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Why Anti-Zionist Jews Are a Minority: Jonathan S. Tobin, Commentary, Feb. 16, 2014— It is a principle of journalism that news consists of those events that are out of the ordinary.
Why Religious Judaism Is Tied To Nationalism: Liel Leibovitz, Tablet, Feb. 18, 2014— This weekend, the New York Times ran a column by Mark Oppenheimer about what the author correctly identified as a small and curious minority of observant American Jews deeply opposed to Zionism.
Responding to the J Street Challenge: Ben Cohen, Algemeiner, Feb. 17, 2014 — Ever since its founding in 2008, J Street, the liberal Jewish advocacy group, has expended a great deal of time and energy trying to convince American Jews that it is a credible and more ethical alternative to traditional pro-Israel organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Kerry's Israeli Supporters: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 3, 2014— Once again, on Saturday, US Secretary of State John Kerry tried to extort Israeli concessions to the PLO by threatening us with a Western economic boycott.
A Conflict of Faith: Devoted to Jewish Observance, but at Odds With Israel: Mark Oppenheimer, New York Times, Feb. 14, 2014
As George Kennan Inspired Truman’s Foreign Policy, Now Stephen Walt Inspires Obama’s: Lee Smith, Tablet, Feb. 5, 2014
Go Left Young Man: Prejudice 101: Langdon Conway, Feb. 20, 2014
Richard Falk’s Final Report Accuses Israel of “Inhuman Acts” & “Apartheid”: UN Watch, Feb. 18, 2014
The Shame of Princeton: Sohrab Ahmari, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 14, 2014
Jonathan S. Tobin
Commentary, Feb. 16, 2014
It is a principle of journalism that news consists of those events that are out of the ordinary. The old cliché is that when man bites dog, it’s news. A dog biting a man is not. Thus, the conceit of the New York Times Beliefs column feature on Friday met that basic standard for newsworthiness. A story about religious Jews who actively oppose the existence of the State of Israel is one in which it must be conceded that the subjects are unusual.
The Pew Research Center of U.S. Jews published in October reported that 91 percent of Orthodox Jews, 88 percent of Conservative Jews, and even 70 percent of those who identified themselves as Reform Jews are either very or somewhat emotionally attached to Israel. That means any discussion about observant Jews who are anti-Zionists is, by definition, one about a very tiny minority. But considering that three of the five Jews whose views are featured in the piece seem to fall into the category of Modern Orthodox, of whom 99 percent told Pew they were very or somewhat attached to Israel with one percent saying “not very attached” and zero percent “not at all attached,” the trio constitute a sample of a group that is not merely a minority but one so small that it is statistically insignificant.
Once that is understood, it becomes clear that one of the main failings of the article is not only the fact that its author has no interest in challenging their views but that it fails to put that fact in proper perspective. The Orthodox trio and the one Conservative Jew and one Reconstructionist movement rabbi (whose views may not be all that out of the ordinary among that small left-leaning demographic) highlighted are a peculiar minority. But the willingness of the paper to give them such favorable attention illustrates once again the falsity of the notion that it takes courage for Jews to oppose Israel. To the contrary, as was made clear last week by the controversy over two Manhattan rabbis who defied many of the congregants by signing a letter denouncing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), those Jews who publicly denounce Israel can always look forward to the applause of the mainstream media.
While this quintet are entitled to their views about Israel and appear to be none the worse for wear for being so determined to flout the views of their co-religionists, two aspects of the article are particularly objectionable. One is the article’s assumption that there is something remarkable about the fact that they are able to go about their business while living in a Jewish community and attending synagogue without much trouble. The second is the failure of the piece to acknowledge that the views their subjects express are inherently bigoted.
