One good thing about the Netanyahu victory is that it promotes an American conversation that we have long called for on this site: Do you think Jews need a state? Leave aside the question of whether that state requires ethnic cleansing– do western Jews need a state of their own to be safe? I have stated for a long time that I don’t feel that need: that actually, American Jews need to extend the elements of our own lived American experience to others. The great principles of protecting minority rights and the separation of church and state are at the core of our incredible experience in the U.S., so let us pay that good fortune forward by promoting those ideas wherever we have influence.
But Zionists genuinely think we might need to be hidden some day, right here in America. And so we must do everything to protect a Jewish state.
That’s a powerful belief; and it needs to be expressed openly so that others can discuss it, and the good news is that Netanyahu’s endangerment of Israel’s future is finally forcing liberal Zionists who are in crisis to open their hearts.
Dana Milbank in the Washington Post comes out, at last. Netanyahu’s victory compels him to relate a personal story: 11 years ago, he went through the painstaking process of officially converting his daughter to Judaism (her mother is not Jewish) so if things ever go bad in the U.S., she will be accepted by Israel as a Jew: “If the Gestapo ever comes again, she and her descendants will have a place to go.” More:
“Folks… there is no place else to go, and you understand that in your bones. [Joe Biden once told Jewish groups] You understand in your bones that no matter how hospitable, no matter how consequential, no matter how engaged, no matter how deeply involved you are in the United States . . . there’s only one guarantee. There is really only one absolute guarantee, and that’s the state of Israel.”
..[I]t’s true that Jews are safe and happy in the United States today — but that could change. This is why I plunged my baby in the mikvah. And this is why I was appalled by Netanyahu’s disavowal of a two-state solution.Without two states, there won’t be even one Jewish state if — God forbid — my daughter or her progeny someday have no place else to go.
I applaud Milbank for his transparency about issues that he used to be coy about. So let’s discuss; is the response of this important columnist a rational one? Helena Cobban says it’s not. She compiles her tweets on the piece here. Excerpts:
To me, @milbank‘s piece is a reminder how deeply the worldview fostered by decades of Zionist argument are rooted in US pol/media elites.
maybe @Milbank cd try empathizing w/ a few other ppls whose fear of persecutn/exclusion = much more rational than his?
Seems clear @Milbank telling this story in this way had primarily performative aspect, 2 demonstr8 his loyalty to Zionist idea…
In all the main arguments of this v. troubling piece, he works hard to demonstr8 his loyalty to Zionist project.
I don’t think Milbank’s attitude is risible; I think it flows from the Holocaust, from having half of European Jewry exterminated. But being the result of trauma 70 years ago, that attitude is deluded and anachronistic, and does not reflect our real American lives. But countless elite columnists and politicians hold those views.
Peter Beinart also upholds Zionism’s raison-d’etre in a piece in Haaretz that calls on American Jews to resist the greater Israel crowd and save the Jewish state. Netanyahu’s victory and the resulting boost to the BDS boycott movement potentially mean:
the end of the one state in the world that has as its mission statement the protection of Jewish life. Those of us who still believe in such a state, alongside a Palestinian one need another way…
We know that if Israel continues on its current path, our children will one day live in a world without a Jewish state. We know that our grandparents’ generation of Diaspora Jews will be remembered for having helped birth the first Jewish country in 2,000 years, and that ours will be remembered for having helped destroy it.
Take out the word “destroy” and why is that a bad thing? Dismantling and reforming a state of Jewish privilege built on others’ suffering would be a great achievement, a light unto the nations. A couple of years ago Beinart told J Street that if we lose the Jewish state, American Jews will be stumbling spiritually through the rubble of that experience for decades to come. He is right; but what he fails to see is that the Jewish community is spiritually stumbling horribly now. Denying Israeli atrocities, denying the existence of apartheid, denying the existence of the Israel lobby– this work does a lot of damage to people’s sensibility and intelligence. Dana Milbank once smeared Walt and Mearsheimer as “Teutonic” — i.e. Nazis — just for questioning the power of the Israel lobby. This is a Jewish tragedy. Black people didn’t choose the Marcus Garvey option; many supported it for understandable reasons, but in the end it didn’t happen. Meantime, the Jewish community bought totally into the Marcus Garvey option, and now we have a situation where many in the American Jewish community are devoted 24/7 to protecting Israel and denying the persecution of Palestinians.
P.S. Beinart says that Diaspora Jews must organize to resist the Netanyahu government by boycotting the settlements, demonstrating against settler leaders, and so forth. “With Netanyahu’s reelection, the peace process is over and the pressure process must begin.” He wants American Jews moving to prevent Naftali Bennett from traveling and “joining and amplifying nonviolent Palestinian protest in the West Bank,” even while supporting Israel’s right to exist. Myself I don’t have a problem with that; I want 100 flowers to bloom; but the question is, Where are all those Freedom Riders? Nowhere. Last year, Beinart called on young American Jews to put their bodies on the line to fight the occupation and save Zionism. It didn’t happen. They don’t care enough. A generation and two ago, American Jews did put their bodies on the line for the Jewish state because they saw a need for it; the young ones don’t feel the need. The ones who do care about these issues are joining the BDS movement, imho.