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Zionism Isn’t Post-Jewish Just Yet

Americans still see Jews as bellwethers on Israel

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I can recall numerous instances during election years of my father receiving calls from friends, Jewish and non-Jewish (more Jewish, but that just reflects the proportions of his friends!), who asked him where various candidates, particularly the two presidential candidates, stood on Israel; more often than not, I sensed, these were Democrats (again, reflecting the proportions of my parents’ friends) who support Israel strongly (ditto) making sure that Barack Obama or John Kerry or Al Gore or Bill Clinton (and maybe even Paul Tsongas! I remember my parents supporting him) were good enough on Israel that there was no reason not to vote for him. My father was seen both as more informed than they and as having a trustworthy gut—kishkes, if you will—on the issue. In a word, he was a validator.

Spencer Ackerman’s post today locating the fulcrum of Israel politics in the United States not with the Jews but with the Christian Right reminded me of this. Ackerman is right that a certain type of evangelical voter represents the most numerous strong supporter of Israel, more numerous than American Jews. Even more valuably, using a certain hard-line, Likud-style politics to appeal to them is far more efficient than it is to appeal to Jews. Jews disagree about everything, and about nothing more than Israel. By contrast, while there are no doubt plenty of policy fissures within the evangelical movement—I’m not an expert, but I don’t see why they would all agree on tax policy, or for that matter on the death penalty—Israel is not one of them. Ackerman writes, he says, “to remind my fellow liberal Zionist American Jews that we’re not the crucial actors here. Our conflicted tribal feelings are beside the point, and we flatter ourselves if we think otherwise.”

I’m inclined to disagree. (Ackerman does add, “That doesn’t release us from an obligation to advocate for two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in freedom and peace,” and there, of course, I am with him.) If anything, I think the phenomenon of “post-Jewish Zionism” makes it more incumbent on American Jews at least to care about Israel, to engage with it, and to see it as part of their responsibility to their Jewishness. We may not be as numerous as the evangelicals, but we are the ones they look to, as my father’s friends looked to my father. We are the validators. Despite the fact that it would be much more fruitful just to take Israel appeals directly to the evangelicals, the Republican hopefuls did not give their Israel speeches this week in front of Christians United for Israel; they gave their speeches in front of the Republican Jewish Coalition. This is why there is such intensity over the votes of a two percent bloc of the population: electorally, American Jews are walking force multipliers. It’s why a special election in a hilariously obscure (and obscurely Jewish) corner of Queens and Brooklyn became a national story, and why, a week later, Gov. Rick Perry’s Israel press conference featured himself and the victor, Rep. Bob Turner, as the only two Gentiles on a very crowded stage.

I always hesitate to go so far as to declare just about any affiliation mandatory to a given identity, and I’m certainly not suggesting that to be a responsible American Jew one must feel a certain way about Israel. But I think American Jews should consider that, by virtue of their identities, they have an outsize power to shape American policy toward Israel. And what comes with great power?

The Awful Geopolitical Viability of an Undemocratic Israel
Earlier: Perry’s Ascent Heralds Israel’s Rise as Issue
The Company Rick Perry Keeps

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One reason Orthodox Jews are electorally significant is that large numbers of them vote, that there are a few major issues that they focus on and they will vote in blocs (i.e. a community will vote in bloc as the community leaders recommend).

I really don’t think it’s possible to come up with a more ridiculous reason for American Jews to care about Israel than the supposed duty to provide guidance to American Gentiles. Many American Gentiles (at least, those interested in “authenticity”) are presumably interested in what American Jews think about traditional Jewish foods, as well. Does that mean that it’s every American Jew’s solemn responsibility to have an opinion on the “regular vs. Nova” debate? Or turn it around: Jews are notorious for worrying about what the Goyim think of us. Does that mean it’s incumbent upon every non-Jew to think hard about his or her opinion of Jews, the better to answer our angst-ridden queries?

My suggestion to American Jews: if thousands of years of national/religious yearning, shared heritage and need for a haven from brutal persecution aren’t enough to make you care about Israel, then please–don’t think you have to do it for the sake of the Goyim. I promise you that they’ll somehow figure it out for themselves.

Amused says:

1st thought: Someone need to ban the incessant spammer Jules. He’s out of control.

2nd thought:
Sorry, Marc, but Jews are mostly Tea-Partiers on Israel. And on many other policies we’re firmly to the left(such as immigration, to name but one example).

Jews like to argue in general, but it has become less and less so with ourselves. Just look how J Street or JVP is treated. Yet, they are a small minority in the community.

With regards to Israel, most Jews today in America face either communal hostility or total integration into the old Establishment’s thinking.

Jacob.Arnon says:

Seven or eight useless posts by uncle Jules the man who gets his cue from the Iranian Islamo fascist regime.

He is the one who sets up links for the Holocaust denying Press TV.

He is also a dead ringer for Joachim Martillo the Nazi who posts here.

What a clueless joker.

Jacob.Arnon says:

You got it wrong it’s not Zionism ghat is post Jewish, it’s American Jewry with their desperate attempt to offer “new reads” on Jewish life that is post Jewish.

And unless American Jews start to have more children they will disappear faster than a shooting star.

Epicurean says:

Only a crazy man, like Jules would desperately post more than half dozen comments trying to prove that he is right.

Shalom Freedman says:

I agree with Marc Tracy that support for Israel by traditional Liberal Zionist Jews is a central element in the whole matter. I would hope too that their numbers have not diminished through the years though I suspect they have. Central, sane, caring and humane but adamant in regard to the survival of Israel they through the years have been a key source of strength for the Jewish state.

Shalom, I fear that they have significantly diminished at least amongst most of my peers and family. Israel’s promise as a light to the Jewish people has dimmed.

Shalom, while “liberal” support is welcome it’s not the only form of support that counts.

Israel is a nation and not an ideology.

Moreover, today’s liberalism isn’t the same as the liberalism of the last few generations.

What kind of liberalism supports Isalmicism but criticizes Israel?

What kind of liberalism makes excuses for the treatment of women and gays in Arab lands but attacks Israel.

There is a kind cognizance dissonance here.

Jules is a pathetic little man with nothing to do but post here his hatred of Jews.

This man quotes from Holocaust denying Iranian Press TV and thinks he is being humane. What a hateful fool.

Beatrix says:

Zionism isn’t post Jewish, but the Democratic Party may be.

What Jules has to say isn’t important. What is important is the extent of Jewish tolerance that allows him to say it. “Know your enemy.”

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Zionism Isn’t Post-Jewish Just Yet

Americans still see Jews as bellwethers on Israel

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