Monday, May 17, 2010

The schism within Zionism 

Peter Beinert has a lengthy and well-written essay in the New York Review of Books, entitled "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment." It will undoubtedly be the subject of much analysis and criticism. An excerpt:
Among American Jews today, there are a great many Zionists, especially in the Orthodox world, people deeply devoted to the State of Israel. And there are a great many liberals, especially in the secular Jewish world, people deeply devoted to human rights for all people, Palestinians included. But the two groups are increasingly distinct. Particularly in the younger generations, fewer and fewer American Jewish liberals are Zionists; fewer and fewer American Jewish Zionists are liberal. One reason is that the leading institutions of American Jewry have refused to foster—indeed, have actively opposed—a Zionism that challenges Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and toward its own Arab citizens. For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.

Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral. If the leaders of groups like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations do not change course, they will wake up one day to find a younger, Orthodox-dominated, Zionist leadership whose naked hostility to Arabs and Palestinians scares even them, and a mass of secular American Jews who range from apathetic to appalled. Saving liberal Zionism in the United States—so that American Jews can help save liberal Zionism in Israel—is the great American Jewish challenge of our age. And it starts where Luntz’s students wanted it to start: by talking frankly about Israel’s current government, by no longer averting our eyes.
A partial and short rebuttal by Philip Klein in the American Spectator starts out with some quasi-Borscht belt humor:
In the past, I've remarked to friends that the difference between a Jewish liberal and a Jewish conservative is that when a Jewish liberal walks out of the Holocaust Museum, he feels, "This shows why we need to have more tolerance and multiculturalism." The Jewish conservative feels, "We should have killed a lot more Nazis, and sooner."
Klein continues:
The problem, however, isn't with leading Jewish organizations that defend Israel, but with liberalism. As sickening as it sounds, Jewish liberals see their fellow Jews as noble when they are victims being led helplessly into the gas chambers, but recoil at the thought of Jews who refuse to be victims, and actually take actions to defend themselves. It isn't too different from American liberal attitudes toward criminal justice or terrorism, where morality is turned upside down and the lines between criminals and victims become blurred, and in certain cases, even reversed.
Whatever one thinks of Beinert's politics, my sense is that his (or Frank Luntz's) demographic and attitudinal trend analysis in the entirety of his essay is probably more right than wrong, even if his explanation of the reasons behind it might not ring true. There is probably not a synagogue or temple in the U.S. that does not have an Israeli flag in it somewhere, so perhaps it is accurate to describe what has developed as a split between at least two different views of Israel -- call it "muscular Zionism" versus "Zionism-lite." The debate between Beinert and Klein is illustrative of one that is ongoing within American Jewry and also within Israel itself, and has international ramifications. Hopefully, it is a healthy and not destructive debate, but one wonders whether the tension between these two positions can ever be fully resolved.


By Blogger steve, at Tue May 18, 07:37:00 AM:

It is very easy to be critical of Israel if you ignore the fact that they are under attack. Beinart doesn't mention this. Unfortunately, this is the central fact that Israelis have to live with every day.

But the schism is real. There is a conflict between the liberalism most American Jews are devoted to and the reality Israel lives with.

I am appalled by the tolerance of Moslem anti-semitism by American Jews. It is hypocritical not to say self-destructive.  

By Blogger Marv, at Tue May 18, 07:55:00 AM:

This is not complicated. Take a trip to Berlin. Have a look at the vestiges of a vibrant and well integrated Jewish community from the turn of the twentieth century city. Then take a short train ride to Sachsenhausen in the Berlin suburbs. See the memorial to liberal Jews of their day who could not believe in their wildest nightmares what would happen in less than 40 years.
It's 1947 and UN Resolution 181 creates the State of Israel. They say "Never Again!".
German Jews who were more German than Jews in the early 1900s suffered and died as Jews. Liberal Jews who are more liberal than Jews in the early 2000s............have forgotten history.  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Tue May 18, 10:22:00 AM:

Quite a while ago, there was an excellent piece, written I think by Richard Fernandez (? - I admit, I may have this wrong?), about wolves and sheep.

