MK Naomi Chazan of Meretz has written an article in which she tries to explain the reasons for the “disengagement from institutionalized Jewry” of young Jewish professionals in the US.
She makes three main arguments:
- Discourse about Israel in the US has focused on the conflict and not on such domestic issues as corrupt politicians, the Orthodox influence on everyday life, the ‘constitutional debate’, and the gaps between rich and poor, Jew and Arab. “Some of the very gripping challenges which make Israel real are simply not discussed”, she says.
- The Jewish establishment is more right-wing than the “young professionals”, making alliances with “neo-conservatives”, Christian fundamentalists, etc.
- And finally — the establishment does not permit dissent.
I’ll take them in reverse order. Let me quote her:
…the emergence of watchdog groups monitoring the press, campus life and even the voluntary sector leaves little room for any nuance.
A new type of Jewish political correctness precludes dissent on the official interpretation of everything from Steven Walt and John Mearsheimer’s study of the Jewish lobby or Jimmy Carter’s book on the conflict to tenure decisions in academe.
Did I read this correctly? Is it political correctness that has produced near-unanimity of Jewish opinion on Mearsheimer and Walt’s weaving of traditional antisemitic themes together with half-truths and false accusations into a pseudo-scholarly hit piece?
Did all fourteen Jewish members of the board of the Carter Center (and they were not an especially conservative bunch) resign because of political correctness?
Was it politically correct for Jews to oppose tenure for Norman Finkelstein, a man who often compares Israelis to Nazis, admits to “publically honoring the heroic resistance of Hezbollah to foreign occupation“, and wrote a book claiming that Holocaust remembrances, scholarship, museums, etc. are a Zionist plot to justify stealing Palestinian land?
Do organizations like Honest Reporting, CAMERA, and Campus Watch, which exist to draw attention to and refute anti-Israel bias in the media and on campuses have any actual power to limit “nuance”? How, exactly, is it coercive to stand up for a position in the face of massive propaganda to the contrary?
Chazan says that the “Jewish establishment” is more right-wing than the disengaged young professionals that is concerned about. She writes,
Progressive voices have few organized outlets (notably the Reform Movement, the New Israel Fund, the Israel Policy Forum, Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom). These have been mostly excluded from the formal Jewish establishment.
But the Reform Movement is the single largest Jewish organization in the US! If it is not part of the ‘establishment’, I can only assume that Chazan means ‘right-wing establishment’, which renders her argument trivial. There are plenty of left-wing Jewish voices being heard in America; if there are right-wing voices in such organizations as AIPAC, perhaps it is because the conservatives are more firmly in support of the interests of the state of Israel than many of the liberals, who are much more ambivalent about the conflict.
As far as Americans being interested in Israeli domestic issues — or, should I say, Chazan’s left-wing version of what the burning domestic issues in Israel today are — does she think that more understanding of corrupt Israeli politicians (not all of whom are right-wing, by the way) will inspire young Jews to pro-Israel activity?
I doubt it. Her rhetorical purpose in mentioning these ‘issues’ is to suggest that they are in some sense more important than the conflict. This is the same impulse that leads M. J. Rosenberg to imply that “ending the occupation” is more important for Israel’s security than preventing Hamas from placing rocket launchers in the West Bank.
But of course survival has to be the primary value, more urgent even than the question of whether it is insulting to Israeli Arabs that Israel’s national anthem is Hatikvah.
So what is causing the ‘disengagement’ of many liberal Jews from, for example, AIPAC or the Jewish Federations?
Simple. They are absorbing and internalizing the anti-Israel bias that permeates the academic and political milieus that they inhabit. A pro-Israel professor on an American campus is probably even rarer than one that voted for George Bush, and today anti-Zionism and even antisemitism are more pervasive in left-wing political circles than ever before. The last thing one wants to do is give the impression that one is pro-Israel, or, God forbid, a Zionist.
The way to turn this around is not to try to make the Jewish establishment turn Left, as Chazan apparently wishes. This would only go even further in promoting anti-Zionism, just as the extreme Left in Israel has become, absurdly, anti-Zionist — and in fact, anti-Israel.
Rather, more effort needs to be expended in trying to counteract the lies and distortions about Israel and the Arabs that are being promulgated so widely by the Left today.