Netanyahu ditches US Jews for alliance with Christian evangelicals and the alt-right

Israel/Palestine
on 38 Comments

For decades most American Jews have claimed an “Israel exemption”: resolutely progressive on domestic issues, they are hawks on their cherished cause. Racism they would vigorously oppose if applied in the United States is welcomed in Israel.

Reports at the weekend suggested that Donald Trump is about to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, throwing a wrench in any peace plan. If true, the US president will have decisively prioritised support for Israel – and pro-Israel lobbies at home – over justified outrage from Palestinians and the Arab world.

But paradoxically, just as American Jews look close to winning the battle domestically on behalf of Israel, many feel more alienated from a Jewish state than ever before.

There has long been a minority of American Jews whose concerns focused on the occupation. But until now their support for Israel itself has been unwavering, despite its institutionalised racism towards the one in five of the Israeli population who are Palestinian.

A Law of Return denies non-Jews the right to migrate to Israel. Admissions committees bar members of Israel’s Palestinian minority from hundreds of communities. A refusal of family reunification has torn apart Palestinian families in cases where one partner lives in Israel and the other in the occupied territories.

Most Jews have justified to themselves these and many other affronts on the grounds that, after the European holocaust, they deserved a strong state. Palestinians had to pay the price.

Given that half the world’s Jews live outside Israel – the great majority in the US – their support for Israel is critical. They have donated enormous sums, helping to build cities and plant forests. And they have lobbied aggressively at home to ensure diplomatic, financial and military support for their cause. But it is becoming ever harder for them to ignore their hypocrisy.

The rift has grown into a chasm as Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government widens its assault on civil rights. It now targets not just Palestinians but the remnants of liberal Jewish society in Israel – in open contempt for the values of most American Jews.

The peculiar catalyst is a battle over the most significant surviving symbol of Jewishness: the Western Wall, a supporting wall of a long-lost temple in Jerusalem.

Jews in the US mostly subscribe to the progressive tenets of a liberal secularism or Reform Judaism. In Israel, by contrast, the hard-line Orthodox rule supreme on religious matters.

Since the 1967 occupation, Israel’s Orthodox rabbis have controlled prayers at the Western Wall, marginalising women and other streams of Judaism. That has deeply offended Jewish opinion in the US.

Trapped between American donors and Israel’s powerful rabbis, Netanyahu initially agreed to create a mixed prayer space at the wall for non-Orthodox Jews. But as opposition mounted at home over the summer, he caved in. The shock waves are still reverberating.

Avraham Infeld, a veteran Israeli liaison with the US Jewish community, told the Haaretz newspaper this week that the crisis in relations was “unprecedented”. American Jews have concluded “Israel doesn’t give a damn about them”.

Now a close ally of Netanyahu’s has stoked the fires. In a TV interview last month, Tzipi Hotovely, the deputy foreign minister, all but accused American Jews of being freeloaders. She condemned their failure to fight in the US or Israeli militaries, saying they preferred “convenient lives”.

Her comments caused uproar. They echo those of leading Orthodox rabbis, who argue that Reform Jews are not real Jews – and are possibly even an enemy.

According to a report in the Israeli far-right newspaper Makor Rishon, which is owned by Sheldon Adelson, a US casino billionaire and Netanyahu’s patron, the Israeli prime minister set out his rationale for sacrificing the support of liberal Jews overseas at a recent closed-door meeting with officials.

He reportedly told them that non-Orthodox Jews would disappear in “one or two generations” through low birth rates, intermarriage and more general assimilation. Liberal Jews were a “lost cause” in his view, and wedded to a worldview that was incompatible with Israel’s future.

Both on demographic and ideological grounds, he added, Israel should invest in cultivating stronger ties to Orthodox Jews and Christian evangelicals.

Netanyahu’s demographic predictions may turn out to be faulty, but they are clearly now driving his policy towards liberal Jews at home and abroad.

