Media Analysis

Landmark ‘NYT’ op-ed by Jewish official blames Israel’s leadership for its isolation (not BDS)

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Today everyone is talking about one piece, an essay in the New York Times attacking Israel’s settlement program and intolerant political culture as threats to its existence, and to Jews worldwide, written by a stalwart of the Israel lobby, Ronald Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress. Titled “Israel’s Self-Inflicted Wounds,” the article says nothing anyone hasn’t said before. The news is that a rightwing establishmentarian is voicing criticisms that we know are being voiced behind closed doors by Israel lobby execs.

Stating them so publicly is a call to action inside the Israel lobby, and a gauntlet to Israeli politicians. It is a real sign that the tide of opinion is turning against Israel in the US Jewish community.

It surely anticipates a push by American Jewish organizations on the late, great two-state solution. Why even AIPAC was calling for the two-state solution at its recent conference. Though surely the two-state solution is now a dead letter, due in large part to those same groups’ blind support for Israeli policies over 50 years of occupation.

Lauder, 74, repeatedly describes Israel as the “nation I love,” but says its “very existence” is threatened by two things: the destruction of the two-state solution by the settlement project, and the alienation of American Jews by Israel’s “capitulation” to its religious right.

Here is Lauder’s desperate plea for the two-state solution:

I am conservative and a Republican, and I have supported the Likud party since the 1980s. But the reality is that 13 million people live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. And almost half of them are Palestinian.

If current trends continue, Israel will face a stark choice: Grant Palestinians full rights and cease being a Jewish state or rescind their rights and cease being a democracy.

To avoid these unacceptable outcomes, the only path forward is the two-state solution…

(His claim that Israel will “rescind” Palestinian rights is absurd. Palestinians have no rights in the occupation to begin with).

He describes the occupation and rightwingers’ annexation plans as “destructive.”

Such blinkered Israeli policies are creating an irreversible one-state reality.

I.e., not a word about boycott, or BDS. Chuck Schumer and Benjamin Netanyahu’s tune of existential threat.

Lauder is equally concerned about the ways that Israeli intolerance and religiosity are alienating world Jewry.

An increasing number of Jewish millennials — particularly in the United States — are distancing themselves from Israel because its policies contradict their values. The results are unsurprising: assimilation, alienation and a severe erosion of the global Jewish community’s affinity for the Jewish homeland.

So Lauder blames assimilation on Israel’s growing intolerance. American Jews are marrying out because of Israel. I guess his logic is that Israel is the main source of Jewish identity today, so now that the brand is tanking, young Jews want out. The Zionist captivity…

Here Lauder says what other Jewish leaders have murmured about. Our community is today being turned off by Israel.

Over the last decade I have visited Jewish communities in over 40 countries. Members in every one of them expressed to me their concern and anxiety about Israel’s future and its relationship to diaspora Jewry.

Many non-Orthodox Jews, myself included, feel that the spread of state-enforced religiosity in Israel is turning a modern, liberal nation into a semi-theocratic one.

The article repeatedly links the health of Israel to the health of Jews worldwide. And offers the usual Zionist claim that Israeli soldiers are manning checkpoints to make American Jews safe…

I’m also keenly aware that Israelis are on the front lines, making sacrifices and risking their own lives every day so that Jews worldwide will survive and thrive. I count myself forever in their debt.

But Judaism itself is on the line.

The choices that Israel makes in the coming years will determine the destiny of our one and only Jewish state — and the continued unity of our cherished people.

Is membership in a cherished people worth holding the bag for apartheid? Many young Jews would say, No thank you. Which underlines Lauder’s point about assimilation.

Again, this piece is huge because of who is saying it. It fulfills my scenario, that we will come to a point before long that an Israeli leader reverses course and says, World, we hear you. And tries to get right with world opinion. It will all be too late for the two-state solution. There are 650,000 settlers across the Green Line. The actual challenge to western liberal Jews is to follow the realistic path of Henry Siegman, and recognize that it is one state now, and the only way forward is a struggle for equal rights.

Thanks to Priscilla Read and Scott Roth. 

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Yup, the brave blue-and-white line is broken. Lauder’s love for Israel seems real, his arguments for it (if that’s what he’s making) are lousy, and he’s missed (or is hiding from the NYT’s readers) a lot of facts — such as existence and importance of BDS and need for international pressure on Israel to achieve any sort of progress for Palestinians. Maybe NYT is stauncher in Likud’s camp than Lauder is and wouldn’t publish a… Read more »

Thanks, Phil. Here’s Naftali: “Bennett Rebuts Lauder: ‘Assimilation in America Is Not a Result of Israel’s Policy’ At anti-Semitism conference, education minister says he doesn’t believe settlement building is morally equivalent to Palestinian incitement …” https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/bennett-jewish-assimilation-in-u-s-not-a-result-of-israel-s-policies-1.5918012 (according to Noa Landau, Friedman stood up and applauded…) https://twitter.com/noa_landau/status/975828283102294016 And then there was this from Haaretz:: “Abbas Assails U.S. Ambassador David Friedman: ‘Son of a Dog, Settler’ U.S. ambassador to Israel suggests Abbas’ remarks against him were anti-Semitic… Read more »

In order to avoid true democracy in historic Palestine, the push for two states will become the next big thing for Zionists. Palestinian leadership along with Zionist realists like Lauder will do their best to make this happen but the street i think has a different design in mind – one state with equal rights. There may be some real tension there between the elites and the street. I used to think that the Palestinians… Read more »

‘American Jews are marrying out because of Israel.’ American Jews are marrying out to leave their Jewishness behind; because more and more Jews loathe raising their children as victims, loathe, frankly, being a Jew. ‘Is membership in a cherished people …” Here he goes again; cherished by whom? Everyone? Cherished as in chosen? I think you’re confusing Stephen Sondheim w Sheldon Adelson. And Ronald Lauder. That you’re so ecstatic over Lauder’s nothing piece no longer… Read more »

Interesting that the “NYT Picks” comments don’t include any strongly zionist or anti-BDS comments. Maybe this gives the NYT official approval to move in the anti-zionist direction?