In the midst of the controversy over the Seattle Jewish federation letter sent to Kadima denouncing its hosting of Palestinian anti-Occupation cleric Canon Naim Ateek, Rainer Waldman Adkins referred in a JTNews interview to a “community protocol” that required those who created this letter to follow a path other than the one they chose.
When challenged by Rob Jacobs, StandWithUs’ Seattle director, who claimed my characterization of this document as an Israel Accord was a fiction and that the document didn’t exist–I decided to dig the document up. And guess what, the document that never existed was signed by none other than Rob Jacobs! Must be a case of severe memory loss. Or perhaps Rob only remembers those things it’s convenient for him to remember?
At any rate, here is the text of the Derech Eretz Israel Statement 2004 (pdf). You may click on the image to open the full sized version:
We represent a broad spectrum of opinion within the Jewish community. We frequently disagree on issues relating to Israel, including the best path towards security and well-being for Israel and the Jewish people.
Especially in trying times, such as during the upcoming Gaza disengagement, we expect vigorous debate and disagreement in Israel and between Jews everywhere, including here in Washington State.
While we have differences of opinion, we hope with this statement to make it very clear that Israel is always close to all our hearts and souls. Further, we are united in our commitment to respectful, constructive and civil dialogue concerning Israel. Such behavior strengthens our collective support for Israel and our community.
•We commit to practice Derech Eretz, exhibiting and nurturing respect and communication, trusting in each other’s good intentions, and rejecting personal or malicious attacks, as we debate issues pertaining to Israel, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, peace in the Mideast, and the wider Jewish community.
Further, in spite of our differences, together we publicly state that we agree on several core principles:
• Israel has the right to exist, in peace, as the Jewish State.
•We support Israel’s efforts to maintain itself as a democratic and pluralistic society, despite the pressures faced both within and without.
• Israel has the right, as a sovereign nation, to secure and recognized borders, to defend itself, and to protect its citizens.
•We support Israel’s efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in the Mideast.
•We fervently hope and pray for peace within Israel, among Jews everywhere, between Israelis and Palestinians, and between Israelis and all peoples of the region.
We therefore pledge ourselves to do all in our power to assist Israel in every way at this difficult time.
This is the pertinent phrase which Rainer referred to in expressing his disappointment with the federation’s attack on Kadima:
We commit to…exhibiting and nurturing respect and communication, trusting in each other’s good intentions, and rejecting personal or malicious attacks
A reasonable person would read that and imagine that the federation’s Israel committee, finding fault with Kadima’s hosting of Ateek would communicate that to the group in a timely and respectful way that would allow an exchange of views on the subject. The statement makes no mention of grandstanding or scoring propaganda points, which is clearly what Rob Jacobs and those who spearheaded the letter but who did not sign it, sought to do.
In fact, if I didn’t know better I might think that the letter might be an opening salvo in a campaign to delegitimize groups like Brit Tzedek and Kadima and prohibit them from participating in the deliberations of the Israel committee.
In Rob’s twisted interpretation of this document it was Kadima’s obligation to come to the Israel committee before it agreed to host the event. It’s incumbent on the Jewish progressive community to get a heksher to host events that might be controversial for Rob and other local Israel lobby groups.
Would you care to admit your error, Rob?
scott morris says
RS: “When challenged by Rob Jacobs, StandWithUs’ Seattle director, who claimed my characterization of this document as an Israel Accord was a fiction and that the document didn’t exist…”
When/where did Mr. Jacobs claim any such thing? Was it in his 7/29/09 reply to your 7/28 post which alluded to the “Israel Accord” (sic), when he wrote, “…what the heck is the Jewish community ‘Israel accord’ to which you refer? I have no idea what you are talking about and I doubt you do either.”? He asked what exactly you were referring to, and as it turns out, what you had in mind was published five years ago not under the heading “Israel Accord,” but rather “Derech Eretz.” The former (“Israel Accord”) isn’t the English translation of the Hebrew (“Derech Eretz”). This is your basis for accusing him of disingenuousness (“Must be a case of severe memory loss. Or perhaps Rob only remembers those things it’s convenient for him to remember?”), if not outright lying (“I grant no respect whatsoever to anyone who deliberately lies about my own views and speaks untruths about his own record and actions.”)?
