The Jewish Study Center (JSC) is an independent non-profit institute of adult Jewish education in the Washington, D.C. area, and they sponsor programs to educate the community on a wide variety of topics. In the past few years, Joshua London, the Co-Director of Government Relations of ZOA has taught or been a speaker at seven or eight JSC programs, and Daniel Pollak, the other Co-Director has taught 3 classes to the group. The events are typically held in area synagogues, and the participants pay a small fee to take the classes. The most recent class taught by Mr. Pollak involved the Israel Lobby, and a previous class focused on Islamic theology as one of the root causes of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Both classes were well received.
This led to Mr. Pollaks participation in a recent panel discussion The Road Ahead for Israel, hosted by the JSC at Adas Israel Congregation, a major conservative synagogue in Washington DC. Daniel Pollak represented the ZOA, and there were also representatives from BTselem and Americans for Peace Now, two far-left wing groups.
The moderator was Dr. Ira Weiss, co-founder of Project Encounter, an international organization that sponsors workshops and other initiatives aimed at building bridges between Israelis and Palestinians. Despite some possible bias from the moderator, the audience of about 50 received a clear message from the panel about the differences between the positions of pro-Israel groups like the ZOA and the left wing groups which insist on being tough on Israel in the name of peace. Highlights of the discussion included:
- Root causes of the ongoing Arab war against Israel
- Why the current policies of the Obama administration will not bear fruit and are even dangerous
- The legal, historical, political and religious right of Jews to live in Judea & Samaria
- Discussion about what the next steps should be in the conflict
- Reality based discussion of the facts of Hamas control of Gaza and the lack of moderation of Fatah
- Detailed discussion about the Netanyahu speech and ZOAs objection to the establishment of a Palestinian State why it would likely become another Arab terrorist state further destabilizing the region
The speakers on the left were predictable in stating that the occupation was a mortal threat to Israels existence. The ZOA was very effective in countering every point made by the left wing panelists. Questions from the audience came from both supporters and opponents of Israels policies. One questioner asked the ZOA speaker why the right is always opposed to peace. In response, Mr. Pollak invoked the desire of ZOA to base a long term peace for the region on the unpleasant realities Israel actually faces. As Caroline Glick has argued in a recent Commentary piece, the goal in the short term needs to be to manage the conflict to eventually lead to a reasonable conclusion whenever the future conditions permit that path to be viable.
Following the program, one audience member stated to the ZOA speaker that she had always been on the left, and probably still was, but could not help but agree with the facts as presented by the ZOA.