The Silence Is Deafening

2013_rabbi_floyd_hermanOn June 3, Secretary of State John Kerry made an imp-ortant and impassioned speech to the American Jewish Committee Global Forum. His speech did not receive the media attention it deserved, neither in the general media nor in the Jewish media. Why the silence?

Secretary Kerry made a strong call for American Jews to actively support the two-state solution. So far, only a handful of Jewish organizations, which purport to be pro-Israel, have called for support of the President Obama-Kerry mission.

Kerry said that the time for peace is now. His remarks can be summarized in five points, the first three about the prognosis for Israel’s future absent an agreement. Some of us have long agreed with him that Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic homeland is seriously endangered absent a two-state solution. He is convinced, and so are we, that the status quo is unsustainable. Nobody can live in a constant state of conflict. And he said that we now have a brief window of opportunity within which we can achieve an agreement. Failure to do so spells disaster.

Secretary Kerry also called upon American Jews to reject cynicism and seize the moment for peace. He asked us to look past the argument that the time is not right and stressed that we have a critical role to play in the success of his efforts.
“For your children, do this; for your grandchildren, do this; for Israeli children and Palestinian children and for Israel, let them know that you stand behind negotiations that will lead to two states for two people living side by side in peace and security and that you are part of the great constituency for peace,” Kerry said.

And the silence is deafening. And that is strange when more than 70 percent of American Jews, more than 70 percent of Israelis and more than 50 percent of Palestinians support the two-state solution. Where are the leaders of the American Jewish community? Are we frightened by those who are invested in sowing the seeds of cynicism? Are we afraid of the recriminations against those of us who dare to raise our voices?

There are many who will argue that the state of the Middle East makes the work more difficult, if not impossible. At the same time, some experts believe that this may be the best time to work out an agreement.

So let us speak out in support of Secretary Kerry and his efforts. If you have given up on a two-state solution, then I ask you what is the alternative — one state or occupation forever? Time is not on Israel’s side, and I reiterate, the only way to assure that Israel remains a democracy with a Jewish majority is a two-state solution.

Israelis, Palestinians and Americans are tired. But our weariness cannot destroy our hope. Let us end the silence and express our support for the efforts of the American government. Let us hope and pray that their efforts are successful. The time is now. Our time is now.

Baltimore’s Rabbi Floyd L. Herman serves on the J Street Rabbinic Cabinet.

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