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American Jewish Committee seeks to ostracize anti-occupation Jews as ‘radical fringe’

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It goes without saying that the mainstream discussion of Israel/Palestine got a huge liberation this year when a few leftwing women of color entered the Congress — “the Squad”– and suddenly the Democratic establishment had to reckon with boycott supporters, or in NY Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s case, someone who described the Israeli attack on Gaza in May 2018 as a “massacre” and didn’t go along with the anti-boycott bill.

On Tuesday, AOC tried to pry open the discussion further when she appeared on a NY radio show and praised the young Jews of IfNotNow who are critical of Israel:

There are really amazing organizations of young people, groups like IfNotNow. They are young Jews organizing for justice because they realize that all our fates and our destinies are intertwined and there cannot be justice in Israel without justice for Palestinians too.

IfNotNow holds that the Israeli occupation should be a crisis for American Jews (who have pretty much supported it blindly since it began), and it has demonstrated at the Damascus Gate, at AIPAC offices, and at Birthright offices. The group is not anti-Zionist (like Jewish Voice for Peace); its members typically are young adults responding in fury to the lies they were told about Israel by Jewish institutions. And they have put their bodies on the line, getting arrested in sometime-brutal fashion.

IfNotNow’s latest campaign is demanding that Democratic candidates debate the occupation. They want the Israel lobby group AIPAC to get out of the Democratic Party. This is a frightful prospect to the Israel lobby, which seeks fencepost-to-fencepost support of Israel in the political establishment.

So today the Forward published an attack on both AOC and IfNotNow by Seffi Kogen of the American Jewish Committee.

Kogen says that IfNotNow are not representative Jews. They’re a radical “fringe” on an issue that American Jews are united on: supporting Israel.

When asked by the Mellman Group whether they are “generally pro-Israel,” 92% of American Jews answered yes (this includes American Jews who qualified their yes with criticism for the current Israeli government). Of the remaining 8%, only 3% answered that they were “generally not pro-Israel.”

That’s why it was so disturbing to see Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez praise the radical anti-Israel group IfNotNow, which refuses to even take a position on whether the Jewish state of Israel should go on existing.

Kogen’s own boss disagrees with him. David Harris of the AJC lamented in a synagogue in 2017 that young Jews are hostile to Israel. “What are we doing wrong in our homes? What are we doing wrong in our schools?” he asked.

Every time I hear in a Jewish meeting concerns about our children and their lack of interest in Israel, their apathy about Israel, their hostility to Israel, those friends of theirs who are involved in anti-Israel activity on their campuses or in their schools– to me it’s extraordinarily painful, and I ask myself, Where did we go wrong?..

Why? Why can’t we convey to our own children successfully– why can’t Jewish day schools and synagogues in their after-school programs convey successfully a sense of unbridled joy and pride and thrill… in the extraordinary excitement of the Jewish people returning to their land and rebuilding their state and defending their state.

What is it that brings shame among some? What are we doing wrong in our homes? What are we doing wrong in our schools?

Jewish establishment organizations are still sworn to support Israel and the occupation, but there is clearly a generational divide.

Harry Reis of the liberal Zionist New Israel Fund put out a series of tweets in defense of IfNotNow and AOC, offering a progressive view of Jewish life. Excerpts:

@AJCGlobal… can’t abide any elected officials registering any serious moral objection to Israel’s occupation. @AJCGlobal does *NOT* have a monopoly — by any stretch — on Jewish representation. It does not speak for most Jews. Most Jews hold liberal values. @AOC is a progressive and it’s legitimate for her to be in relationship with her progressive Jewish allies, among them @IfNotNowOrg

@IfNotNow exists to remind the American Jewish community that Israel’s 52 year old occupation is the moral crisis of our generation and that the establishment organizations are complicit in upholding it. They are correct… The reason they gets under @seffikogen skin, is because @AJCGlobal would like to sweep the occupation under the rug — and they insist on naming the moral crisis that it is.

The opinion editor of the Forward, Batya Ungar-Sargon, described the “generational divide” among Jews over Israel at a big NY synagogue last year. On the one hand, to be Jewish is to be pro-Israel, she said:

“I think 95 percent of the American Jewish community is pro-Israel. We are all still pro-Israel. What we are not is willing to give it unconditional support. That is not to not be pro-Israel. You can be pro-Israel and criticize Israel. That is what it means to be an American Jew. We are no longer willing to give unconditional support.”

But young Jews are so ashamed of the occupation, some are “becoming crazy lefties and scaring you.”

The younger generation has grown up not under the shine of that [1967] military success but in the shadow of the occupation that came about because of it, and instead of pride they look at Israel and see shame, and I think that has had a very deep impact on our community…. There’s no amount of educating that could make [the occupation] OK to young Jews that I know.

