Tomorrow’s New York Times contains a long article titled, “American Jews and Israeli Jews Break Up,” that lots of people are passing around. Author Jonathan Weisman, deputy Washington editor, avers that increasingly American Jews regard Israel as another rightwing foreign country that is aligned with “their existential threat” Donald Trump; and so the Israel lobby is losing its hold in Jewish life.
Some of Weisman’s revelations in the piece — stark for a newspaper readership that is usually fed Zionist propaganda — are:
[T]he movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel (BDS) grows stronger on American campuses, and new voices are emerging in the Democratic Party, such as Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who are willing to speak openly about Palestinian rights and autonomy where other lawmakers have declined to do so.
[by] scuttling the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal… in moving the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, [Donald Trump is] basically doing whatever the government of Benjamin Netanyahu asks
The two-state solution is increasingly feeling like a cruel joke. American Jews’ rabbis and lay leaders counsel them to be vigilant against any other solution, such as granting Palestinians full rights in a greater Israel, because those solutions would dilute or destroy Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.
So: equal rights might be a solution! Many of the comments on the piece are critical of Israel, and many are from Jews.
Weisman even says a word about Palestinian conditions (!) and states accurately that younger Jews see Israel as a bully.
Older American Jews, more viscerally aware of the Holocaust and connected to the living history of the Jewish state, are generally willing to look past Israeli government actions that challenge their values. Or they embrace those actions. Younger American Jews do not typically remember Israel as the David against regional Goliaths. They see a bully, armed and indifferent, 45 years past the Yom Kippur War, the last conflict that threatened Israel’s existence.
He relates Rabbi Daniel Zemel’s appeal to American Jews to act to counter nationalism and racism in Israel before it is too late. But American Jews don’t care, Weisman says. Not everyone is a Zionist!
Zionism divided American Jewry for much of the latter 19th century and the first half of the 20th century. Those divisions remained in the early decades of the Jewish state, fading only with the triumph of the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 and the peril of the Yom Kippur War.
Now many American Jews, especially young American Jews, would say, Israel is Israel’s problem. We have our own.
There are roughly 6.5 million Jews in Israel. There are roughly 5.7 million Jews in America. Increasingly, they see the world in starkly different ways.
The Great Schism is upon us.
Weisman’s report is echoed by the Union for Reform Judaism, whose annual letter to the Congress has almost nothing to say about Israel. Refugees, health care, voter suppression, LGBTQ rights, the Rohingya Muslims, women’s rights are the good liberal Asks, and there is just one line about “the security of a Jewish state in Israel” and the two-state solution. The Reforms know the young Jews are not keen on Zionism.
Weisman’s article is most noteworthy as a mate to Michelle Goldberg’s recent column saying that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism. There is a non-Zionist bloc at the very-pro-Israel New York Times, and it’s putting its head above the trenches at last. Anti-Zionism is finally getting mentioned by the mainstream press.
Though to be sure, this article is now the millionth story to appear on the divorce between American and Israeli Jews, and years after other writers proclaimed it. Jewish spaces are holding weekly frets on the topic. With nary a Palestinian to be seen, of course; Jewish organizations are afraid of Palestinians. And anti-Zionist Jews too! A friend writes, and I can’t disagree:
[N]otwithstanding Jonathan Weisman, I don’t think the Turning Point is upon us. Just like every disastrous revelation or catastrophic misstep supposedly presages Trump’s imminent collapse. The headlines from a year ago look just as urgent as the ones today. And yet it never happens. The same is true about the end of Zionism.
[The Union for Reform Judaism’s Rick] Jacobs couldn’t even denounce the embassy move for more than a week before he had to eat his own words. All it would take is another war in Gaza to get Eric Yoffie et Jacobs 1,000% behind Israel.
…Put a Dem in the White House and all will be forgiven and forgotten. On the Israeli side, part of Netanyahu’s problem is he’s been there too long and he’s corrupt. But a fresh, new face will change that Certainly enough for Jacobs to rally around him even if it’s a right-winger.
All I’m saying is that despite the unchanging orthodoxy on Israel, the reality is that – sans a crisis like a war with Gaza – people don’t care about Israel. Certainly, the days since the time where Zionism and social justice were interchangeable are long gone. That’s why most synagogues have ditched the Israel signs.
The fact that people don’t care could also be taken as proof that the Palestinians have been defeated. Israel rules the whole land. There is no threat. Sure, BDS is a pain but the reality is that, as Gideon Levy says, the settlers won.