The Defeatist Pro- Israel Camp

A response to Dr. Mordechai Kedar's writings in Viewpoint magazine, from an AFSI activist.

Moshe Phillips

OpEds Moshe Phillips
Moshe Phillips


When it comes to pro-Israel activism the National Council of Young Israel is by far the best congregational body in the U.S. -- there is simply no contest. That is why it was so unsettling to see Dr. Mordechai Kedar’s two articles in the most recent issue of the National Council’s Viewpoint magazine. Kedar’s articles reeked of defeatism and desperation. What’s worse is that the entire basis for Dr. Kedar’s proposal is completely unbefitting to a movement that has such an incredibly rich history of dedication to Torah and the preservation of Jewish life.

One of the articles is titled “The Eight State Solution” and Kedar’s scheme is just that. He would not just create one or two Palestinian states but he would have Israel create “eight independent and separate city-states within the West Bank…” This is what he and co-author Irwin J. Mansdorf call the “United States of Palestine” in their article “Tribal City States”.

Kedar calls for Jewish families to be expelled and for Jewish towns to be abandoned and surrendered to Israel’s enemies. He writes: “…significantly reduc(ing)…the number of settlements to be dismantled, increase the chances that evacuation of settlements will be accomplished by agreement, decrease the expenditures for compensation and rebuilding, and limit the destructive repercussions on Israeli society. At present, there are serious social disruptions resulting from the events of Gush Katif…” Thank goodness the residents of Judea and Samaria have such an imaginative would-be shepherd to look after them!

There can be no doubt that Israel’s enemies of the Jimmy Carter variety would immediately pounce on this plan as little different from the bantustan homelands that were created in Apartheid South Africa.

Kedar is approaching Israel’s situation with the mindset of a moral relativist. He sees as the best option the one that will leave Israel in the best geo-political position and with as little damage as possible. He exhibits no concern for Israel proceeding down the road that is morally correct and fits within the confines of Torah as it should. Kedar wants an answer to the situation that the world will see as acceptable, whether or not there may be a different answer that secures Jewish families in their current neighborhoods and homes.

Kedar’s cold, dispassionate view of the Jewish State is truly frightening. He writes that “nobody in the world can assure that a Palestinian state will never turn -- like Gaza -- into an Islamic terror state, any solution for the Palestinians must minimize its potential threats on Israel…” The message is clear there is no way out of this and Israel has to make tough choices. The Palestinian Arabs must have a form of autonomy. Kedar’s message differs little from Netanyahu’s. In near mimicry of Netanyahu, Kedar does not once mention G-d or Torah in these articles. When one champions the idea of driving Jewish families from their homes -- even in the name of peace -- Torah must be consulted if one considers themselves Orthodox.  Kedar is a professor at Bar-Ilan University and earned his Ph.D. there as well.

One of the founders of the National Council of Young Israel was the late Irving Bunim, who died 30 years ago, in December 1980. Personally Bunim was uncompromising in his faithfulness to Halacha (Torah ways). Many important American and Israeli Torah institutions and campaigns were led and nurtured by Bunim. He was a lay leader and has had no equal in the American Orthodox community, before or since. During the darkest days of the Holocaust he worked with a disparate group of Jewish activists from the Orthodox camp and the Jabotinsky movement in an authentically heroic effort to rescue Jews from Nazi Europe.

When Bunim allied himself with the Jabotinsky activists there can be little doubt that what attracted him beyond their militant activism and their disregard for the do-nothing establishment was the positive, can-do spirit that Jabotinsky had nurtured within his students.

This can-do spark is tragically missing in this current generation of Likud leaders.

Jabotinsky was the founder of the movement that today’s Likud party is descended from. Bibi Netanyahu’s father was mentored by Jabotinsky directly. Jabotinsky wrote his greatest novel about the Biblical hero Samson. In the most well-known passage of the book Samson declares: “Tell them [the Jewish People] three things in my name, and not two: they must get iron [i.e. weapons]; they must choose a king; and they must learn to laugh.”

What Jabotinsky meant in part by “learn to laugh” was the necessary development of confidence on a national level. Israelis need that message now more than ever.

For many decades the key professional staff of the National Council -- Rabbi Pesach Lerner and previously Rabbi Ephraim Sturm -- exemplified this trait. They have always maintained a positive attitude while showing the willingness to confront the Jewish establishment and stand up for truth. One must hope that the publishing of Kedar’s article was no more than an error.

Bunim’s legacy deserves better than Kedar’s defeatism and disregard for Torah.