Seffi Kogen is just lying. The American Jewish Committee is frightened that the insurgents of IfNotNow are going to crack open the Democratic Party over the occupation, and hasten the partisanization of Israel support. Republicans will be the Israel party, Dems “anti-Israel,” as Trump puts it.

And yes, we have a long way to go. AOC can’t be pro-boycott. The New Israel Fund is a Zionist org that blames the problem on Netanyahu (not Zionism). Batya Ungar-Sargon baited Rep. Ilhan Omar over supposed anti-Semitism when she dared to say that the Israel lobby depends on money.

Zionism is the official doctrine of the Jewish establishment, and an article of faith inside the Beltway. It is going to take a lot to liberate American Jews from the Zionist ideology. IfNotNow is an ally in that struggle.

H/t James North.

 

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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15 Responses

  1. DaBakr on August 3, 2019, 1:46 am

    “Pretty much supported it blindly from the beginning…” Blindly is totally a misconception as well as an opinion, not a matter of fact. Some jews might feel that way, most do not. The inn might or might not gain momentum but I’m pretty sure they will remain a radical fringe. That is their raison d’etre

    • bcg on August 3, 2019, 11:35 am

      @DeBakr, just what do you want with regard to the whole “conflict”? Two states? One state? What we have now, a sort of creeping annexation that will end with the Palestinians living on reservations? I can’t see what you want through the thick fog of ad-hominem arguments.

    • Lillian Rosengarten on August 3, 2019, 12:15 pm

      Absolutely wrong DeBaker. It is disgraceful what has been done to Palestine and Palestinians in the name of a Jewish State. I believe most younger Jews are disgusted with Israel. Zionism has disgraced Judaism and as a Jew from Nazi Germany, I am ashamed of Israel, the Mossad, the lies , prisons, the “moral army” and the complete lack of empathy and love. Nothing but hatred and destruction, bulldozing Palestinian homes, checkpoints and a complete lack of human rights! Unbelievable disgrace!!

      • DaBakr on August 6, 2019, 12:11 am

        @lr

        What you believe and what exists in actuality are two completely different things. I do know that there are many young jews, mostly raised in left leaning democrat Jewish homes who feel as you do but I also know of many young jews who have upped their families commitment to Israel by making aliyah, becoming more observant (something I am not and don’t consider necessary to support zionism) and generally shifting their political views away from the traditional Democrat view of the left and far left socalled progressive view.
        So, while I respect your opinion I do not agree that the number of Jewish young people are either “disgusted” or have turned their back on Israel or zionism is any more significant then the general ups and downs of American support that’s been polled and gaged since the ’67 war. I do believe that if one goes by the current climate at traditionally far left leaning academia one might jump to this conclusion falsely. They are, however, more focused on how they are going to survive the coming challenges of climate change and making a living wage in the coming high tech economy

        @bcg

        What do I want? I am a pragmatist. As time goes on and the situation stays stagnent I have adjusted my view and expectations on the reality that currently exists and the real world changes that extend from 50yrs of no negotiated end to the conflict.
        I did not support Olmerts offer but had it been accepted instead of rejected outright I would have based my view on what I “want” from that point onward. But, woulda, coulda, shoulda. I don’t exempt Palestinians for their choice or their putting up with horrible corrupt leadership even though the entire palestinian population is effected.

  2. Misterioso on August 3, 2019, 9:41 am

    @DaBakr
    Meanwhile, in the real world:

    https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-growing-number-of-u-s-jews-support-evacuation-of-west-bank-settlements-study-finds-1.7314699

    EXCERPT:
    “Growing Number of U.S. Jews Support Evacuation of All West Bank Settlements, Survey Finds” by Judy Maltz, Haaretz, June 2/19

    “AJC poll exposes deepening divide between American and Israeli Jews on issues like Trump’s policies and the importance of ‘caring about Israel'”

    “Fewer American Jews consider ‘caring about Israel’ an important part of being Jewish, a survey published on Sunday by the American Jewish Committee finds. Those questioned also indicated that they do not believe a thriving state of Israel is ‘vital” to the long-term future of the Jewish people.’

    “A growing number of American Jews, the survey shows, are also unhappy with Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and support a full evacuation of West Bank settlements.

    “This was first ever survey conducted by the veteran Jewish organization to examine attitudes concurrently in the three largest Jewish communities in the world: the United States, Israel and France. (Israel was included in last year’s survey, but this was the first time for France). The questions asked of members of the three communities were not identical, however.

    “In last year’s survey, 70 percent of American Jews questioned said that caring about Israel was ‘a very important part of my being a Jew.’ In this year’s survey, their share had dropped to 62 percent. The percentage that ‘strongly disagreed’ with this statement had risen from 9 to 15 percent.

    “Moreover, the share that considered a thriving Israel vital for the long-term future of the Jews dropped from 79 to 72 percent.

