Here are three warning signs in the news that the U.S. Jewish consensus on Israel is falling apart before our eyes. In part because of Donald Trump’s curious blend of nationalism and love-of-Israel. In part because young Americans, including many Jews, are turning against Israel.
First, the Trump wing of the Israel lobby and the center of the lobby at are at one another’s throats over Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon as counselor.
Now it's Jews vs Jews over Bannon: ZOA says ADL should apologize for "Orwellian" smear of Bannon as anti-Semite
— Chemi Shalev (@ChemiShalev) November 15, 2016
Here’s some of that Zionist Organization of America statement:
Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein released a statement saying “it is painful to see Anti-Defamation League (ADL) president Jonathan Greenblatt engaging in character assassination against President-elect Trump’s appointee Stephen Bannon and Mr. Bannon’s company, Breitbart media. ADL/Greenblatt essentially accused Mr. Bannon and his media company of ‘anti-Semitism’ and Israel hatred, when Jonathan Greenblatt/ADL tweeted that Bannon ‘presided over the premier website of the ‘alt right’ – a loose-knit group of white nationalists and anti-Semites.’”
But Klein insists that, as pro-Israel writer (who happens to be an orthodox Jew) Joel B. Pollak wrote, Mr. Bannon is “an American patriot who defends Israel & has deep empathy for the Jewish people.”
As if Orthodox and secular American Jews will have any consensus on Israel. They won’t; they are two different tribes.
Allison Kaplan Sommer of Haaretz spoke about the deep divide among American Jews to Public Radio International. She described anti-semitism charges flying all ways, as the two governments get along just fine, but the American Jewish-Israeli Jewish relationship breaks up on the rocks of separate values:
“People on the right have been saying for a long time that the progressive and hard left… demonized the left as being anti-Semitic. Now the shoe is on the other foot, whereas the left is pointing to the right, at people like Bannon….The tables have turned. I guess you could say antisemitism is in the eye of the beholder, right….
“[A Trump presidency] could mean some very harmonious times between Israel and the U.S. if as promised America is completely behind whatever Israel wants to do in the West Bank, good or bad, and that actually could lead to some very rocky relations between the American Jewish community and Israel. Because the vast majority of the American Jewish community did not vote for Donald Trump and has serious misgivings about what is going on in his administration, especially after the appointment of Steve Bannon.
“It’s a moment of truth for Jews in the United States, because I think for the first time there is going to be real pressures on the American Jewish establishment maybe not to cozy up so tightly to the American government…. It’s going to be caught between a rock and a hard place. Because I think there is a generation of progressive American Jews who will want to be on the side of fighting President-elect Trump. And on the other hand there is going to be the government of Israel…. the security of the state of Israel is at stake. So, some of those American Jewish establishment leaders are going to have to figure out how to work both sides.”
Naomi Zeveloff has a similar piece up at the Forward: that Trumpism contains both anti-Semitism and feverish support for Israel. “Breitbart News isn’t the only place where anti-Semitism and Zionism go hand in hand.” Bannon’s world is America for Americans, Israel for the Jews.
So the lobby will be divided by Trump. Most interesting from the progressive Jewish standpoint will be what liberal Zionists, who are members in good standing of the lobby, are willing to give up to build a coalition in the U.S. to fight Trump. Will they finally turn against apartheid and racism in Israel? I say they will. J Street, a liberal Zionist group, and Jewish Voice for Peace, a non-/anti-Zionist group, issued statements condemning the Bannon appointment in somewhat similar terms yesterday. (J Street’s, JVP‘s.) While neoconservatives will be homeless.
Lastly, the Council on Foreign Relations has a very establishmentarian report out telling the two governments to repair the frayed relationship between the societies. Notice the emphasis on societies: the authors say the discord between the US and Israel has nothing to do with the bad chemistry between the two leaders. No, it’s demographic. The hidden meaning of this excerpt is just what Sommer is saying, that young Democrats are sick of Israel.
The U.S. relationship with Israel is in trouble… [S]erious differences on a long list of policy issues in the Middle East and significant demographic and political changes on both sides are pushing the two countries apart and making it harder for those who care deeply about the relationship-as we, the authors, do-to maintain it.
A growing number of Israelis-perhaps now a majority-support policies likely to exacerbate differences with the United States and increasingly question their ability to count on Washington, and an increasing number of Americans-including some of Israel’s traditional supporters-are concerned about Israel’s domestic and foreign policy paths. Without a deliberate and sustained effort by policymakers and opinion leaders in both countries, the relationship will continue to deteriorate, to the detriment of both countries. Various forms of cooperation between the United States and Israel will continue, as they do with many countries in the region, but the shared strategic perspectives, cultural affinity, mutual admiration, and common democratic values that have underpinned the partnership are increasingly at risk. A split between the United States and Israel is an outcome no one who cares about Israel’s security or America’s values and interests in the
Middle East should want.
How would CFR authors Robert Blackwill, a former ambassador to India, and Philip Gordon, an Obama State Department veteran, “repair” the US-Israel relationship? Turns out it’s the same old Clintonite solution: Give Israel more foreign aid–“Enhance Israel’s sense of security and confidence in the United States by committing to expanded missile defense, anti-tunnel, and cybersecurity cooperation”– invite Netanyahu to Camp David in early 2017 to get his vision on the Middle East, and try and make life better for Palestinians under occupation. No international action against settlements!
This feels very yesterday, when Humpty Dumpty has had a great fall. Trump policy is likely to give the Israeli right whatever it wants; and the consensus Blackwill and Gordon express lies in pieces on the ground.
Thanks to Scott Roth, James North and Adam Horowitz.