A year ago (7/08), you intimated that Mr. Jacobs was a person quite willing to “twist the truth,” calling upon him to “start telling the truth.” Then your wife and a friend told you that you had “been too harsh” on him, and you offered him an apology of sorts, saying, “…from what I have heard you seem to be a decent and honorable person.” Now, you are back to hurling invective at him, calling him a “smearmonger”? How does that comport with the “Derech Eretz” statement, which it seems you would have others respect in letter and spirit, though you yourself don’t?
(And btw, I don’t see how that private letter to the head of Kadima was inconsistent with the 2004 published statement. If that letter had been published openly, perhaps it could be seen as inconsistent, but it wasn’t, that is not until you sleuthed it out and published it through your blog.)
Rainer Waldman Adkins says
The Seattle Jewish Federation letter assailing the decision of Kadima Reconstructionist Community to host Canon Naim Ateek at a Shabbat morning service is contrary to the intent of the ‘No Matter Where We Stand, We Stand With Israel’ statement of 2004. This ‘Derech Eretz’ (civil conduct) statement was meant to head off inflammatory actions such as the Federation letter to Kadima. I should know, because I and Rob Jacobs were central members of the core group that instigated the statement, and we were both on the writing team. The statement has a diverse spectrum of signers. Unfortunately, the full range of signers is not available, since many the names of many prominent community members who signed as individuals were not printed in the JT News. (I have not been able to learn what happened to that list of names.)
The Federation letter to Kadima was not preceded by any attempt whatsoever to speak to me, as Program Director, or the Kadima board of directors. Letters between organizations are not ‘private’ communications. In any case, this letter was was distributed widely to garner signatures (a gratifyingly small number of people signed it), and a draft was sent to the JT News, Seattle’s Jewish newspaper. Even though I am on the Israel Program Committee email list, I was cut out of those communications, despite my regular conversations with several of the signers.
On another count, reports of Kadima’s demise as a pro-active progressive Jewish community are greatly exaggerated. There’s been criticism that Kadima is moving too slowly or not responding at all. Kadima can ‘take the heat;’ we are developing our strategy with the intent to a) insist on civil conduct within the Seattle Jewish community, b) continue to ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to providing a safe place at Kadima House to discuss and debate difficult issues, and c) promote recognition that there are many definitions of what is ‘Pro-Israel’ and in the best interest of the Jewish people My board is a hardworking group of volunteers, and all staff work part-time. Our strategy is based both on what is in the best interest of Kadima and of the Jewish community, and will progress according to our chosen schedule. Anyone who wants to help us in this effort our offer support is welcome to contact us! firstname.lastname@example.org
B’shalom, Rainer Waldman Adkins
Richard Silverstein says
While I’m gratified to have Rainer explain his view of the Derech Eretz statement and the fact that the Israel committee of federation failed miserably in honoring the provisions of this document, I take strong exception to Kadima’s “strategy” of addressing the issues raised by the federation’s attack on Kadima. Unfortunately, and even though he has tried to avoid sounding this way, saying Kadima will “progress according to your chosen schedule” sounds defensive and almost unresponsive to the issues. Once again, you point out nothing substantive that you or Kadima are actually doing except following that blessed chosen schedule, whatever that is or means.
This is a 24/7 news cycle and Kadima seems to be saying we’re happy being in the horse & buggy era. That’s not my idea of what a hard-hitting, dynamic progressive Jewish organization should be doing.
And since we’re talking about following our own chosen courses of action, I want to remind Rainer that this blog too does that. While I see myself largely as an ally of Kadima, that does not mean that I will refrain from criticizing it or any other Jewish group when I feel it has fallen flat. I don’t see it as my job to protect my political friends just because they are my friends. Real friends tell other friends when they have fallen short of what their goals or values should be. That’s the spirit in which I write this blog. No one gets a free ride, including me.