In fact, as Israel’s attacks on liberals in Israel echo Trump’s rhetoric and policies towards minorities in the US, American Jews are gradually being forced to reassess their longstanding double standard towards Israel.

For some time the Netanyahu government has tarred Israeli anti-occupation organisations like B’Tselem and the soldier whistle-blowing group Breaking the Silence as traitors. Last week it widened the assault.

The education minister, Naftali Bennett, accused the veteran legal group the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) – Israel’s version of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – of “supporting terrorists”. Forty years of ACRI programmes in schools are in jeopardy.

The move follows recent decisions to allow pupils to provide racist answers in civics exams and to expand gender-segregation to universities. Meanwhile, two new bills from Netanyahu’s party would crack down on free speech for Israelis promoting a boycott, even of the settlements. One proposes seven years in jail, the other a fine of $150,000.

New guildelines have empowered the police to bar media access to incident scenes to prevent critical coverage, especially of police violence.

Defence minister Avigdor Lieberman is seeking stronger powers against political activists, Jews and Palestinians alike, including draconian restraining orders and detention without charge or trial.

And for the first time, as Mondoweiss recently reported, overseas Jews are being grilled on arrival at Israel’s airport about their political views. Some have signed a “good behaviour oath” – a pledge to avoid anti-occupation activities. Already Jewish supporters of boycotts can be denied entry.

The Netanyahu government, it seems, prefers as allies Christian evangelicals and the US alt-right, which loves Israel as much as it appears to despise Jews.

Israel is plotting a future in which American Jews will have to make hard choices. Can they continue to identify with a state that openly turns its back on them?

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi.

About Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is jonathan-cook.net.

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38 Responses

  1. Mooser
    December 5, 2017, 1:14 pm

    What, no h/t to commenter “Boris”? He knew about it. 8:19am

    • Boris
      December 6, 2017, 11:19 am

      You have to be blind or stupid not to see it.

      And I mean blind not physically but with hatred like most of the commenters here.

    • Mooser
      December 6, 2017, 1:33 pm

      “You have to be blind or stupid not to see it.”

      “Boris” “h/t” means “hat-tip”, a
      ‘thank-you’ acknowledging your prescience in introducing the subject.

      Nobody is denying it, “Boris”. Netanyahoo himself embraces this strategy of replacing Jewish support with Christian support.

      But hey, look, “Boris”, do you really want to get Christians on your side, and garauntee their support for Zionism? Here’s what you do, “Boris”: marry bunches of them!

      • Boris
        December 6, 2017, 1:42 pm

        Oh! So Philip and the likes who married Christian women have a secret plan!!!

      • Mooser
        December 6, 2017, 3:14 pm

        “Oh! So Philip and the likes who married Christian women have a secret plan!!!”

        No point in getting hysterical “Boris”. Your new Christian friends like more moderate behavior. And remember how Catholics are about marriage, you don’t want to shock them with Israeli morality.
        You will want to play this right. Acting like you are constantly angry and on the verge of breaking into violence may thrill them initially, but they will tire of it.

        And you’ve already got Jerusalem out of the deal! Must be your bride-price. Nope, you won’t be going back to us for support.

  2. pabelmont
    December 5, 2017, 1:48 pm

    Well, nice to read it here, but do the rank-and-file of non-Zillionaire American Jews know that they’ve been thrown under the bus?

    Hope the word gets out. Or unignorable material manifestations.

  3. lonely rico
    December 5, 2017, 5:51 pm

    … two new bills from Netanyahu’s party would crack down on free speech

    Speaking of new bills, a Sephardi Israeli rabbi (Shaul Tchernichovsky) ruled against an image of an Israeli poet on a 50-shekel banknote because the poet’s wife was Christian.

    The rabbi said: “in our tradition, there are grave things written about whoever [lives his life] with a Christian. Tied to him like a dog. [People like that are] called apostates.”

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.826510

    Are these people totally insane ?

    • RoHa
      December 5, 2017, 8:44 pm

      You really have to ask?

      • Mooser
        December 5, 2017, 9:59 pm

        “You really have to ask?”

