To the 92nd Street Y: Anti-Zionism Is Not Pro-Israel

John Podhoretz faced a trio of anti-Zionist panel members at the Y. At some point, he had enough self-respect to walk out.

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Ronn Torossian,

Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

Ruth Wisse:“...the rapid demoralization of Jews in the face of anti-Zionism… shows the depth of the influence of the past..."
In New York City last night, there was a panel discussion on “What It Means to Be Pro-Israel.” In an ideal world, one might expect a balanced discussion. What one saw at the 92nd Street Y was three left-wingers opposing one ardent Zionist, and an audience which could hardly be considered friendly to the State of Israel.

And naturally, when it comes to a debate about Israel, it's got to be news.  Unlike the story of hundreds of thousands of protestors in the Ukraine which barely makes a media ripple in the US, everything that has to do with Israel is headlines. That's why we now see media coverage surrounding John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary magazine’s decision to walk out of the event.

Podhoretz’s fellow panelists were Jeremy Ben-Ami of JStreet, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, and Jane Eisner of The Forward moderating. Far from a fair panel.

Podhoretz exited following a discussion in which Ben-Ami "segued into talking about Israeli government policies that, in his view, make it difficult for some Americans to believe Israel really does want peace with the Palestinians." When Podhoretz accused him of blaming the victim, the crowd booed.

At the  92nd Street Y, which sees fit to host anti-Semites like Alice Walker, and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd - who calls for a boycott of Israel - yet claims to be a Jewish center, the audience hissed when Podhoretz said: “I believe that the notion that a Jewish organization should host a speaker or a group that explicitly defines itself as anti-Zionist, which is to say believes in the non-existence of the Jewish state, is a group that deserves to be considered not only anti-Israel but anti-Jewish and ultimately anti-Semitic, as the fundamental fact of Jewish existence in our time in part is the existence of the Jewish state. Wishing for its non-existence is like wishing for the forcible repatriation of 6 million people, 7 million people it’s a horror show, it’s an infamy, it’s a political outrage.”

Perhaps if the panel was actually fair and balanced, the audience would have been as well, and Podhoretz would have been cheered and applauded by some for speaking truth to power in a hostile environment.

He was joined on the panel by Jeremy Ben-Ami of JStreet, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, and Jane Eisner as the moderator.  Far from a fair panel.

Jeremy Ben Ami, the President of J Street has a campaign “aimed at bringing Jewish Americans to endorse a two-state solution for the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.”  The organization is way outside of the American Jewish consensus – with viewpoints opposing sanctions on Iran by the U.S. Congress; support for the U.S. administration’s demand to freeze construction in Jerusalem – and so much more.  

As Ambassador Michael Oren once noted, J Street “is a unique problem in that it not only opposes one policy of one Israeli government; it opposes all policies of all Israeli governments. It’s significantly out of the mainstream.” Their board members have met with Hamas.  This is an extremist organization.

Harris, of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), continually supports the failed peace process and a two-state solution. Harris advocates for a Palestinian State with little rhyme or reason; and opposes building in Judea and Samaria – akin to discrimination against Jews by advocating racial segregation.  He is an unabashed leftist liberal.

Eisner, the so-called “moderator”, is an editor who pushes a liberal, anti-Orthodox agenda whereby her newspaper provides a forum to bash conservative viewpoints ad naseum. As Morris Amitay of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee said “The best way I can describe the Forward is it’s the equivalent of Haaretz.”  They have given space to articles claiming Israel as an apartheid state, and a “bloodthirsty regime intent on dehumanizing Palestinians.”

As Harvard professor Ruth Wisse has said “the rapid demoralization of Jews in the face of anti-Zionism… shows the depth of the influence of the past, for many have yet to achieve the simple self-respect that has been eluding the Jews collectively since the dawn of modernity.”

This debate about Israel is unfair and is racist. Focus on women who are slaves elsewhere in the Middle East, the revolution in Ukraine or saving trees somewhere.

Leave Israel Alone.