American Jewish liberals are mostly sheep. Though their ancestors were forced by circumstance to make their way here - usually escaping danger and oppressio - they have become quite similar to the German Jews of their day.

Very few are wolves. Mostly the wolves ar ein Israel.  

By Anonymous John, at Tue May 18, 03:05:00 PM:

You also have to consider the Democratic Party's sympathies lie with Labor and not with Likud -- liberals went nuts in 1977 when Begin and Likud finally won a majority in the Knesset, and Bill Clinton dispatched James Carville to Israel in 1999 to make sure Ehud Barak and Labor won election, because he wanted a more pliable partner for those negotations with Yassir Arafat he thought would win him a Nobel Prize as his final presidential legacy.

So part of Beinert's argument boils down to the wrong party being in power in Jerusalem. Were Labor to be in control and similar actions were being taken against Israel by Hamas or Hezbollah, Peter would likely have less tolerance for seeing both sides of the issue.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue May 18, 06:29:00 PM:

Honestly, who in the US cares about Israel any more. It's a luxury good.

Go ahead flame me -- it's just point of fact.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed May 19, 12:17:00 AM:

Israel may be the only reliable ally that the USA has left in the whole world.

But maybe Barry HO can change that? He sure disses all the traditional US allies and then kow-towed to the traditional enemies. Maybe he's worked out that Iran should be our new BFF?

Good thing ZOD hasn't shown up - Barry HO would "BOW TO ZOD" fer sure.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Wed May 19, 03:30:00 AM:

It is really disheartening to read this from Beinart, who I know is a liberal but one I thought hadn't gone completely off the deep end. When he speaks of "challenging Israel's behavior in ... Gaza", uh, what is there to challenge? Israel evacuated the place and then had to retaliate when the neo-Nazi gang that took over started firing rockets at Israeli elementary schools.

John is at least partially right that one of the issues is Labor vs. Likud. But while Labor is somewhat more moderate it is nowhere near the American left when it comes to Israel's security. There was an active "peace movement" in Israel at one time but it was killed by the second intifada; apparently someone forgot to tell Beinart. No doubt BO's tone would be more measured with a Labor government in power. But I doubt if he can completely escape his Third-world, anti-Zionist roots. Ultimately I think that's what this piece from Beinart comes down to, trying to run interference for BO when American Jews are growing increasingly skeptical of him. Disclaimer: I saw through BO a long time ago and would not have considered voting for him as so many of my fellow Jews (and other Americans) foolishly did.  

By Blogger MTF, at Wed May 19, 12:06:00 PM:

It seems Beinert wants Israel to find a way to accept death and destruction, rahter than engage in unseemly "fighting back". I find it hard to believe he speaks for any significant group of American Jews in saying this.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed May 19, 08:44:00 PM:

Beinart speaks for hand-wringing Jewish "liberals" inside the Beltway, who are probably no longer welcome in certain (many) social circles if they are "pro-Israel."

He is entirely uninterested in the actual situation in the Middle East. His entire article is about how difficult it is for him personally to "justify" being "pro-Israel."

He might try finding different friends, or a different social set.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Wed May 19, 09:25:00 PM:

"...there are a great many Zionists, especially in the Orthodox world, people deeply devoted to the State of Israel. And there are a great many liberals, especially in the secular Jewish world, people deeply devoted to human rights for all people, Palestinians included. " The false moral posturing in that comment is simply evil. We are great-hearted people who care about all humanity. Not like you. They cannot even enter the discussion without caricaturing their opponents' views along adolescent moral lines.

Cardinalpark, I think it was Bill Whittle on his ejectejecteject blog.  

