Has the Jewish Agency Lost Sight of Its Purpose?

This week, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the pre-state organization created to encourage and facilitate Jews’ settlement in their ancestral homeland, announced that it is “refining” its “strategic mission.” According to its chairman, the former Labor-party leader Isaac Herzog, it will now seek to “provide concrete solutions to the greatest challenges facing the Jewish people at this time: mending the rifts among our people, building a two-way bridge between Israel and world Jewry, . . . and providing security for Jews around the world”—as well as “encouraging aliyah.” Ruthie Blum comments:

The only thing really new in this mission lies in its reduced emphasis on immigration to Israel. . . . This subtle yet significant . . . shift in the perception and description of the Jewish Agency’s job has coincided with the evolution of the concept of “Zionism,” . . . now a general term denoting anything from a strong love or political backing for Israel to the wishy-washy, often veiled anti-Israel claim that it has a “right to exist.” So long as it behaves itself, of course.

Long gone are the days when the legendary Israeli prime minister Golda Meir was able to cause Diaspora Jews ill ease—even outright guilt—for remaining in their comfort zone abroad. Passed, too, is the time when Israelis were viewed as traitors for moving to greener pastures in America and Europe, and referred to as such by the likes of the late Israeli prime minister Yitzḥak Rabin.

Ironically, this move away from shaming Jews for not settling or staying in Israel to embracing and strengthening Jewish life in the Diaspora began to take place alongside the re-emergence of anti-Semitism worldwide. . . . Strikingly, whenever a pubic Israeli figure responds to the above by urging Jews to “come home,” or even suggesting that they might, he is chastised for it.

That the Jewish Agency is altering its course somewhat may be unavoidable, particularly in a world that deems “causing offense” to someone practically worthy of the electric chair. But if Herzog imagines that the kind of Israel-Diaspora unity he has in mind will put even the slightest dent in the deep political and ideological rifts at the heart of the divide, he has another think coming.

Read more at JNS

More about: Golda Meir, Isaac Herzog, Israel and the Diaspora, Jewish Agency, Yitzhak Rabin


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict