Categories: Letters From Leadership
By Martin I. Taft, Ph.D

We live in a time when adherents of the political right have managed to create the impression that liberals are unthinking, unpatriotic, and politically incorrect. Sadly, the majority of liberals have not responded to these foul unfounded epithets as a clear declaration of war. They have shown their complacency by the absence of a determined systematic campaign to refute the untrue accusations and a constructive activism designed to rebuild the liberal image. I, for one, am unwilling to accept this complacency and am recruiting other like-minded people to face the challenge with me.

Before anyone would seriously consider joining me they would have to consider whether we have sufficient ideals and attitudes in common to make cooperation possible and desirable. I am looking for other liberals. I believe that a Liberal is a person who:

Appreciates the implications of alternative solutions to problems…and is not locked into an ideological position which precludes the examination of options which determine policies and programs that one supports.

Campaigns for socio-economic justice for all people with greater individual participation in government and community.

Fights for constitutional, political, social, economic, and administrative reforms by using non-revolutionary means. Eschews extremism of all sorts.

Entertains pragmatic compromises.

Usually champions the underdog, the weak, the elderly, and the defenseless.

Promotes democratic processes in government, community affairs, and membership organizations worldwide. Tries to mitigate the abuses of concentrated power by democratically diffusing it, i.e. promoting greater participation of ordinary citizens in decision-making.

Advocates and defends human rights and dignity, pluralism, enviromental protections, and the vision of a sustainable planet.

Believes that the best mode of operation for any society is cooperation.

This world view of a liberal stands in sharp contrast to a belief system of many ideological conservatives. Their world view may, in general, be characterized as follows:

Believes that the best mode of operation for any society is competition.

Advocates the rights of an individual to exploit and control the physical and human resources of society on behalf of one?s own self interests..

Vigorously promotes the notion that the acquisition of money (wealth) is and should be the major driving force in society, and its possession by an individual is the measure of success.

Supports those laws, programs, and politicians that tend to centralize and concentrate power into the hands of a small number of affluent individuals, corporations and organizations.

In general, proposes policies that maximize wealth accumulation for the few at the expense of the educational, social, health care, environmental,… needs of the many.

Sympathizes with those who oppose the separation of church and state.

Caters to the religious right by financially promoting its agenda and political candidates.

The American labor unions used to say, “Which side are you on?” For those of us who grew up as Jews, Zionists, Labor Zionists, Democrats, and Liberals (that now refer to themselves as Progressives)… the choice of which side we are on is obvious. The problem that we face now is that we are confronted by a well- financed coalition of conservatives, large national and international corporations, the religious right, and an administration in Washington that seeks to control the Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Executive Branch of our government. This coalition is increasingly determining policies that intrude on our privacy, justifies preemptive wars, supports dictatorships, promotes the interests of large corporations and donors at the expense of education, health care, social, environmental protection… services, and alienates our friends and allies.

Clearly, the challenge to liberal/progressive Americans is to develop and implement strategies for combating and replacing the conservative and reactionary programs of the Right. The challenge becomes even greater if one is a secular American Jew and a Labor Zionist. A Zionist is a person who originally worked for the reestablishment of a Jewish national homeland and state in Palestine, and is now concerned with the development and stability of the State of Israel. A Labor Zionist is a zionist who has always believed and worked for a national homeland based on the principles of democracy, equality, social justice, pluralism and cooperative living.

The Labor Zionists in the U.S. and in Israel are currently faced with extremist settlers, ultra-orthodox and right-wing conservatives who ignore the demographic time-bomb; who are willing to accept an Israeli theocracy rather than a democracy; who favor keeping land rather than acquiring peace; who support free enterprise programs that undermine the egalitarian and cooperative socio-economic fabric of Israeli society; and who state that they will fight disengagement with their lives rather than abide by the will of the majority.

It is easy to feel impotent in the face of well-funded, dedicated individuals and groups who oppose and negate our own principles, attitudes, and programs. It is understandable that many of us become complacent. Many of us express our activism by joining single-issue organizations or synagogues. Each of these makes a valuable contribution within the scope of its own mission. What is also needed is a progressive organization that continuously assesses the major global issues of the day and provides a vehicle for people to participate, learn, and utilize their personal knowledge and professional skills to promote their liberal ideals. Such an organization is AMEINU (My People)- Liberal Values, Progressive Israel.

AMEINU is committed to becoming a major force in the pursuit of social justice, equal opportunity, religious pluralism, and democratic institutions, both in the United States and in the State of Israel. Through our educational programs and participation in relevant institutions we endeavor to translate these ideals into action so as to strengthen the fabric of American and Jewish life. In order to promote the continuity of our movement and values, we actively support our youth movement, Habonim Dror, and its efforts to educate young people to embrace and implement our ideals.

In future articles, I will describe many of the challenging activities that we support. In the meantime, you can learn more about AMEINU by visiting our website: www.AMEINU .net or sending E-mail to our office. Feel free to discuss your interests and opinions with me at:

Our challenge is your challenge!

About Martin I. Taft Ph. D., Board Member

Chairman and founder of the Frontiers of Learning Program that brings prominent national and Israeli figures on tours to Ameinu city branches for lectures and seminars. For Ameinu, he has served as National Vice President for Communications and as President of the local chapter in Los Angeles. While member of the Jewish Federation Board of Directors, he was President of the Council of Affiliated Organizations and Chairman of the Aliyah Demonstration Project. In Los Angeles, Martin volunteers as management consultant to not-for-profit agencies for the Executive Service Corps and as a magician member of the Magic Castle he performs magic for patients two days per week at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center at the Cadillac Facility. He is a retired mechanical and systems engineer as well as a personal liability forensic expert witness in accident cases.
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