‘The New American Jew’
The identity gets a makeover
In a Boston Globe column, Jesse Singal articulates the notion that some American Jews may have drifted away from strong support for Israel, or its policies—but not in ways that doom the Democratic Party to shed Jewish voters, or that doom Israel to declining baseline American support.
The premise of the piece—titled “The New American Jew on Israel”—is that “what it means to be ‘pro-Israel’ is changing, particularly among younger Jews.” And the corollary of this paradigm shift is that traditional definitions of “pro-Israel”—as represented, say, in polls—have not yet caught up, which could explain the meager 48 percent of Democrats who say they “support” Israel.
For Singal, the organization that epitomizes this New American Jew is, of course, J Street. He reports from a talk J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami gave at the Harvard Hillel:
fear of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wasn’t, for the most part, what had brought them to Cambridge on a rainy February evening.
Rather, they were worried about the grim prospects that face Israel if it can’t make peace with the Palestinians. Given the region’s demographic patterns, absent a two-state solution, Israel will soon have to choose between being a Jewish state and a democratic one.
While J Street does strongly oppose the possibility of Iran getting nuclear weapons, the demographic crisis, not an attack from Iran, is the greatest threat facing Israel, said Ben-Ami.
Some are skeptical about this logic, but: if you support the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish democracy; and you think that the biggest threat to Israel is the demographic problem; and you think that current Israeli settlement policies are forestalling a Palestinian state and therefore a solution to the demographic problem; then you could very well tell a pollster that you don’t “support” Israel in its refusal to freeze West Bank settlements.
Anyway, at some point the argument becomes one of semantics. But just as the Democratic Party would be foolish to tolerate opposition to Israel beyond criticism of specific policies among its prominent politicians, Republicans should be concerned with alienating the increasing number of Jewish voters who see unconditional support for Israel as no support at all.