Miriam Adelson has jumped into the war between good Jews and bad Jews, saying that “many” Jews have turned against Israel to get “an express ticket to successful assimilation.” Her criticism is a common refrain among Israel supporters, that Jews who support Palestinian rights have a weak connection to their Jewish heritage or are self-haters.
Adelson is of course one of Trump’s biggest donors and married to Sheldon Adelson, who is the president’s biggest donor. A physician, Adelson is the winner of the presidential medal of freedom from Trump and also the richest Israeli. Yesterday the rightwing Israel lobby group, the Israeli American Council, or IAC, circulated a blogpost Adelson wrote in January that bewails the assimilation of Jews. There should be 500,000,000 Jews on earth. But anti-Israel Jews have accepted the teachings of antisemites so as to fit in.
We Jews cannot afford division. There are too few us, and too many others who want us to fail, falter, disperse or perish. Scholars believe that, in King David’s time, three millennia ago, the Jewish population numbered around 5 million. Today, we are 14 million – barely a threefold increase. Consider that the Chinese population is believed to have increased about a hundred-fold over the same period. By rights, we Jews should number at least a half-billion today.
But, all too often, anti-Semitism has had its way: from the Inquisition to the pogroms to the Holocaust…
And hatred for us from the outside has engendered drift and doubt among us: All too many Jews assimilate and are lost to the community because they see no good reason to stay. And all too many of these Jews see anti-Israel activism as an express-ticket to successful assimilation.
As to politics, Adelson says that rightwing Israel lobby groups will fix the problem between American Jews and Israel, just when that divide is growing larger. Some of her magical thinking:
We fully expect that the IAC will continue growing and thus shrink whatever gap might exist between American Jews and Israel. This is the time for us to unite, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, of any affiliation.
Adelson’s definition of Jewish community is plainly a religious Zionist one that defies borders:
[I]t is so important to bring closer the world’s two largest Jewish communities – in Israel and in the United States. We are a giant extended family. Though thousands of miles separate us, we share the same joy and pain, the same glorious birthright and the same burden of the disasters that befell us because of this birthright.
Zionists have thrown themselves into the battle against assimilation because they see the struggle between universalism and particularism in the Jewish community as undermining Israel’s support. Israel supporters often say that the deeper someone’s identification with the Jewish community and/or Jewish religion, the stronger their support for Israel. Jeffrey Goldberg said that Jewish critics of Israel were people with Jewish parents, meaning they had lost connection to their Jewishness. Israel’s million-dollar Genesis Prize– the “Jewish Nobel”– was rolled out as a weapon to fight assimilation.
Bari Weiss of the New York Times, one of Israel’s leading advocates in the U.S., has said that Jews who criticize Israel are just trying to fit in with the non-Jews.
[In ancient times] Jewish boys, teenagers young men were so desperate to fit into the surrounding society and they wanted to pass off as non Jews in the gymnasium where you obviously exercised in the nude, so they actually underwent an ancient surgery to undo their circumcisions… This is real, it’s really real and… the reason I bring that up, is that the desire to be a part of the cool group and the desire to be a part of the group that you always thought was your home, and the deep psychological discomfort of realizing it might not be, is very powerful…
[F]rankly when I look at Jews who support the BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] movement, I feel sympathy because I understand emotionally what is driving that. It’s a deep, deep desire to feel a part of a tribe.
Weiss urged Jews to love Jewish “particularism,” our special role in history. Our specialness is “frankly why we drive people crazy still,” she said.
Similarly, Dennis Ross, the advocate for Israel as White House peace processor, co-chairs an organization, the Jewish People Policy Institute in Jerusalem, that bewails the lack of increase of Jewish population and works against assimilation. For instance, in this document:
Develop new approaches to limit the erosive effects of assimilation and intermarriage.
We need more Jewish babies to keep Israel strong:
[There is a need to reduce] obstacles that interfere with the birth of a third and fourth child in Israeli families and developing conditions that may facilitate Jewish family growth in both Israel and the Diaspora.