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Praising Judis, Heer says Jews who abandoned liberalism for Israel are coming home

Israel/Palestine
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John Judis

John Judis

We’ve been charting the reception of John Judis’s great new book on Truman and Israel. Jeet Heer raves about “Genesis”  in the Toronto Globe and Mail as an “essential” history, and treats it as a landmark in the rise and fall of liberal Zionism.

John B. Judis’s authoritative and essential new history, Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict, is an account of the founding of Israel with a particular focus on the role played by the American Jewish community in pressuring President Harry Truman, a most reluctant Godfather, to give his blessing to the newborn state in 1948. Beneath the expertly narrated historical chronicle, there is a deeper story in the book, which is about how love can cause otherwise admirable people to become party to a grave injustice….

What’s that about love? Heer, a leading journalist up north, gets at an important point we haven’t addressed: that Judis is actually chronicling liberal American Jews’ abandonment of their values in order to support an ethnocracy.

Judis’s core concern is “how American liberals, in the wake of the Holocaust and the urgency it lent to the Zionist case, simply abandoned their principles when it came to Palestine’s Arabs.” Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis was a giant of American liberalism, a man who fought for civil rights, unions and women’s suffrage. Yet as Judis notes, Brandeis and his followers didn’t apply the ideals of equality and self-determination to the Middle East, but rather “saw Palestine’s Arabs largely through the prism of Western colonialism and Jewish nationalism…

And here is Heer’s view of the importance of the book as a cultural marker in the US discourse. Notice that the New Republic was once crazy for Zionism. Now its offspring are critics of the project, and Marty Peretz must be freaking out.

Beyond its intrinsic value, Genesis is a harbinger of an important change in American culture. Judis is a senior editor of the New Republic, a magazine that for the better part of a century has embodied the marriage of Zionism and liberalism. In 1948, one of Harry Truman’s chief worries was that he would lose votes to New Republic editor Henry Wallace, running on the Progressive Party platform, who accused the president of being insufficiently supportive of Zionism.

Under the leadership of Marty Peretz, who served variously as publisher and editor-in-chief from 1974 to 2012, the New Republic was fiercely and sometimes crazily defensive of Israel. Writing in Vanity Fair, James Wolcott cheekily summed up Peretz’s worldview by saying that for him Israel is a “lion of nations, loyal ally and democratic outpost, Gateway of Meccas … a land of religious resonance and geopolitical significance.” Yet in recent years some writers and editors who first made their name in the New Republic, not just Judis but also Andrew Sullivan and Peter Beinart, have become formidable critics of the Jewish State.

So Heer predicts that liberal Jews are now (per Revelations) going to “spew thee out of my mouth.”

The love affair between liberalism and Zionism has definitely lost its bloom, and a divorce might be imminent. These days, it’s right-wingers like [Stephen] Harper who are blindly besotted by Israel. Given the fact that Israel in the past relied on bipartisan support from both liberals and conservatives in America, this is a change pregnant with significance.

Tweeted by Robert Wright and thanks to Max Blumenthal.

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25 Responses

  1. Krauss
    Krauss
    February 15, 2014, 2:31 pm

    Heer’s mastery of language is a beauty to read.

    Of course, it helps that he is right about he writes, too.

  2. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    February 15, 2014, 2:31 pm

    TEXT: “that Judis is actually chronicling liberal American Jews’ abandonment of their values in order to support an ethnocracy.” This is close to my comment on the Jewish community rule (?) that Jews should regard all of Jewry as one big family and protect it against outside threats — even if a big chunk of that “big family” has committed desperate crimes, as, in my view, Israel’s Jews did.

    Imagine if Germans in the USA had been urged by Germans in Germany to protect Hitler’s Germany in the 1940s out of a “one big German family” loyalty. Would these Zionist-crimes-excusing Jews have praised that German solidarity in the face of Hitler’s crimes (assume them adequately known in the USA). My guess, nay my certainty, is that Jews in the USA would not have praised such pan-German solidarity.

