Fearing end of ‘Zionist dream,’ Cohen says donors shut down debate inside Jewish community

Things are changing in the Jewish community. At Rabbis for Human Rights conference the other day, Rabbi Brian Walt spoke to me about what an amazing moment was the heckling of Netanyahu by young Jews at the Jewish Federation meeting in New Orleans. “Electrifying,” he said– and the message had gone out to Jews across the country. Roger Cohen in the New York Times has gotten the news, and says the young people were starting an “important” conversation. Here’s his careful piece on the politics of Jewish identity and the end of the Zionist dream. He mentions the New Orleans hecklers, also a young man Ira Stup, 24, who has visited the occupation and come home disillusioned. You will see that Cohen understands the Jewish identity role in the Israel lobby, and talks about “donors.” Cohen:


[Obama's collapse] is a failure of U.S. politics and the way those politics are straitjacketed by an Israel-right-or-wrong mantra that leads inexorably, over time, to one state with more Arabs in it than Jews. What then will remain of the Zionist dream?

Stup’s research took him often to the West Bank. He would come back to Tel Aviv and talk about Palestinian humiliation he’d seen and found that Israelis seemed unaware or unconcerned. He read in one newspaper that 53 percent of Israeli Jews would encourage Israeli Arabs to leave — “and I saw and felt that anecdotally.”

A painful question hardened: “Seeing what the occupation looked like, and given the ideals of Jewish democracy I was raised on, I wondered: Could Israel be failing and could we American Jews be defending that failure?”

It’s time to think again and, above all, think openly. Last month, Ben-Ami was scheduled to speak at a Reform Jewish synagogue, Temple Beth Avodah, in Newton, near Boston. At the last minute the event got canceled because of what the rabbi described as strong opposition from a “small, influential group” within the congregation.

Jewish groups, or Hillel societies, on U.S. campuses sometimes discover they will lose their biggest donors if they allow a J Street youth group to form within them.

Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking to the Jewish Federations of North America in New Orleans, was heckled by protesters holding banners suggesting the occupation and loyalty oaths de-legitimize Israel. Their banners were ripped (with teeth) and the young Jews dragged out. Where an important conversation could be held, confrontation prevails.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 16 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. annie says:

    wow, this is huge:

    The view that American Jews supportive of Israel but critical of its policies are not “real Jews” is, however, widespread.

    could this be true? how is this not anti semitism at it’s core. the idea ‘jew’ is contingent on a political affiliation or political construct is dangerous. how do you expect to fight anti semitism when your own people reject your jewishness.

    the beginning of his article is very powerful, i have not even gotten to the end yet.

    i like his new photo, i like cohen in general.

  2. occupyresist says:

    Necessary and looooooong overdue – like, 60+ years, no matter how afraid many are.

  3. annie says:

    hey, there’s even more ‘never been said in the nyt’ stuff in here:

    President Barack Obama had virtually no domestic constituency for his attempt to denounce the continued growth of settlements as unacceptable and as undermining a two-state peace at its core: land.

    Obama was left dangling, more so after the midterms, and had to retreat. This is not merely a failure of the parties. It is a failure of U.S. politics and the way those politics are straitjacketed by an Israel-right-or-wrong mantra that leads inexorably, over time, to one state with more Arabs in it than Jews.

    the first bolded part isn’t true tho, he had me. i called the white house and told them how i felt.

    • Potsherd2 says:

      When Obama realizes he’ll never be re-elected, then we’ll see what’s really at his core. Probably, a hollow space, but we’ll have to wait and see.

    • Potsherd2 says:

      When he says “no domestic constituency” he obviously means the sellouts in Congress.

      But among the actual constituency, the voters, there is strong support for attempting to solve the problem, as this new poll demonstrates:
      link to politico.com

      With 71 percent of those polled supporting American diplomatic efforts to mediate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, President Barack Obama can’t just walk away from the issue, Telhami said.

      The poll also showed striking partisan differences in attitudes toward the conflict, with 46 percent of Republicans wanting American diplomacy to lean toward Israel, compared with 11 percent of independents and 14 percent of Democrats.

      Not even the Republicans have a majority that want them to favor Israel.

