Website policy

We provide links to articles we think will be of interest to our supporters. We are sympathetic to much of the content of what we post, but not to everything. The fact that something has been linked to here does not necessarily mean that we endorse the views expressed in it.


BSST is the leading charity focusing on small-scale grass roots cross community, anti poverty and humanitarian projects in Israel/Palestine

JfJfP comments


06 May: Tair Kaminer starts her fifth spell in gaol. Send messages of support via Reuven Kaminer

04 May: Against the resort to denigration of Israel’s critics


23 Dec: JfJfP policy statement on BDS

14 Nov: Letter to the Guardian about the Board of Deputies

11 Nov: UK ban on visiting Palestinian mental health workers

20 Oct: letter in the Guardian

13 Sep: Rosh Hashanah greetings

21 Aug: JfJfP on Jeremy Corbyn

29 July: Letter to Evening Standard about its shoddy reporting

24 April: Letter to FIFA about Israeli football

15 April: Letter re Ed Miliband and Israel

11 Jan: Letter to the Guardian in response to Jonathan Freedland on Charlie Hebdo


15 Dec: Chanukah: Celebrating the miracle of holy oil not military power

1 Dec: Executive statement on bill to make Israel the nation state of the Jewish people

25 Nov: Submission to All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism

7 Sept: JfJfP Executive statement on Antisemitism

3 Aug: Urgent disclaimer

19 June Statement on the three kidnapped teenagers

25 April: Exec statement on Yarmouk

28 Mar: EJJP letter in support of Dutch pension fund PGGM's decision to divest from Israeli banks

24 Jan: Support for Riba resolution

16 Jan: EJJP lobbies EU in support of the EU Commission Guidelines, Aug 2013–Jan 2014


29 November: JfJfP, with many others, signs a "UK must protest at Bedouin expulsion" letter

November: Press release, letter to the Times and advert in the Independent on the Prawer Plan

September: Briefing note and leaflet on the Prawer Plan

September: JfJfP/EJJP on the EU guidelines with regard to Israel

14th June: JfJfP joins other organisations in protest to BBC

2nd June: A light unto nations? - a leaflet for distribution at the "Closer to Israel" rally in London

24 Jan: Letter re the 1923 San Remo convention

18 Jan: In Support of Bab al-Shams

17 Jan: Letter to Camden New Journal about Veolia

11 Jan: JfJfP supports public letter to President Obama

Comments in 2012 and 2011



Judah Magnes, honoured


A Pacifist Leader Who Was More Prophet Than Politician

After Decades of Neglect, the Ideas of Judah L. Magnes Are Getting a Second Look

Laurence Zuckerman, Forward, 05 January 2011, issue of 14 January 2011

Judah Leib Magnes may just be the most important American Jewish leader you have never heard of. Born in Northern California in 1877, the baseball-loving Magnes was integral to the creation and development of nearly all major American Jewish organizations, from the American Jewish Committee to Hadassah. He was also one of the principal founders of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and served as its head for its first 23 years. Magnes, who died a few months after the creation of the State of Israel, in 1948, is largely forgotten today because, as a passionate advocate of a binational state in Palestine in which Jews and Arabs had equal rights, he ended up on the wrong side of history.

Or did he?

As the likelihood of a two-state solution seems to fade with each passing White House initiative, the idea of a binational solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, long seen as heresy by both sides, is now inching its way in from the fringe. Magnes’s quixotic quest suddenly has new currency, and his proposals and numerous missteps carry important lessons.

Magnes’s rich, profuse life had so many acts that he has proved to be elusive prey for scholars. (His papers in Jerusalem are a treasure trove that would take years to go through.) The lack of a major Magnes biography has been a glaring hole in American Jewish historiography for decades.

Daniel P. Kotzin’s “Judah L. Magnes: An American Jewish Nonconformist” is not the definitive, magisterial work, but it is almost something better: a concise, readable and evenhanded survey of Magnes’s life and ideas that is a must-read for anyone committed to understanding American Jewish life and resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Kotzin, an American Jewish historian at Medaille College in Buffalo, N.Y., deftly traces how American idealism, Jewish tradition, Zionism and radical politics shaped Magnes’s intellectual development.

