Peter Beinart published an article in the New York Review of Books last week, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” that, according to Religion Dispatches’ Sarah Posner, “has the potential to create an intellectual earthquake.” Beinart writes that American Jews have become increasingly divided between two distinct and un-nuanced positions: “naked hostility to Arabs and Palestinians”; and “a mass of secular American Jews who range from apathetic to appalled.” From the article:
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.
Posner notes that much of the responsibility for this shift away from liberal Zionism belongs to organizations like American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and their relationship with the “American evangelical world.”
Increasingly, this alliance has not only created a larger constituency that reflexively defends the Israeli government’s policies, but it is actively promoting the idea that the conflict there is not over land or politics, but is a clash of civilizations and religions. “Freedom” is not about human rights for all; it’s about Christianity ascendant.
Yesterday, Foreign Policy published commentary on Beinart’s piece by eight individuals including Alon Pinkus, Israel’s former general consul in the US, David Frum, former speechwriter for George W. Bush, and J.J. Goldberg, editor of The Jewish Daily Forward.
UPDATE: Listen to a podcast of Peter Beinart discussing his article with The Forward here.