        Well, I guess not, since here you are. Glad the procedure went well, “RoHa”!

      • RoHa
        December 5, 2017, 11:00 pm

        The doc says it went well. Sliced my chest open, shifted a few tubes around, and stapled me up again. I’m not allowed to wrestle crocodiles for a week or two, so I’ll mostly have to stay indoors.

        Thanks for the good wishes, Mooser, Annie, eljay.

      • Annie Robbins
        December 6, 2017, 12:16 am

        Sliced my chest open, shifted a few tubes around

        heaven to murgatroyd RoHA!!!!! just heal ok. don’t scare me like this.

      • Annie Robbins
        December 6, 2017, 12:33 am

        roha, i have been purposely living somewhat/somewhere under a rock these last few days weeks or whatevers. the requests from the uppers for me to not express myself so much (vs so freely) coupled with the horrifying jerusalem/trump/kershner situation literally burying in recluse mode. but nothing prepares me for losing you my dear friend. just take care. i am not the only one around here who loves you.

      • RoHa
        December 6, 2017, 1:38 am

        Don’t get mushy, Annie. Remember, I’m Austalian. We only emotional about beer.

      • echinococcus
        December 6, 2017, 2:59 am

        Annie,

        It so happens what the *uppers* are up to is the most legitimate concern of the readership.
        Let’s hear more and more specific –if not from you, then from said uppers.
        That’s not something that should be allowed to sink to the bottom unseen.

      • Tuyzentfloot
        December 6, 2017, 3:59 am

        Good to see you made it through Roha. I’m afraid I took advantage of your absence. Don’t look unless you are sure you can cope with it.

      • MHughes976
        December 6, 2017, 4:00 am

        Get well soon, RoHa, and keep in touch. Don’t stay under that rock too long, Annie. You both have ways with words that we need.

      • Kaisa of Finland
        December 6, 2017, 9:24 am

        RoHa:

        “so I’ll mostly have to stay indoors..”

        If I was there, I would bring you some beautifull flowers, but since I am not, I’ll just share one of my favourite Swedish “power” songs with you. Just close your eyes and sence the Nordic spring :)

      • Kaisa of Finland
        December 6, 2017, 9:30 am

        RoHa:

        I hope I did not cause you any headache, I think I should have written “feel the spring”.. I don’t know what I was thinking..

      • Mooser
        December 6, 2017, 1:39 pm

        Recover completely and fast “RoHa”.
        The damn crocodiles are acting way above themselves.

        “We only emotional about beer.”

        You aren’t just a little verklempt about leaving those pretty nurses behind?

        (Classical Jews, I imagine, get verklemperer, but I’m not sure)

      • RoHa
        December 6, 2017, 11:00 pm

        Tak,, Kaisa. Nej, jag är inte beredd att dö, än. Har inte det i framtidsplaner, heller.

    • echinococcus
      December 6, 2017, 2:51 am

      RoHa,

      Welcome to the club. Just don’t forget your goddam pills and all will be hunky-dory with velvet statistical odds. But your own snake charmer already told you that.

      • bintbiba
        December 6, 2017, 10:22 am

        RoHa , Keep well !

        I join ALL of the above lovely Mondoweissers in wishing you all the best of the BEST , with affectionate Arabic thoughts ! Salaamtak , ya RoHa !

      • RoHa
        December 6, 2017, 11:05 pm

        And still more thanks for good wishes, echi, bintiba, MHughes.

    • echinococcus
      December 6, 2017, 2:56 am

      Tchernikhovsky Sefardí? Now that’s a major, major Zionist innovation.
      Verry Spanish.

      • echinococcus
        December 6, 2017, 3:12 am

        Well no, that would be the poet in question. The rabbit is called Mutzafi, a well-known Baghdad family. Arab Jews, not Sefardí. And let’s stop following the Zionist habit of calling Arab Jews Spanish instead of Arab, which they should be happy about if not proud of.

