There are only two kinds of Jews. You are either a Chuck Schumer or a Dianne Feinstein. All the other distinctions are meaningless– religious, cultural, political. The only one that counts is between Jews who care about the opinions of all people and those who care only about the opinions of Jews.
The Feinsteins are epitomized by Dianne Feinstein because she has spoken out against Israeli human rights abuses in the occupied territories. In the Senate no less. And Senator Feinstein is from California, the home of the progressive future. Feinsteins believe that all people are equal.
The second group is epitomized by Chuck Schumer at the Israel lobby group AIPAC last week. He gave a speech laced with Hebrew that derided Arabs, saying that there is not peace because Palestinians don’t understand the Jewish connection to our homeland– because “they don’t believe in the Torah.” It is hard to imagine a stupider statement. A lot of people said the speech was disgusting.
The Schumers are on top. These provincials define the organized Jewish community.
It used to be that Jews were cosmopolitan. We were people of the world. But the Schumers are just the people of Israel, and focused on the Jewish nation.
Though the Feinsteins are coming on strong.
You can make any other distinction you please. Religious observance, intermarriage, Hebrew-literacy, Christmas trees, but this is the most meaningful one because it defines our time. It is all that will matter as Israel continues its apartheid meltdown with U.S. Jewish support. Do you think about how the world looks at Israel and its Jewish support– or do you close ranks and think about how Jews in Israel look on their society– pretty darn good! Do you ask, Is it good for the world? Or is it good for the Jews? Are you particular or are you universal?
The Schumers are careful only to speak to other Schumers because their numbers are dwindling fast in the next generation. Schumer berates young people for not understanding that Israel is the victim. While David Harris who makes $500,000 a year to defend Israel, visits a privileged Westchester synagogue and has no idea why the young are turning against his cause:
What is it that brings shame among some? What are we doing wrong in our homes? What are we doing wrong in our schools?
It’s what you’ve done right in your schools that makes Jews into Feinsteins.
Do you pitch your voice to a democratic human audience, or do you pitch it to a selected Jewish audience, that is the question? Are you Bari Weiss and Bret Stephens telling the Jewish Community Center that Israel has nothing to be ashamed of–and they should read Yossi Klein Halevi on the conflict? Or are you Roger Cohen, and tell the same audience, there is much to be ashamed of, and there is good reason the young are turning against Israel.
I am not speaking strictly about Zionism, but about a broader divide in Jewish consciousness that is sure to undermine Zionism in the end. And there are liberal Zionists among the Feinsteins. They showed themselves over the Ahed Tamimi case. Jews who care about Jewish opinion have nothing good to say about the Palestinian girl who slapped an occupying Israeli soldier after her cousin was shot in the face, and who has now spent 80 days in jail for doing so, even as Israelis consider whether to drop her in the sea. J Street is paralyzed by Ahed Tamimi because J Street is inside the Jewish bubble, trying to please the older generation.
Imaging being paralyzed by Martin Luther King because you must think about what the white southerners will say.
But anyone with a heart has taken her side. Lara Friedman, IfNotNow Jews, Lisa Goldman, Mairav Zonszein: they are on the side of the traumatized Palestinian girl resisting occupation.
Peter Beinart is a Feinstein. He used to speak to AIPAC, but now he tears down AIPAC. He is conservative religiously, but he looks to how the world sees Jews. He recognizes that Jews are powerful in the U.S. and he wishes to be accountable for his portion of that power in the eyes of the world, not only of Jews.
The Israeli author Daniel Gordis is the opposite of Beinart– a Schumer all the way. He gave a speech at AIPAC saying the world has blinders on to only see occupation. These conflict-obsessed people are forgetting the fact that Jews “have had something to say” to western civilization for a long time. Capitalism, socialism, communism, feminism– Jews have been at the forefront of these great ideas, he said. Why, we brought about a “revolution” in human history with the marriage contract granting rights to women.
Gordis is preening, using Jewish intellectual traditions of the last century and ancient times to justify the provincial Jewish nationalism that so defines Jewish life today: in which Israeli Jewish society lines up behind massacres in Gaza and behind sectioning off nearly half the population in bantustans.
Then Chuck Schumer jumps in to make sure that intolerance will have blind American Jewish organizational support.
Maybe that argument works for a Jewish-centered audience. But it won’t work for universalists. Feinsteins understand that there is no smooth logic to how the world moves ahead. Still it tries. And today the occupation is glaring because it causes so much suffering, because it is Islamophobic, because it exposes the hypocrisy of the democracy-loving west. And because countless struggles for freedom have had their place in line but the Palestinians have been sent to the end of the line again and again.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re intermarried or inmarried, synagogue-going or unaffiliated. Trained in Torah or trained in Dylan and Facebook– you can be a Feinstein, or you can be a Schumer. And there is only one way to go forward.