The true crisis of Zionism: silent majority of US Jews have never supported it

This review of Peter Beinart’s book The Crisis of Zionism is to appear in the next issue of the journal of the American Council for Judaism. Author Allan Brownfeld allowed us to post it ahead of publication.

There can be little doubt that the philosophy of Zionism—-Jewish nationalism—-is in retreat among American Jews.  Zionism holds that Judaism is not a religion of universal values, but an ethnicity.  It believes that Israel is the “homeland” of all Jews and that those living outside of Israel are in “exile.”. Zionists urge emigration to Israel, “aliyah,” as the highest Jewish value.

Most American Jews, quite to the contrary, believe that Judaism is a religion, not a nationality.  They believe that they are American by nationality and Jews by religion, just as other Americans are Protestant, Catholic or Muslim.  While they wish Israel well, they do not believe that it is their “homeland.”. They believe themselves to be fully at home in America.  This is nothing new.  As early as 1841, at the dedication ceremony of Temple Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Carolina, Rabbi Gustav Poznanski declared:  ”This country is our Palestine, this city our Jerusalem, this house of God our temple.”

In the years since the end of World War II, in the wake of the Holocaust, many American Jews had a brief flirtation with the Zionist idea.  Even the Union for Reform Judaism declared that, somehow, “Israel,” rather than God was “central” to their religion.  More recently, however, we see that identification with Israel is declining among American Jews, particularly young people.

“Israel Is Out”

Writing in the Israeli newspaper HAARETZ  (June 26, 2012), Rabbi Eric Yoffie, formerly the leader of the Union for Reform Judaism, noted that, “I spoke a few weeks ago with someone who works with American Jewish organizations in planning programs for their meetings and conventions.  ’Israel is out,’ he told me.  The demand for speakers about Israel or from Israel has dropped dramatically over the last decade.  American Jews are simply interested in other things.”

In a widely discussed book, “The Crisis of Zionism,” Peter Beinart, a prominent liberal, former editor of THE NEW REPUBLIC, Orthodox Jew and self-declared Zionist, argues that Zionism has turned its back on what he believes are its own ideals.

Beinart laments that the American Jewish organizational establishment promotes “victimhood” while wielding power and that the State of Israel does much the same thing.  ”Perpetual victimhood,” he writes, “is not a narrative that can answer the two great Jewish challenges of our age:  how to sustain Judaism in America, a country that makes it easy for Jews to stop being Jews, and how to sustain democracy in Israel, a country that for two thirds of its existence has held the West Bank, a territory where it’s democratic ideals do not apply.”

Mythical Israel

The Israel which young American Jews observe is quite different, in Beinart’s view, from the mythical Israel embraced by their parents:  ”For 44 years, twice a college student’s life span, they have seen Israel control territory in which millions of Palestinians lack citizenship.  And since the 1980s, they have seen Israel fight wars not against Arab armies, but against terrorists nestled amid a stateless and thus largely defensive Palestinian population.  Thus, they are more conscious than their parents of the degree to which Israeli behavior violates democratic ideals and less willing to grant Israel an exemption because it stands on the brink of destruction.”

What is needed, Beinart argues, is “…a new American Jewish story, built around this basic truth:  We are not today”s permanent victims.  In a dizzying shift of fortune, many of our greatest challenges today stem not from weakness but from power.  If non-Orthodox American Jewish life withers in the coming generation, it will be less because gentiles persecute Jews than because they marry them.  And if Israel ceases being a democratic Jewish state, it is less likely to be because Arab armies invade the West Bank than because Israel permanently occupies it.”

Jewish tradition, Beinart believes, offers no simple lessons for how to wield power, and the lessons it does teach can sometimes be hard for modern liberals to stomach:  ”…it is striking that when describing the previous two times that Jewish sovereignty failed—-the Kingdom of Judah’s destruction by the Babylonian empire around 586 BCE and the Hasmonean dynasty’s destruction by the Romans more than 500 years later—-our tradition insists that physical collapse was preceded by ethical collapse.  Again and again, Jewish texts connect the Jewish right to sovereignty in the land  of Israel to Jewish behavior in the land of Israel.  In the words of Jeremiah, ‘If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt:  Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.’”

Even Zionism’s primary architect, Theodor Herzl, was concerned about how the experiment  he promoted would evolve.  In his book “Altneuland” (Old-New Land), the book’s hero, presidential candidate David Littwak, admits, “There are other views among us.”. The foremost proponent is Rabbi Geyer, who seeks to strip non-Jews of the vote.  Herzl modeled Geyer on an anti-Semitic demagogue in his native Austria, thus raising the specter that once Jews enjoyed power, they might persecute others in the same way they were persecuted.  The novel ends with the campaign between Littwak’s party and Geyer’s.  ”You must hold fast to the things that have made us great:  to liberality, tolerance and love of mankind,” one of Littwak’s supporters tells a crowd.  ”Only then is Zion truly Zion.”. In his final words, the outgoing president declares:  ”Let the stranger be at home among us.”. After a fierce contest, Littwak’s party wins.  Geyer leaves the country, and in the novel’s epilogue, Herzl implores readers to make his Zionist dream come true.

“As a vision of the Zionist future,” writes Beinart, “‘Altneuland’ has its problems.  While Herzl believed deeply in equality for individual Arabs, he could not imagine an Arab national movement demanding a state in Palestine of its own.  (His rival, the cultural Zionist Ahad Ha-am, knew better, insisting that, ‘This land is also their national home…and they have the right to develop their national potential to the best of their ability.’)…’We don’t want a Boer state,’ wrote Herzl in his diary, expressing revulsion at racist Afrikaner nationalism.  ’But a Venice!’”

Treatment Of Indigenous Arabs

The indigenous Arab population of Palestine has, Beinart notes, not been treated in the humane manner advocated by either Herzl or Ahad Ha-am.  In the 1948 war, he points out, Zionist forces committed abuses so terrible that David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, declared himself “shocked by the deeds that have reached my ears.”. In the town of Jish, in the Galilee, Israeli soldiers pillaged Arab houses, and when the residents protested, took them to a remote location and shot them dead.  Similar atrocities occurred with some frequency.    

“During the war,” writes Beinart, “roughly 700,000 Arabs left Palestine and irrespective of whether most left their homes voluntarily or were forced out, Israel refused to let them return…A year after it eliminated its most flagrant discrimination against its own Arab citizens, Israel made itself master of millions of Palestinian Arabs who enjoyed no citizenship at all.  Suddenly, Rabbi Geyer had a kingdom of his own.”

Beinart laments the treatment of non-Jewish residents of Israel.  The Or Commission, tasked by the Israeli government with investigating the conditions for Arab Israelis in 2003 , found that, “Government handling of the Arab sector has been primarily neglectful and discriminatory.”. This is especially true, Beinart shows, when it comes to social services.  in part, because of restrictions on Arab access to Israeli public land, Arab citizens today own less than 4 per cent of Israel’s land even though they constitute almost 20 per cent of its population.  A 2010 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that Israel spends one third more per Jewish Israeli student than per Arab Israeli student.