    “This trend of disengagement from Israel was most pronounced among younger and secular American Jews. Only 44 percent of people between the age of 18 and 29 and 42 percent of the secular respondents said that Israel played a significant role in their Jewish identity.

    “The share of American Jews who believe Israel ‘should be willing to dismantle all the settlements’ as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians rose from 15 percent in 2018 to 25 percent in 2019. By contrast, only 6 percent of Israeli Jews were in favor of such a move. Nearly two-thirds of American Jews said they supported a two-state solution that included that establishment of a demilitarized Palestinians state in the West Bank while only 39 percent of Israeli Jews did.

    “Given this polarization, a growing share of American Jews said they were pessimistic about relations between the two largest Jewish communities in the world: The percentage that expects ties between American and Israeli Jews to weaken in the next five years rose from 15 percent in 2018 to 25 percent in 2019.

    “The survey further revealed glaring differences in how American and Israeli Jews perceive the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump. Nearly 80 percent of Israeli Jews said they approved of his handling of U.S.-Israel relations, as compared to only 37 percent of American Jews. A much larger share of Israelis Jews favored the American president’s decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights than did American Jews.”
    _________________________________________________________________________

    https://israelpalestinenews.org/poll-finds-only-41-of-americans-view-israeli-government-favorably/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=8b69879a-7084-47bc-b9d7-0434a9b977d7

    “Poll finds only 41% of Americans view Israeli government favorably” April 24/19

    EXCERPT:
    “Despite consistently pro-Israel U.S. media coverage, a new Pew poll found that most Americans view the Israeli government unfavorably. According to the poll, ‘Fewer than half (41%) have a favorable view of the Israeli government; a larger share (51%) views the government unfavorably.’

    “In addition, the poll found that about five times more Americans feel that Trump is favoring the Israelis too much than believe he is favoring Palestinians too much.

    “According to the survey, Americans 65 and older ‘are the only age group in which a majority (57%) have a favorable view of the government. Among the youngest adults (those younger than 30), just 27% view Israel’s government favorably.’

    “The poll found that among Republicans, Evangelical Protestants (which include all races) are more likely than non-evangelicals to express a favorable opinion of Israel’s government.

    “In recent years, however, support among evangelical Christians has been slipping.

    “A journalist reporting in 2012 about the ‘the largest gathering of young evangelical leaders in America’ stated: ‘In dozens of random conversations, I noted that Millennials … expressed solidarity with the Palestinians and annoyance with Israel. This is a seismic shift in the American church and a serious threat to Israel’s one traditional area of support.'”
    _____________________
    The Pew poll was conducted April 1-15, 2019 among 10,523 American adults.

    • DaBakr on August 6, 2019, 12:24 am

      @mst

      I can assure you that Haaretz is not even close to the “real world”. It’s the lowest ranked rag in Israel and only exists because of the English language edition which specifically caters to anti-zionist jew haters and Israel haters alike. But, it’s far removed from actual ‘reality’.

  3. Vera Gottlieb on August 3, 2019, 12:17 pm

    Things might start improving the day israel accepts criticism of it’s actions.

  4. wondering jew on August 3, 2019, 6:55 pm

    Jews who oppose the occupation are plentiful. It is less plentiful to find Jews who are educated about the occupation and who possess an inkling of a strategy regarding what it would take to undo the occupation.

    According to the statistics of the poll that this is based upon, Jews like Phil Weiss are in the radical fringe. The location of “if not now” is not as precise as the location of Phil Weiss.

    The activism of “if not now” is distinctly out of the ordinary. most jews who oppose the occupation do so from the safety of their homes, in front of their computers and tv’s. that’s what the silent majority is always like. but the majority of american jews are against the occupation, but without the urgency of if not now.

    i assume that if not now believes that the only way to undo the occupation is to change the policy of US support for Israel and utilize that support to force the end of the occupation.

    • eljay on August 3, 2019, 7:51 pm

      || wondering jew: Jews who oppose the occupation are plentiful. It is less plentiful to find Jews who are educated about the occupation and who possess an inkling of a strategy regarding what it would take to undo the occupation. … ||

      It is very possible that even less plentiful are Jews who oppose Jewish / “Jewish State” supremacism, colonialism and (war) crimes (a.k.a. “necessary evil”) and consistently advocate justice, accountability and equality.

  5. Stephen Shenfield on August 3, 2019, 7:13 pm

    “a sense of unbridled joy and pride and thrill… in the extraordinary excitement of the Jewish people returning to their land and rebuilding their state and defending their state.”

    That was an understandable feeling at times and places where Jews felt like eternal homeless wanderers but it is no easy task to recreate such a feeling in societies where Jews are fully integrated. You have to immerse them in representations of a receding past to such an extent as to outweigh their current experience. Otherwise the joy, pride, and thrill do not suffice to override the shame.