    • Kathleen says:

      he had millions of people behind him. Maybe just not enough cccchiiing and not in powerful enough positions.

      keep calling the White House, your Reps etc about this critical issue. Keep pushing. Know I don’t need to say this to you Annie. Keep spreading the word. Hand out literature where ever you go. If Americans Knew is a great place to get that literature

      • annie says:

        check this out kathleen. jim just posted this on the proportionality thread,

        ‘Israel faces tougher line from EU after former heads call for Palestinian state’

        The former EU leaders said that in the face of “the ongoing deterioration of the situation on the ground”, the EU, in co-operation with other international bodies, should put forward a “concrete and comprehensive proposal for the resolution of this conflict”. A deadline of April 2011 for progress in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians should be set, after which the international community should intervene.
        ……

        The letter says the group had received “signals” from US officials that the best way to help American efforts to reach a peace deal was to put a “price tag” on policies that contradict those advocated by Barack Obama.

        what kind of signals? check out the link.

    • I listened and re-listened and listened again to a hearing of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, topic: Iran Sanctions; Chair: Howard Berman; testifying: Stuart Levey.

      I parsed Ros-Lehtinen’s comments quite carefully.

      It’s not the White House.
      It’s not the State Department — not completely (which may explain Hillary Clinton’s very awkward performance meeting (or not meeting, as it were) Iranian Diplomat Mottaki — she’s deeply conflicted and her body could not overcome the turmoil in her mind)

      It’s Congress.
      Congress is bought, sold, and paid for with money US borrows from China, lends to Israel, pays to Israel, and which Israelis use to pay for US election campaigns.

      Legislation to unjustly and sadistically punish Iran, because that what Israel wants, was passed ALMOST UNANIMOUSLY in House and Senate.

      THAT is the power of the Lobby.

      Obama can try to outmaneuver Congress and Netanyahu, but he has little support to do so.

      I suggest that Americans start to impose very heavy pressure on their Congressman/woman. Force them to confront the reality that American support for Israel is costing Americans jobs, competitive advantage in a global economy, and a secure economic future.

      Because the facts suggest that that analysis is absolutely true.

  4. Kathleen says:

    “Roger Cohen in the New York Times has gotten the news, and says the young people were starting an “important” conversation.”

    Like so many of us I have been in shock over the last 40 years at how willingly blind many of my Jewish friends are about the conflict, the ongoing injustice, the crimes being committed. Millions have been talking about this for years. Often not in the company of many Jews who in the past go numb when this topic was brought up with them in the room.

    These changes, the hypocrisy is being looked at ,discussed. A good thing

  5. RE: “Why,” Stup asked me, “is it poisoning minds to encourage them to think critically about the actions of the Israeli government?” – Roger Cohen
    FROM WIKIPEDIA (Defence Mechanism):

    (excerpt)Level 3 – Neurotic
    These mechanisms are considered neurotic, but fairly common in adults. Such defences have short-term advantages in coping, but can often cause long-term problems in relationships, work and in enjoying life when used as one’s primary style of coping with the world.
    They include:
    Displacement: Defence mechanism that shifts sexual or aggressive impulses to a more acceptable or less threatening target; redirecting emotion to a safer outlet; separation of emotion from its real object and redirection of the intense emotion toward someone or something that is less offensive or threatening in order to avoid dealing directly with what is frightening or threatening. For example, a mother may yell at her child because she is angry with her husband.
    Dissociation: Temporary drastic modification of one’s personal identity or character to avoid emotional distress; separation or postponement of a feeling that normally would accompany a situation or thought.
    Hypochondriasis: An excessive preoccupation or worry about having a serious illness.
    Intellectualization: A form of isolation; concentrating on the intellectual components of a situation so as to distance oneself from the associated anxiety-provoking emotions; separation of emotion from ideas; thinking about wishes in formal, affectively bland terms and not acting on them; avoiding unacceptable emotions by focusing on the intellectual aspects (e.g. Isolation, Rationalization, Ritual, Undoing, Compensation, Magical thinking).
    Isolation: Separation of feelings from ideas and events, for example, describing a murder with graphic details with no emotional response.
    Rationalization (making excuses): Where a person convinces him or herself that no wrong was done and that all is or was all right through faulty and false reasoning. An indicator of this defence mechanism can be seen socially as the formulation of convenient excuses – making excuses.
    Reaction formation: Converting unconscious wishes or impulses that are perceived to be dangerous into their opposites; behavior that is completely the opposite of what one really wants or feels; taking the opposite belief because the true belief causes anxiety. This defence can work effectively for coping in the short term, but will eventually break down.
    Regression: Temporary reversion of the ego to an earlier stage of development rather than handling unacceptable impulses in a more adult way.
    Repression: The process of attempting to repel desires towards pleasurable instincts, caused by a threat of suffering if the desire is satisfied; the desire is moved to the unconscious in the attempt to prevent it from entering consciousness;[15] seemingly unexplainable naivety, memory lapse or lack of awareness of one’s own situation and condition; the emotion is conscious, but the idea behind it is absent.[citation needed]
    Undoing: A person tries to ‘undo’ an unhealthy, destructive or otherwise threatening thought by engaging in contrary behaviour.