Beyond this, Beinart declares, “Israel’s flag features a Jewish star, its national anthem speaks of ‘the Jewish soul,’ and its immigration policy grants Jews, and only Jews, instant citizenship.”

Israel’s Theocracy

Israel’s theocracy is something not envisioned by Herzl:  ”As Herzl makes clear…there is nothing in the Zionist project that requires Israel to cede control over marriage to clerics, thus forcing Jews who marry in Israel to be married by a rabbi and Christians or Muslims to be married by a minister or imam.  Instituting civil marriage, and thus giving Arabs  and Jews the right to marry inside Israel across religious lines, would not only mean greater liberty for Israel’s Arab citizens but for its Jewish ones as well….For the past 44 years, on the very land on which Palestinians might establish their state—-the state that could help fulfill the liberal Zionist dream—-latter-day Rabbj Geyers, secular and religious alike, have forged an illiberal Zionism that threatens to destroy it.”

 Much space is devoted by Beinart to the growth of racism in Israel and the manner in which American Jewish leaders ignore it.  He laments that, “As painful as it is for Jews to admit that race hatred can take root among a people that has suffered so profoundly from it, the ground truth is this: occupying another people requires racism, and breeds it.”

The polling on Israeli Jewish attitudes toward Arabs is, Beinart declares, “shocking.”. Seventy per cent of Jewish Israelis, according to a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute, oppose appointing Arab Israelis to cabinet posts.  A survey by the Friedric Ebert Foundation found that 49 per cent of Jewish Israelis aged 21 to 24 would not befriend an Arab.  (Among Arab Israelis of the same age, 19 per cent said they would not befriend a Jew).  Fifty six per cent of Jewish Israeli high school students, according to a survey by Tel Aviv University’s School of Education, do not believe that Arab citizens should be allowed to run for the Knesset.  And a poll by the Truman Institute at the Hebrew University reported that 44 per cent of Jewish Israelis believe that Jews should avoid renting apartments to Arabs.

Extreme Racism

The extreme racism of Rabbi Meir Kahane has, Beinart shows, become respectable in contemporary Israel.  ”In 1988, after Meir Kahane advocated the forced ‘transfer’ of Israel’s Arab citizens from the country,” he writes, “his party was banned.  In 2010, in a speech before the United Nations, Israel’s foreign minister, the former Kahane disciple Avigdor Lieberman, proposed ‘right-sizing the state’ by ‘moving borders to better reflect demographic realities.’. In other words, redrawing Israel’s border so as to exile hundreds of thousands of its Arab citizens against their will.  When asked about his foreign minister’s proposal, Benjamin Netanyahu said Lieberman’s speech had not been coordinated with him, but did not disavow its substance.”

Beinart shows that opinions which were once considered dangerous enough to ban political parties advocating them, have now become mainstream.  ”Population transfer,” warns liberal Knesset member Dov Khenin, “has turned from a nightmare into an operational plan.”. In 2009, Daniel Gordis, senior vice president of the Shalem Center, an Israeli think tank with close ties to the Netanyahu government, declared that while on the surface there are almost innumerable reasons to denounce transfer…the picture is not nearly so one sided as it is often portrayed…population transfers do not need to be catastrophic for those moved’…A 2010 poll by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 53 per cent of Jewish Israelis want their government to encourage Israel’s Arab citizens to leave…The Israelis most committed to liberal democracy see Herzl’s dream slipping away. And here in the U.S. the most powerful leaders of the Jewish establishment insist on seeing almost nothing at all.”

Jewish Power

At the core of the problem, according to Beinart, is “the refusal to accept that both in America and Israel we live in an age not of Jewish weakness, but of Jewish power and that without moral vigilance, Jews will abuse power just as hideously as anyone else…By discussing power only as a means of survival, the American Jewish establishment implicitly denies that Jews can use power for anything but survival.  They deny that Jews, like all human beings, can use power not merely to survive but to destroy.  A few years ago, a journalist reported that Malcolm Hoenlein, the influential executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, had a photo in his conference room of Israeli F-15s flying over Auschwitz.  It is a photo of fantasy, Israeli jets never bombed Auschwitz and never will.  What they have bombed, in recent years, is the Gaza Strip, a fenced-in, hideously overcrowded, desperately poor slum from which terrorist groups sometimes shell Israel. Hoenlein, in other words, has decorated his conference room not with an image of the reality that he helps perpetuate, but with an image of the fantasy he superimposes on that reality.  In this way, he embodies the American Jewish establishment, which, by superimposing the Jewish past on the Jewish present, is failing the challenge of a new age.”

In  the aftermath of the Six Day War, Beinart declares, “American Jewish liberalism and organized American Zionism began drifting apart…When Israel won a shocking, lightning victory, American Zionism hit fever pitch.”

Redefining Anti-Semitism

As Israel’s treatment of its Arab citizens and the inhabitants of the occupied West Bank drew criticism, what the American Jewish establishment did, Beinart explains, was to redefine anti-Semitism:  ”American Jewish leaders hit upon an explanation:  the world was turning against Jews because it no longer saw them as victims.  In 1974, Benjamin Epstein, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), co-authored ‘The New Anti-Semitism,’ a book whose argument proved so influential that in 1982 his successor, Nathan Perlmutter, echoed it in a book entitled ‘The Real Anti-Semitism In America.’. Epstein’s argument was  that for a period after World War II guilt over the Holocaust kept anti-Semitism at bay.  But with memories of the Holocaust fading, anti-Semitism had returned, largely in the form of hostility to Israel, because Israel represented Jewish power.  ’Jews are tolerable, acceptable in their particularity, only as victims,’ wrote Epstein and his ADL colleague Arnold Forster, ‘and when their situation changes, so that they are either no longer victims, or appear not to be, the non-Jewish world finds this so hard to take that the effort is begun to render them victims anew.’”

Thus, at the very moment that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip made it essential for American Jews to confront the ethical challenges of Jewish power, American Jewish leaders began insisting that to even acknowledge the misuse of Jewish power was to deny Jewish victimhood and thus victimize Jews anew.

“The argument caught on in the 1970s,” notes Beinart, “victimhood especially as a strategy for defending Israel, supplanted liberalism as the defining ideology of organized American Jewish life.”