By Blogger Progressively Defensive, at Wed May 19, 11:34:00 PM:

Without taking a side but for the sake of accuracy, the State of Israel was a product of illegal immigration, terrorism, and imperialism; world history in miniature but the point being their claims are not legitimated by any persecution by the Nazis. Zionists have no Holocaust related legitimate claim to that region; if Israel were created out of a section of Bavaria, that would be a different matter.

It seems to me Israel wants the USA to fight their battles for them. If Iran is a threat, Israel has out technology; let their soldiers use it to fight and die but I'd vote against USA soldiers dying in defense of Israel. Thoughts?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed May 19, 11:41:00 PM:

Why are insane polemics, like the preceding comment, so often pitched as fact? Do the posters who write beside the point nonsense like this somehow think their opinions so powerful that others will read it and the truth will finally be clear? Sheesh.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu May 20, 07:21:00 AM:

That little summary of 'accurate world history' is so grossly simplified so as to be neither.


Give it a go before you try again.  

By Blogger Progressively Defensive, at Thu May 20, 10:54:00 AM:

No. I don't believe my opinions are the truth ultimate. Theodore Herzl began modern Zionism in 1896 with a book he wrote in Vienna, Austria. At that time what is now Israel (including the West Bank) had 78,000 Jews, less than 1% of the population. In a structured conquest (re-conquest if you like) via, as I've written, illegal immigration, terrorism, and imperialism, there are 6 million Jews and they wield theocratic control over Israel.

Rebut if you like.

But I stand by the point I made which is that Israel has no special claim to legitimacy but is the product of the force or arms which is essentially the claim each nation has to it's land.

And I don't consider Israel an ally since they are not lining up beside us in Iraq or Afghanistan. Let them do the ground fighting and dying against Iran. The USA is doing ten times it's share and our soldiers have shed enough blood for democracy in that region.

An accurate analogy for Israel would be if the illegal Mexican immigrants declared hundreds of square miles of southern Texas to be Mexas and it's own independent nation (some Mexican-American academics are calling for that). They have the ethnic history and the recent flood of immigration akin to Israel.

I readily admit Israel's legitimacy and value is a matter of opinion. All things considered, I prefer it exist as is; but I think we give it too much aid each year and adamantly vote against USA troops shedding blood in it's defense.

I'll check out the book, but you'll find books on both sides.

"Don't Mess with the Zohan" was a pretty good Adam Sandler movie. He, Jewish, deals with both sides in even-handed and light-hearted way. Israelis have a far better understanding that the Arabs in Israel were devastated injustly so that Israel might exist.  

By Blogger MTF, at Thu May 20, 04:27:00 PM:

Are you as honest as the young woman from UCSD, Mr. Progresively Defensive Muslim Brotherhood?

For or against?  

By Blogger Progressively Defensive, at Thu May 20, 08:12:00 PM:

Sad ...

I am indepedent of faction but recognize terrorism and/or violence on all sides.

Shall we remember who bombed the King David Hotel after the United Kingdome rescued the Jews from the Holocaust?

Menachem Begin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menachem_Begin.

"Zionist gratitude"?

I'm watching ... always and eternally.



Boo ...  

By Blogger Progressively Defensive, at Thu May 20, 10:45:00 PM:

... and, lest we forget, Moses and Joshua commited genocide to capture Canaan in the first place:

Deut. 2:34, Deut 3:6, and Josh 6:21 ... Hitler did not do anything categorically speaking that Moses and Joshua did not do ... children ...  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Fri May 21, 01:29:00 AM:

" All things considered, I prefer it exist as is;"

I guess you're too much of a weasel to admit you want it wiped out.

"but I think we give it too much aid each year and adamantly vote against USA troops shedding blood in it's defense."

There's never been a single American soldier stationed in Israel but we had a 100s of thousands in Saudi Arabia when they thought they were under threat from Saddam.

"had 78,000 Jews, less than 1% of the population"

Are you ever an ignoramus and a liar. You are claiming the population of Palestine in the 1800s was nearly 8 million. That's more than live there *today* between Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Every account from the time describes Palestine as "barren" or "desolate" and the population could not have been more than a few hundred thousand.

Furthermore "Palestine" then also included Jordan. Here's a *fact* that you will never quote - Jerusalem at that time had a large majority of Jews. And that is *all* of Jerusalem, including the so-called but nonexistent "Arab East Jerusalem". Such a place never existed except in propaganda.

But that's one of the best things about being Jewish - antisemites are always nitwits, misfucks and born losers like "Progressively Defensive". That's why Jews have survived for 4000 years. It's not that we're so great, it's just that our enemies always turn out to be big fat losers.  

By Blogger Progressively Defensive, at Fri May 21, 06:06:00 PM:


You seem like the type to call someone a liar who might ... might ... be mistaken. That works well for me because wallow in your community of such individuals.

Actually, all of your egomania aside, I just don't care. I don't have to save you. [Cf. Batman Begins.]

Well I got the 78,000 and 1% off of Wikipedia but really you are quibbling ... not a surprise given the tone of your post. The point is the same.

Here is another site: http://israelipalestinian.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000636#graph1.

They have almost 11 million in the region currently and only 60,000 in 1914. And there was a wave of Jewish immigration in the late 19th century from Russia due to pogroms there. So I'm sticking with less than 3% in 1896 and less than 1% in 1850. But in any case the point essentially holds.

Zionism is not Semitism; Arabs are Semites, too; Moses's manner of conquering Canaan was to declare Hebrews the chosen people, or master race, and commit genocide against the kind and charitable people residing there so you don't deserve any better and you know it; wow ... too much inaccuracy for my time at present to continue.

We've been here longer and we're not dying silly over a dustbowl.

The tragedy ... it is ... is that Judaism is premised on Jews being a master race ... you say chosen people and protected by the only God. Well, just in passing, logic, if you would permit this nitwit to employ it, indicates then that God wanted Hitler to wield the Holocaust, right? Or is there some more quibbling you'd care to engage in? We watching see.

Here is some free counsel for you ... I think you Zionists ought to segue quickly - while you still have options - into advocacy for a UN Heritage Site in "Greater Israel" because you're not picking on a lot of poor, stupid, historical dirt-eaters now. These Persians are strapping up for a gunfight quick and from the tone of yours I don't think you can take 'em. But, to each their own.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Sat May 22, 02:18:00 AM:

"Well I got the 78,000 and 1% off of Wikipedia but really you are quibbling"

Quibbling about a factor of more than 10? Basically you're saying "Listen to me [PD] even though I don't know WTF I'm talking about" bwahaha. Wikipedia isn't exactly the voice of authority, any idiot can post there. You don't have a single number right *anywhere* in your post.

"too much inaccuracy for my time"

You can say that again.

"Judaism is premised on Jews being a master race"

Funny, we're not the ones with all the oil in the world but not a thing to show for it.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Sat May 22, 02:22:00 AM:

"Moses's manner of conquering Canaan"

Moses never even reached Israel/Canaan, he died before the Jews returned there. Let us know when you say something that's actually true, we'll declare a national holiday.  

By Blogger Progressively Defensive, at Sat May 22, 01:46:00 PM:

What's PD?

I showed you the other site; well 78,000 might be off, but I still hold 1% is pretty accurate for 1896 and more so for 1850 ... please provide evidence otherwise if I am incorrect; and in any case they were a small minority in 1896 when Zionism began.

I'm still pretty sure Moses ordered genocide along the way - I'll look into it; but in any case Joshua definitely did, so the Hebrews wielded genocide then, whilst they wail about it when done to them in the 20th century. Moses/the God of Abraham did slaughter Egyptian boys during Passover however when he/they could have killed grown men instead. What is it with the God of Abraham and the Jews; why do he pick on little boys so much? I have my opinion.

