The last few days have seen more open battles inside the Jewish community over the illegal Israeli settlement project in the West Bank. The rhetoric is more bitter than ever. Apartheid, say the liberals. While conservative Jews describe the settlements as the heart and soul of Zionism. We’d like to predict a crisis in the American Jewish relationship to Israel, but who knows when that will ever happen.
To start with, on Friday, Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken openly criticized the US Ambassador to Israel– former bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman– for perpetuating “apartheid” and violence through blind support of the settlement project.
As JTA reports, the battle began when Gideon Levy published a column in Haaretz on the killing of a 29-year-old Israeli settler and called out Friedman for his personal financial support for the man’s settlement, Har Bracha. “Describing Har Bracha, which means ‘mountain of blessings,’ as an Israeli land grab, Levy said it should be called a ‘mountain of curses.’”
Friedman responded angrily: Levy and Haaretz have “no decency.”
What has become of .@Haaretz ? Four young children are sitting shiva for their murdered father and this publication calls their community a “mountain of curses.” Have they no decency?
Haaretz publisher Amos Schocken backed his columnist up by criticizing U.S. support for apartheid:
Mr. Ambassador Gideon Levy is right. As long as the policy of Israel that your Government and yourself support is obstructing peace process, practical annexation of the territories, perpetuating apartheid, fighting terror but willing to pay its price, there will be more Shivas.
Schocken joins a distinguished list of those who call it apartheid (even as US journalists deny this reality). And BTW, Donald Trump even criticized the settlements this weekend, as an obstacle to peace.
Here is a second incident on the coming break between American Jewry and Israel. In a piece on the special relationship drawn from a forthcoming book on Israeli strategy, former Israeli government official Charles Freilich says that Israeli settlements are an “existential” issue for Israelis because they are of “supreme ideological importance.” But because of intermarriage, American Jews are losing that Jewish story.
It is amazing that such reactionary thinking should come from a scholar at Harvard, Freilich’s latest role; but here’s his blood-and-soil endorsement of the settlements:
[L]et’s be honest: if Iran is an issue of existential importance, so is the future of the West Bank as a whole, not only from the perspective of defense but also in terms of Israel’s future character as a nation. As for Jerusalem and the settlements, they are of supreme ideological importance. A large majority of the Israeli electorate considers Jerusalem to be the very heart of Judaism and of Israeli statehood, and a substantial, highly motivated, and well-organized minority opposes any concessions on the settlements. Out of strategic as well as ideological considerations, an overwhelming majority is similarly attached to Israel’s control of the Golan Heights.
(This is just what we reported about Israeli political culture during a tour of the settlements two years ago.)
Freilich is worried, as so many Zionists are, by the growing partisan divide in the U.S. over support for Israel– “when Israel’s image in the liberal media and on college campuses has become one of a brutal and even racist occupier.” And Jews play a “problematic” role in that decline, because of — you guessed it, intermarriage.
[A]mong, specifically, younger American Jews, only about a third of whom (as compared with 53 percent of those sixty-five and older) now view Israel as a very important component of their Jewish identity. If, in 1981, more than 80 percent of young Jewish Americans reported that Israel’s destruction would be a personal tragedy for them, by 2007 fewer than half felt that way, and 25 percent even thought that the United States was giving too much support to Israel. Low birth rates, high intermarriage rates, and assimilation continue to undermine the strength of the Jewish community, historically an irreplaceable source of support for Israel.
Freilich castigates J Street, Peace Now and President Obama for being critical of Israel. Before he praises AIPAC as a bipartisan organization — exactly what Jane Eisner, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and Daniel Shapiro have done out of fear that the Democratic Party will offer shelter to anti-Zionism.
Another factor is the erosion of the centralized approach toward Israel that long characterized the organized Jewish community. Today’s ideological divisions, exemplified by the rise of Peace Now and J Street on the left and of American Friends of Likud and the Zionist Organization of America on the right, have weakened AIPAC’s heretofore unchallenged role as the sole representative of the pro-Israel community and exercised a negative impact on the leverage available to the pro-Israel forces as a whole. As the trend becomes more deeply embedded, it is likely to cripple the American Jewish community’s role as Israel’s “strategic hinterland.” And this is happening at the same time as the two groups in the United States among whom support for Israel is the lowest—Hispanics and the religiously unaffiliated—are growing rapidly.
Frelich also notes that BDS is working–
ongoing efforts at the delegitimization of Israel have severely undermined its international standing
and that Israel’s “standing among traditionally friendly states, especially in Western Europe, has collapsed.”
He concedes that the settlement project is a burden on the United States.
Of course, a resolution of the Palestinian issue would be one of the most effective means of reducing Israel’s dependence on the United States, and would also greatly reduce Israel’s international isolation and make it harder for Iran, Hizballah, Hamas, and others to pursue their anti-Israel agendas.
So which is it, intermarriage or apartheid that is endangering Israel? Apartheid, surely.