Jeremy Ben-Ami’s lecture, “Israel-Palestine 2020: One State Remains the Problem & Two States the Solution” follows the Rev. Mitri Raheb’s talk on the same subject from a Palestinian Christian perspective. Raheb said in his lecture a day prior that a growing U.S. Jewish movement for a two-state solution makes him hopeful for Palestine’s future. Ben-Ami is a leader in that movement in Washington D.C., as a founder of the advocacy organization J Street.
“J Street said we have to work for a two-state solution. We have to find a compromise,” Raheb said during his lecture. “Not because they love the Palestinians so much, but because Israel cannot be a democratic country and a Jewish country at the same time.”
Ben-Ami’s lecture will be released at 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday, Aug. 26, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. The lecture aligns with the Week Nine Interfaith Lecture Series theme, “The Future We Want, the World We Need.” Director of Religion Maureen Rovegno said that Ben-Ami represents the same progressive Judaism that Rabbi Sid Schwarz presented during Week Eight’s Interfaith Friday.
“(Ben-Ami’s) organization J Street would be very much in the vanguard of seeking justice in all kinds of capacities,” Rovegno said.
In 2008, Ben-Ami founded J Street to influence the U.S. government to pressure Israel to move toward a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. What is now the country of Israel has occupied Palestine since the late 19th century. Under Israel’s president, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel is still edging Palestinians out of their homes and is attempting to annex the West Bank.
Ben-Ami’s connection to Israel traces back to his great-grandparents who left present-day Russia, which persecuted Jews for practicing their religion and culture. They were some of the first settlers of the present-day city of Petah Tikvah, the first modern agricultural settlement in what would become Israel. His father, Yitshaq, was part of the Irgun militia which smuggled Jews into Palestine.
“He was a terrorist,” Ben-Ami said for the Princeton Alumni Weekly in 2009. “He raised money for the cause, but also fought. (The Irgun) blew up buildings, used violence for political purposes, and believed they had legitimate reasons.”
Ben-Ami said in the same interview with his alma mater that the key to Israel continuing to exist as a legitimate state rests on its treatment of Palestinians.
“I believe that the single greatest threat to the future of Israel as a democratic home for the Jewish people is the failure to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians,” Ben-Ami said. “If it is not resolved, Israel’s existence as a Jewish democracy is at stake.”
This program is made possible by Week Nine “Program Sponsor” Erie Insurance and the Joan Brown Campbell Department of Religion Endowment.