US Jews adopted ‘deferential’ relationship to Israel, and tabooed dissent so as to preserve US gov’t support

US Politics
on 42 Comments

On May 4, I went to Temple Israel in New Rochelle to hear Jewish historian Dov Waxman speak about his important new book Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict Over Israel. Waxman underscored trends in Jewish political life that we have chronicled here: American Jews are undergoing a historic transformation in their relationship to Israel in which criticism that was once only expressed in private is at last being expressed openly and angrily.

There’s an increasingly toxic debate happening within the Jewish community about Israel, and this debate is having a pernicious impact upon local Jewish communities. It’s leading to bitter arguments between members of the same synagogue. It’s discouraging rabbis from talking about Israel to their congregations. It’s forcing Jewish community centers to avoid inviting controversial speakers or putting on events that might become controversial. And it’s frightened many Jews from talking about Israel altogether in case such conversations end up in bitter arguments  as they often do.

This is not news to our readers, but I have to say it was a joy to hear Waxman, a professor of political science at Northeastern, talking about it at a synagogue. The public battle inside the Jewish community we have long called for is happening. And only one guy walked out of the talk.

The most compelling part of Waxman’s talk was his repeated assertion that dissent was not allowed inside the Jewish community on Israel because it was understood to threaten American government support for Israel. A taboo on debate was enforced.

Dov Waxman, with his book, Trouble in the Tribe

Dov Waxman, with his book, Trouble in the Tribe

Waxman launched this idea by saying that for many years Israel was the glue that held the American Jewish community together — just look at the Israeli flag on the dais behind him. “Support for Israel became in many respects the one thing that all Jews had in common.” That support was congregational, communal, educational, financial, political. They engaged in hasbara and lobbying.

American Jews were “deferential” to Israel, and that deference had important political consequences:

So Aipac emerges as the dominant pro Israel lobby. So American Jews then gave Israel money and lots of it, and political support. And what’s important to note here is not only that this was a lot of money and an important amount of political support, but that it came with no strings attached. In other words it was essentially unconditional support for Israel. American Jews had a deferential attitude toward Israel. They saw their job to support Israel, to provide Israel with financial and political support it asked for, but not really to ask any questions. Not really to challenge Israeli government policies or actions. There was generally an uncritical attitude and this uncritical attitude allowed the Israeli governments to take this support largely for granted, confident in the knowledge that they had American Jews backing them overwhelmingly whatever they did.

Remember that when Walt and Mearsheimer broached this idea ten years ago, they were smeared as anti-Semites. That smearing served a political function. Zionist Jews needed to enforce a taboo on criticism:

Even if American Jews disagreed with the Israeli government, on the rare occasions that they did, they didn’t see it as their job to do so publicly. So in public there was a prevailing taboo against public criticism of Israel. The view was that such criticism of Israel suggested Jewish division, weakness even, and it might undermine crucial American government support for the fledgling Jewish state.

Even in private American Jews were reluctant to criticize Israel. The belief was that it wasn’t the business of American Jews or indeed diaspora jews in general to criticize Israel. Because it wasn’t their sons and daughters serving in the IDF, it wasn’t them paying taxes to the Israeli government. Diaspora Jews didn’t really have the right to criticize Israel. At best they should keep such criticisms to themselves.

All that’s over. Now criticism of Israel is “viral” and “nasty,” and it’s breaking up the Jewish American party. Younger American Jews see settlers beating up Palestinian farmers, and soldiers harassing Palestinians, and they speak out against it. And– cue Walt and Mearsheimer again — that has political consequences:

To some people this development is a worrying sign. This development is something that threatens to erode the unity of the American Jewish community and could possibly end up undermining American government support for Israel. so Some view this spread of dissent in a very negative way as a very alarming sign.

Waxman said that American Jews were able to break the taboo because they have overcome the initial psychic legacy of the Holocaust and they feel safe in the west:

But another very fundamental change has taken place in the American Jewish collective psyche, if you like. That is that American Jews today for the most part are less insecure and fearful than they once were. Their threat perception has declined. [Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust remembrance day] And that reminds us of how profoundly the Holocaust has affected Jewish collective memory and identity. In the wake of the Holocaust the perceived threat to Jewish survival was very very real and very very palpable. The perception that Jewish survival was at risk and that Jewish survival worldwide was going to be at best threatened by a hostile non-Jewish world or perhaps at least the non-Jewish world was indifferent to Jewish survival– these attitudes shaped American support for Israel. The belief that since Jewish survival ultimately depended on Israel, Jews had to support Israel. And the lack of support for Israel endangered not only Israel but the survival of the Jewish people itself– this perception that Jewish existence was threatened by a hostile non Jewish world.

This perception has not entirely disappeared, to be sure, but it is less compelling for many Jews today. Many Jews today do not feel Jewish survival to be at risk, do not feel the non-Jewish world to be as hostile or at least as indifferent as they once did.

In describing the nasty battle inside the Jewish community, Waxman’s catalogue of abuses was almost entirely what the right is doing to the left. Not only does the right accuse the left of disloyalty and selfhatred– “tantamount to being antisemitic.”

It goes beyond invective… The right has also tried to curtail or limit expression of leftwing perspectives and opinions. In a number of major cities, like San Francisco, Washington DC, and New York, there have been pressure campaigns, concerted efforts made to limit or deny funding to Jewish cultural agencies that support activities that are viewed as contributing to the delegitimization of Israel.

Right. And here he made his most interesting point of all:

Finally I think that another reason for the incivility is that at the heart of the argument over Israel today is not just a difference of opinions about Israeli policies and actions but also a more fundamental disagreement about the legitimacy of dissent itself. A debate about whether dissent should be allowed and accepted within the American Jewish community. And I think that underpins some of the arguments that we’re having.