    And yet those same Jews in the USA have praised and even demanded pan-Jewish solidarity where Israel is concerned. And denied for 66 years the right of the Palestinian exiles of 1948 to return to their home country, which had been captured and belligerently occupied by Jews in 1948 et seq. and renamed “Israel”.

    Not being a religious Jew, and never having been a synagogal attender, I cannot know how much and what sort of ethical teaching goes on there. But I assume that some used to go on there. and that must have been horribly torpedoed by the we-must-support-Israel-lockstep. So we have seen the communal Jewish religion (support and protect other Jews) trump all other ethical teachings. Rather sad. A good PhD thesis there for someone.

    But I think the times are changing. I hope so. And I feel it likely that American Jews will not throw Israel out with the bath water (the Zionist crimes) but will support a return , somehow, to an ethical Israel — perhaps via a non-discriminatory 1-state arrangement as Avrum Burg propounded.

    • Krauss
      Krauss
      February 15, 2014, 2:45 pm

      But I think the times are changing. I hope so.

      It will be interesting to see how the Times’ will review it, if it will review it at all. They typically ignore books that aren’t sufficiently slavish of the “liberal” Zionist dogma.

      Still, the fact that they wait is an indication that there is probably quite a bit of tussle over the review between the reviewer and the editors. The WSJ was quickly out of the gates with the hatchet job, not surprisingly.

      The book also adds to the general mood that it is not the pro-democracy/pro-BDS forces that are fightning the uphill battle anymore, as we were for the last few decades. It’s the Zionists, left or right, who are.

      Judis is probably a genteel “liberal” Zionist but the impression I got away with reading his book is that he is intelligent enough to understand that it’s over.
      His book is basically his way of saying the last prayer for Zionism and try to understand, as best as he can, the sociological and cultural reasons why it arose in the first place, but ultimately draw the conclusions that Western imperialism and colonialism cannot be sustained over the long haul in the 21st century especially when the rationale of taking the land was built on lies that are easy to dispell (“a land without a people for a people without a land” etc).

    • bilal a
      bilal a
      February 15, 2014, 8:48 pm

      This Judis view is revisionist. In any unbiased review of pre war Jewish politics in Eastern Europe or in the USA, you dont find NPR liberal Jews, rather tough, working class, sometimes violent , and brave social activists yet always organized along ethnic lines. These are people who signed up for the Lincoln Brigades, worked with the Bolsheviks overtly or in the underground, and yes like other ethnic groups, a small number were engaged in organized crime, most of which is legal today, thanks in part to their lobby’s success in making them so.

      Jewish Liberalism was a phase or pretense, violent ethno-centrism more the rule in a number of immigrant communities, including the recent jewish arrivals to America.

      Chomsky was an early settler in a kibbutz, all of whom were armed.

    • tokyobk
      tokyobk
      February 15, 2014, 11:21 pm

      German Americans were urged exactly that way and there was active support for, if not Hitler, at least non-Intervension and German extraction from Versailles. Some of the important early financial supporters of Hitler were German Americans. The probably equally organized and funded and vocal Jewish and German communities were in great tension at the time.
      Not all German groups were specifically Nazi supporters, like the German American Bund, but generally German nationalist and old-country nostalgic/patriotic.

      It was ultimately the bombing of Pearl Harbor which brought America to war with Germany, though obviously many had been already advocating for that.

      • doug
        doug
        February 16, 2014, 1:06 pm

        tokyobk,

        Indeed, the German-American community was quite strong and somewhat supportive of the Nazis. Strong enough that FDR was not urging Congress to declare war on Germany even after Pearl Harbor. And Congress limited itself to declaring war on Japan, a state that had just initiated it, as much as FDR might have wished otherwise. He had to wait a short while for Hitler to declare war on the US before the US Congress reciprocated.

        Back in those quaint days the US didn’t go to war on the President’s orders.

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      February 16, 2014, 7:12 am

      pabelmont: So we have seen the communal Jewish religion (support and protect other Jews) trump all other ethical teachings.

      The code of a “liberal” Kosher Nostra?

      • just
        just
        February 16, 2014, 7:23 am

        lol.