Use Of Holocaust

The use of the Holocaust as an argument against criticism of Israel slowly evolved.  In 1960, when Israel arrested and tried Adolf Eichmann, the ADL insisted that the trial was “not a case of special  pleading for Jews because what happened to the Jews of Europe…can very well happen to other peoples.”. But  in the 1970s, writes Beinart,  ”American Jewish organizations began hoarding the Holocaust, reselling it as a story of the world’s eternal hatred of Jews, linking it to criticism of Israel.  In 1973, the ADL embarked on a ‘new international mission’ to combat ‘Arab anti-Israel propaganda,’ and four years later created a Center for Holocaust Studies.  In 1980, the ADL’s Oscar Cohen advised the National Conference of Christians and Jews to link its Holocaust programming ‘to Israel and the dangers which confront it.’  The following year, as part of its bid to prevent the Reagan administration from selling AWACS surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia, AIPAC sent a copy of the novel ‘Holocaust’ to every member of Congress.”

Peter Beinart’s assessment of American Jewish organizational life is harshly critical.  When it comes to Israel, he writes, there are today two kinds of mainstream American Jewish organizations:  ”Those whose tolerance for the occupation is warping their historic commitment to democratic ideals and those with no commitment to democratic ideals at all.  The ADL has created a widely praised curriculum aimed at fostering awareness of genocide.  But in 2007, the organization refused to back a congressional resolution declaring that Turkey had committed genocide against the Armenians—a decision the ADL’s own New England regional director called   ’morally indefensible’…for fear doing so would undermine relations between Turkey and Israel.  Abe Foxman has eloquently condemned anti-Muslim bigotry.  But in 2010, when that bigotry ran wild during the debate over a plan to build a Muslim community center near the site of the World Trade Center, he concluded that the religious freedom of Muslims must bow to the sensitivities of anti-Muslim bigots.”

Don’t Criticize Israel

American Jews should not criticize Israel, states the ADL’s Foxman, because they do not live there and “do not bear the consequences of their opinions.”.  This, Beinart points out, is  ”a reticence that only applies to one side.  If American Jews don’t live in Tel Aviv or Sderot, neither do they live in Ramallah or Gaza City.  Yet American Jewish groups constantly demand  that Palestinian leaders change their policies, even though American Jews would not endure the consequences of those policy shifts either.In fact, American Jewish leaders have spent recent decades criticizing government policy in a bevy of countries where American Jews do not live, from the former Soviet Union to Syria to Iran.  If taken seriously, the claim that American Jews must live in a country in order to publicly criticize it, this would eliminate all public moral judgment of politics outside the U.S.”

In 2009, an ADL ad in  THE NEW YORK TIMES declared that “settlements are not an impediment to peace.”. Beinart reports that, “The ADL did not even acknowledge that in 2002 and again in 2009, the Arab League—-representing every Arab government—-declared that it would recognize Israel if Israel withdrew to the 1967 lines and reached a ‘just’ and ‘agreed upon’ settlement of the Palestinian refugee issue.  Not only did the ADL not mention the Arab League offer in its ad, it doesn’t mention it in the 89 page ‘Guide for Activists’ it issued in 2010…In 2009 (American Jewish groups) condemned the White House’s decision to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland because she had criticized Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza…What neither AIPAC nor the ADL mentioned was that Robinson had helped expunge the language about racial discrimination from the Durban Conference’s final report thus angering Syria and Iran.  Nor did they mention that after discovering that an Arab nongovernmental organization at the parallel NGO forum across the street was displaying anti-Semitic cartoons, Robinson offered an impassioned public denunciation of anti-Semitism, declaring, ‘When I see something like this, I am a Jew.’. For these reasons, and others, seven Israeli rights groups issued a joint statement in Robinson’s defense.  But in their attacks on her, AIPAC and the ADL didn’t mention that either.”

Critics Labeled “Anti-Semitic”

All too often, anyone who criticizes Israel is  labeled “anti-Semitic” by American Jewish organizations.  Beinart declares that, “The claim that Andrew Sullivan, Bill Moyers, Jimmy Carter and the leaders of Amnesty International are anti-Semitic is absurd.  After all, if they really hated Jews, wouldn’t they express their hatred in some other form than criticism of Israeli policy? But for prominent American Jewish leaders, any harsh criticism of Israel that is not accompanied by equally harsh criticism of other countries constitutes anti-Semitism.”

As Abraham Foxman puts it, “Most of the current attacks on Israel and Zionism are not, at bottom, about the policies and conduct of a particular nation-state.  They are about Jews…When other countries and people pursue policies that are similar (or far worse than) those of Israel, do the critics condemn them?   If so, do they condemn them with the same fervor as they condemn Israel?  If not, it’s hard to deny that anti-Semitism explains the discrepancy.”

To this argument, Beinart provides his own assessment:  ”A Jew might do so because he simply cares more about Israel than about other countries.  Take, for example, me.  If Egypt fails to become a democracy, I will consider it unfortunate.  If Israel ceases to be a democracy, I will consider it one of the great tragedies of my life.  Foxman never contemplates that disproportionate criticism of Israel’s policies might reflect a disproportionate attachment to Israel itself.  An American might pay more attention to Israel’s misdeeds because the U.S., as Israel’s foremost benefactor, is so deeply implicated in them….There is still anti-Semitism in the  world and it should never be tolerated…But in their effort to inoculate Israeli policy from criticism, American Jewish organizations have stretched anti-Semitism’s definition to the point of absurdity.”

“Moral Promiscuity”

  The attempt to silence Israel’s critics as anti-Semitic, Beinart charges, is a form of “moral promiscuity” which “constitutes terrible abuse of the authority that Jewish leaders enjoy as a result of the history of Jewish suffering.  It constitutes a kind of desecration, analogous to taking a sacred object and putting it to profane use.  But most of all, it represents an unwillingness to accept that the world has changed, that although Israel still faces threats and anti-Semitism still exists, Jews today wield power, both in Israel and the U.S.  With power comes the temptation to abuse it, and using the charge of anti-Semitism to shield Israel from criticism is the best way that Israel does exactly that.”

 The philosophy which dominates the thinking of Israel’s current leadership, in particular Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is that of Revisionist Zionism which, Beinart believes, turns its back on Judaism’s humane and prophetic tradition.  Revisionism’s leader, Vladimir Jabotinsky, writes Beinart,did not like the Jewish belief “that they carried a moral message to the world.  In his telling, the story of Jewish history went roughly like this:  Once upon a time, when they still lived on their land, the Jews had been warriors, renowned for their fierce resistance to the empires of the day…The problem began, according to Jabotinsky and the Revisionists,  with the prophets.  Abba Achimeir, one of Jabotinsky’s most militant disciples, was particularly hostile to Isaiah, who challenged the Judean kings to ‘seek justice, relieve the oppressed.’. The Revisionists…often scorned those passages suggesting that Jews were tasked with a special ethical mission.  ’The Bible says ‘thou shalt not oppress a stranger for ye know the heart of the stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt,’ wrote Jabotinsky in 1910.  ’Contemporary morality has no place for such childish humanism.’”