The legitimacy of dissent itself. This is about the end of the ghetto; this is about the end of a Jewish identity based on an outsider status in western society that required us to stick together. Anti-Semitism preserved that outsider status; and many Jews collected evidence of anti-Semitism with the goal of preserving the ghetto walls. Look at Abe Foxman and Jeffrey Goldberg. But those walls have fallen, and Jews must accept a new identity, as an empowered group in the U.S. establishment. That status means that there will be scrutiny, criticism, self-interrogation that has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.

Bear in mind that the entire political impetus of the Jewish establishment is, We must support Israel and preserve American support for Israel. The community enforced a prohibition on talking about Israeli atrocities because dissent (“weakness,” as Waxman put it) would undermine the effectiveness of the Israel lobby. That’s why I started this site, I remind readers: My brother told me in 2003 that he had demonstrated against the Vietnam War but his Jewish newspaper said that the Iraq war would be good for Israel. The Jewish establishment harbored and lined up behind the neoconservatives, who were operating out of concern for what was good for Israel. That’s the factor Waxman left out: The awareness among American Jews in the wake of the Iraq war that a dual-loyalty faction of the community was claiming to speak for Jewish interests and, because that component’s hidden agenda was so patent to anyone who saw them in action, threatening the Jewish position in American society. That sure broke the taboo for me. In college the neoconservative Eric Breindel had warned me not to go near the Israel issue with my leftwing inclinations because I didn’t know jackshit about the place and had never been there, and I accepted that taboo for 25 years, till I saw what a mess the neocons were making of US foreign policy.

The legitimacy of dissent. Ask yourself how many anti-Zionist columnists there are at the New York Times. Zero. (Even as four staffers have had children serve in the Israeli army.) Ask yourself how many anti-Zionist Jews have been interviewed by Israel supporters Jodi Rudoren and Roger Cohen.

Waxman ended his talk by saying that Jews must learn to argue about this issue in a more tolerant manner so that the “poison” doesn’t destroy the community. I don’t buy that. That’s like saying, have dialogue with the White Citizens Council in Mississippi in the 1960s. This battle has to get more open and more critical. Just look at the young Jews who are angry at being lied to about ethnic cleansing and apartheid. They are making documentaries about this and hollering. They shouldn’t be having a civil dialogue over these matters, they should be undertaking civil disobedience against a corrupt and oppressive power structure. In fact, they are doing so. The taboo isn’t working on them.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

Other posts by .


Posted In:

42 Responses

  1. Annie Robbins
    May 8, 2016, 3:58 pm

    thanks phil, really good read.

    Younger American Jews see settlers beating up Palestinian farmers, and soldiers harassing Palestinians, and they speak out against it.

    a tad off topic, but this reminds me of video released yesterday (story here: http://maannews.com/Content.aspx?id=771436&utm_content=buffer5c040&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer )

  2. Citizen
    May 8, 2016, 4:24 pm

    Good article, Phil. Your efforts have not been in vain.

    • hoya saxa
      May 12, 2016, 12:01 pm

      Of course they are in vain. Support by Americans for Israel is near record high. He has to trumpet these fake distractions and the liberal democrats story because the other side is how many are rushing to sympathize with Israel.

  3. ritzl
    May 8, 2016, 5:14 pm

    Great last paragraph.

    Following on that and hopefully underscoring it, there are crossing dynamics in play on this issue wrt destructive Jewish influence (not all Jewish influence is destructive) and assimilation/ease/”can’t happen here” agnosticism and/or apathy about that forced-participation (for non-Jews and Jews alike) deadly, destructive inluence:

    A) This destructive, forced-participation influence is like a large and growing pool of gasoline. Non-Jews are going off to kill and be killed in perpetual war largely to benefit Israel. Alabama Medicaid is in danger of throwing tens of thousands of people off the roles in an effort to remain solvent. Millions of people are either paying, or at risk of paying, a deadly personal price for this selfish influence. People aren’t going to put up with watching their kids wither away and die while a country with universal health care gets $Billions of their tax dollars in perpetuity.

    There are many examples of this latent anger in terms of both causes and objects. Immigrants, blacks, Muslims, anybody different or new has felt this anger in our ugly US history. The dots haven’t been connected yet on Jews and Israel, but the dots are beginning to stand out…waiting.

    B) Competing with (A) in the race to see which happens first is the bluntness of the intra-Jewish debate. The really delicate and perilous intra-Jewish conundrum is, as PW points out, that the necessary bluntness absolutely required to participate (with the rest of us) in offsetting the destructive Jewish influence and not be glommed together with it, is conditional on Jewish feelings of assimilation and acceptance.

    It’s almost a paradox, but not quite. Sites like MW and commenters like mooser, talknic (ie. blunt without necessarily needing “community”, or any, acceptance*), and so many other courageous Jewish voices here and out there prevent it from being a paradox. I have to say articles like the recent Robert Cohen “advice” article (http://mondoweiss.net/2016/05/advice-to-british-leftwingers-on-kicking-racism-out-of-their-anti-israel-rhetoric/) solidify, intentionally or otherwise, this paradox and ensure that (A) wins and the harshness is imposed from the outside. Understating for effect, that is NEVER a good thing.

    I honestly don’t know which dynamic becomes operative. As the Trump campaign shows, there’s some pretty hairy political flammability percolating up. People are seriously hurting and looking for answers (or pots of money for remedies). Even so, this is irresistible force – immovable object kind of stuff, at least at the moment. But the immovable object (blanket Jewish support for Israel) may be becoming slightly less immovable. Slightly.