  4. lonely rico
    December 5, 2017, 7:23 pm

    I can’t help but wonder what rabbi Tchernichovsky thinks of Bibi’s cozying up to the (un)-Christian Pastor John Hagee.

    Would that be Hagee “tied to Bibi like a dog” ?
    or, Bibi “tied to Hagee like a dog” ?

    Is it a nightmare, do I wake or sleep ?

    • Citizen
      December 6, 2017, 9:04 pm

      I wish them well, both locked forever in the same stalled elevator.

  5. Marnie
    December 6, 2017, 12:36 am

    Wow – everyone’s being so gosh-darn honest these days – tRUMP proclaims jerusalem is the capitol of israel and bibi says thanks and fuck off yankee jews – the evangelicals will do just fine (with some minor adjustments).

  6. Paranam Kid
    December 6, 2017, 9:42 am

    This is excellent news: the rot of a blatantly racist society is coming from within, which is the only way Israel’s current system will eventually be dismantled, by “auto-dismantlement”.

  7. Noodles
    December 6, 2017, 9:57 am

    Smart move, Bibi. Alienate secular and liberal Jews and who will run the economy in Israel? Evangelical Christians and Alt-Right supporters can’t move to Israel and manage start ups.
    Be certain to offend liberal Jews visiting Israel. This will assure them that Israel will always be a refuge for endangered Jews. It’s important to violate your best talking point.

    • Mooser
      December 6, 2017, 11:39 am

      You shouldn’t talk like that. Now it’ll be even harder to get back in Israel’s good graces. We must redouble our efforts.

      Remember, a time will come when Israel gets tired of asking American Jews politely, and issue non-negotiable orders to us. With penalties for non-compliance.

      • Mooser
        December 6, 2017, 3:24 pm

        ” With penalties for non-compliance.”

        I mean, it could get so Jews in the US can’t appear on the street without getting lectured and shouted at (by Zionist Christians) for their antisemitism, and lack of loyalty to the Jewish State.

      • Kaisa of Finland
        December 6, 2017, 4:12 pm

        Moose:

        I don’t know about the Evangelical Christians in U.S., but for our pro-Israel Pentecostals (about 0,5% of the population) every Jew is a potential convert and the best Jew ofcourse, is an ex-Jew converted to Christianity.. So in the end, I am not so sure about this deal..??

        (Just saw some days ago in their own tv-channel, some Finnish Pentecostals located in Israel, praising Netanyahu for “wanting to co-operate with them” and “calling them as Israel’s friends”..)

      • Kaisa of Finland
        December 6, 2017, 5:06 pm

        “Evangelical Christians are strongly motivated to share the gospel either one-on-one or through organized missions. Emphasis is placed on the Great Commission’s call to share with the world the Christian message of salvation through Christ, and to “be publicly baptized as a confession of faith,” according to PrayerFoundation.com.”

        So good luck with them, next year in Jerusalem.. ??!

  8. Don
    December 6, 2017, 10:46 am

    Netanyahu’s timing on that strategy might be a bit questionable…

    SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL AMONG YOUNG EVANGELICALS DROPS DESPITE BELIEF IN BIBLICAL TEACHINGS ON JEWISH HOMELAND

    http://www.newsweek.com/christians-evangelicals-millennials-support-israel-falling-735180

  9. DKWilson
    December 6, 2017, 1:50 pm

    A question: could some of these “in-house” moves by Netanyahu – with blessings and jingoist exhortations from his allies – be made in the hope of insulating him against the crashing walls of the corruption case?

  10. biggerjake
    December 6, 2017, 3:40 pm

    “The Netanyahu government, it seems, prefers as allies Christian evangelicals and the US alt-right, which loves Israel as much as it appears to despise Jews.”

    What????

    I read that Richard Spencer admires Zionism but I never heard that the alt-right “loves Israel”.

    Can that be true?

  11. Mooser
    December 6, 2017, 6:02 pm

    “alt-right “loves Israel”.”

    Submitted verbatim to Google, “biggerjake”. See for yourself.

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