Benjamin Netanyahu inherited his Revisionist philosophy from his father.  In 1939, Jabotinsky cabled the 36 year old former editor of a Revisionist newspaper in Palestine, Benzion Netanyahu, and summoned him to New York.  Netanyahu complied and, until Jabotinsky’s death the following year, worked as his private secretary.  Beinart writes that, “Jabotinsky’s influence permeates Netanyahu’s writing.  First, the yearning to recover the lost glory of Jewish militarism.  ’The prowess of Jewish youth in Palestine should serve as a warning that the blood of the old warrior race is still alive in the Jewish people,’ exulted an unsigned ZIONEWS editorial during the time Netanyahu served as editor.”

Examples Of Racism

Benzion Netanyahu’s writings are filled with examples of “racism,” Beinart shows:  ”In an essay in 1943, he called Arabs ‘a semi-barbaric people, which lacks any democratic traditions and is fired by religious fanaticism and hatred for the stranger.’. Later, during Netanyahu’s editorship, an unsigned editorial in ZIONEWS described  the Arabs as ‘Ishmael, the wild man of the desert.’. Netanyahu conjured the same image  66 years later, when asked by MAARIV why he didn’t like Arabs.  ’The Bible finds no worse image than this of the man from the desert,’ the old man replied.  ’And why?  Because he has no respect for any law.  Because in the desert he can do as he pleases.  The tendency toward conflict is the essence of the Arab.  He is an enemy by essence.  His personality won’t allow him any compromise or agreement…His existence is one of perpetual war.’”

For Benjamin Netanyahu, Beinart notes, “It is always 1938.  After Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres signed  the Oslo Accords in 1993, Netanyahu called Peres  ’worse than Chamberlain.’. In ‘A Durable Peace,’ Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly compares the West Bank to the Sudetenland, which the Nazis cleaved from Czechoslavakia en route to overrunning the entire country.  Dismantling Jewish settlements, he argues, would mean a ‘Judenrein’ West Bank and a ‘ghetto-state’ within Israel’s 1967 borders.  If it is 1938, then Jews have no moral responsibility except to survive….One of the most remarkable features of ‘A Durable Peace’ is Netanyahu’s tendency to approvingly quote imperialists expressing racist views of Arabs.   He quotes Winston Churchill as saying, ‘Left to themselves, the Arabs of Palestine would not in a thousand years have taken effective steps toward the irrigation and electrification of Palestine.’. He cites Col. Richard Meinertzhagen, Britain’s chief political officer in Palestine after World War I, as opining, ‘The Arab is a poor fighter, though an adept at lootings, sabotage and murder.’”

Sadly, in Beinart’s view, “American Jewish politics remains dominated by an establishment that defines support for Israel more as support for the policies of the Israeli government than as support for the principles in Israel’s declaration of independence.  But the American Jewish establishment is dying, literally.  The typical large American Jewish organization is run by a man in his sixties, who when he meets his large donors, is among the youngest people in the room…All have built their careers on stories of Jewish victimhood and survival.  None accept that we live in a new era in Jewish history, in which our challenges stem less from weakness than from power…Young American Jews are far less likely to build their identity around victimhood…For the most part, young Jews are not redefining American Zionism.  They are abandoning American Zionism.”

Larger Orthodox Role

Beinart fears that the Orthodox will come to play an ever larger role in American Jewish organizational life as others drift away from the Israel-centered policies of Jewish groups.  ”There is ample evidence,” he writes, that Orthodox institutions “indulge” in “bigotry,” even “when it incites violence. The Orthodox Union is arguably the preeminent Modern Orthodox organization in the U.S.  In June 2010, its representative in Israel posted an essay on its website entitled ‘Reflections On a True Gadol (great person),’ which lovingly eulogized the late Israeli chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu.  Left unmentioned was Eliyahu’s  ruling that since God gave Jews the entire land of Israel, settlers have the right to steal Palestinian crops.  Eliyahu, a close associate of Meir Kahane, also declared, ‘A thousand Arabs are not worth one yeshiva student.’  When a tsunami struck Southeast Asia in 2004, he said God was punishing Asian governments for supporting Ariel Sharon’s proposed evacuation of settlements in Gaza.  None of these statements received even a pro forma condemnation from the Orthodox Union official, who praised Eliyahu’s ‘love and care toward every other Jew in the world,’ without so much as acknowledging his respect for—-indeed, hatred of—–those non-Jews who live under Israel’s domain.”

The embrace of racism and extremism within the Orthodox Jewish community in the U.S. is described by Beinart in some detail.  In 2007, the Israel Day Concert in Central Park, an event cosponsored  by the National Council of Young Israel, featured as its keynote speaker retired Israeli general Effie Eitam, who the year before had publicly proposed disenfranchising Israel’s Arab citizens and physically expelling most Palestinians from the West Bank.  He extolled the settlement’s yeshiva, which he called ‘a beautiful center of Torah and Tefillah (prayer)’ and praised its leader, Rabbj Yitzhak Shapira, for teaching ‘students for many years that every Jew must be mutually responsible for every other Jew.’. He neglected to mention that Shapira is at the epicenter of the ‘price tag’ policy in which settlers respond to Israeli government restraints on settlement growth by terrorizing their Palestinian neighbors.  Nor did he mention that Shapira, in a 2009 book…declared it religiously permissible to kill gentile children because ‘of the future danger that will arise if they are allowed to grow into evil people like their parents’…American Orthodox officials proved brazenly indifferent to Israel’s commitments to all of its people, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.”

Toxic Currents

In what Beinart calls the “Orthodox global village” created by modern communications and transportation, these toxic currents are imported to the U.S. and then reexported back to Israel.  Thus, in 1994, after Brooklyn-born settler Baruch Goldstein, a follower of Meir Kahane, massacred 29 Palestinian worshippers in Hebron, he became a hero among a radical fringe of Israeli settlers.  A year later, after extremist Orthodox rabbis in Israel and  the U.S. speculated that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin might be a traitor to the Jewish people punishable by death under Jewish law for his willingness to cede parts of the West Bank to the Palestinians,  a National Religious Israeli, Yigal Amir, took Rabin’s life.  More recently, Rabbi Herschel Schachter of Yeshiva University was caught on video in 2008 advising yeshiva students in Jerusalem:  ”If the army is going to give away Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), then I would tell everyone to resign from the army—I’d tell them to shoot the ross  hamemshala (prime minister).”

Beinart writes that, “It is no coincidence that Schachter, in addition to musing about shooting the prime minister…has in recent years said that ‘the neshama (soul) of the Jew and the neshama of the non-Jew are made of different material’ and that God ‘forbids us to display any interest in any other religion…We may not study works of or about any other religion, watch films about them, or study any pieces of religious art.’…If the illiberal Zionism of young Orthodox Jews seems increasingly likely to define organized American Jewry in the coming years, it is partly because so many other young American Jews feel so little Zionist attachment at all…These young Jews are building a vibrant American Judaism that averts its gaze from the Jewish state…They do not see engagement with Israeli politics as a path to spiritual or moral fulfillment, and they are finding fulfillment in other ways.”