It should be acknowledged that the article is correct when it states that prior to 1948, support for Zionism was not universal among American Jews. Many Jews, especially those affiliated with “classic” Reform temples, viewed it as a threat to the rights of American Jews to be treated as equal citizens in the United States. The reason the adherents of that view declined from minority status to statistical insignificance is that Israel’s creation did no such thing. To the contrary, the creation of a Jewish state only a few years after the Nazis and their collaborators had killed nearly one third of the Jews on the planet engendered the respect of other Americans as well as enhancing the self-esteem of every Jew in the world whether he or she was religious or a Zionist.
Israel gained its independence because the Jews had a right to sovereignty in their ancient homeland and not as compensation for the Holocaust. The sweat and the blood of the Jews who built Israel and fought to defend it earned that independence. But the Holocaust made it abundantly clear, even to those who had never previously given the idea their support, that without a Jewish state to defend them, Diaspora Jews who had not been lucky enough to make it the United States or the other English-speaking countries that had not succumbed to the Nazis would always be at the mercy of violent anti-Semitism. That was just as true of Jews who lived in Muslim and Arab countries (who were forced to flee their homes after 1948) as it was of the Jews of Europe. Theodor Herzl’s understanding of the inevitable fate of a homeless Jewry—a thesis that he adopted after seeing Alfred Dreyfus being degraded in Paris as a mob shouted, “Death to the Jews”—was sadly vindicated by the events of the first half of the 20th century.
Though their neighbors and fellow congregants treat them with the toleration that Israel’s foes do not extend to the Jewish state, the common failing of the five anti-Zionist Jews in the Times story is their failure to account for this basic historical lesson that the rest of their community understands. One need not support every action of the government of the State of Israel or have no sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians to understand that not only does Israel have a right to exist but that its fall would endanger the lives of its people and, by extension, Jews everywhere. The notion put forward by one of the subjects that “non-statist Zionism” would succeed was exploded several decades ago by the refusal of Arab opponents of the Jewish presence in Israel/Palestine to accept Jews on any terms…
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Tablet, Feb. 18, 2014
This weekend, the New York Times ran a column by Mark Oppenheimer about what the author correctly identified as a small and curious minority of observant American Jews deeply opposed to Zionism. The piece was well-written and compelling, and Oppenheimer’s five interviewees all came off as thoughtful and morally minded. But none, alas, sounded very Jewish. Uniting them all was a belief that Judaism, at its core, was somehow incompatible with the sort of earthly power on which states depend for their existence and which they apply daily in nearly every capacity. “I think nationalism and religion together are toxic,” said Stefan Krieger, a professor of law at Hofstra University. Corey Robin, a political science professor at Brooklyn College, put it even more poetically; “There are lots of ways to be Jewish,” he said, “but worshiping a heavily militarized state seems like a bit of a comedown from our past.”
You don’t have to be a noted rabbinical scholar to know that the past to which Robin alludes begins with a covenant that elects the Jews God’s chosen children and directs them towards the Promised Land, where they’re instructed to settle down and live according to the commandments of the Torah. Which, at first blush, seems like a strange idea: if the Chosen People are truly destined to serve as a light unto the nations, might they not better accomplish their mission by settling down among the goyim and preaching their truth to each nation in turn? Why shepherd them, like Abraham in his turn, to Canaan? Why insist on the establishment of a Jewish polity there?
The answer is a core tenet of Judaism, namely the realization that earthly power is indispensable. As Michael Walzer elegantly noted in his Exodus and Revolution, nothing inherent sets Canaan apart from Egypt and its houses of bondage; the Promised Land’s promise lies not in some external bit of magic but in the ability of the Jews to apply their sovereignty and turn their nation state into a concrete example of a just and merciful kingdom. In other words, Judaism suggests that if you’re going to live up to your calling and set a moral example, you do it not by shuffling off this mortal coil and declaring yourself too pure for the imperfect and compromise-ridden business of government, but by jumping right in and serving as an example of how a real nation addresses real problems right here in the real world.