    • Naftush
      Naftush
      February 16, 2014, 9:37 am

      Pabelmont, you have taken Godwin’s law to the trite absurdity — I am restraining myself by calling it this — of likening Israel’s actions in the 1948-49 war to those of Hitler’s Germany. It is de rigueur today to treat Palestinian Arabs as innocent non-combatants in that war, ousted by a racist juggernaut, but much of the world then and afterwards, including the USSR, Western Europe and (quietly, mostly) the nascent liberation movements in the third world saw the war as the fulfillment of the UN partition resolution in the face of imminent massacre of, guess who, the Jewish side. In that climate, expecting American Jews to see Zionism as you see it now is beyond disbelief.

  3. Justpassingby
    Justpassingby
    February 15, 2014, 2:44 pm
  4. American
    American
    February 15, 2014, 4:01 pm

    I would like to take the labels ‘liberal and ‘conserative totally out of the Israel issue–in regard to both Jews and politics.
    Just as AIPAC acheived ‘bipartisan’ control of the Israel issue, we should also try to do that by refusing to label opposition to Israel’s I/P as just liberal or liberal or conserative.

  5. Keith
    Keith
    February 15, 2014, 5:07 pm

    “…in the wake of the Holocaust and the urgency it lent to the Zionist case….”

    My gracious, what twisted logic! Saving Jews from the Holocaust was never the goal of Zionism, and following the defeat of Nazi Germany there was hardly any urgency. More honest phraseology would indicate that the Holocaust provided the Zionists with a perverse form of legitimization to commit crimes and the power to do so as a consequence of both Gentile sympathy and the dramatic increase in Jewish tribal solidarity caused by heightened Jewish perceptions of anti-Semitism.

  6. seafoid
    seafoid
    February 15, 2014, 6:02 pm

    Judis’s core concern is “how American liberals, in the wake of the Holocaust and the urgency it lent to the Zionist case, simply abandoned their principles when it came to Palestine’s Arabs.”

    “Wherever we can save life, we should. That is a longstanding and fundamental proposition of Judaism”
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2011/jan/14/donor-cards-jewish-law-organ-donation

    Where did it all go so wrong?

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      February 16, 2014, 8:42 am

      “Wherever we can save life, we should. That is a longstanding and fundamental proposition of Judaism”

      Where did it all go so wrong?

      When some Jews started to believe that killing, expelling, denationalizing and dispossessing Gentiles could create a life saver against some Gentiles that had the same believe regarding Jews.

    • Ecru
      Ecru
      February 16, 2014, 1:29 pm

      Yeah…except the “person” saying that was Jonathan Sacks one time head of the British Board of Deputies – the lot who amongst other insanities complained of anti-semitism in the BBC because ONE program they put out mentioned (in passing) an actual historical event where Jews massacred Christians (Najran). The guy’s a typical Zionist Jewish supremacist and as such when he says “Wherever we can save life, we should” I strongly, strongly, suspect what he means in save Jewish life. And only Jewish life.

  7. hophmi
    hophmi
    February 15, 2014, 7:01 pm

    This is really an old story already, but the reality is the vast, vast, majority of American Jewish liberals (including Beinart) support Israel as a Jewish state. They are critical of settlement policy and have been for awhile. They’re not going to become anti-Zionists, and if anything, the antisemitism problem in the anti-Zionist movement may do as much as anything else to keep them firmly in the Zionist camp. For them, justice for Palestinian Arabs is a state of their own.

    Liberal Zionist orgs like J Street dwarf anti-Zionist organizations like JVP.

    • eljay
      eljay
      February 16, 2014, 6:30 pm

      >> This is really an old story already, but the reality is the vast, vast, majority of American Jewish liberals (including Beinart) support Israel as a Jewish state. … For them, justice for Palestinian Arabs is a state of their own.

      The vast, vast majority of American Jewish liberals are hateful and immoral Zio-supremacists. Shameful.