    Dangerous stuff. One poignant and specific Letter to the Editor from a distraught parent of a dying child in Dothan, AL could be the political match.

    —–
    * This takes such profound personal courage and, yes, sumud. Kinda like Jewish hijabis walking around in a pretty uncertain, if not overtly hostile, environment.

    • JWalters
      May 8, 2016, 7:02 pm

      Good analysis. I agree that honesty would be the best policy, overall the safest.

    • silamcuz
      May 8, 2016, 7:34 pm

      I’m not sure I agree fully with your assessment that the poor folks in Alabama are suffering from lack of healthcare or general gov welfare because of Israel. In fact I think it’s a rather ridiculous suggestion, that totally ignores the state and fed governments incompetence along with apathy towards the working class.

      • ritzl
        May 8, 2016, 8:17 pm

        Well, I think that the fact that you find it ridiculous is ridiculous. I guess it’s a wash.

        A discretionary $6B a year to Israel means people in Alabama (and elsewhere) die. Many people. Not ridiculous, simple math. Very simple math. Cause – effect. Zero sum. People in Alabama are dying so Israel can kill Palestinians AND give all its citizens universal health care. How long do you think that goes unnoticed politically?

        Even one of our far-right Senators (Sessions) has made that connection and is against sending more aid to Israel.

      • silamcuz
        May 8, 2016, 8:33 pm

        So the costs of providing healthcare and welfare to those uncovered is merely 6 billions annually and America can’t afford it? This makes no sense, I object to money being given to Israel but what makes you think that the government will use the 6 billion to help the poor in the case if the aid is stopped?

      • Mooser
        May 8, 2016, 9:54 pm

        “I object to money being given to Israel but what makes you think that the government will use the 6 billion to help the poor in the case if the aid is stopped?”

        And if you can’t guarantee the 6 billion will be used just right, we should keep giving it to Israel? Let’s get the aid stopped, which is a good in itself, and then we can figure out what to do with it. M’okay?

      • Bumblebye
        May 8, 2016, 10:00 pm

        C’mon silly! If the US can end its welfare payments to Israel, it can also end its loan guarantees and stop all those billionnaire donations from being tax deductible. That should more than double the money available for use domestically.

      • silamcuz
        May 9, 2016, 2:25 am

        Bumblebye, that sounds more logical and it is the core ademand of the Occupy movement that is fundamentally shifting the societal attitudes in the West. Whether its the aid money to Israel, the subsidides to Wall St, money to the Military Industrial Complex, or money laundered overseas, these are all happening because the ruling class are part of a huge criminal conspiracy, who do not serve the public nor have it best interests at heart. Calling for stopping the aid in order to help those at home first is missing the big picture.

      • ritzl
        May 9, 2016, 1:22 pm

        Oh silamcuz. The “drop in the bucket” argument is so. completely bogus. It’s the classic, non-specific argument of a generalist.

        Budgets are built from the bottom up for a reason. Line item by line item, expressed in specific absolute dollar amounts (not percentages of some top line whole) they’re built matching discrete needs to fungible resources. So your amorphous and therefore argumentatively unassailable/meaningless “big picture” is actually made up of many many understandable and discussable/hotly debated/influence-vulnerable granular “small pictures.” This is actually pretty close to how it works in an Admin and eventually in Congress.

        One of those discrete “small pictures” is foreign aid. Another is healthcare for rural/poor America. Same cost (1/50 of just Israel’s aid, using Senate math, is $120M, which just happens to be the projected FY2017 shortfall here), one is a dire domestic need affecting millions of voters nationally. One has “foreign” in its name.

        Like I said, simple math. Cut, cut, cut.

        Now let’s talk about $Ts in perpetual war costs and an egregiously and equally perpetually underfunded VA system. There, “big picture” and “small picture” politics actually meet through a hearty, public, national “Thank you for your sacrifice. We just decided to send the cost of your rehab to Israel. All the best [and btw are you free for the next Super Bowl halftime]!” policy and funding disconnect.

        Shorter version: The glaring budget disconnects and/or political subtexts are not ignorable anymore. Budget adjustments are coming. Timing TBD.

        YMMV.

      • lysias
        May 10, 2016, 4:57 pm

        Far more serious than the $8 B a year to Israel is the trillions of dollars and countless lives that our unnecessary wars in the Middle East have cost.

      • just
        May 10, 2016, 5:19 pm

        “Far more serious than the $8 B a year to Israel is the trillions of dollars and countless lives that our unnecessary wars in the Middle East have cost.”

        They’re inextricably linked, lysias. As are the billions in sales/supply of military hardware and munitions, etc.

  4. JWalters
    May 8, 2016, 6:52 pm

    Great article!

    “Just look at the young Jews who are angry at being lied to about ethnic cleansing and apartheid”

    For readers who haven’t seen it yet, I’d recommend the excellent article by Jewish psychologist Avigail Abarbanel, It’s time for American Jews to recognize they have been duped.
    http://mondoweiss.net/2015/07/american-recognize-duped

    Regarding the “mess the neocons were making of US foreign policy” I’d suggest the article Neocon ‘Chaos Promotion’ in the Mideast
    https://consortiumnews.com/2015/04/13/neocon-chaos-promotion-in-the-mideast/#comment-193096

    There are many other excellent articles full of facts at Mondoweiss, but another I’d highlight for new readers is on Israel’s deceptive coverups over the decades.
    http://mondoweiss.net/2016/03/a-history-of-silencing-israeli-army-whistleblowers-from-1948-until-today/

    And finally, there is the question of ulterior motives. For centuries now, war has proven very profitable to a select few. And Israel’s military-industry complex is profitable and powerful.
    http://mondoweiss.net/2015/10/because-global-supplier/

    • silamcuz
      May 8, 2016, 7:54 pm

      It’s becoming clear that Zionists have no friends and love no one but themselves. Jews were simply a means to an end for them to establish a fascist regime in Palestine. They obviously never did it for the genuine welfare of Jews, they did it for themselves and manipulated Jews to be unwitting accomplices to their crimes.

