"Your blog is an important resource for our discussions and you deserve credit for giving us this space. We should discuss this:Under Beinart's postulate, Federation Boards, as an example, are: (1) made up everywhere by "large donors" and "only large donors;"and (2) "American Jews" so overwhelmingly support the "Iran deal" as to render opposition to the "deal" against the grain. Beinart's presumptions are wholly refutable -- they embody the fatal flaw of categorical generalizations; especially generalizations about American Jewry; and those presumptions evidence how very little Beinart knows about the federations. And, JFNA, whose leaders should be the ones publicly rejecting Beinart, they'll probably invite him to speak at the GA.
'Thus, in the days after the Iran deal, American Jewish leaders didn’t wait for polls of American Jews. Nor is there any public evidence that the eight Federations that came out against the deal surveyed Jews in their cities first. So how did Jewish leaders make their decision? When I asked an influential Jewish communal official, he said simply: “They consulted their boards.” In other words, they consulted their large donors.'
There is much that Beinart gets wrong here. And yet there is a point that we can't ignore either: 'Whether or not you support the Iran nuclear agreement, it has laid bare a profound gulf between American Jews and the organizations that purport to represent them.'"
As one commentator wrote, the more Americans and American Jewry learn about the details of the "deal" and its ramifications the greater the opposition to it. Yet, for some, for many, the "Deal" is nothing more than a battleground -- maybe the battleground -- for the hearts and minds of the American Jewish polity. It is a battle being fought on all sides with emotion and passion and mistruths and real anger.
My federation Board, no matter the ultimate position it takes, if any, speaks for me on the Iran deal and more; so do the stronger Statements on the Iran Deal from, e.g., Miami, Houston and Los Angeles. Peter Beinart presumes to speak for me...and for you...I know that he does not speak for me, and I doubt he speaks for anyone other than Peter Beinart. My federation Board is fairly representative of my community: Peter Beinart is representative of no one other than Peter Beinart. What Beinart believes, and he is not wrong on this one, is that no organization...none...can presume to speak on behalf of the community if it does not have support of that community; yet, he does not believe in communal governance -- at the least he does not trust those who are governing when they don't agree with him.
If we follow Beinart's formulation, then no Jewish communal organization could ever take a position on anything, could take no action on anything, without somehow polling the entirety of the Jewish population in its community. The entire construct of representative government as embodied in the very concept of federation, would be void. Is this what we want? Really? Have we forgotten that our communal strength is in our unity; with all of our political power, our numbers remain small, our power disproportionately great. This will not continue if we allow ourselves to be divided by partisan battles.
At the end of the battle over the "Iran Deal," there will be a vote, a veto and another vote. There will be winners and losers but, trust me on this, we will all be losers at the end of this process, emerging weaker no matter the outcome. And, you hear not one of our communal leaders talking about this reality invested as they are either in "winning" or "losing" or not being found on "the wrong side."
My sense is that trust in our communal institutions and our Continental organization is breaking down...and rapidly. That collapse is not the fault of Blogs or Beinarts, it is the fault of a failed lay and professional leadership -- a "do nothing/see no evil" leadership that repeats its failures and, in Orwellian fashion, "rebrands" failures as successes.
Your thoughts are welcome...
I thank most of you for your Comments to this Post, as always. Unfortunately if the Commentators are considered representative of our polity, we are a deeply, deeply divided based upon where one stands with regard to the federation positions vis-a-vis the Iran Deal -- sadly, those who are opposed to their federation's position on the Iran transaction have articulated the view that the Federation is not representative of the community. (Conversely, I assume that if your community has adopted a position on the Iran Deal, or a silence with which you agree, then the Federation is representative of the community.)
Our collective community, unrepresented though we are by JFNA, will emerge even more weakened from this dialogue (if it can be called that), this disputation (if it can be called that) than the terribly weakened state it was in before the Iran Deal. It did not have to be this way. I repeat as I wrote above, at the end of this "process," "we will all be losers."
More's the pity.