By Dr. Gabriella Berzin, Israel Hayom—
The changes taking place among American Jews include a drop in support for Israel. They explain shrugging off their part in Jewish nationalism, or, we should say, Zionism, by criticizing Israel’s democratic values and its government’s policies, even lobbying against traditional U.S. government support of Israel.
Movements like J Street, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, which range from extreme leftist to anti-Zionist, and activists who have developed obsessive empathy with the Palestinian position argue that their activity is rooted in a desire to “save Israel from itself.” These sentiments, which are blossoming among U.S. Jews and to a lesser degree in the Canadian, Australian and British Jewish communities, are welcomed by the extreme Left in Israel, which enlists any claim, even the most ridiculous, against the state, for categorical rhetoric against the liberal values of Israeli society and its government.
Books and articles published in the U.S. offer different explanations for the drop-off in support for Israel. Some address it as a worldview stemming from ignorance and a shallow analysis of history, while others identify the reason as political opinions that put many Jews on the radical American left, which is critical of Israel, compared to the broad, consistent support of Israel by moderate liberals and conservatives.
In an article titled “If American Jews and Israel are Drifting Apart, What’s the Reason?” published in Mosaic, Elliott Abrams points out sociological processes taking place among U.S. Jews that are unrelated to Israel, in particular a high rate of intermarriage, meaning that a high percentage of young Jews have a non-Jewish parent. This is related to the widespread adoption of a cosmopolitan interpretation of the idea of “the chosen people” to fit in with American pluralism and values, which comes into play through activities to better the world and society. The Zionist state and its policies toward the Palestinians are perceived as violating the liberal ethos.
The phenomenon of Jewish nationalism being rejected in favor of a perception that universalism is worthier than mutual responsibility along an ethnic dimension is not foreign to Jewish history. This conflict points out the Jews’ familiar need to focus on their identity, confront it, lend it various interpretations, and sometimes even turn their backs on it. But history also reminds us that Jewish success at being “good Christians” or “good Germans” turns out to be false when anti-Semitism rears its head.
The combination of the need to form a universal identity and ignorance with radical stances is turning out to be a reliable source of grease for the wheels of delegitimizing Israel. After the Holocaust, given the existential challenges facing the state, Jews turning their backs on the national idea can be seen as immoral. So it’s no wonder that it translates into a radical argument that, when necessary, uses terms from Palestinian propaganda: “occupation,” “apartheid,” “fascism.” There is no reason to expect that this approach will cease when the Israeli Left is politically stronger.
The radical stance of the U.S. Jewish Left is calling out to the Zionist Left in Israel, which in turn gives it a stamp of approval. Every extremist statement allowed under freedom of expression, and every nationalist bad weed that can be found in any democracy, automatically become a negligent accusation against the government and the voting public of being anti-democratic, racist, and similar to the Germans in World War II. The Left has an anti-nationalist agenda, and its representatives are guests of honor on stages that present that agenda. Journalist Ari Shavit described this as “astonishing political suicide” by the Israeli Left: “Not a month, week, or day goes by without the Left shooting itself in the foot, belly, or head.” Identification with the radical anti-nationalist stance isn’t just political suicide, it’s shooting all of us in the belly.