Which is not to say that Israel’s current means of addressing its problems are perfect; far from it. But which is to say that seeking to define Judaism as antithetical to nationalism when it is, at its very heart, as much of a nationality as it is a religion, is a theological travesty against the ancient faith. Even the traditional religious opposition to Zionism, which Oppenheimer cites in his piece, stemmed not from a categorical rejection of a nation state but from a belief that such a political entity could be established only after the coming of the Messiah. Judaism, then, could certainly be understood as a critique of power, but never as a call for its abdication.
Oppenheimer’s subjects, however, don’t see it this way. Steeped in the kneejerk rejection of all forms of nationalism that is de rigueur in many parts of academia these days, they seem to tolerate the religion only if it deals in the ethereal realm of universal morals. Which, again, seems to have very little in common with our ancient faith. Of course, it’s poor practice to judge someone’s belief system on the basis of a few select quotes, however eloquent, in a newspaper article. The men and women Oppenheimer interviewed are all scholars and prolific writers, and this is a conversation well worth having. I’m curious to see how they would reconcile their seemingly modern ideas with the more traditional tenets of Jewish theology.
Algemeiner, Feb. 17, 2014
Ever since its founding in 2008, J Street, the liberal Jewish advocacy group, has expended a great deal of time and energy trying to convince American Jews that it is a credible and more ethical alternative to traditional pro-Israel organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). J Street believes, not unreasonably, that there is a constituency for its work among those American Jews who are generally supportive of Israel but queasy over certain of its policies, most obviously creating and sustaining Jewish communities in the West Bank. Nor is this an unprecedented insight: from the 1970s onwards, there were organizations like Breira (“Alternative”) and New Jewish Agenda which aimed to give voice to the same disquiet.
J Street, however, is much savvier than either of those earlier incarnations. Unlike its ideological predecessors, there are no rumors circulating of its imminent demise. For the foreseeable future, then, J Street will remain a part of American Jewry’s political landscape. This reality is implicitly acknowledged in “The J Street Challenge,” a critical documentary film about the organization that has just been released by Americans for Peace and Tolerance, a Boston-based group run by the well-known anti-slavery activist Charles Jacobs. And it is a reality that, Jacobs and his co-producers insist, needs to be grappled with through honest debate and discussion.
The key question raised by the film is what it means to be “pro-Israel” not on a personal level, but within the context of the political lobbying and advocacy that swirls around American policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (or, as Harvard Professor Ruth Wisse more accurately terms it in her interview in the film, “the Arab conflict with Israel”). And when you examine J Street’s record, it becomes very hard to dispute Professor Alan Dershowitz’s assertion that the organization—despite its much-vaunted tagline—is “neither pro-Israel nor pro-peace.”
To begin with, there are J Street’s funders. As the film documents, ferocious critics of Israel like the hedge-fund billionaire George Soros and Genevieve Lynch, a board member of the pro-Iranian regime National Iranian-American Council, have donated significant sums to the organization. And although it says it is opposed to the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, J Street maintains close ties with those who advocate collaboration with the BDS movement in targeting West Bank settlements, like the writer Peter Beinart and the corporate lawyer Kathleen Peratis. This milieu is hardly conducive to J Street’s “pro-Israel” self-image.
Then there are J Street’s statements. As Dershowitz points out, you “rarely” hear J Street praising Israel. A far more familiar refrain consists of slamming Benjamin Netanyahu’s government as an obstacle to peace, or opposing tougher sanctions on the Iranian regime—positions that don’t raise an eyebrow when articulated by anti-Israel groups, but which sound rather discordant coming from a group that claims to support Israel. In that regard, much of the J Street documentary studies why the organization’s analysis of Israel’s situation is wrong. Its emphasis on Israel’s land policies in the West Bank, its tin ear when it comes to Palestinian and Arab incitement, its embrace of a strategy that would result in the U.S. pushing Israel to make decisions contrary to its basic security interests—these moral and strategic errors are all familiar to anyone who has followed the debate about J Street’s contribution.