  6. eljay on August 3, 2019, 8:36 pm

    … David Harris of the AJC lamented in a synagogue in 2017 that young Jews are hostile to Israel. “What are we doing wrong in our homes? What are we doing wrong in our schools?” he asked.

    Every time I hear in a Jewish meeting concerns about our children and their lack of interest in Israel, their apathy about Israel, their hostility to Israel, those friends of theirs who are involved in anti-Israel activity on their campuses or in their schools– to me it’s extraordinarily painful, and I ask myself, Where did we go wrong?..

    Why? Why can’t we convey to our own children successfully– why can’t Jewish day schools and synagogues in their after-school programs convey successfully a sense of unbridled joy and pride and thrill… in the extraordinary excitement of the Jewish people returning to their land and rebuilding their state and defending their state.

    Poor Zionist Harris. He simply cannot comprehend that:
    – geographic Palestine is not the “land” (ancient, historic, one true, lost or otherwise) of people all over the world – citizens of homelands all over the world – who have chosen to embrace the religion-based identity of Jewish;
    – geographic Palestine is the actual homeland of every geographic Palestinian living in or up to n-generations removed from the region;
    – coveting, stealing and murdering doesn’t always fill people with “a sense of unbridled joy and pride and thrill” (he really should think very hard upon why doing evil unto others does fill him with joy and pride and thrill);
    – where “we went wrong” is when Jewish Zionists and non-Jewish Zionists decided that terrorism, ethnic cleansing, theft, military occupation, colonialism, supremacism, oppression, torture and murder were acceptable if Jews were doing these things unto others.

  7. wondering jew on August 5, 2019, 1:39 pm

    A couple words about AOC. She is the biggest “star” of the squad and if she wants she can sit in the house for the next 40 years and i think that is her most promising forum and future.

    she has a gut feeling regarding Israel- Palestine and it is not pro Zionist. she also has political realism.

    some of the articulate people at “if not now” can articulate the future of the Jewish people and the complicated problem that Israel and Zionism formulate on the way to that future. AOC is not a thinker, and certainly not a thinker regarding the Jewish future. So for her to say, “i’m on the side of these brave people at ‘if not now'” leaves her vulnerable because there is a lot that needs to be articulated and she is not capable of doing anything other than presenting the “if not now” position as a photograph of a banner at a rally.

    the mainstream israeli position is towards maintaining the status quo in regards to the west bank and to some degree gaza and those who disagree with this status quo are impatient and “if not now” speaks to and through this impatience. It is a good pairing for AOC to have found the “if not now” jewish contingent; they think the same.

    (but i’ll tell you the truth, defeating trump is higher on my priority than AOC’s pronouncements and the “if not now” sideshow distracts me from my fear of the impending trump victory. i probably should feel the anger of the Palestinians with the status quo and that would light a fire in me regarding impatience that “if not now” brings. because i prescribe calm for myself, i distance myself from impatience.)

    the dynamic of trump utilizing the squad and their attitude towards israel is certainly a surprise. how this plays to the voters of michigan, pennsylvania and wisconsin, I don’t know.

    With a few months perspective it seems clear that Ilhan Omar is not popular with most liberal Zionists and I wouldn’t try defending her to Zionists. Defending AOC is dicey as well. Where I see it is natural for AOC to pair up with “if not now”, they just see demagoguery and remind AOC of the tribalism that exists in most communities. Changing Israel’s direction is not near and as such resisting Israeli policy does not promise early results. the Beilin Abd Rabbo peace accord that remains to be signed is something that most Israelis object to. Its major flaw from the Palestinian viewpoint with that unsigned peace accord is the short shrift it gives to the return of Palestinians to 48 Israel. It seems clear that any concessions on this will come at the very last minute when signing a peace treaty and would probably start the process off with a civil war between Fatah and Hamas. But meanwhile the status quo persists.

    • Talkback on August 5, 2019, 3:03 pm

      wdr: “the mainstream israeli position is towards maintaining the status quo in regards to the west bank and to some degree gaza.”

      Yes, It’s prefering pacifying the occupied over peace to prolong its illegal settler colonialism.

  8. Mooser on August 5, 2019, 2:57 pm

    “AOC is not a thinker, and certainly not a thinker regarding the Jewish future”

    What deep insight you have, “Yonah”.

  9. Ossinev on August 5, 2019, 5:23 pm

    Meanwhile back in the heady alternate universe of Zioland things are getting weirder by the day.
    Yair Lapid has now been added to an illustious list of “Anti Semites” along wth AOC,Ilhan Omar and yes the arch demon poor old Jeremy Corbyn.
    https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-accuses-lapid-of-anti-semitism-in-campaign-spot-on-ultra-orthodox/

    The dogs led by the ageing soon to be has been pack leader are becoming more and more rabbid(pun intended) and have taken to savaging each other.

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