Path To Peace

The path to Middle East peace, Beinart points out, has long been clear:  ”…the Palestinians abandon their claim to the 78 per cent of mandatory Palestine inside the green line in return for a state on the 22 per cent that constitutes the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with minor adjustments. It is a bargain that would have made most of Israel’s founders—–who in 1947 accepted a partition plan that gave Israel a mere 55 per cent of the land—-cry  with joy.  Yet the organized American Jewish community pretends that Israel can continually transgress that bargain without bringing the entire two state paradigm crashing down and, with it, Israel’s existence as a democratic Jewish state…The less democratic Israel becomes, the less liberal-minded American Jews will support it…”

In “The Kuzari,” written around 1140, the medieval Jewish philosopher Judah Halevi imagined a dialogue between a rabbi and a pagan king.  At one point, the rabbi extols the morality of the Jews.  Unlike the Christian world—-which according to Jewish tradition is called Edom (red) because it is soaked with blood—-the Jews, he declares, have held themselves to a higher standard.  But the king is unconvinced.  Jewish morality, he insists, is merely the byproduct of Jewish weakness.  ”If you had the power,” he responds, “you would slay.”

Peter Beinart concludes that, “In Israel, we have the answer to the king. We can finally know whether the ethical traditions that so often made diaspora Jews the conscience of their nations can survive…Since 1967, Israel has taken a grave turn away from that principle…Israel is a great test of Judaism in our time…”

Emperor Is Naked

Peter Beinart has written an important book and has been excoriated for it by most of the organized American Jewish community.  He is guilty, it seems, of reporting that the emperor, rather than wearing new clothes, is naked.  By embracing an “Israel, right or wrong” philosophy, American Jewish leaders—–who,in fact, represent no one but themselves—-have turned their backs on Judaism’s universal moral and ethical values.

Still, Beinart is animated by a belief in his own kind of Zionism, believing that Jews are an ethnic group rather than adherents to a religion of universal values—-at home in New York or London or Paris as well as in Jerusalem—-and he seems to maintain that Israel is, indeed, the Jewish “homeland.”. He believes that the original Zionists were believers in genuine democracy and that the current state of Israel has departed from their idealism.

Beinart has not properly confronted a contrary thesis——-for which there is abundant evidence—–that Zionism was flawed from the beginning, not only ignoring the indigenous population of Palestine, but rejecting the dominant spiritual history and essence of Judaism.

Heated Debate

This book has opened a heated debate about the real nature of Zionism and its effect upon American Jewish life.  It is good that Zionism’s excesses are being challenged, but these excesses, in reality, were inherent in the Zionist idea itself, an idea which a silent majority of American Jews have always rejected.

About Allan C. Brownfeld

Allan C. Brownfeld is a nationally syndicated columnist and serves as Associate Editor of THE LINCOLN REVIEW and editor of ISSUES. The author of five books, he has served on the staff of the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

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  1. Blake says:

    Preach Mr Brownfeld. Let truth & sanity prevail!

    Apart from the Zionists, the only ones who consistently considered the Jews a race were the Nazis. And they only served to prove the stupidity and irrationality of racism. There was no way to prove racially whether a Mrs. Muller or a Mr. Meyer were Jews or Aryans (the Nazi term for non-Jewish Germans). The only way to decide whether a person was Jewish was to trace the religious affiliation of the parents or grandparents. So much for the this racial nonsense.

    link to jewsnotzionists.org

    On the basis of their similar ideologies about ethnicity and nationhood, National Socialists and Zionists worked together for what each group believed was in its own national interests.

    This is just one example of the Zionist movements’ collaboration with Hitler for the purpose of possibly receiving jurisdiction over a minute piece of earth, Palestine.

    link to jewsnotzionists.org

    • manfromatlan says:

      Meh, regarding “race”. But just try to get funding to research the shared haplotypes between Sephardim and indigenous Palestinians and see how far that can get you.

  2. MRW says:

    Great article, but then I always like Brownfeld’s writings; ergo, his thinking. The basis for the last paragraph is also in Brownfeld’s review of Yakov Rabkin’s “A THREAT FROM WITHIN: A CENTURY OF JEWISH OPPOSITION TO ZIONISM.”

    Brownfeld’s review is Explaining the Long — and Largely Untold — History of Jewish Opposition to Zionism. Long but fascinating, eminently worthwhile.
    link to acjna.org

  3. Kathleen says:

    And Israel is a “Boer state”
    “that gave Israel a mere 55 percent”

    Jews seem to identify with being a religious, cultural and ethnic group. And I don’t buy that the silent majority of Jews have not or do not support Zionism. Have talked with many Jewish friends and they generally go blind when it comes to the apartheid ways of Israel. Support Israel no matter what

    • ColinWright says:

      Kathleen says: “…Jews seem to identify with being a religious, cultural and ethnic group. And I don’t buy that the silent majority of Jews have not or do not support Zionism. Have talked with many Jewish friends and they generally go blind when it comes to the apartheid ways of Israel. Support Israel no matter what.”

      Well, I’ll stick with my ‘little brother may be a criminal but he’s family’ thesis. Depending on who you’re approaching, and how you’re approaching them, the Jews you’re talking to may indeed feel compelled to refuse to agree that Israel is evil.

      That doesn’t mean they actually approve of what Israel does. It merely means they’re reluctant to join with you in an ‘I hate Israel’ singalong.

      My belief is that the bulk of American Jews really want a ‘nice’ Israel — one that has real equal rights, and democracy for all, and no discrimination in housing or employment, and Palestinian police officers and all the rest of it.

      I, on the contrary, don’t think there can be such a thing as a nice Israel. I don’t want to see Israel at all.

      …but in a sense, this is a moot point. It’s my belief that if Israel actually does everything that would be necessary to bring her in line with Western ethical expectations, then Jews would begin to leave the country, and in fairly short order, it would become a Palestinian-dominated state.

      If I’m right, letting Israel become what at least liberal American Jews would be comfortable with will spell the end for it anyway, so I can agree they should pursue their agenda, whatever their expectations.

      If, on the other hand, I am wrong, then Israel will indeed become a multi-cultural, egalitarian, democratic state. Oh well. There are worse things in the world.

      So it works out. We can all have our own private expectations and preferences for the ultimate outcome. Practically speaking, though, we’re still going to be demanding the same things.

      • sardelapasti says:

        ‘little brother may be a criminal but he’s family’
        Please. Both grandpas, both grandmas, all aunts and uncles, both parents and all other siblings are Zionists, either raving or efficient, and all you can see is your little brother? You sure got a problem.

        • ColinWright says:

          sardelapasti: “…Please. Both grandpas, both grandmas, all aunts and uncles, both parents and all other siblings are Zionists, either raving or efficient, and all you can see is your little brother? You sure got a problem…”

          We’re going in circles here. You keep repeating statements that imply the majority of the US Jewish community are enthusiastic Zionists — and I don’t think that’s the case. Possibly a majority are unenthusiastic Zionists — but that’s a different matter entirely.

