US Secretary of State John Kerry drew fire from Israelis late last week, when he slammed Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria as "illegitimate". But an upcoming conference in New York City to challenge Jews in the Diaspora to do more to confront the delegimization of the "settlements" themselves.
The subject of the conference is telling.
Entitled "Addressing Core Issues and Improving Your Impact", event organizers say their aim is to address a number of burning questions, including:
"Why are Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank) Israel's 'Iron Dome' [a reference to the Israeli-made Iron Dome missile defense system - ed.]? What is the legal basis for Israeli Jewish sovereignty over this territory? How is Israel's full control over its entire biblical homeland the cause of stability in the Middle East, rather than 'instability'? Why can’t Israel allow the international community to push her borders back to the 1967 ceasefire lines?"
Too many Israel advocates are skirting around what they see as "awkward issues", they say, when they can and should really be tackling the issue head-on - and the conference's objective is to help them do precisely that.
"It is actually revolutionary because unity is rare, and traditionally mainstream Zionist groups have been afraid of coming out in support of Judea and Samaria because they are concerned that is is not politically correct," says conference organizer David Ha'ivri.
The lineup of speakers include American pro-Israel advocates alongside a range of Israeli activists from across the country, including community leaders from Judea and Samaria.
Arutz Sheva analyst and Chairman of Americans for a Safe Israel Mark Langfan will also be addressing the conference. Langfan praised the event organizers, including Ha'ivri and Gershon Mesika, who heads the Shomron (Samaria) Regional Council, for facilitating the "warm unity between many groups that has never happened before".
In his view, far from avoiding the issue, Israel advocates should be placing the defense of Jewish rights to Judea and Samaria at the center of their efforts to defend the Jewish state.
"Judea and Samaria protect Israel, and Israel protects western civilization," as a buffer to Islamic terrorism, he explained.
Langfan cautions supporters of Israel not to leave defending Jewish rights to Judea and Samaria to those who live there, but to learn about and emphasize the historic and strategic importance of the region themselves.
"It's one thing when a settler defends Judea and Samaria - people will poo-poo it because they live there and have a vested interest. But when an American Jew who has no vested interest shows how Katyusha rockets can devastate Tel Aviv from Kalkilyah I think they listen more," he said.
To help illustrate his point, Langfan will be handing out colorful topographical maps, graphically illustrating how an Israeli retreat from the region would place most of Israel's population under the threat of rocket fire, to the first 200 conference attendees.
As to why so many pro-Israel organizations avoid doing so, Langfan says a mixture of peer-pressure and ignorance is largely to blame.
"When has defending other Jews from being murdered by modern-day Nazis fun or stylish?" he asked rhetorically, citing widespread incitement and calls to genocide by Palestinian Arab organizations.
"But the real reason is the total ignorance of the existential threat Israel faces today," he continued. "The Israeli government has put American Jews to sleep with the messianic 'peace' process. It's tough waking up somebody who is under general anesthesia."
The 3-hour conference will be held on November 17, from 2-5pm at the West Side Institutional Synagogue in New York, and will be followed by a "wine-tasting reception", featuring a number of award-winning wines made in Judea and Samaria.