      I don’t believe that all Jews who support Israel are good folks who just got duped, because I know many who support Israel because they savour the privilege of being racists and the power to oppress entire civilizations. However, these type of folks will always exist in the world across all societies, and their Jewishness is irrelevant in their politics.

      Also, please keep in mind that many Israeli Jews are also victims of Zionism, where the state nurtures them to be hateful of Palestinians, Islam, Arabic culture etc and manipulates them from birth to be complicit in the evils of the state. It’s another form of oppression, but an oppression non the less and we should be sympathetic to their circumstances too.

      • Mooser
        May 8, 2016, 9:57 pm

        Shorter Silmacuz: ‘Leave Israel alooooone!’

      • silamcuz
        May 9, 2016, 9:48 am

        No, not leave Israel alone. Lets fight against oppression wherever we can, and let’s focus on the oppression that we are most complicit in. I hate seeing privileged Americans so combatant towards Israel, but are okay with the continued occupation and colonisation of North America by the white supremacist regime, and the continued dismissal of paying reparations to blacks and Natives.

      • Mooser
        May 9, 2016, 5:32 pm

        “Lets fight against oppression wherever we can, and let’s focus on the oppression that we are most complicit in.”

        Good point “silamcuz”! Since I am a Jew, I know which one I, personally, feel most complicit in. That’s a good way to prioritize it. Zionism first.

  5. yourstruly
    May 9, 2016, 1:00 am

    Nothing will do more to lessen whatever antisemitism still exists in America than a widening of the deep and growing fissure within the Jewish community on Israel-Palestine. By shattering the belief that there’s unity among Jews on this issue, the general public will feel less inclined to keep silent out of concern that criticizing Israel might be looked upon as an act of antisemitism – “How can I be an anti-Semite when so many Jews are saying the same thing?” Indeed, the “liberating” effect of anti-Zionist Jews (and newly formed anti–Zionist organizations such as Jewish Voices for Peace)) on the public’s willingness to speak out on I-P may be the most important aspect of the split within the Jewish community. And the reason this development will reduce antisemitism is that the awakening of the public on the I-P issue has the potential of ending America’s unconditional support for the colonial settler state Israel, and without said support, Israel will have to get serious about justice for Palestine. Now once Palestine is free, antisemitism will be reduced to a size that can be flushed down a toilet, and then no more energy need be wasted on such nonsense as establishing a safe haven for Jews – because the earth will have become that safe haven, not only for Jews but for all people everywhere.

  6. yonah fredman
    May 9, 2016, 1:29 am

    yes, the last paragraph of phil’s is significant:
    Waxman ended his talk by saying that Jews must learn to argue about this issue in a more tolerant manner so that the “poison” doesn’t destroy the community. I don’t buy that. That’s like saying, have dialogue with the White Citizens Council in Mississippi in the 1960s. This battle has to get more open and more critical. Just look at the young Jews who are angry at being lied to about ethnic cleansing and apartheid. They are making documentaries about this and hollering. They shouldn’t be having a civil dialogue over these matters, they should be undertaking civil disobedience against a corrupt and oppressive power structure. In fact, they are doing so. The taboo isn’t working on them. – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2016/05/maintained-deferential-governments/#sthash.K6uJSzZw.dpuf

    if phil is referring to groups like “if not now?” and whether they should demonstrate on the street so as to be covered by the media or whether they should agree to quiet dialogue, I agree that media coverage is superior to false dialogue.
    but phil’s white citizen’s councils of mississippi tips his hand and shows us his disdain for anything other than a scorched earth policy. and that makes sense from phil’s perspective. he is alienated from all things jewish and he welcomes all poison to be poured upon all things jewish if at least 50% (or maybe even 20%) of that poison lands on and destroys Zionism. waxman and others might be a little reticent about collateral damage, but phil is curtis lemay, bombs away!

    • Mooser
      May 9, 2016, 11:28 am

      ” but phil is curtis lemay, bombs away!”

      Ah “Yonah”, bubele, I’m not sure if “bombs away” is the mot Jewste in this case.

      Who’s got the bombs, “Yonah”? Who is bombing people, “Yonah”? It’s not antizionists, is it?

      And “Yonah”, I know this will seem very strange to you, but a lot of Jews aren’t really sure that “We destroyed, eliminated the Palestinians” is the boast we Jews want to take into the 21st Century. It won’t get you any street cred in Brownsville, that’s for sure.

      The poison lands on…”

      “Yonah”, is your stomach all right? You are having a terrible spate of projection vomiting.

  7. hophmi
    May 9, 2016, 1:56 am

    Another repetition of the anti-Semitic Jews are responsible for the Iraq War canard.