        • sardelapasti says:

          CW: enthusiastic, shmenthusiastic. If they have any sympathies for Zionism they are on the other side.

    • seafoid says:

      I don’t buy it either, Kathleen. The Zionists strangled all dissent so there are very few examples available of historical Jewish anti Zionism that actually endured. It would be hard to find 10 synagogues who turned against Israel’s nihilism post 1980 I imagine. Even at its weakest points- post Sabra and Shatila, post Cast Lead, the wagons never left the circle. And all the time the money kept flowing to the settlers.

      Those who were persecuted and shunned by official Judaism- people like Finkelstein and Chomsky – have the best vantage point.

      It is a very distasteful story.

    • Walker says:

      I think you have a point.

      This:
      “Most American Jews, quite to the contrary, believe that Judaism is a religion, not a nationality. ”

      doesn’t reflect my experience. Among the many buddhists of Jewish background whom I know, continued strong self-identification as Jews is the rule rather than the exception. Among the few I know who are actively involved in the I/P issue, while there is a strong desire to make things better and a recognition of problems in Israel, there is also an obvious strong identification with Israel.

      Also, regarding this:
      “American Jewish leaders—–who,in fact, represent no one but themselves—-have turned their backs on Judaism’s universal moral and ethical values.”

      An AJC poll conducted two years ago found that 69% of American Jews felt “close” or “very close” to Israel. This suggests that American Jewish leaders actually reflect American Jewish opinion more than not.

      It’s important not to sugarcoat reality.

      • seanmcbride says:

        Zionism has sucked all the universalist religiosity out of Judaism and reduced it to a xenophobic ethnic nationalist ideology and cult. The American Jewish establishment has fully cooperated with this transformation (devolution) of Judaism into religious Zionism. The Enlightenment Jewish tradition lies mostly in ruins as of 2012 — gutted by Zionism.

  4. manfromatlan says:

    It indeed seems an important book, and I’d love to read it. But I don’t agree with “Most American Jews, quite to the contrary, believe that Judaism is a religion, not a nationality. They believe that they are American by nationality and Jews by religion, just as other Americans are Protestant, Catholic or Muslim. While they wish Israel well, they do not believe that it is their “homeland.”. They believe themselves to be fully at home in America.

    Yes, most American Jews would rather live here than there, and sure, they see themselves as Americans. But their emotional and spiritual home is Israel, from what I can see. Otherwise, why the muted criticism of a country that is not their homeland? Are they truly isolated from the people that claim to speak and lobby for them?

    • Kathleen says:

      Totally agree. All evidence points to support for the state of Israel.

    • American says:

      I think the support among Jews is difficult to gauge.
      There is no doubt there are some fanatic supporters, the AIPAC crowd and others.
      There is also no doubt if you read the many Jewish Community Journals published thruout the US that most urge support of Israel, some more hardline and some less so but there is a concentration on Israel.
      My impression is that the community supports Israel ‘in general’ thru conditioning, thru holocaust response, thru the tribal affiliations.
      However it may be only a notch or two above the often used description of American support for Israel ”as a mile wide but only an inch deep” for many of them.
      It is also human nature that if you’ve been ‘indulged’ in your sentiments/ feelings as Jews have been politically for decades on Israel you’re not going to give up that ‘perk’ or special bonus very readily.
      And as with any kind of habit, like smoking, it takes some shock or good reason for you to give up that crutch and change your ways.
      From what I am seeing there is some awakening/ questioning going on among some Jews specifically about their US interest vr their Israel interest due the Iran and Netanyahu issues.
      This is noticeable to me because heretofore most comments I have seen from what I call non fanatical Jews in general were commenting on what Israel was doing to itself, their concern for Israel.
      The Jewish comments lately are different…they are centered on Israel interfering with US interest. How wide spread this is I don’t know but it does indicate that having to make ‘choices’ re the US and Israel is dawning on them.
      IMO if push came to shove, out of pure protecting what they have in the US if nothing else, the majority would opt for the US and not Israel.
      No kind of final push to shove has come about yet, but if one did I think that would send the zionist cult way underground and root it out of Judaism for all practical purposes.

      • pogomutt says:

        I don’t find Mr. Brownfeld’s conclusions surprising at all. In fact I think I probably knew them before I ever read his piece. I had an e-mail buddy in Tel Aviv once. She was an immigration lawyer. She told me that at least half of North American Jews who emigrate to Israel return home within 36 months. The same can be said of Russian immigrants. For many, lifelong Zionist fantasies just hadn’t panned out in the gritty place Israel actually is. There’s a religious hook for some, but there’s no cultural anchor to keep them there. They feel like cultural outsiders. They get homesick for the US, for Canada, so they head home. Welcome back.

    • American says:

      This mostly non condemning statement on Obama is the real clue to how Jews for Israel think.

      “Add it all up and you don’t come up with an anti-Semitic Obama. That is not who Obama is. What you do come up with is someone who doesn’t really understand our attachment to Israel or Israel’s importance to Jews as a people, a president who doesn’t have a gut love for Israel like some of his predecessors, but someone who understands the Palestinian position better than any president we’ve had, someone with no natural affinity for Jews or Israel, and someone who approaches the Middle East, as he does most everything else, dispassionately and with a burning desire to fix the problem.”

      The problem is they don’t understand that 98% of the US is not attached to Israel. That for most Americans there is no reason to be attached.

      There is this total firewall in the brain of the obviously not a bad man who said this…..on one side is the feelings and desires of Jews for Israel and on the other side of the firewall….. is nothing, it’s completely blank, 300 million other US citizens disappear, no one but them exist when it come to the question of Israel and America.

      They are mystified Obama has no ‘gut ‘ love for Israel…we are all mystified why they think he or we should. East is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet on this I’m a thinking.

      • manfromatlan says:

        Do even the Christian Evangelicals have a gut love for Israel? Mostly, a vehicle for the Rapture, I think.

        • seanmcbride says:

          manfromatlan wrote:

          Do even the Christian Evangelicals have a gut love for Israel? Mostly, a vehicle for the Rapture, I think.

          Many Christian Zionists love Israel as a theological abstraction but hate real Jews on a visceral level. They would be quite happy to see all American Jews move to Israel (just as Nazi supporters of Zionism would have been happy to help all German Jews emigrate to a Jewish homeland).

          With the arrival of the Second Coming — well, we all know the script…

      • Citizen says:

        @ American

        Re: ” [Obama is] someone who understands the Palestinian position better than any president we’ve had.”

        I think this is true. Nothing in Obama’s background that’s available to the public suggests otherwise.

        I think this is what those who say, or suggest “Obama has no ‘gut’ love for Israel” actually sense.

