Israel and the US Jewry’s Liberal Wing*
By Dan Schueftan
Tuesday, July 14th, 2020 @ 1:58PM
The radicalization of the Democrats and their increasing tendency to align with “progressive” messages is worrisome. One of their most prominent and eloquent spokespeople is Peter Beinart. In his latest treatise in New York Times – comprised of half-truths, manipulative claims, an embarrassing level of selectivity and a lack of intellectual honesty – he set out a doctrine which in the name of human rights nullifies the legitimacy of the right to self-determination of the Jewish people, and of all people.
Israel and the policies of its governments have contributed toward the growing alienation from the large Jewish community in the US But the changes in American society show that even with the sensitivity and consideration that Israel ought to be taking, this worrying trend would not be reversed. The growing strength of the ultra-Orthodox deepened the agitation against Jewish pluralism, which is so important to the Reform and Conservative majority in the US
The canceling of the hard-won pluralistic prayer arrangement at the Western Wall strained relations even further. The constant friction between Israel and President Obama and Israel’s overt identification with the successor they hate only heightened these tensions. The lack of progress towards peace and the suffering of Palestinians was blamed on Israel, despite the Palestinians own responsibility given their recalcitrance and reckless behavior.
But even a more sensitive, considerate, pluralistic and flexible government, that would have the approval of the mainstream in Israel, would not be able to bring Israel and the largest Jewish community outside of it any closer, in a way that would balance the drifting away of large parts of American Jewry.
More than anger and division, a large part of the mainstream there is simply losing interest in Israel: young educated Jews feel the Jewish State is less relevant to their identity, their world values, and their fate. Almost a third, most of them under 40, are not part of any stream. Their natural growth (1.4%) is less than half of what it is in Israel. About 70% of them marry non-Jews. Only half of them feel they belong to the Jewish people. About half of the parents do not give their children a Jewish education. The deep emotional connection to Israel is felt by less than half of those 65 and older. The Jewish community in general is much more liberal than the rest of the population. About 70% are Democrats, while 78% voted for Obama in 2008.
In Israel, there is only a passing interest in the challenges and dilemmas of their people across the ocean, and not much expectation from them. Only half of the Jews in Israel believe “the Jews in Israel and the Jews in the Diaspora have a common fate” (among secular people, it’s only 42%) and less than a quarter felt that strongly. Some 60 % felt that Israel does not need to take the views of Diaspora Jews into consideration for important decisions. There is a wide divide in views; while the majority of Jews in the US despise Trump, Israelis prefer him 3.5 times over Biden (56% to 16%). Even centrist voters prefer him over his Democratic rival over twice as much (46% to 20%).
This trend on its own is worrying enough. The situation is getting immeasurably worse because of the radicalization of the Democrats and their increasing tendency to align with “progressive” messages. One of their most prominent and eloquent spokespeople, Peter Beinart, this week served a divorce from the Zionist enterprise. In a long and detailed article in the New York Times, he essentially set out a doctrine which in the name of human rights nullifies the legitimacy of the right to self-determination of the Jewish people, and of all people.
For many years, Beinart has portrayed Israel as seeped in racism and basically acquits its Palestinian enemy of any responsibility for their actions. His accusations deal with the policies of progressive Israeli governments. His criticisms escalated with the obsessiveness and toxicity of radical purism until it inevitably reached the level of rejection of the Jewish State in principle. He admits that this is a slap in the face of the people he loves and a betrayal of the various institutions that brought meaning and joy to his life.
Beinart’s treatise – comprised of half-truths, manipulative claims, an embarrassing level of selectivity and a lack of intellectual honesty – demonstrates that this regret is not authentic, however, when put to the test of “faithful are the wounds of a friend”. The cat was out of the bag when it turned out that the Jewish State does not sit well with the progressive need to repent the sins of western civilization against “the world’s oppressed”.
Because of its duty to the fate of world Jewry, Israel must maintain a dialogue with this large and important community, reduce the alienation by adopting a pluralistic and accepting approach, and help stop the dissolving of Jewish identity. It is doubtful that Israel will find much goodwill among the progressives, but it is vital to fight for the partnership with the mainstream liberals.
*A version of this commentary was published by Israel Hayom, on July 14, 2020