More enlightening is the film’s examination of why J Street exercises such an attraction to a particular kind of American Jew. Many of the interviewees argue persuasively that affiliation with J Street is more of a lifestyle choice than a political statement, in that it allows liberal Jews to equate their identity with their fealty to the “progressive” values they see Israel as betraying. But is that how the J Streeters themselves view it? Since no J Street representative appears in the film, it’s hard to say for sure. According to the end credits, Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s executive director, “declined” to be interviewed, which left the producers with no option but to use existing footage of Ben-Ami speaking to other audiences. J Street told me that Ben-Ami was not interviewed because he was not available at the time the producers suggested. Either way, the absence of a direct interview with Ben-Ami, in which he answers the points raised by J Street’s critics, slightly blunts the film’s impact.
The most heartening aspect of the film consists of young, pro-Israel activists eloquently expressing why they distrust J Street. Through their words, the viewer gets an insight into the courage and intelligence required to defend Israel on campus these days. Indeed, one of them, Samantha Mandeles, who currently works as campus coordinator for media watchdog Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), is so impressive that I found myself wondering whether she’ll apply for the post-Abe Foxman national director’s job at the Anti-Defamation League—she certainly deserves serious consideration. In any case, seeing and hearing the next generation of genuinely pro-Israel Jewish leaders is reason enough to give “The J Street Challenge” an hour of your time.
Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, Feb. 3, 2014
Once again…US Secretary of State John Kerry tried to extort Israeli concessions to the PLO by threatening us with a Western economic boycott. Kerry is obsessed with Israel’s economic success. Last May he told us that we’re too rich to surrender our land. Now he’s saying we’ll be poor if we don’t do so. The anti-Semitic undertones of Kerry’s constant chatter about Jews having too much money are obvious. But beyond their inherent bigotry, Kerry’s statements serve to legitimize the radical Left’s economic war against the Jewish state. Administration supporters and fundraisers from Code Pink and other pressure groups, as well as the EU understand that if they escalate their economic and political persecution of the Jewish state, their actions will be met with quiet understanding, and even support from the Obama administration. This is so even if the State Department issues indignant press releases expressing fury that Israeli elected officials have the chutzpah to object to Kerry’s behavior.
Israel has been subjected to plenty of abuse from American secretaries of state. But Kerry’s incessant talk of “illusory” Jewish money is unprecedented. Why does Kerry believe he can get away with this? The overwhelming majority of US lawmakers oppose economic warfare against Israel. The vast majority of Americans support Israel and believe that a Palestinian state will support terrorism and be hostile to Israel.
So if the American public opposes Kerry’s obsessive aggressiveness toward Israel, who is supporting him? Who is giving him cover for his anti-Jewish smears and his irrational focus on Jewish communities beyond the 1949 armistice lines? The answer is as infuriating as it is apparent. It is the Israeli Left and through it, much of the American Jewish community that enables Kerry’s diplomatic aggression against the Jewish state. Operating under their cover, Kerry feels free to engage in anti-Jewish bigotry directed against Israeli society. He believes he is immune from allegations of ill-will toward Israel even as he places the full weight of the US government behind a plan that will endanger Israel, bring no peace, destabilize the Middle East and fail to win the US any friends or allies in the Islamic world.
On the face of it, it is hard to understand why leftist Israeli Jews cheer Kerry’s aggressive attacks and threats. After all, they live here. They know as well as the rest of the country that if Israel bows to his will and surrenders Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria to the PLO the move will bring no peace. Rather it will unleash a Palestinian terrorist assault the likes of which we haven’t seen before. They know that the international delegitimization of Israel only expands with every Israeli concession to the PLO, and that giving up the store will bring us no respite from the Western world’s assault on our right to exist.