The numbers may be off, but the essence remains intact. The point of all of this is the Zionists have absolutely no claim to the ethical highground: the Jews have been and are genocidists, terrorists, imperialists, and theo-fascists. The Arabs and Muslims are justified in fighting back like-kind in their defense.

Why not share Greater Israel under UN auspicses and call it something pleasantly neutral ... anyone who wants to buy a house there can buy a house there (or rent); or visit can? Zionists wield the power, for now ... for now ... for now, to put in place reasonable guarantees [maybe like the old Dodge City, Kansas - no weapons ... it would be easier to day to surveil the place]. The answer is always the same: egomania, like-kind to the "one only god," the God of Abraham's you worship ... I write of faith here, and not ethnicity. We'll see how that works for you and your egomanical god.

I would like to take back something I wrote that I regret writing ... I would not say you are dying silly.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Sun May 23, 06:13:00 PM:

My objection to PD's overall comments would be the idea of illegal immigration in an era and area when those concepts were not the same as now. Purchase was allowed, legal. Migration was common throughout the Mediterranean and adjoining lands; terrorism, compared to...?; and imperialism, about a nation that has no empire. Unless you are referring to European imperialism, and contrasting it as somehow different than Ottoman, Persian, or specifically Muslim imperialism. And blaming homeless Israelis for benefiting from this imagined moral inferiority of the Europeans.

If what you meant to say is "well, Israel's acquisition of the land is only marginally more moral and has dark areas of its own" I would partly agree. But what you keep saying, despite your claim of neutrality and devotion to facts, is that Israel's acquisiton of the land is significantly worse and less justified than all her neighbors. That is seeking to carve out a few decades of history (ignoring events before and after), examining the worst actions of only one of the tribes involved, and advocating for a current reality on that blinkered basis.

It can be a POV that one could advocate, but it has nothing to do with objectivity or a greater command of the facts than others.

Note: It is a debater's tactic to bring up related but narrow bits of data that one's opponent likely does not know, and exploit that imbalance as if those bits are central, putting others on their heels. It is widely used on the left at present (Noam Chomsky has made his entire debate career out of this), but there are plenty of all political stripes who have used it. You mean you didn't know that the Elbonians passed legislation in 1928 outlawing Zoroastrianism, because of their historical hatred for the mountain tribes? Take the full run of facts that would lead to such large conclusions as "blame" or "legitimacy."  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Mon May 24, 02:54:00 AM:

"We've been here longer"

Who is "we" and where have you been "longer"? Jews have lived continuously in Israel for nearly 4000 years.

"What's PD"

Progressively Defensive. Your initials. What a dumbshit you are.

"I would like to take back something I wrote that I regret writing ... I would not say you are dying silly."

You don't have to take anything back. I'm proud of the fact that idiots like you are antisemites.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Mon May 24, 06:49:00 AM:

"The numbers may be off, but the essence remains intact. The point of all of this is the Zionists have absolutely no claim to the ethical highground: the Jews have been and are genocidists, terrorists, imperialists, and theo-fascists. The Arabs and Muslims are justified in fighting back like-kind in their defense."

Try not to take this too harshly, but you really have no fucking idea what you're talking about. You've swallowed choice bits of the Old Testament as literal history, accepted decades-old leftist national liberation propaganda as fact, and analyzed it all in a vacuum. That is sloppy and intellectually dishonest.

For instance, if you're ready to label the Hebrew conquest of Canaan as recounted in the Bible as literal truth, why not that God himself delegated the land to Jews? Or do you just pick and choose your source material to reinforce your pre-determined conclusions?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon May 24, 06:55:00 AM:

"It is a debater's tactic to bring up related but narrow bits of data that one's opponent likely does not know, and exploit that imbalance as if those bits are central, putting others on their heels."

Sounds like Brian on global warming.  

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