Where is the ‘center’ of American Zionism?

on 15 Comments

Many of the liberal pro-Israel lobby J Street’s detractors from the American Jewish right complain that the group is outside the ‘mainstream of American Jewish opinion’ because it makes mild criticisms of Israeli policy and takes a dovish approach to Israel’s neighbors. 

If the logic of Jennifer Rubin, the prolific and pugnacious writer at Commentary, is to be believed, then those critics might be right — but not the way they envision it. It may just be that, according to Rubin’s disdain for the dominance of liberalism among American Jewry, J Street is ‘outside the American Jewish mainstream’ not because it is liberal, but because it is Zionist. 

We need to consider several posts from Rubin to string together this train of thought. It goes as follows:

Rubin, quoting a blog post from Rachel Abrams (wife of Elliott), has repeatedly called the liberalism of American Jews a “sick addiction.” In one such post, she laments that 58 percent of Jews still approve of the job Barack Obama is doing and proclaims: “There’s no denying it: a majority of American Jews are willfully indifferent to the fate of the Jewish State.”

There are two points here: 1) Rubin, despite her consternation, takes as a given that American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal, and 2) that liberalism entails a “willful indiffer(ence)” to Israel.

On the latter point, she reinforces this notion in a later post about J Street where, in a passing comment, she declares that “liberal Zionism” (which she puts in skeptical quotes) is an “oxymoron.”

So, by Rubin’s logic, if liberals can’t be Zionists, and Jews are overwhelmingly liberals, then, indeed, a “majority of American Jews” are not Zionists. It’s no surprise, then, that J Street is outside of the ‘American Jewish mainstream’ — they are, after all, a progressive Zionist group. 

It’s also no wonder that the — according to Rubin — minority of American Jews who are not “willfully indifferent to the fate of the Jewish State” would, like Rubin herself, turn to far-right-wing Christian Zionists like Pastor John Hagee and his Christians United for Israel for unconditional support of Israeli policies. Hagee and his ilk are not exactly in the ‘Jewish American mainstream’ either, reinforcing the notion that the center of American Zionism might now be outside that realm as well.


15 Responses

  1. Richard Witty
    October 1, 2010, 12:59 pm

    Its funny to hear both the right and the left declare that liberal Zionism is an oxymoron.

    • James Bradley
      October 1, 2010, 2:07 pm

      Why is it funny?

    • Shingo
      October 1, 2010, 3:05 pm

      “Its funny to hear both the right and the left declare that liberal Zionism is an oxymoron.”

      Funny that they are or funny that they are both right?

    • annie
      October 1, 2010, 3:40 pm

      it is an oxymoron. liberals don’t just like equal rights, they actually believe in them.

  2. idiocr4cy
    October 1, 2010, 1:14 pm

    This is an unrelated question but a crucial question nevertheless, why is it antisemitic to suspect Israel involvement with Iraq war, but its perfectly okay to for everyone, including the media to suspect Israel/Zionists about the stuxnet worm hitting Iran? Where is Abraham Foxman and his ADL organization to condemn these “anti-semitic” portrayal of Israel in the media?

    link to politico.com

    • Donald
      October 1, 2010, 1:34 pm

      “why is it antisemitic to suspect Israel involvement with Iraq war, but its perfectly okay to for everyone, including the media to suspect Israel/Zionists about the stuxnet worm hitting Iran?”

      Because in the MSM the worm isn’t seen as a bad thing, at least not in the articles I’ve read. They seem to see it as more of a cool spy/mystery story and it makes the Israelis (if they did it) seem really smart.

      Now if an American or Israeli nuclear facility was hit with a computer worm suspected to come from Iran, the tone of the MSM about this kind of behavior would be very very different.

    • Chu
      October 1, 2010, 1:46 pm

      it’s just idiocr4cy…

  3. Donald
    October 1, 2010, 1:19 pm

    I’d like to believe this, but it’s more likely that Rubin’s perspective is skewed by her far-right stance. (I assume as someone in Commentary she’s far right). People on the far right see everyone to their left as an undifferentiated mass of Marxist anti-semitic pro-Arab socialist sympathizing suicide bomb supporting terrorist lovers.

