Local Israelis Talk About Seattle, Israel and The J Street Challenge

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URGE SCREENING OF CONTROVERSIAL FILM IN BELLEVUE.

“The Gaza war was a real eye opener for us” Galit Eliahoo told The Mike Report. Galit and her husband Elad are postdoctoral students from  the Technion in Haifa; here in Seattle  to complete research projects in their respective fields of Biomedical engineering and Microbiology. “With the exception of the Orthodox and StandWIthUs, the Jewish community in Seattle were a real mess, they could not agree on a response to the Hamas attacks on Israel. Have a rally, don’t have a rally, have an indoor vigil, protest against Israel at Pike Place Market or at Boeing? The only thing more disturbing than the hand wringing here was having to watch from my television the hundreds of missiles fired at Israel, at my family every day.” 

the Jewish community in Seattle were a real mess, they could not agree on a response to the Hamas attacks on Israel.

Eliahoo2

Dr. Galit and Dr. Elad Eliahoo and family.

Eliahoo explained “When there was a rally here, not all, but too many of the Rabbis made these statements about “victims on all sides”. It’s good to care about the other side but we don’t want to hear parve statements, we want to see unequivocal pro-Israel. I know its not very American, but we want to hear you say I care more about my people than my people’s enemies.”

This past week the J Street Challenge, a film critical of the lobbying organization J Street premiered in Seattle. Out of curiosity, Galit and her husband Elad went to the screening. “I knew that just like almost everybody in Israel, J Street also supports a two state solution” said Eliahoo. “But some very real problems were brought up in the film, why does George Soros and a lobbyist for Iran want to donate thousands of dollars to J Street? These are not people who donate to AIPAC or the Jewish Federation. Why does J Street take their money? Why is J Street lobbying against sanctions on Iran’s nuclear weapons program?

We want to hear you say I care more about my people than my people’s enemies.

Referring to the head of J Street, Eliahoo recalled “Jeremy Ben Ami was always talking about educating Israelis. He was very patronizing, we smart Americans will teach the Israelis what they should do. It is very arrogant, very painful for somebody who is suffering from this situation to be told you are brainless,  you are a child, you don’t know how to vote. J Street doesn’t accept our democracy, our choices. To J Street supporters I would say, are you pro-democracy or do you want to be unelected dictators from afar?

“What troubles me the most is that J Street people are not affected like we are by the decisions they make” lamented Eliahoo. “The US won’t be affected,  their lives are not on the line, their families are not affected,the vast majority of J Streeters will probably never send their kids to the army, if there is a serious war, they won’t send their kids or themselves to help. It’s very easy to sit here and talk about what Israel should do.”

It’s very easy to sit here and talk about what Israel should do.

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Click on image for ticket information.

At one point in the J Street Challenge, J Street founder Daniel Levy is shown on video saying maybe “Israel really ain’t a good idea”. When I  saw what Daniel Levy said” said Eliahoo “I thought, have they learned nothing from the holocaust and pogroms?  Don’t they see what is going on today, European Jews are fleeing for their lives to israel.”

For Eliahoo and a few other Israelis living in Seattle the concerns about the climate in the Seattle Jewish community began to pile up. “We Israelis tend to stay out of local politics, but we decided we have to speak up, that is why I want this film to be seen, it speaks for us”.

The turning point for Nurit Asnash, an Israeli transplant to the Bellevue area were local efforts to prevent the recent screening of the J Street Challenge in Seattle. “I heard that some community leaders tried to stop the showing of the movie in Seattle so I watched the trailers. There are well-respected and highly educated people participating in this movie, like Alan Dershowitz and Caroline Glick, and I wanted  to hear what they have to say about J Street”. Asnash contacted the organizers of the Seattle premiere and worked with them to arrange a screening on the eastside. “I’m a big fan of open, honest, direct conversations and debates. I rarely expect that I will change someone’s mind, but it’s a good thing to keep the conversation going.” 

Eliahoo agrees, sharing that she was turned off by a letter issued by the Washington Coalition of Rabbis condemning the screening of the film.  “These  Rabbis were unified against this movie that defends Israel, but when we needed them last Summer they were not all unified for Israel”.

Noah Friedland

Noah Friedland

When reflecting on the Seattle Jewish Community’s response to the Gaza War, Haifa native Noah Freidland, an Artificial Intelligence researcher told TMR, “it’s hard to talk about the Seattle community as a whole as being unsupportive of us.  I think to paint the entire community one way or the other is not fair. The Orthodox community was wall to wall support for Israel. A lot who are not necessarily Orthodox like AIPAC and StandWithUS were strong as well. This is not a left/right divide. Most of AIPAC’s and StandWithUS members, at least in Seattle, lean Democrat.”   

Friedland believes  the support from J Street leaders and sympathizers during that difficult period was less solid. Observed Friedland “I don’t think J Street represents the majority of the community and it is unclear to me how well they really understand the situation.  I would encourage them to go to Sderot and learn what its like to live under a constant barrage. When I see people advocating for positions like that, a lot of it is a little simplistic, a little bit of intellectual laziness, not wanting to examine their own beliefs. Menachem Creditor, a progressive American Rabbi was in israel during the Gaza war and woke up, he wrote a great article about it called I’m Done Apologizing“.

None of these J Street ideas are new ideas.

“None of these J Street ideas are new ideas” said Friedland  “they are old recycled ideas from the 90’s and Israel has moved away from these ideas. We learned from the disengagement from Gaza and Lebanon,  leaving Lebanon to Hezbollah and Gaza to Hamas. The essential lesson of flirting with these ideas was to learn that these ideas are unsustainable. There is an instinct born of blood that these positions don’t work. They are trying to force these failed ideas down our throats via foreign powers, it is a combination of ignorance and arrogance.”

L to R: Keith Dvorchik (Pres. JSeattle ewish Federation), Peter Beinart (Israel boycott proponent), Barbara Lahav (J Street) National Board, Oren Hayon (UW Hillel).

L to R: Keith Dvorchik (Pres. Seattle Jewish Federation), Peter Beinart (Boycott proponent), Barbara Lahav (J Street National Board), Oren Hayon (UW Hillel).

Eliahoo concurs “I am troubled by this victims from both sides nonsense, the terrorist who ran over the baby in a stroller has been declared a shahid, they gave out candies after the Har Nof synagogue massacre. These Seattle leaders who say they grieve for both sides, I’m sorry the Arabs don’t share that sentiment. You can be sorry for them but let us know that you care more about us in israel.”

The Bellevue Premiere of the J Street Challenge was held at the South Bellevue Community Center, Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 at 8:00pm.

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