Where is the ‘center’ of American Zionism?

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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.


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