The left tentatively uniting: Larry Stillman’s proposal

Earlier in the year, I hoped that Jewish leftists could come together to a greater extent. It seemed – and seems – to me a shame that there are groups like IAJV, AJDS, the Committee to Dismantle Zionism, Jews Against the Occupation – which are all tiny groups. I would like to see some sort of federation of these groups, such that they can work together. In a way, most of them are not really functional. CDZ is two people, IAJV isn’t really an organisation, and JAO is again two people and not really an organisation.

Whilst they may not have the base or infrastructure to be a major organisation, they have enough opinions to warrant some organising. Of course, there are lots of disagreements. IAJV was ecumenical enough, yet the petition was so concessionary that some leftist Jews didn’t sign it. CDZ is radical enough to alienate those who are Zionists, and AJDS is respectable enough to not be judged anti-Semitic by Mendes.

Can the folks in these groups work together in some way? I should say yes, this should be possible, but only if the respectable type are willing to engage with the more radical folk.

For my part, I have criticised what I have felt has been at times an insipid response by AJDS to Israeli crimes. I have also criticised the BDS campaign, argued against a one state campaign, which are closer to the views of Loewenstein, Docker and Curthoys (et al).

I don’t think the appropriate thing in such a context is to have half a dozen Jewish groups, each insisting on its own orthodoxy. I think we should try to create a framework where Jews from each group can voice their views and can argue about the issues.

I felt cautious about AJDS. Their faith in Obama seemed to me pretty naive, and so far as I can recall, they didn’t think it worth speaking out in defence of Loewenstein, such as when Danby was saying the university shouldn’t publish his book. However, so far as I know they have not yet accused people to their left of anti-Semitism. I don’t live in Melbourne, and do not wish to become a paying member of AJDS, and I don’t get their newsletter, which is not recently available online. I submitted an op ed calling for disproportionate focus on Israel’s crimes by Jews. I’m not sure if they included it in their newsletter.

More recently, I criticised them (or their vocal members) in recent blogs for not being more explicitly critical of the Israeli government’s crimes in Gaza.

Anyway, today Larry Stillman is in Galus Australis calling for some sort of J Street creation. He thinks people should start contributing a thousand dollars each. This is a little unlikely. Moreover, what he doesn’t seem to realise is that Galus Australis isn’t progressive, and Sensible Jew is explicitly devoted to more effective hasbara for Israel.

I think a more possible and positive possibility is creating a website where leftist Jews can discuss Israel and debate various issues. It would be best if it can have arguments for and against the boycott, for and against a one state solution and so on. Perhaps it could have an editorial board of people from a variety of political perspectives, so that people of different persuasions are allowed their say. We need a place where people can be unorthodox. Moreover, I think it would be very positive if it was also open to people who weren’t Jewish to discuss their points of view. Jake Lynch, for example, has come out strongly in favour of boycotting Israel. Why shouldn’t we hear what he has to say? In Mutiny (yes, I know none of you read Mutiny) there was an article by a Palestinian a while ago arguing that it’s a shame we only hear from Jews in public debates. Why not open it up to Palestinians too? I’ve heard Al Jazeera’s slogan was/is (I don’t speak Arabic) We show one point of view, and the other one too. This could be our one too.


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