New York Times columnist Bret Stephens spoke about the relationship between American Jews and Israel at Park Avenue synagogue in New York last month (in a video that has just been posted) and said he’s not worried about Americans losing faith because Israelis are so sexually attractive to American Jews.
Look, the relationship is basically a pretty healthy one. The real concern is whether younger American Jews feel the same kind of connection that my generation or older generations felt. I suspect in some ways it might be a stronger connection. When I was 15 I spent a summer on a kibbutz, Kibbut Heftziba, up near Afula. I did that because I had some relatives who lived on the kibbutz, and it wasn’t easy as a 15-year-old to go. Now because of Birthright, it’s fantastic, and not only do you go, but you hook up! So it’s like a twofer, and that’s the explicit purpose. It’s like, Discover your Judaism, and she’s hot! You know… I just want to take account of something that’s very positive….
Affiliation and affinity with Israel tends to trace the life cycle. Sometimes when you’re very young you’re enthusiastic, then you’re indifferent, then you’re sometimes almost hostile. Then things change and you have kids and you want to take them to Israel for their bar mitzvah and then you look around and say, What an amazing country and everyone’s attractive. Look at him! [copanelist Tal Keinan] The perfect specimen!.. He wasn’t this goodlooking at Exeter!
Stephens said that Israel should do nothing on the question of Palestinian sovereignty right now, despite the crisis among liberal Zionists, because Palestinians have not changed their “character.” “What is the character of the Palestinian state that we are trying so desperately to midwife into existence?” he asked. The Palestinians and the Arab world must undergo a “transformation” and accept Israel on its terms and then Palestinians can have a state. Lots of people want a state, he went on. “The Catalans want a state, and Tibetans want a state and the Tamils want a state and the Kurds want a state, and the Texans want a state. But they don’t get a state, so why should you have a state? Give us a reason. But nobody says this.”
In these comments, Stephens spoke of Israel as “we.” “There are all kinds of problems in our lives where you just hold off until some ripening occurs…. We have to wait until that moment… The best option is do nothing. Because in theory what we desperately need is a two state solution. But we need a two state solution where the second state, where the Palestinian state, looks like Costa Rica, and not Libya, or Yemen or Lebanon.”
Stephens also said that anti-Zionists are anti-Semites. “For a long time I have said that anti-Zionism is the modern face of anti-Semitism… [a] shapeshifting phenomenon in which Jews are hated for religious reasons, and then hated for racial reasons, and now are hated for national reasons. And yet the hatred remains the same…. No one better encapsulates that sort of fanaticism than the leader of Her Majesty’s disreputable opposition.” I.e., Jeremy Corbyn.
He said he was also frightened by white nationalists. N.b. This was before Pittsburgh.
P.S. Re entitlement. Stephens at one point cited the late Washington fixer Clark Clifford and said he got $10,000 for a meeting in 1971, “which was actual money back then.” I think for a lot of people $10,000 is a lot of money now too.
H/t Allison Deger and James North.