  8. JLewisDickerson
    May 9, 2016, 3:38 am

    RE: “The most compelling part of Waxman’s talk was his repeated assertion that dissent was not allowed inside the Jewish community on Israel because it was understood to threaten American government support for Israel. A taboo on debate was enforced.” ~ Weiss

    C. VANN WOODWARD (1938):

    . . . The submissive loyalty that the leaders of the New Departure commanded in Georgia conformed to a pattern found in all Southern states after home rule was restored. “The ‘Solid South,’ ” wrote Henry Watterson in 1879, “is a reaction against proscription, attended by misgovernment, and a protest against the ever-recurring menace of Federal interference.” 25 Thus the new discipline was feudal rather than democratic. It was based upon fear—fear of the Negro menace, the scalawag menace, the Federal menace, menaces real and imaginary. As the price of protection, it demanded unquestioning allegiance. White men could not divide on lines of class interest, nor could differences over measures and candidates be expressed at the ballot box. Such matters were settled by the small clique that ran the machine. Democratic forms were observed, but their observance was entirely perfunctory. Party platforms contained nothing but such platitudes as all white men could agree upon. Incompetency and weakness in candidates had to be overlooked for the sake of white solidarity. Suspected graft in public office could not be exposed for fear of Negro domination. Ballot-box stuffing had to be tolerated when white supremacy was threatened. Such was the moral intimidation of this feudal discipline that it was widely felt that to scratch a ticket was “treason to the white race,” and to make open declaration of independence was “an effort to africanize the state.” . . . ~ from page 57 of “Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel”, by C. Vann Woodward *

    * SEE: “Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel” (1938) | by C. Vann Woodward (Author) | pages 55-57

    [EXCERPTS] . . . It would seem, then, in view of these facts and certain others that will appear later, that new masters were riding the saddle in the South. Whether or not the Civil War had been fought to work the ruin of the agrarian power of the South, and whether or not the Reconstructors had been the advanced missionaries of capitalism, the results—victory for the industrialists and unimpeded expansion—were the same. Nor, as has been seen, did the restoration of home rule mean the restoration of the old order: there were speedily found in the South willing and ready hands to carry forward the torch of “progress.” These willing hands were not all recruited in Georgia. A reexamination of the postwar careers of other Southern leaders of the time, might throw a new light upon this period.

    One is reminded that the new rulers were, and are still, called “Bourbons.” Are we laboring a mere matter of terminology? “Gov. Colquitt and Gen. Gordon,” writes one historian in perfect good faith, “stood as striking types of the most cherished sentiments and practices of our ante-war civilization” 24 Instead of a mere mistaken terminology, then, might not the confusion be more fundamental? Might it not be that a golden voice, a flowing beard, a courtly manner have been accepted at face value for “the most cherished sentiments and practices”? At any rate, it would seem wise to avoid the term “Bourbon.” In its place, and with the realization that all political epithets share the fault of slovenly thinking, the slogan adopted in 1872, the “New Departure” Democrats will be employed. For several reasons it seems more appropriate: the New Departure marked the Democratic party’s first acquiescence in a national platform in the policy of reconstruction; in Georgia it marked the delayed acceptance of Governor Brown’s advice to combine the “practical view of the business man” with the duties of the “statesman”; and it marked also loss of control of the party by such men as Toombs and Stephens, and incidentally the defeat of Stephens by General Gordon in the race for the Senate. It was, indeed, a “New Departure.”

    Having been kept away from the table like naughty children, the South, that is, a small but growing class of Southern men, now rushed in as if by signal to help themselves at the Great Barbecue. Some of them forgot their manners and snatched food with both hands, and all of them forgot that they were crowding out about ninety per cent of the home folks, the farm-

    24 1. W. Avery, op. cit, p. 604. Italics mine.

    ers, who were not invited, and got none of the ‘cue. But the New Departure was tacitly accepted as a blessing to all, and for a while the South followed behind its leaders, who bravely pushed forward into the era of progress.

    It is important to observe that the feud between the old leaders and the new rulers went on over the heads of the submerged masses of the state. Neither the old agrarian leader of the type of Toombs nor the new industrialist Brown was the spokesman of that forgotten majority. The agrarian masses, still leaderless, had not yet stirred from their sleep.

    The submissive loyalty that the leaders of the New Departure commanded in Georgia conformed to a pattern found in all Southern states after home rule was restored. “The ‘Solid South,’ ” wrote Henry Watterson in 1879, “is a reaction against proscription, attended by misgovernment, and a protest against the ever-recurring menace of Federal interference.” 25 Thus the new discipline was feudal rather than democratic. It was based upon fear—fear of the Negro menace [i.e.,”the super-predators” ~ J.L.D.], the scalawag menace, the Federal menace, menaces real and imaginary. As the price of protection, it demanded unquestioning allegiance. White men could not divide on lines of class interest, nor could differences over measures and candidates be expressed at the ballot box. Such matters were settled by the small clique that ran the machine. Democratic forms were observed, but their observance was entirely perfunctory. Party platforms contained nothing but such platitudes as all white men could agree upon. Incompetency and weakness in candidates had to be overlooked for the sake of white solidarity. Suspected graft in public office could not be exposed for fear of Negro domination. Ballot-box stuffing had to be tolerated when white supremacy was threatened. Such was the moral intimidation of this feudal discipline that it was widely felt that to scratch a ticket was “treason to the white race,” and to make open declaration of independence was “an effort to africanize the state.” 26 In this atmosphere national issues, to say nothing of local ones, were almost lost sight of; politics became a matter of personalities, and public affairs the business of a few politicians.

    25 Henry Watterson, “The Solid South,” North American Review, CXXXVIII (1879), p. 46.
    26 Holland Thompson, The New South, pp. 10-12; W. H. Skaggs, The Southern Oligarchy, passim, esp. pp. 107-108.

    When one recalls the long tradition of independence and political conflict behind these people, one is surprised that they submitted as long as they did. For not only had they seceded from the Union, but threatened secession from the Confederacy, and even the presence of an invading army could not stop these incorrigible individualists from casting ballots and debating the very existence of their state. Now that peace was restored, they were asked to render a blind obedience that heretofore they had refused even in war. . .

