Should we be concerned that the national council of the Zionist Federation has declined to approve an application for ZF membership that had been lodged several months ago by an organisation calling itself Yachad?
If the Anglo-Jewish media is to be believed, the answer has to be in the affirmative, for this story was front-page news, quite apart from having generated an inordinate amount of internet traffic.
At one level, I believe this was an overreaction and that the story would have merited no more than a paragraph or two tucked away on an inside page. Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the ZF's decision, the great fuss made about it says something about the sad state of communal priorities.
Yachad (the Hebrew word for "together") is less than two years old. At the time of its foundation, its director Hannah Weisfeld explained that it was being established to provide a voice for the "silent majority of British Jews who believe the best way to safeguard Israel's future is through a negotiated settlement and the end of the occupation".
Let's leave aside the question (important though it is in other contexts) whether the "silent majority" of British Jews do in fact believe that (as Yachad's website insists) a lasting peace would be achieved if Israel were to return to its 1949 armistice borders (with minor land swaps), if Jerusalem were to be repartitioned, and if Palestinian refugees were to be offered compensation as an acceptable alternative to the so-called "right of return." The fact is that such a package has not a hope in hell of laying the foundations for a lasting peace. It may lay the foundations for a hudna (Arabic for "truce"). But not for a peace.
Tantalisingly, while Yachad asserts that "there are certain sections of Palestinian society and their supporters around the world that will need to adopt a lasting religious and political commitment to non-violent dispute resolution", it does not identify where these sections might be found. I do not know of a single, legitimate, representative body of Palestinian Arabs that is currently prepared to commit itself, unequivocally, to the "non-violent" resolution of this particular "dispute" - other, that is, than by Israel agreeing to dissolve itself.
The fact is that, from an early age, Palestinian children are taught to hate Jews, Judaism and the Jewish state, that Palestinian parents willingly and enthusiastically offer their children as human sacrifices in furtherance of these hatreds, and that countries around the world pander to these mind-sets.
The adherents of Yachad seem unwilling to face these facts. Or perhaps they are eternal optimists, hoping that "something will turn up". If so, they are living in a fool's paradise. Still, even fools are entitled to their views.
I can agree with Yachad supporters that in rejecting its membership application the ZF made a blatantly political decision. But what else did they expect? It's not the rejection that puzzles me. What passes all understanding is why Yachad wished to join the ZF in the first place. Several explanations have been voiced to me. One is that, in rejecting these advances, the ZF walked into a carefully laid trap: Yachad is now (so the argument goes) free to denounce publicly the ZF as a biased and unrepresentative organ. But, dear friends, it was never anything else.
Readers of this column will know that, historically, I have been somewhat less than overly impressed by the activities of the ZF, which in my view ought to have been wound up following the re-establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. I say this without wishing to deny the positive value of the work - or rather, some of the work - in which the ZF engages. Since 1948, however, its main function seems to me to have consisted in providing a communal platform for the hind legs of those whose hind legs would otherwise have no communal platform upon which to perch themselves.
As for Yachad, if its members have the courage of their convictions they surely have no need of any imprimatur that ZF membership might confer. And if they seriously think that admission to the ZF family would enable them to convert other family members to their views they are naive at best and, at worst, gold-plated nincompoops.