Ari Shavit got home to Israel from his triumphant U.S. book tour and reported that the American Jewish community is still Zionist, even if the young people don’t find Israel that relevant:
The American Jewish community opened its heart…. Even the Jewish left longs to see a reincarnation of the old Labor Zionism that it so loved to love.
So Shavit ignores all the criticism of his book from leftwing Jews like Jerry Slater and Ira Glunts (and me too). We simply don’t count as Jewish left. Maybe we’re too fringe, or maybe we’re too deracinated in Shavit’s view?
Peter Beinart performed the same magic trick in The New York Review of Books when he said the American Jewish community was inside a “cocoon” and it did not listen to Palestinians. He left out all the grassroots: Max Blumenthal and Rebecca Vilkomerson and Donna Nevel, who have spent a lot of time listening to Palestinians. They’re simply not members of the American Jewish community, or too fringe to reach Beinart’s attention, let alone the ears of the New York intelligentsia. Jonathan Chait performed the same magic trick a few years ago at J Street when he said it was fine to include anti-occupation voices, but the Jewish conversation must not include Phil Weiss (I was then in the audience).
How long can these “liberal” voices continue to marginalize an important movement? At Swarthmore young Jews have stated that they want to hear anti-Zionists at the Hillel there. Max Blumenthal’s book on an Israel gone rightwing amok is getting a second printing at Nation Books. The American Studies Association’s landslide vote for boycott surely included many Jews.
Today I gave money to Vilkomerson’s non-Zionist group, Jewish Voice for Peace because of a stirring appeal from Noam Chomsky:
These days, there are really only a handful of Jewish organizations that honor the traditions of universal equality that inspired me to be an activist so many years ago. Jewish Voice for Peace is one of them.
Is Chomsky chopped liver? I’d note that Beinart’s website, Open Zion, which resolved to create a groundswell for the two-state solution, has closed after less than two years— in some measure because the political/generational energy is to the left of him, and speaking a language of equality. (Compare Chomsky’s words to Beinart’s defense of second-class citizenship for Israeli Palestinians: “I’m not even asking it to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state.”)
Shavit and Beinart ignore us because we represent the most important challenge to their project inside the Jewish community in a generation or so. In doing so, they are practicing a form of intellectual dishonesty. The readers of the New York Review of Books and Haaretz deserve a more accurate picture.
And they are both arguing implicitly that Jewish voices should matter more than others. That may be our biggest error. We think everyone has a right to be in this tent.