    ● SOURCE (Kindle Locations 1232-1282) – https://archive.org/details/AgrarianRebel1938BiographyOfTomWatson

    ■ P.S. Hillary Clinton is essentially a “New Departure” Democrat. No matter how flawed she may be, WE ABSOLUTELY MUST get together behind her, or risk being ruled by the likes of Donald Trump!!!

    • pabelmont
      May 9, 2016, 10:22 am

      Thanks Phil. Did you sense that the audience at the synagogue was ready to take down the Israeli flag? Is rabbis-afraid-to-talk-about-Israel a good thing because it cuts down on party-line exhortation or a bad thing because it cuts down on humane discussion?

      All this reminds me of the current Clinton-v-Sanders hoo-haw.

      The idea that Democrats must “buy” and support ALL of Clinton’s positions merely to avoid Trump misses the point that we “Democrats” have no democracy, and no way to change the “platform” that defines “ALL of Clinton’s positions” unless we have freedom to support Sanders — and also freedom (gulp) to abandon Clinton in a Trump-v-Clinton election. If, for instance, a voter imagines that Trump would be less ready than Clinton to start or continue wars, she might prefer Trump. Just sayin’.

      Our politics is badly screwed up, of course. Like the Jewish community described above that demands its members support Israel and keep their mouths shut (and offers to each Jew, as a reward, that ineffable feeling of being on the winning side, on the controlling side, as AIPAC dictates to USA and American Jews may feel part of that control), the Democratic Party Insiders (the present-day Tammany Hall, The Establishment, those who dance to the tunes piped by the oligarchy) demand that we have no political dissension and try to bury Sanders even before the platform-writing for the Party occurs. Our reward? Party unity. Duh!

      Both the monolithic Democratic Party and the monolithic “American Jewish community” are coming apart and their leaders are demanding loyalty and keep-your-mouth-shut at a time when simple humanity demands that their members protest long-established Establishment positions that are inhumane. People don’t want to be “ruled” by oligarchies feathering their own beds (a feudal notion) but want to “rule” by democratically attempting to feather their own collective bed, and Jews may prefer human rights for Palestinians to solidarity with Israel.

      We live in interesting times. Keep the arguments, complaints, and humanism flowing! Long live Mondoweiss!

  9. David Plimpton
    May 9, 2016, 9:22 am

    Great post, Phil.

    It would also help to achieve the open dialogue you support to speak out against efforts by those both within and without the Jewish community to stifle anti-Zionist and and anti-Israel Lobby voices, like Alison Weir, who was unjustly vilified and ostracized by JVP.

    You did have a good discussion on Mondoweiss about this once. But Alison Weir, her group, If Americans Knew, and her book “Against Our Better Judgment” should be cited, along with Walt and Mearshimer, as legitimate voices from the larger American community, rather than let them continue to be tarred and feathered by McCarthy-like guilt by association claptrap, which in my opinion non-mention in your post perpetuates.

    http://www.ifamericansknew.org/about_us/accusations.html

    • silamcuz
      May 9, 2016, 10:02 am

      David

      “You did have a good discussion on Mondoweiss about this once. But Alison Weir, her group, If Americans Knew, and her book “Against Our Better Judgment” should be cited, along with Walt and Mearshimer, as legitimate voices from the larger American community, rather than let them continue to be tarred and feathered by McCarthy-like guilt by association claptrap, which in my opinion non-mention in your post perpetuates.”

      Alison Weir is her own person, she is free to associate with anyone she likes and seek allies where she sees fit to fulfil her goals.

      Her abject failure in everything she does however should be a clear indicator for you, and everyone else, that she is not a valuable member in the movement for anyone to feel obligated to partner with. Phil Weiss is a distinguished writer and lifelong activist, he shouldn’t have to be told who to associate himself with.

      • David Plimpton
        May 9, 2016, 11:04 am

        Silamcuz,

        Agreed that Phil is a distinguished writer and lifelong activist, but your “abject failure” and “not a valuable member in the movement” allegations are tellingly without any supporting data. They strike me as political mudslinging we see too much of these days, often made in the hope some of it will stick, even though it’s mud.

        Alison Weir and If Americans Knew are activist resources and collaborators with the well respected and longstanding voice on the Middle East, the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, which recently held a conference on Israel’s influence in the U.S, at which Phil Weiss spoke:

        http://www.wrmea.org/action-alert-archives/official-transcript-of-gideon-levys-keynote-address-to-israels-influence-conference-now-available.html

        Alison Weir has worked for progressive causes for many years, including the civil rights movement and as a Peace Corps volunteer:

        http://www.ifamericansknew.org/about_us/alisonweir.html

        Defenders of Israel might not like to hear it, but her book, “If Americans Knew” received positive reviews, e.g.,:

        http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/03/14/how-the-united-states-was-used-to-create-israel/

      • Annie Robbins
        May 9, 2016, 12:46 pm

        hi david, wrt phil’s “non mention” of weir in his review of waxman’s presentation, i frankly doubt it occurred to him. but either way, as exampled in this short exchange here, conversations surrounding allison and if americans knew inevitably become highly polarized here very quickly (some of our readers love her and some can’t stand her). i, for one, don’t like these polarizations within our movement. and my experience is these discussions can lead to extended contentious arguments — which is fine — except that often times these discussions become unrelated to the article and can end up dominating the threads.

        our roundtable discussion generated more comments than any other article last year. i mention this because the discussion you’ve initiated here could be extended for days. i’d just like to encourage anyone wishing to carry on this discussion — unless it’s germane to this specific article — to post on our round table which is still open. >>

        http://mondoweiss.net/2015/08/roundtable-palestinian-solidarity/

        most of our commenters and people who follow the threads follow the “100 recent comment” thread > http://mondoweiss.net/recent-comments/, so the comments/conversations will be read (in ‘real’ time).

