Media Analysis

American Jews now have ‘a duty to oppose Israel,’ David Rothkopf says

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“For American Jews we have gone from a duty to support Israel to a duty to question Israel to a duty to oppose Israel. This law did that,” foreign policy maven David Rothkopf wrote yesterday, about the new law declaring Israel the “nation-state of the Jewish people.”

The Carnegie Endowment scholar and former editor of Foreign Policy had a dialogue on twitter with Jerusalem journalists who blamed Netanyahu’s government for the law. One of them, Noga Tarnopolsky, responded that American Jews have “a duty to save Israel by standing firm vis-à-vis the Israeli government.”

“Why? Why is there a duty? How long does that duty remain?” Rothkopf shot back.

How many abuses must take place? How many laws like this that claim racism as the national character and ethnic purity as its goal?… my point is that at some point my duty as an American (and as a Jew) is to actively oppose an ethno-nationalist regime that is systematically undermining the human rights of people within its borders & threatening peace and int’l values….

For several years I have been arguing to friends in Israel that a generational change in the US would irrevocably alter the relationship between the countries. Now, it is clear, that a change in the character of Israel’s leadership & laws might accelerate that.

Arthur Lenk, a former Israeli ambassador, leaped in to instruct Rothkopf that Israel was in his heart.

“Being anti-Trump doesn’t make someone anti-American. Disagreeing with Israel’s government should not leap to opposing Israel. Israel (like the USA), bad laws or not, is in your heart.”

Rothkopf said Israel was no longer in his heart because of that racist identity.

That is true, up until a point. That point is when that which is in your heart no longer exists. There is a difference between bad laws and a fundamental change in the identity and values of the nation. The nation-state law pushed Israel across that line.

Lenk: “Sad for you. Wrong analysis for us.” Rothkopf: “It is sad. Not for me. For Israel.”

Rothkopf’s declensions are riveting because he is an establishment bellwether who has been open about his changing feelings about Israel in recent years, and now open about his former Jewish “duty” to support Israel. That “duty” was also articulated by longtime White House aide Dennis Ross telling a synagogue audience two years ago that “We need to be advocates for Israel,” not for Palestinians. Surely Jews are privileged in the US discourse of Israel (as Nada Elia has written), and that is problematic. But the privilege is part and parcel of the Israel lobby, of which Rothkopf was once a solid member.

Ten weeks ago, Rothkopf was enraged by the Gaza massacre–again, as a Jew.

Israel’s brutal treatment of the demonstrators in Gaza…and Gaza itself…is the anti-Passover. It represents the height of hypocrisy: A supposedly Jewish state violating the most basic concepts of the religion in order to defend its “right to exist.”

And a few years back Rothkopf published an exchange with his college roommate Michael Oren, the former Israeli ambassador (and fantasist of New Jersey pogroms) in which Rothkopf said that Zionism was “exactly the wrong response to history.”

The best protection (as the United States has demonstrated) is to institutionalize the concept of tolerance and diversity and to work tirelessly to ensure that the powerful impulses to segregate and divide are quashed. It is not easy. But it has made the United States the most successful experiment in cultural diversity in history — though only after a series of horrific errors, including slavery and the genocide against Native Americans and the devaluing of the role of women, were ultimately remedied. We’re not there yet.

Ten years ago Rothkopf, accepting the Jewish duty of supporting Israel, smeared Walt and Mearsheimer as anti-Semitic cranks for slamming the Israel lobby:

They may not be anti-Semites themselves [meaning: they may be] but they made a cynical decision to cash in on anti-Semitism by offering to dress up old hatreds in the dowdy Brooks Brothers suits of the Kennedy School and the University of Chicago. They did what the most desperate members of academia do, they signed up to be rent-a-validators, akin to expert witnesses who support the defense of felons with specious theories served up on fancy diplomas…. In reality they were giving one crowd in particular precisely what it wanted to hear.

Now he is blunt about

“an ethno-nationalist regime that is systematically undermining the human rights of people within its borders & threatening peace and int’l values.”

Who will be next to shed the Jewish duty to support Israel? And what liberal Zionist who sees it as his duty “to oppose Israel” will endorse the 13-year-old Palestinian call for solidarity, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions?

Thanks to Yakov Hirsch

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Are these staunch Israeli supporters in the US honest enough to admit that Israel does not deserve their unwavering support, and US dollars anymore? It is better late than never I suppose, although for the Palestinians it is almost too late. Why didn’t they see this coming? I guess love is blind, deaf, and dumb. Would they now regret that they have been supporting and enabling Israel’s occupation and land grabs? I notice that the… Read more »

Maybe not too late, but definitely too little. It’s going to take a lot more than not filling a tzedeka box. People have to run against Chuck Schumer and his ilk and run them out of washington. More action please and a lot less sitting shiva for what you thought ‘israel’ was. It was always what it is right now. You just didn’t want to see it. “When someone shows you who they are, believe… Read more »

Rothkopf making such a public statement is a positive development.

as an aside, i am going to start noting when i learn new words from phil. today > declensions

RE: “Who will be next to shed the Jewish duty to support Israel?” ~ Weiss

MY COMMENT: It will definitely NOT be Dennis Ross or Stuart Eizenstat!

“We’re Staunch Zionists. And We Are Worried About Israel’s Democracy.”
Dennis Ross and Stuart Eizenstat | | July 31, 2018

How very odd – I click on your ‘name’ and it goes to an over 10 yr old mw article!