        Re: “… we are all mystified why they think he or we should.”
        Perhaps those who are so mystified don’t yet understand that Americans are increasingly no longer as gullible about Israel’s birth roots and on-going conduct as our politicians and mainstream media have worked to keep them? Everyone knows you can’t believe everything you read or hear on the internet, but most Americans these days also know our mainstream press hides much, that is their knee-jerk reaction to the press is that is is biased, one sided–the two glaring contrary examples being MSNBC v Fox. You cannot hot-link ASAP via TV or paper press on what any pundit says about this or that. Too, generally, what’s Congress’s reputation these days?

        • American says:

          @ Citizen
          ”Too, generally, what’s Congress’s reputation these days?”>>>>

          The other day I heard on the news their approval rating is 12%.

  5. Kathleen says:

    “The true crisis of Zionism: silent majority of Jews have never supported it” Trying to spin another myth.

    • Citizen says:

      @ Kathleen

      Well, we will never get to laugh at a Jewish version of Archie Bunker on our flat screen TV. All we have is A Serious Man and Curb Your Enthusiasm. What sort of Silent Majority there? Oops, I mean Silent Minority. There’s an old adage that silence is complicity.

  6. American says:

    Excellent article.
    Some important things in it.

    ‘Jews are tolerable, acceptable in their particularity, only as victims,’ wrote Epstein and his ADL colleague Arnold Forster, ‘and when their situation changes, so that they are either no longer victims, or appear not to be, the non-Jewish world finds this so hard to take that the effort is begun to render them victims anew.’”

    As an outsider observer I think Beinart is right about Jews giving up the victimhood status and I would say Epstein has it exactly backwards. What people actually find intolerable is the victimhood claim used to demand special treatment and unreasonable privilages from others. IMO, it is Jews who hold Epstein’s view that are the problem because they don’t really want Jews to be ‘equal’, with or without power, as any other people are, they want Jews to always remain a ”special case”.

    Just as Beinart says…

    “Beinart charges, is a form of “moral promiscuity” which “constitutes terrible abuse of the authority that Jewish leaders enjoy as a result of the history of Jewish suffering”

    But Beinart shows the other flaw in zionist with this hint of moral superiority….

    “We can finally know whether the ethical traditions that so often made diaspora Jews the conscience of their nations can survive…”

    This sums it up though…

    ”Beinart has not properly confronted a contrary thesis——-for which there is abundant evidence—–that Zionism was flawed from the beginning”

    I cannot see how zionist thought zionism could go forward in the future on the basis of seperation from others, unless Herzl imagined something less than a nation, something more like Jewish colony without that much intercourse with the outside world. Which ironically is what the nazis first had planned for the Jews…closed communes away from other people. Today we have a zionist State that is in reality almost totally dependent on interaction with the outside non Jewish world to sustain itself….and while it demands unconditional support from the world for any of it’s actions…it, on the other hand, rejects and reviles the outside world and any rules in every other universal way.
    I don’t see how zionism or Israel can last that way. I don’t think zionism should survive anyway, it should pass away as a cult.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      ‘Jews are tolerable, acceptable in their particularity, only as victims,’ wrote Epstein and his ADL colleague Arnold Forster, ‘and when their situation changes, so that they are either no longer victims, or appear not to be, the non-Jewish world finds this so hard to take that the effort is begun to render them victims anew.’”

      LMAO. I’m sorry, but there HAS to be a pathological basis for this level of narcissism and paranoia to actually believe that the whole world, as awhole, even gives a crap about your people, let alone are unified in thinking nasty thoughts about them.

      • I have to agree.

        I actually think that it is Jews that are having cognitive dissonance in dealing with the Jewish state. They are now the powerful majority defending territory in the interests of Jews. Jewish nationalism will teach Jews lessons that they for so long have forgotten.

        They are no longer the victimized minority, but the victimizer and oppressor of minorities.

    • Blake says:

      @ American: Bravo! You always right the most amazing compelling comments. One of many great commentators on here which is why I always return.

    • MRW says:

      As an outsider observer I think Beinart is right about Jews giving up the victimhood status and I would say Epstein has it exactly backwards. What people actually find intolerable is the victimhood claim used to demand special treatment and unreasonable privilages from others.

      I second that. It is a commonly held idea among non-Jews. Beinart is right and Epstein has it wrong.

    • seafoid says:

      I think it’s a cult too. Hasbara is what defines it. And the intolerance of dissent. So Dan Senor and Lieberman are always on the same page.

  7. Kathleen says:

    I keep seeing over and over again a need to explain away the silence is complicity piece of those who chose to ignore the human rights abuses taking place in the I/P conflict for decades. Beinart, Weiss, Benjaman being some of those individuals. Silence is complicity…try not to explain it away. Accept that people chose to be silent for decades and then work at changing that silence the way Phil has been doing.

    • RoHa says:

      Exactly. Decades of silence, decades of letting their synagogues be used as collection centres for support of Zionism, decades of letting their country support Israel, and decades of using US media to propagandize for Israel do not convince me that there is or was a silent majority of American Jews who did not support Zionism.

    • “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor,” Desmond Tutu once wrote… That says it all to me

      • Of course Desmond Tutu has now chosen the side of the oppressor. It is clear that he wasnt opposed to racist oppression, but merely the position of his identity group previously as the oppressed instead of the oppressor.

    • American says:

      @ kathleen

      To put it bluntly, as I have explained it before, Jews for Israel must be put in the age old dilemma of humans……the desire for gain vr the fear of loss.

      When they have more fear of loss for themselves in Jewish Nationalism for Israel than they have to gain by continuing it, then they will give it up.

  8. Elliot says:

    Indeed. If only that were true. What a remarkable conclusion that runs counter to the points the author himself makes in the article!

    As early as 1841, at the dedication ceremony of Temple Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Carolina, Rabbi Gustav Poznanski declared: “This country is our Palestine, this city our Jerusalem, this house of God our temple.”
    There is an unbridgeable chasm between the early Jewish synagogues in the South and mainstream Judaism in America today. You have to account for every possible change: geographical, country of origin, political, ideological changes and so on.

    Today, no matter how much Jews assimilate, they hang on to their Zionism. That’s because, America itself is Zionist. Exceptionalism is both Zionist and American. Messianism, promised land, colonialism work for Christians just as much as for Jews. So giving up a distinctive Jewish identity does not mean that you have to give up Jewish nationalism.
    Besides, Jews are cool. Jews are the most popular religious group in America (see Robert Putnam’s work) so, Zionism is ok too.

    The American Council for Judaism was a great institution in its day – but that was 60 years ago and more. Zionism won. Today, all that is left of the American Council for Judaism is a newsletter with a PO Box.

    • MRW says:

      The American Council for Judaism was a great institution in its day – but that was 60 years ago and more. Zionism won. Today, all that is left of the American Council for Judaism is a newsletter with a PO Box.

      Not so fast. . . .