  10. just
    May 9, 2016, 9:54 am

    A relevant and hopeful article by Ben Lorber in Haaretz today:

    “To Peter Beinart: We pro-BDS Jews Are Just as Much Part of the Jewish People as You Are …

    The stories of Jewish students who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israel until it ends its violations of Palestinian rights are often painful stories of exclusion from the Jewish community.

    They tell me, in my capacity as Campus Coordinator with the pro-BDS organization Jewish Voice for Peace, that they can no longer attend Shabbat at Hillel without facing steely stares and cold shoulders from staff; that the rabbi of their synagogue back home devoted his entire Rosh Hashanah sermon to the “evils of the BDS movement”; that they can’t attend a family gathering without someone calling them a self-hating Jew.

    But there’s another kind of story they tell me as well.  A wave of anti-occupation freshmen and sophomores just joined their JVP chapter; the president of their Hillel board just publicly criticized the occupation, and called for JVP to be given a seat at the table; their old friend from Hebrew school confessed in a private message that she, too, supports BDS as a tool to achieve justice for Palestinians, but is afraid to say so…

    With this growing engagement, and the Jewish establishment’s frenzied counterattack, a seismic shift is occurring in the American Jewish community. The old consensus is crumbling, and a new Jewish world is emerging.

    So when liberal columnist Peter Beinart told me recently in Haaretz that Jews like me have broken ‘the bonds of peoplehood’ by embracing BDS, I heard an assertion that reflects the consensus of the old Jewish world, not the contours of the new. In Beinart’s view, while pro-BDS Jews like me do indeed hold strong Jewish identities and build robust Jewish communities, the fact remains that we have broken sharply with the mainstream …

    For embracing a call for solidarity from Palestinians who experience daily violence from the Israeli state, we are denounced from the local synagogue bimah, denied jobs at the local JCRC, and ridiculed around the local mah-jongg table. We have prioritized our ethical values over the commandment, in Beinart’s words, to ‘protect other Jews’. And for making this choice, we have excommunicated ourselves from klal Yisrael (the Jewish collective).

    But whose ‘peoplehood’ have we broken, exactly? Who determines the boundaries of what Beinart calls the collective ‘family’? Mainstream synagogues, with their ‘We Stand With Israel’ banners facing the street and Israeli flags adorning the bimah, are struggling to find members under the age of 50. In many places, a growing majority of Jews don’t pass through the doors of their community JCRC or their campus Hillel. For a variety of reasons, institutions like these have for decades been inaccessible not only to pro-BDS Jews, but to queer Jews, Jews of color, Jews from interfaith families, working-class Jews, disabled Jews, and many others.

    More and more Jews today are leaving establishment Jewish institutions: they are flocking to independent minyanim, alternative havurahs and DIY ritual spaces across the country. In these heterogenous alternative spaces, they find not only many Jews who are against the occupation, but also many Jews who support BDS. Spaces like these, and organizations like JVP, are striving to create exactly what yesterday’s withering institutions cannot- a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, intergenerational, interfaith community centered around Jewish values of justice.

    What we see today is a phenomenon that has repeated itself throughout Jewish history- a movement of Jewish dissidents, who started agitating at the margins, have begun to transform the center of Jewish life. This should not surprise us. Jewish history, after all, is a tapestry woven through vibrant dissent, marked by passionate disagreement, shaped by outsiders and outcasts.

    To name but one example among many: the Zionist movement, for the first decades of its existence, was viewed as dangerous and marginal by most Jewish communities where it attempted to take root. Religious Jews warned that it uprooted Jews from Torah; liberal Jews warned that it uprooted Jews from the nations in which they strove to become full citizens; leftist Jews warned that it uprooted Jews from the movements for workers’ rights, social equality and national autonomy then sweeping the globe. Like pro-BDS Jews today, Zionists were seen by most, in the early decades of their emergence, as challenging Jewish unity, and even as encouraging physical and existential threats to the Jewish people.

    The truth is that we, the Jewish people, have not moved through history as a compact and homogenous entity, bound by stable borders. Rather, we are marked ‘from time immemorial’ by passionate, often foundation-shattering internal struggle. The boundaries and contours of our peoplehood are always in dynamic flux, and we are often propelled forward by outsider ideologies that, at first, are profoundly threatening to the majority. Things change. Ideas that, in one era, appear antithetical to our continuity as a community, later emerge as celebrated norms.

    Today, the American Jewish community is at a tipping point. There are growing numbers of Jews like me who support BDS as a strategic, accountable, nonviolent way to participate in the movement for justice for Palestinians, and a growing community of anti-occupation Jews who respect the use of those tactics even when their activism takes different forms.

    Those who are trying to expel us beyond the bonds of peoplehood are clinging to a status quo that is shifting under their feet. We know these bonds to be more elastic, this peoplehood more expansive, and this community more capable of transformation than they believe.  Just as yesterday’s Jews would be shocked to see that it is considered more heretical for Jews today to question the State of Israel than to question belief in God, tomorrow’s Jews will inhabit a community that, to today’s mainstream, appears equally unrecognizable.

    Those of us Jews who support the tactics of BDS are not simply choosing to prioritize our ethical values over Jewish unity. Rather, we are working to transform our Jewish communities into ones that reflect our values. Pro-BDS Jews like me are not here to free Palestinians, or tell them how to free themselves. As we see it, our work is to align our community with a call for justice from Palestinians, and to contribute to the growing, diverse movement for equality and freedom.

    read more: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.718665

    (I’m sorry for the length, but thought that it could help to post almost all of it for those that do not have access.)