  4. traintosiberia
    October 1, 2010, 1:51 pm

    What will make J.Rubin happy?
    What will stop her from demonizing anybody including B Obama?

    Will ever l relentless pressure on the adminstration from Israel through the neocons end ? What more price the world and US have to pay to satisfy Isreal?

  5. pabelmont
    October 1, 2010, 2:12 pm

    “Liberal Zionism” and “Jewish/Zionist democracy” both enjoy ‘skeptical quotes’ (quoting Ali Gharib) or ‘scare quotes’ (if the quoter intends that the idea be feared).

    As a non-affiliated Jew, I have no community-instilled love of Zionism and have been free since 1967, when I married a Palestinian, to adopt a reality-based (as I see it) antipathy for Zionism.

    What I fear (in regard to liberal American Jewish opinion) is that Jews are as ignorant as most people and more ready than other Americans to be pro-Israel for faux-nostalgic reasons, to say nothing of the constant barrage of pro-Israel chatter in synagogues for those that ()ever) attend the same. But some have eyes to see and ears to hear. There is always hope.

    • Citizen
      October 2, 2010, 7:28 am

      Aren’t you confused? I thought all the negative politics were only discussed in the mosques in the USA.

  6. yourstruly
    October 1, 2010, 8:11 pm

    For some Jews the existence of the Zionist state has muted their sensitivity to the suffering of oppressed peoples, Palestinians in particular. Seems that one’s history driven identification with the slave ends when one becomes the slavemaster.

    • Citizen
      October 2, 2010, 7:30 am

      Truman said essentially the same thing. He knew the score, but he needed zionist money & press to defeat Dewey. That’s where the buck always stops.

  7. RoHa
    October 1, 2010, 11:28 pm

    “the — according to Rubin — minority of American Jews who are not “willfully indifferent to the fate of the Jewish State””

    She makes it sound like indifference to Israel’s fate is a bad thing.

  8. Eva Smagacz
    October 3, 2010, 4:33 am

    To quote from the New York Review article by Massing:

    “AIPAC claims to represent most of the Jewish community. Its executive committee has a couple of hundred members representing a wide spectrum of American Jewish opinion, from the dovish Americans for Peace Now to the militantly right-wing Zionist Organization of America. Four times a year this group meets to decide AIPAC policy.

    According to several former AIPAC officials I have talked to, however, the executive committee has little real
    power. Rather, power rests with the fifty-odd-member board of directors, which is selected not according to how well they represent AIPAC’s members but according to how much money they give and raise.

    Reflecting this, the board is thick with corporate lawyers, Wall Street investors, business executives, and heirs to family fortunes. Within the board itself, power is concentrated in an extremely rich subgroup, known as the
    “minyan club.” And, within that group, four members are dominant: Robert Asher, a retired lighting fixtures dealer in Chicago; Edward Levy, a building supplies executive in Detroit; Mayer “Bubba” Mitchell, a construction materials dealer in Mobile, Alabama; and Larry Weinberg, a real estate
    developer in Los Angeles (and a former owner of the Portland Trail Blazers). Asher, Levy, and Mitchell are loyal Republicans; Weinberg is a Scoop Jackson
    Democrat who has moved rightward over the years.

    The “Gang of Four,” as these men are known, do not share the general interest of a large part of the Jewish community in promoting peace in the Middle East.
    Rather, they seek to keep Israel strong, the Palestinians weak, and the United States from exerting pressure on Israel. AIPAC’s director, Howard Kohr, is a conservative Republican long used to doing the Gang of Four’s bidding. For many years Steven Rosen, AIPAC’s director of foreign policy issues, was the main power on the staff, helping to shape the Gang of Four’s pro-Likud beliefs into practical measures that AIPAC could promote in Congress. (In 2005, Rosenand fellow AIPAC analyst Keith Weissman left the organization and were soon after indicted by federal authorities for receiving classified national security information and passing it on to foreign (Israeli) officials.)”


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