Today the Forward publishes an incisive piece by JJ Goldberg implicitly defending MJ Rosenberg's use of the term "Israel Firster," because Rosenberg is a firebrand but he has always been an Israel lover.
He’s doing what he’s done for 43 years, mounting the barricades for the Jewish cause of a safe, peaceful Israel and damn what others think. The ground around him has moved, but he hasn’t.
Goldberg's defense is very much in the vein of Connie Bruck's defense at the New Yorker this week as "someone who is profoundly devoted to Israel and, at the same time, abhors the Israeli occupation."
Goldberg is right when he says that the ground has moved. The Likudniks have won, here and in Israel. Both Bruck and Goldberg's pieces are efforts at political restoration, anticipating the Peter Beinart moment that is coming soon, the Jewish spring, when liberal Zionists will seek to drive a political wedge issue inside the Establishment: Are you for an attack on Iran? Are you for the settlements? Are you for Israel committing political suicide? Then go to the Republicans.
Excerpt of Goldberg's bio of MJ Rosenberg:
In February 1969, New York’s weekly Village Voice published a scorching attack by an upstate college student on “self-abnegating Jewish leftists” who defended black militants and the Viet Cong but not the cause of Israel. “Moral cowards,” he called them, “trapped by your Long Island split-level childhood,” rejecting “the one element that gave you your goddamn social consciousness: your Jewish social idealism.”
“From this point on,” he wrote, whenever Israel’s rights were threatened, “I shall always choose the Jewish cause. Not blindly, not arbitrarily, but with always full knowledge of who I am and where I must be. If the barricades are erected, I will fight as a Jew. ”
The essay, “To Uncle Tom and Other Such Jews,” caused a sensation. Reprinted in the tens of thousands, passed from hand to hand on campuses nationwide, it became the manifesto of Jewish anti-war and civil rights activists left stranded after 1967, when the New Left turned against Israel. They formed groups with names like Jewish Liberation Project and Radical Zionist Caucus, protesting assimilation and Palestinian terrorism in the same breath as capitalism, the Vietnam War and the “bourgeois Jewish Establishment.” Today, a generation later, many of them lead that establishment.
The author was a junior at the State University of New York at Albany named M.J. Rosenberg.
Not that he’s changed.
When they drive this political wedge this year-- during the Romney-Obama debates, or when my nephew goes to J Street's conference later this month, or when Peter Beinart's book is on the front page of the NYT Book Review-- my mother will say to me, What's wrong with what Obama and your nephew and this Beinart are saying, isn't that a good thing? And I'll say, Yes. And I will be on these folks' side (as I expect that Jodi Rudoren of the Times will be, too) because I want the mainstream discourse to change.
But on the $64,000 historical question, as Karl Marx might say, I don't see all this activity saving the Jewish state via partition. I might endorse such a project, because I'm a moderate. But it all feels like the temporizing that occurred before the Civil War. The status quo was unsustainable then as it is now for a simple reason: Nearly half the population has no rights, on a racial basis. They have had no rights for 45 years, and they're impatient, and nonviolent, god bless them. We're Americans, this is a no-brainer. Let's figure this out without bloodshed.