So what do they gain by giving cover to Kerry? Why do people like Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich applaud Kerry for placing unrelenting pressure on the government to take steps that the majority of Israelis oppose and urge him to keep it up? Ron Pundak, one of the original architects of Israel’s embrace of the PLO and the so-called two-state solution at Oslo in 1993 supplied the answer in a recently published paper. Last November the George Soros-supported International Crisis Group published a paper by Pundak entitled “Leap of Faith: Israel’s National Religious and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” The purpose of his paper was to provide strategies for contending with the religious Zionist opposition to the two-state model. According to Pundak, non-secular Israelis oppose the two-state policy because it “is seen as… aimed at de-Zionizing the state.”
Rather than develop talking points to convince Israeli Zionists that they are wrong to view the two-state model as an anti-Zionist project, Pundak admitted they are right. Indeed, destroying the Zionist underpinning of the Jewish state is not a byproduct of the two-state model. It is the purpose of the two-state model. In Pundak’s words, “Peace is not an objective by itself. It is a way to transition Israel from one era to another: to an era of what I consider is a normal state. Israelisation of society rather than its judaisation…”
Pundak’s explanation is not new. Before the Sharon government surrendered Gaza to Palestinian terrorists and forcibly expelled its 8,000 Jewish residents from their homes, Haaretz published an unsigned editorial along the same lines. “The disengagement of Israeli policy from its religious fuel is the real disengagement currently on the agenda. On the day after the disengagement, religious Zionism’s status will be different.”
The editorial concluded that all the talk about enhanced security or peace was pure nonsense. The purpose of destroying the communities in Gaza was to destroy the political and social power of religious Zionism in Israel. “The real question is not how many mortar shells will fall, or who will guard the Philadelphi route [between Gaza and Egypt], or whether the Palestinians will dance on the roofs of [the destroyed communities]. The real question is who sets the national agenda.”
For Pundak and his colleagues in the post-Zionist camp, Kerry is a key ally. And to the extent Kerry weakens the government and its supporters, he is a strategic asset. True, Kerry’s “framework” will bring no peace. But if what Pundak and his camp were after was peace, they wouldn’t have embraced the PLO to begin with. They would have cultivated pro-Israel Arabs who would lead their people into Israeli society.
That is, they would have done precisely what center- right governing coalitions – that included religious Zionists – sought to achieve, with significant success, in the decade and a half that preceded the phony peace-process. Israel is a democracy. And it is perfectly legitimate for Pundak and his colleagues to try to advance their policy goal of replacing Zionism with a de-Judaized state or anything else they wish. What is illegitimate is the means they have employed to advance their goal…
[To View the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]
A Conflict of Faith: Devoted to Jewish Observance, but at Odds With Israel: Mark Oppenheimer, New York Times, Feb. 14, 2014 — There is no question that Charles H. Manekin is a rarity.
As George Kennan Inspired Truman’s Foreign Policy, Now Stephen Walt Inspires Obama’s: Lee Smith, Tablet, Feb. 5, 2014— The postwar American strategy of containing the Soviet Union had an architect—George F. Kennan, the mysterious “Mr. X” who wrote the 1947 Foreign Affairs article that drew from the “Long Telegram,” which laid out a blueprint for American policy that prevailed until the end of Cold War.
Go Left Young Man: Prejudice 101: Langdon Conway, Feb. 20, 2014— Recent attention has been drawn to a young professor (Annette Tezli) for her use of an overtly Bin Laden-excusing, anti-Israel textbook in a University of Calgary sociology course called “Canadian Society.”
Richard Falk’s Final Report Accuses Israel of “Inhuman Acts” & “Apartheid”: UN Watch, Feb. 18, 2014— A controversial United Nations human rights investigator is accusing Israel of “inhuman acts,” and calling on the body world to support a “legitimacy war” against the Jewish state.
The Shame of Princeton: Sohrab Ahmari, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 14, 2014 — No matter how deep into the political fever swamps some scholars wade, it seems, progressive academe won't shun them.
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