future that we can never know. I prefer to be positive and realistic, and not miss opportunities or threats. American Secretary of State John Kerry’s energetic initiative to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is the only show in town, and needs to be supported.

Lack of progress on the peace process should not give way to indifference and cynicism. The details and permutations of any ultimate resolution are pretty clear, so clear in fact that this holds back any side making the first move. We have to keep alive the possibility that a new understanding can emerge and create the conditions in which political leadership can make a difference. Civil society and business need to play their part to shape the right conditions in which such a breakthrough is possible.

An obsession with transparency regardless of its consequences makes any quiet diplomacy almost impossible. The age of the internet and social media has brought great benefits, but also comes at an enormous cost: we have denied our leaders the space to think creatively and show leadership.

One thing we can do as individual Liberal Jews is renew our commitment to Israel and its wider promise. Along with other Jewish leaders and organisations, Rabbi Yuval Keren and I recently joined the Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub to celebrate Closer to Israel, a special event to mark Israel’s 65th anniversary.

We speak passionately and proudly of tikkun olam, mending or healing a broken world. As we approach a new Jewish year, let us make the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora a focus for our building that better world. We can take meaningful practical steps, such as taking part in visits and exchanges and supporting partners who are leading initiatives in education, culture, trade and business. Our goal should be nothing less than to refresh and revitalise our sense of common destiny and purpose.

Lucian J Hudson is chairman of Liberal Judaism and a former director of communications for the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office