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to en.wikipedia.org

    • P.S. ALSO FROM WIKIPEDIA:
      Cognitive dissonance
      Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions.[2] Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying. It is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.
      Experience can clash with expectations, as, for example, with buyer’s remorse following the purchase of an expensive item. In a state of dissonance, people may feel surprise,[2] dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment. People are biased to think of their choices as correct, despite any contrary evidence. This bias gives dissonance theory its predictive power, shedding light on otherwise puzzling irrational and destructive behavior
      ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to en.wikipedia.org

    • RoHa says:

      Interesting that “concentrating on the intellectual components of a situation so as to distance oneself from the associated anxiety-provoking emotions; separation of emotion from ideas” is classed as neurotic.

      In my Critical Thinking classes, I encouraged the students to set aside emotional responses so as to avoid the disortion of thinking that emotion can cause.

      It looks as though Critical Thinking is bad for mental health.

      • RE: “It looks as though Critical Thinking is bad for mental health.” – RoHa
        MY REPLY: I think it depends on how the ‘critical thinking’ is used and to what end.
        WIKIPEDIA: “…Healthy persons normally use different defences throughout life. An ego defence mechanism becomes pathological only when its persistent use leads to maladaptive behavior such that the physical and/or mental health of the individual is adversely affected…’
        ANOTHER EXCERPT FROM THE WIKIPEDIA DEFENCE MECHANISM ARTICLE:

        Level 4 – Mature
        These are commonly found among emotionally healthy adults and are considered mature, even though many have their origins in an immature stage of development. They have been adapted through the years in order to optimize success in life and relationships. The use of these defences enhances pleasure and feelings of control. These defences help us integrate conflicting emotions and thoughts, while still remaining effective. Those who use these mechanisms are usually considered virtuous.
        They include:
        Altruism: Constructive service to others that brings pleasure and personal satisfaction.
        Anticipation: Realistic planning for future discomfort.
        Humour: Overt expression of ideas and feelings (especially those that are unpleasant to focus on or too terrible to talk about) that gives pleasure to others. Humor, which explores the absurdity inherent in any event, enables someone to “call a spade a spade”, while “wit” is a form of displacement (see above under Level 3). Wit refers to the serious or distressing in a humorous way; rather than fully disarming it, the thoughts are partially defused. The thoughts retain a portion of their innate distress, but they are “skirted round” by witticism.
        Identification: The unconscious modeling of one’s self upon another person’s character and behavior.
        Introjection: Identifying with some idea or object so deeply that it becomes a part of that person.
        Sublimation: Transformation of negative emotions or instincts into positive actions, behavior, or emotion.
        Thought suppression: The conscious process of pushing thoughts into the preconscious; the conscious decision to delay paying attention to an emotion or need in order to cope with the present reality; making it possible to later access uncomfortable or distressing emotions while accepting them.

        SOURCE – link to en.wikipedia.org

  6. yourstruly says:

    Outspoken anti-Zionist or even open-minded Jews may have to get used to being scolded or scorned by co-religionists. At first this may be somewhat disconcerting but as time passes one’s response to, say, someone’s refusal to make eye contact is to feel good about oneself, like – I must have said/done something right or so & so wouldn’t be avoiding me. As for loss of friendships – If differences of opinion about the settler-state sever the bonds between two people, so be it.