The story begins in Oakland, Calif., where his immigrant parents doted on Magnes, an overachieving first-born child. Leon, as he was then known, was a top student at Oakland High School and the star pitcher of its baseball team. The Oakland Tribune reprinted his bar mitzvah speech, which stressed the importance of Jewish ethics. By the time Magnes arrived at the Cincinnati campus of Hebrew Union College in 1894 to study to become a Reform rabbi, he was brimming with self-confidence.

At HUC, however, Magnes quickly rebelled against what he saw as the bloodless assimilationist creed of Reform Judaism, joining a movement that aimed to reintroduce Hebrew and other Jewish traditions back into the Reform liturgy. (This ultimately led to the creation of Conservative Judaism.) Magnes also became an early adherent of Zionism. This was anathema to the leaders of the Reform movement, who feared that it would undermine their efforts to integrate Jews into American life.

Magnes believed that Jews should take pride in their identity rather than trim their religious practices based on what non-Jews might think. He saw Zionism as a way to renew the Jewish faith for the Diaspora by reconnecting Jews to their roots and to the rich traditions that had been lost to assimilation. To Magnes, the Jewish presence in Palestine should comport with the highest standards of Jewish ethics, which were the foundation for his conviction that the Arab majority in Palestine needed to be treated justly.

Magnes soon made his way to New York, where he managed to win over both the uptown German-Jewish plutocrats and the downtown, left-wing East European Jewish immigrants. Indeed, as the leader and moving force behind the famous New York Kehillah, an attempt to unify the city’s fractious Jewish organizations under one roof, he was perhaps the only man both sides trusted — and that didn’t last.

Magnes was an ardent pacifist who opposed World War I. After the United States entered the war, virtually all the Jewish leaders, fearing charges of dual loyalty, jumped on the bandwagon. But in typical fashion, Magnes became even more radical in his opposition. By the end of the war, he was isolated and discredited. It was a low point in his life, and it forever sensitized him to the dangerous power of nationalism.

In 1922 he moved his family to Palestine, where he managed to rehabilitate himself by championing the new project of creating a Hebrew university. Magnes’s passion and connections to wealthy American Jewish donors catapulted him into the presidency of the new institution. He fought with Chaim Weizmann, head of the world Zionist movement, to keep the university independent of politics. Then, in characteristic style, Magnes used his position as president as a platform to advocate for a binational state.

Kotzin shows how Magnes forced Zionist leaders to confront the Arab-Jewish question. Before Magnes, they were not thinking about how their plans for a Jewish socialist state trod on the rights of the much larger indigenous population. In Magnes’s view, “A Jewish home in Palestine built on bayonets and oppression is not worth having.” Over the course of numerous failed negotiations, he bemoaned the fact that Zionist leaders were never truly interested in reaching a power-sharing accord with the Arabs.

Arriving at such an accord in the 1930s, however, when Jews were fleeing Nazi Germany and finding few havens, would have required Jewish leaders to limit Jewish immigration and land purchases in Palestine and to agree to parity with the Arab population, at best. Unlike most Jewish leaders, Magnes was willing to make these sacrifices in the hopes of building a binational democracy that he believed would build trust between the two sides and eventually allow for a greater Jewish presence.

It is important to note that as averse as the leaders of Jewish Palestine were to making a lasting peace with the Arabs, Kotzin also shows that Magnes, over the course of 20 years of searching, never found a serious Arab partner willing to share Palestine on an equal basis with the Jews.

Magnes was more prophet than politician. Though a spellbinding speaker, he could be cold and remote in person and was both self-righteous and politically naive. He was often duped by duplicitous British and Arab politicians, and hurt his cause by seeming to ally himself with people of questionable integrity.

Nevertheless, despite suffering numerous Jewish death threats and ostracism in much of the Jewish world, Magnes never gave up the fight. To their dismay, his Zionist antagonists could never seem to shake him. Even after Israel was established, Magnes popped back up (with the help of Hannah Arendt) with a proposal for a confederation with a Palestinian state, which he called the United States of Palestine. Weeks before his death, in October 1948, he spoke out forcefully against Israel’s refusal to allow the return of Arab refugees who had fled or were forced out during the War of Independence.

Magnes kept the fire burning for an alternate vision of Zionism — one that would have ensured Zionism’s legitimacy in perpetuity. At a time when a rising number of Jews no longer identify with Israel and are questioning the morality of Zionism, Magnes’s ideas are worth a second look.

Laurence Zuckerman is a former New York Times reporter working on a book about American Jewry and the Holocaust.

Print Friendly

Comments are closed.