    • American
      American
      February 16, 2014, 8:23 pm

      hophmi says:
      February 15, 2014 at 7:01 pm
      This is really an old story already, but the reality is the vast, vast, majority of American Jewish liberals (including Beinart) support Israel as a Jewish state. They are critical of settlement policy and have been for awhile. They’re not going to become anti-Zionists, and if anything, the antisemitism problem in the anti-Zionist movement may do as much as anything else to keep them firmly in the Zionist camp.>>>>>

      You really have no idea what is going on do you?….what your zionist leaders and Israel are doing.
      American Jews will have to give up their zionism–because they are being “positioned’ by Israel, thru the use of anti semitism—as “Jews Against the World for Israel”. They wont have a choice if they want happy lives in the nations they live in because Israel is going to make them ‘alien’ to their anti semitic countries for Israel.
      I said years back that Israel was trying to create a ‘ Israel & America Against The World’ for ME dominance, particulary against’ Old Europe’ , in an all out showdown of Israeli power….and that was exactly what they tried.
      However some kinks were thrown in that goal with the election of Obama and old Europe hasnt laid down like they expected.
      Now the plan is a ‘Jews against the World” showdown to hold onto Zionist Israel.
      How can you people be such sheeple that you dont see what is going on?

      ”Sharansky: Israel is Helping Diaspora Jews against Anti-Semites ”

      http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News

      “While anti-Semitism, in its old form and new mutations, continues to poison minds throughout the world, it is important that we strengthen those who are at the focus of the hatred and at the front line of the struggle against it – the Jewish communities throughout the world,” he said.

      Sharansky told ministers that the Jewish Agency has helped provide security for 52 Jewish communities in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, with the aid of the “Emergency Fund for Assistance to Communities.”

  8. Balfour
    Balfour
    February 16, 2014, 6:49 am

    I’m sure there are many reasons to explain the moral collapse of Reform Jews once Israel was formally established- I do wonder if American Reform Jews were initially encouraged by their leaders to view Israel more as a distant, abstract ideal that personified their Reform concepts of social justice and equality to all. My wife doesn’t recall the modern state of Israel playing a critical role in Reform Jewish idenity until after the ’67 war and the Israeli conquest of the Occupied Territorities. On a personal note, I do remember visiting East Jerusalem in August, 1973 and seeing a recently demolished house with a hand written sign atop the rubble saying, in English & Arabic, that the building had been destroyed by the Israeli government for not complying with the military planning code. My father, a Protestant lawyer from the rural Midwest said, “well, that’s something you don’t see published back home.”

    How prophetic.

    • Balfour
      Balfour
      February 16, 2014, 9:18 am

      This article appeared, in all places, in the Saturday edition of The New York Times: Conflict of Faith: Devoted to Jewish Observance, but at Odds With Israel

    • Trygve
      Trygve
      February 16, 2014, 11:39 pm

      “My wife doesn’t recall the modern state of Israel playing a critical role in Reform Jewish identity until after the ’67 war and the Israeli conquest of the Occupied Territories.”

      When reading this sentence, I thought I had reopened one of Norman G. Finkelstein’s books. He emphasizes this point in, I believe, “The Holocaust Industry.” Substitute “parents” for “wife” and drop “Reform” and you have a nearly- identical repetition of Finkelstein’s text.

  9. bilal a
    bilal a
    February 16, 2014, 12:29 pm

    Mearsheimer : Neocons are in ‘real trouble’, Democrats have come the war party through liberal imperialism.

  10. American
    American
    February 16, 2014, 8:38 pm

    This book on Truman is exactly the kind that would be reviewed on C-span’s books reviews.
    Will be interesting to see if it is.

  11. Stogumber
    Stogumber
    February 16, 2014, 11:04 pm

    The self-contradictions within Zionism didn’t begin in 1967, nor in 1949. They began with the founding of Zionism.
    In the same way the self-contradictions within American liberalism didn’t begin when it supported Israel after WWII, they began with the founding of American liberalism.
    It would be an error to believe that the American liberal movement can save itself by distancing itself from Israel. Nor can it save itself by distancing itself from “liberal imperialism”, of course, “liberal imperialism” being the natural fruit of the liberal tree. In fact, the American liberal movement must dissolve and make place for something new.

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