The Oren trainwreck just keeps on going. The public meltdown is driving a wedge between the Jewish Israeli and American Jewish communities, at long last. God bless you, Ambasador. The New York Times has a sharply-critical review of Michael Oren’s book by Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of the National Interest.
Oren comes off as a tormented character in the review. As a boy, the ’67 war celebration fused in his psyche with his own desire to triumph over his feeling of inadequacy for wearing a leg brace and his rage over images of Jewish helplessness in the Holocaust. And today he is a man “who continues to carry a large chip on his shoulder,” Heilbrunn says, that chip aimed, oddly enough, at Jewish elites in the country he left behind, the United States. Like when Oren takes a crack at the New Yorker and New York Review of Books as “Jewish-edited” journals filled with criticism of Israel.
The odd formulation “Jewish-edited” suggests that Oren views everything through the lens of ethnic identity. In addition, Oren hastily dismisses the historian Tony Judt as someone who “opposed Israel’s existence.” If anything, Judt’s apprehensions about Israel’s future seem more cogent than ever.
I bet Heilbrunn is talking about Judt saying that there should be one state in Israel and Palestine and Zionism is an anachronism. Pretty guarded, but another signal of elite disaffection with the two-state solution. (Here’s Tony Judt’s idea, published back in 2003, in the NY Review of Books.)
Heilbrunn makes another whispered declaration here: the official Jewish conversation about Israel has replaced the official American policymaking one:
Israeli-American relations have become the subject of what amounts to an intramural debate. In an earlier era, the American foreign policy establishment was dominated by Arabists from the Ivy Leagues. Now, as the names of various Washington officials, scholars and journalists whiz by in Oren’s memoir, it seems clear that the older WASP establishment has been supplanted by the very ethnic group it once disdained.
Just like Oren said at the 92nd Street Y: often he was one of six Jews sitting in the White House talking about the Palestinian state. Not very fair to Palestinians, obviously.
Of course, Oren wants those Jews to agree, but Heilbrunn says the Jewish consensus is breaking apart:
Far from easing disputes about Israel, however, this development appears to have further envenomed the debate over its destiny. On the one side are traditionally liberal Jews who continue to see Israel as an egalitarian version of America… On the other side are more conservative Jews and Christian evangelicals who believe that this is sentimental piffle. Instead of lecturing Israel, Americans should unflinchingly stand by it — by which they really mean Netanyahu’s Likud — and recognize that peace is an illusion.
Heilbrunn was also very frank in his book on neoconservatism: that neoconservatives were fueled by their resentment of the WASP elites, and their exclusion by them.
The review also casts Oren as a moderate. Some moderate; but that shows how racist and rightwing Israeli political culture is– in the days when South Carolina is taking down its confederate flag, Israel just doubles down on ethnic privilege.
Thanks to Donald Johnson.