As Jews, we dedicate ourselves to Tikun Olam, repair of the world. Moreover, “we are all a part of a people, of a nation, and we all have a stake in Israel’s future,” says Rabbi Josh Weinberg, Executive Director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA).
Supporting Israel can be tricky if we don’t have all the facts, we’re not sure who to believe, or if we question specific actions by the Israeli government. Because the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians is a complicated one, we have developed this list as a resource for our members. May it help you by providing a framework for your personal journey with Israel. Please use it to learn, discuss, connect, and act. The lists are separated into five sections:
In any political situation, there are organizations and individuals who take “sides,” and Israeli politics are no different. We suggest that you look at resources from a variety of perspectives to deepen your knowledge and inspire you to contribute to an informed, respectful conversation.
There are also competing “narratives,” on which opponents often base their opinions. As members of the Jewish community, it is important that we understand these different narratives, so that we can recognize others’ perspectives, rely on the most accurate facts, and promote a cooperative dialogue that supports a peaceful and secure Israel.
Thank you to Pam Kondé, our TRS N’tivot teacher on Israeli Politics and the Palestinians. We greatly appreciate the time she spent framing this difficult conversation into consumable chunks, creating this extensive list of resources, and her willingness to have coffee with any of our members to discuss politics. If you know of resources that should be on this list, please contact Pam.
You may notice that many of the links listed below relate to Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians. As you know, there are also many political debates within Israel, including the role of Reform Judaism, women’s empowerment and access to the Western Wall, and other domestic issues. Many amazing accomplishments, events, and activities ongoing in Israel are also worthy of attention and celebration. If you want to get more involved in discussing and celebrating Israel, please contact our TRS Israel Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attacking Israel’s legitimacy is contesting its very right to exist as a Jewish state. For decades, Arab League member countries did exactly that, often through war. In recent years, a concerted, organized and well financed campaign to delegitimize Israel has intensified. This campaign goes well beyond criticism of Israel’s policies. The Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement fails to explicitly to recognize Israel’s right to exist and it ignores or rejects Israel’s role as a national home for the Jewish people. Similarly, often when Hamas opposes the “occupation,” the occupation they seek to end is that of the entire State of Israel on “Arab” lands. Resources below can help you distinguish between genuine criticisms of Israel’s actions and broader claims that oppose Israel’s right to exist, know who’s making those delegitimization claims, and understand how to counter them.
Israel wants to live side-by-side in peace and security with its neighbors. During its history, Israel’s leaders have proven willing to take the steps necessary to end the conflict with the Palestinians. Peace is possible when, as with Egypt and Jordan, there are partners willing to reach agreements and possessing the means to implement them. To reach an effective peace agreement, Israel needs a Palestinian government that is a willing partner, renouncing terrorism and fully recognizing Israel. Resources below provide some examples of materials that support Israel’s quest for peace and the Palestinian response.
As noted by URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs in October 2015, “The growing number of violent attacks on Jews and Jewish sites in Israel must end. … Such actions lead both sides ever further from peace. President Abbas must take the steps necessary to halt these attacks immediately, including refraining from fanning the flames of violence with rhetoric. Israeli leaders – including Prime Minister Netanyahu – must take the steps necessary to ensure the safety and security of Jewish Israelis, without alienating Palestinians who reject acts of violence.” Resources below provide information about the history of Palestinian terrorism and incitement, and provide some language to condemn it.
We encourage members’ inquiry as they explore their relationship with Israel. Much like we question our own United States government’s actions and we support different political candidates here, you may question statements, decisions, or actions made by the Israeli government. Is Israel pushing enough for peace? Is it being fair enough to its minority populations? Is its relationship with Gaza and the West Bank the best it can be? What is the role of Reform Judaism in Israel, and why aren’t Reform Jews or women treated equally? Is the occupation of the West Bank or the expanded settlements inhibiting the peace process? Why haven’t the Arab League countries incorporated Palestinian refugees into their communities as citizens since 1948? How does the United Nations fit into the Israel-Palestinian conflict? Finally, and most importantly, how do we fulfill our role as Jews and strong supporters of Israel while simultaneously questioning its government’s actions? How do we find that balance internally and outwardly?
We have attached an inclusive list of resources, categorized as broad-based Jewish groups, Reform Jewish groups, think tanks/research institutions, pro-peace (progressive) groups, Jewish media, groups monitoring Israel-related media, and Arab news sources. We hope it helps you on your personal journey. Enjoy your online exploration of Israel!
*The internet is always growing and changing, so we recognize that this resource is not exhaustive and we welcome suggestions.
The Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and Israel Action Center (IAC) (partner agency of the Jewish Federation) are all affiliated or partners with the Federations of North America (listed below) – #WeStandWithIsrael
Mosaic Magazine Homepage – Sponsored by Tikvah Fund – in-depth essays on current Israeli issues
Stop BDS Homepage – Lots of resources, myth-busters, BDS facts
Connecting Reform Jews and Israel. ARZA strengthens and enriches the Jewish identity of Reform Jews in the United States by ensuring that a connection with Eretz Yisrael is a fundamental part of that identity. ARZA is the single largest supporter of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) and the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC).
To see if any of these books are available in our TRS Library, please visit our online library here.
One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate, by Tom Segev
Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation, by Yossi Klein Halevi
My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, by Ari Shavit
To see if any of these movies are available in our TRS Library, please visit our online library here.