      • Elliot says:

        MRW – the airing of Israel’s abuses must seem like a late vindication for the American Council for Judaism but that came 50 years too late to be meaningful to the largely defunct organization.
        The Council also needs to adjust a central concept. Whereas in the 40s and 50s, the Council could still argue that the State of Israel was irrelevant to American Jews, today “Israel” is fundamental to Jewish identity, whether you support it or not
        That’s one reason why I don’t see the American Council for Judaism getting much beyond its PO Box + newsletter state any time soon.
        As Kathleen said, the article’s conclusion is wishful thinking. It’s a fanciful attempt to rewrite the past.

        • Citizen says:

          @ Elliot

          RE: “As Kathleen said, the article’s conclusion is wishful thinking. It’s a fanciful attempt to rewrite the past.”
          Bingo!

          In my experience, the typical Jewish American’s knee-jerk reaction remains, even if all they see is your eye-brow raise when “Israel” is mentioned with the slightest nuanced blemish unrepresented by a clean white IHEARTISRAEL t-shirt.

  9. piotr says:

    Something does not add up to me. Is Beinart a Zionist heretic who longs to be in the majority of his tribe, or indeed most of American young Jews think more or less like he does, perhaps not articulating it so clearly?

  10. RoHa says:

    “If non-Orthodox American Jewish life withers in the coming generation, it will be less because gentiles persecute Jews than because they marry them.”

    If it’s a Jewish man with a Gentile wife, the position is unchanged. If a Gentile man with a Jewish wife, the persecution will be the other way round.

    • Citizen says:

      @ RoHa
      Please elaborate. Thanks!

      • tree says:

        Please elaborate. Thanks!

        It’s a slap at women, Citizen. The negative stereotype RoHa is peddling is that all wives “persecute” their husbands, thus only a Jewish wife of a gentile husband will “reverse” the “persecution” of Jews by gentiles.

    • pogomutt says:

      If you’re a Jew living west of the Mississippi River, and you’re married, there’s a 50% chance you’re married to a gentile. There are some militant Jewish web sites that make a great fret over this development, actually calculating when the last real Jew will pass away in America. Extinction via a love holocaust. Well, if you gotta go, that’s the way to do it.

      Jewish identity also withers because of young people staying away from synagogues. They’re too expensive. The congregation is always under pressure to donate to this cause or the other, and most young Jews just can’t afford constantly being browbeaten for tithes, so they don’t join synagogues.

      • notatall says:

        What I’ve seen in a number of cases is that the children of these “mixed” marriages are raised with a sense of themselves as “Jewish” (perhaps as well as something else), with the result that the number of people functioning politically as “Jews” (by which I mean feeling some special tie to Israel) actually increases (even if not according to Talmudic law). I’m afraid that Jewish identity (like the state) is not going to wither away of itself, at least not without a major upheaval.

        • Citizen says:

          @ notatall

          When it’s relevant to a thread’s subject matter on this site, I always wonder which of the commenters, especially those commenting regularly, have children via mixed marriage–as I do. My impression is, very few–maybe I’m wrong?

          Another related question: How many are themselves the child of a mixed marriage?

          Direct personal experience may be anecdotal but it’s also less speculative.

        • pogomutt says:

          Oh no. A “don’t stray off topic” nazi. Did I tell you about my Grand Canyon vacation? How bout them Bears, huh? Was that you who…who…umm…oh hell, never mind.

          Give an old man a little latitude will you?

          I have two. So what else do you want to know?

  11. notatall says:

    “Most American Jews, quite to the contrary, believe that Judaism is a religion, not a nationality. They believe that they are American by nationality and Jews by religion, just as other Americans are Protestant, Catholic or Muslim.”

    I wish it were so, but if Brownfield is right, then why do most Americans of Jewish descent including those with no religious beliefs, on being asked “What are you,” answer “Jewish?”

  12. Nevada Ned says:

    Is there a “silent majority of American Jews who have never supported Zionism”?

    Depends on what you mean by “support”!

    Most American Jews never visit Israel, and never make a substantial donation (say $1000 or more). About 1% of American Jews have emigrated to Israel. The other 99% are staying here.
    In the current election, hardly any American Jews are voting based on mid-East politics.
    (Of course, both political parties are loudly proclaiming their strong support of Israeli policies, so there is no difference between the two parties in this respect, judged by their public statements) .

    However, American Jews have in recent decades given political support to Israel’s actions, including actions that nobody should support. In recent decades, younger Jews have distanced themselves from Israel. Norman Finkelstein lays the facts out in Knowing Too Much, his recent book.

  13. American says:

    @ piotr

    I think Beinart is a zionist who thinks he can ”tame” zionism and save it and Israel.
    I don’t think it’s possible. You’d have to turn a lion into a lamb so to speak. And the lion is 60 some years old and not likely to change, especially since it’s rampaging has worked so well for it.

    • Citizen says:

      @ American

      My, you’re on a roll today! Like that little story I read on this site recently, where the kids are taken to the zoo to watch the lion and the lamb play together. Every day it’s always the same. The kids love it. What they don’t know is every day they are seeing a new lamb.

    • While I agree with your analysis of Beinart.

      The plain fact of the matter is that nation states and the military defense of them has worked well for nearly everyone. That is the reason they are so popular amongst ethnic groups. The Irish wanted their own nation, to protect the interests and well being of the Irish. The Scots and Welsh likewise are interested in (always have been) their own nation states.

    • piotr says:

      At least you cannot complain that a lion cannot loose its spots.

      In general, we are all human and you are talking about historically mutable variations of behavior and ideology. In the concrete case of Zionism, the culprit that I see is “eternal war”. Eternal war ideology may end only with a defeat, and this defeat does not have to be bloody.

      100 years ago one could argue that “Americanism” is wedded to “eternal war” paradigm, the civilized man against the savage etc. As we know, some throwbacks still think so. Was there a change, and was it connected to the lack of success in Vietnam?

  14. manfromatlan says:

    Manifest Destiny is more than an exercise in European colonialism, even when they all, whether in Africa, Asia, or the Middle East came along and exterminated indigenous peoples. It has its roots in Torah and the Bible, and the curse of Ham haunts us still..

  15. sardelapasti says:

    “The majority…. blahblah.”
    Where the hell is proof? Or any observation that is even halfway compatible with anyone’s experience?
    Just writing wild speculation on whatever you wish for “image building” should be reserved for either Madison Avenue or Youknowwho’s Propagandaabteilung. Not a proper way of using article space.

  16. notatall says:

    “Most American Jews, quite to the contrary, believe that Judaism is a religion, not a nationality. They believe that they are American by nationality and Jews by religion, just as other Americans are Protestant, Catholic or Muslim.”

    I wish it were so, but if Brownfeld is right, then why do most Americans of Jewish descent, including those with no religious beliefs, on being asked “What are you,” answer “Jewish”?