    For those who did not read Peter Feld’s excellent article related to this, from April 28th: “Beinart’s Jewish double-bind: Support oppression or you’re out of the family”

    – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2016/04/beinarts-jewish-double-bind-support-oppression-or-youre-out-of-the-family/#sthash.Nr2nupz0.dpuf

    • pabelmont
      May 9, 2016, 10:37 am

      Just: Thanks, great comment.

    • Mooser
      May 9, 2016, 3:17 pm

      “Who determines the boundaries of what Beinart calls the collective ‘family’?”

      Gee, didn’t it used to be bounded by the antisemitism, or non-acceptance of Jews, of the societies in which the Jews lived? That, or so I’ve heard, formed the boundaries of the Jewish collective, the non-acceptance outside it.
      So you see, it’s not our fault. The non-Jews fell down on their end of the job, in a lot of situations. Especially in the US. where they refused to put any boundaries on us at all. A broch tzu Columbus!

  11. RobertHenryEller
    May 9, 2016, 10:30 am

    Actually dissent among Jews, particularly Jewish Americans, is a good thing. Dissent allows the U.S. Government to approach policy on Israel and Palestine in a more productive way.

    If U.S. Government officials understand that many Jewish Americans want a real two state solution in Israel, the U.S. Government can negotiate more forcefully with the Israeli government.

    Ultimately this will be good for Jews everywhere, good to the U.S. and good for Jewish Americans.

    Suppressing dissent has actually made it more difficult for the U.S. to broker a two state solution, or any solution that will treat the Palestinians fairly, and save the Zionists from themselves.

    • pabelmont
      May 9, 2016, 10:46 am

      RHE: The appeal of AIPAC’s positions to the USA were never purely (or even mostly) matters of voters or of what a lot of Amerian Jews want. And therefore a change in position of American Jews cannot change American policy. AIPAC is a big part in the American oligarchy, a “BIG” right up there with big-oil, big-pharma, big-defense, and it is not wrong to call it (in that style) big-Zion. Money commands the Congress and President Obama had to work hard to get his Iran deal past the gatekeepers at AIPAC, presumably (we can only guess) with the countervailing help of other (publicly silent) elements of the oligarchy.

      Maybe, just maybe, an American president (but one cannot imagine Hillary Clinton being that president) could move against the occupation by saying that the occupation does not promote Israeli security and the USA, while committed to securing Israel’s security, is not committed to support Israel’s policies which run counter to American values or interests (such as America’s security and that of its armies in the M/E). But any congressperson who said such things would risk the condign punishment that AIPAC reserves for dissident congresspersons. Most are not brave enough and collectively, they have not figured out how to act simulataneously so as to avoid peacemeal punishment by AIPAC.

      • MRW
        May 9, 2016, 11:53 am

        “big-Zion” = Zbig? ;-)

    • Mooser
      May 9, 2016, 7:40 pm

      “Actually dissent among Jews, particularly Jewish Americans”

      Will hopefully grow into outright repudiation and opposition.

  12. MRW
    May 9, 2016, 11:41 am

    Phil,

    Anti-Semitism preserved that outsider status; and many Jews collected evidence of anti-Semitism with the goal of preserving the ghetto walls.

    Astute comment. I’ve been accused every once in a while of being an anti-semite around these parts over the past decade for things I’ve written, and I’ve taken on the task of mocking the newbie trolls who think invoking it in a kamikaze swipe against regular Mondoweiss commenters is going to have any effect. (Latest being the week old newbie “hoya saxa” on another thread.)

    Your image of “preserving the ghetto walls” is so apt. Because that’s exactly what American Gentiles I hang out with don’t get about perceived Jewish Israel/Holocaust/Zionist passive-aggressive insanity. ’You bitched about being pitched into ghettos for centuries but when America says We Get It, You Don’t Have To Worry About That Here, You’re One Of Us’, we get body-slammed and lose our careers and reputations for treating you as regular Americans’. We only have to look at the slurs flying around the political landscape these days to get a flavor for quintessential American to-and-fro when revved up for taking on one of our own. But you’re suddenly hothouse flowers who can’t stand criticism or bear a cold eye. The broader Jewish community—not the Israel-First crowd—remains silent when the blanket treatment once visited upon Jews is now visited upon Muslims as a group, as if it’s proper and allowable (MW excepted). And the unthinking and uneducated among America’s hoi polloi go along with it precisely because Jewish leaders haven’t put a stop to it, which they can. Abe Foxman (or Jeffrey Goldberg) rolling in with a Casablanca moment (“I’m shocked, shocked”) after the damage has been done is too little too late, and transparently cynical.

    Gentiles are catching on. The one thing, whether it really exists or not, is an American sense of fairness that permeates the thread of life here. It’s the one argument you can bring up in any discussion of wrongs and rights, and it gives pause. Nothing else does. It caused 11 Christian church groups to petition Congress in 2011. It’s stamped into the Millennial worldview as a generational edict. It works at the family dinner table when someone has his jackboots on and jumping on everyone’s neck.

    I think you capture the zeitgeist. I thought this was a great article.

  13. unverified__5ilf90kd
    May 11, 2016, 2:14 pm

    The title of this article is “” US Jews adopted ‘deferential’ relationship to Israel, and tabooed dissent so as to preserve US gov’t support””.

    I wonder if many US Jews may have also adopted a ‘deferential’ relationship to US government policies in general and tabooed criticism of the US government as an additional strategy to preserve US government support for Israel ?

Leave a Reply