Both the video and the text of Rabbi Rick Jacobs speech to the Religious Action Center’s Consultation on Conscience are available by permission on the We Are For Israel Blog. Rick is the designated successor to Rabbi Eric Yoffie as head of the Reform movement. Rabbi Jacobs chose to offer his views on Israel at the program.
While I would encourage you to view it or read it in its entirety, here are some of the highlights:
Daniel Pipes, an academic known for his hard-line Middle East views, had it right when he said recently “that anyone concerned about the security and welfare of Israel is in the pro-Israel camp.”…
Attempting to delegitimize Israel, on too many college campuses and throughout much of Europe, critics try to portray Israel as though it is some apartheid-like state. It is an absurd assertion. Anyone who knows what apartheid was, and who knows Israel today, is well aware of that.
Critics cite assessments like the Goldstone Report to justify such contentions. When it was first issued I publicly challenged its fatal flaws. The Goldstone Report states that Israeli armed forces “carried out direct intentional strikes against civilians,” a contention, as you know, that Goldstone has now retracted. But the damage has been done, and we’re going to spend years trying to undo that damage. When Rabbi Eric Yoffie excoriated Richard Goldstone and his biased report at the first J Street Conference, some booed him. Rabbi Yoffie was unfazed and went on to say “Anyone who supports a peaceful two-state solution must consider the role of Hamas in destroying such a prospect-and yet, quite astonishingly, nothing of this is discussed in the Goldstone Report.” I applaud Rabbi Yoffie’s independent and clear voice in this and other crucial issues….
And just weeks ago David Saperstein had my full support when he gave his constructively critical keynote address to the second J Street Conference. I agree wholeheartedly with Rabbi Saperstein’s decision to speak at the conference, to assert again how vital movement towards a peace process is to Israel’s security and America’s interests, to offer thoughtful criticism of J Street’s policy making, but also to offer a strong critique of J Street’s stand opposing the recent US veto of the UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements.
Like my colleagues Eric and David, I am unafraid to challenge misguided views regardless of the source….
I also believe that Israel’s security and well-being require that Israel must become a more tolerant and pluralistic society. I have spent over 20 years working to strengthen the Israel envisioned in Israel’s Declaration of Independence:
“THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture…”
This week our congregation, like many of yours, will hold many events to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut. On Erev Shabbat, as we have for the past years, we will host five IDF officers who will share their diverse backgrounds and service in defense of Israel. Last year, our teens were privileged to host 25 elite IDF commanders. Following Operation Cast Lead, it is critically important for these remarkable young soldiers to know that we in America are with them. I know first hand as a senior rabbinic fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute the kind of ethics training these officers receive because they are taught by many of the same scholars with whom I study.
As I stand with the IDF soldiers this Friday night, I will let them know that my congregation stands in solidarity with them. We admire their courage; we support their abiding efforts to make Israel secure. I am confident that the IDF always aspires to conduct itself according to the highest ethical standards. There will always be lapses and errors in judgment especially in the new unprecedented ways of war confronting Israel, but I believe no other fighting force has more ethical rigor than the Israel Defense Forces….
Despite the expanding sanctions and the undermining of Iran’s technical abilities that U.S. and Israeli joint efforts have achieved, Iran remains determined to move its nuclear weapons program along as expeditiously as possible endangering Israel’s literal existence and U.S. interests throughout the region.
In the UN and around the world, Israel’s enemies have launched an offensive of economic attacks aimed at weakening and delegitimizing Israel that is taking hold in anti-Israel strongholds on and off campuses in Europe and North America. These Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions tactics are destructive and we must do everything in our power to combat these attacks through education, legislative advocacy and good, old-fashioned community organizing. The RAC and ARZA have played a key role in these efforts. But all of us, we’ve got to do our part. I know we can count on each other to get it done….
A very important part of my leadership as the URJ president will be to help all of our congregations become ohavei Tzion-lovers of Israel….
I will never back down from my commitment to a secure Israel.
I will never stop fighting for an Israel that grants all of its citizens, Arabs and Jews, fundamental human rights.
I will never stop working for an Israel that grants equal rights to Jews no matter their spiritual practice or belief.
I will never stop advocating for the US to remain Israel’s staunch ally.
I will not back away from my commitment to a two-state solution living side-by-side in peace and security.
As the leader of the largest Movement in Jewish life, I intend to work every single day to build up the ranks of those who share my Zionist passion. And I call upon everyone in the pro-Israel community to join me in this critical work.
When Israel gets into our hearts, then I know that we will never stop fighting for an Israel that is secure, religiously free, guided by justice and dwelling in peace.
Our hope is not lost-
The hope of two thousand years:
To be a free people in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.
Ken yehi ratzon.