a man stands speaking at a podium. a banner in the background reads "A VIBRANT DIASPORA"
Oshman Family JCC CEO Zack Bodner speaking at Zionism 3.0, Dec. 9 2018 (Photo/Courtesy OFJCC)

At Z3, we have no time for false moral equivalence

When we hosted the first Zionism 3.0 Conference in 2015, we brought in speakers from the far left to the far right, religious and secular, Israeli and American.

Over the last nine years, this effort has evolved from an annual conference to a global initiative to bring together Jews of all backgrounds, political persuasions and personal points of view. It is now the Z3 Project, an international effort to reimagine diaspora-Israel relations.

The entire Z3 Project is based on three principles: 1. Unity, not uniformity; 2. Engaging as equal partners; 3. Diversity of voices.

We have a big, broad tent that is extremely inclusive.

However, we must state unequivocally, in this moment, that we have our limits; we have our tent poles. To put it bluntly: This is no time for false moral equivalence.

I have been disgusted watching news outlets call Hamas “militants” and “fighters,” as if murdering babies, kidnapping elderly, and raping girls were legitimate actions during war.

I have been shocked that universities, city councils and school boards won’t condemn terrorist evils against Jews because they don’t want to “take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

I have been outraged by antisemitic threats that go unchecked because so-called arbiters of truth shrug their shoulders and say, “It’s protected free speech.”

Don’t they know that all this moral equivalency is contributing to hatred against Jews everywhere? Don’t they know that their unwillingness to condemn this evil only fuels the fire, and leads to more attacks on Jews? Don’t they know that what starts with hatred toward the Jews never stops there?

RELATED: Z3 conference pivots to Israel at war — and lowers the price for all

Those of us raised in Western democracies have a difficult time getting our heads wrapped around the notion that evil really does exist in the world. When someone does something so horrific, so unimaginable we want to understand how it could happen. We assume something must have precipitated it.

But nothing could explain it.

Hamas’ actions are pure evil, and they must be eliminated from the world. It is binary. There is no “making peace with it.”

Israel has no choice but to go to war to end Hamas’ reign of terror.

Our job is to support Israel in this just fight — and diaspora Jewry must lead this charge, with zero equivocation.

If Jews can’t stand up right now and say, “Murdering civilians is wrong. Kidnapping children is wrong. Torturing innocents is wrong,” then there is no place for them in the next era of Zionism.

Let me be clear. This does not mean diaspora Jews must start loving Netanyahu. This does not mean diaspora Jews should turn a blind eye to troublesome internal Israeli politics. And of course, this does not mean diaspora Jews should not feel pain when innocent Palestinians are harmed in the war. All of this must still happen.

At the Z3 Conference this year on Nov. 5, we are going to have a robust conversation about what’s taking place in Israel right now. We’ll have speakers from the left and the right, religious and secular, from Israel and from the U.S. We’ll have attendees from all over the world who have opinions all over the place. We will welcome them — all of them.

But one thing will be for certain: together, no matter where we stand, with unequivocal support, we will all stand with Israel.

This piece is presented in partnership with the Z3 Conference on Nov. 5 in Palo Alto. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of J.

Zack Bodner
Zack Bodner

Zack Bodner is Chief Executive Officer of the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto.