Somewhere in the discussion about what it means to be pro-Israel (in the context of J Street, the New Israel Fund [NIF], etc.) I heard the following:
Being pro-Israel doesn’t mean supporting Israel no matter what it does
I get it. I understand where they’re coming from.
Suppose my neighbor is arrested and charged with stealing a car. Would I support him? Would I bail him out of jail? Well, that would depend on my judgment of his character and his motives. Maybe I would and maybe I wouldn’t. I’d try to be fair; after all, he has the same rights as anyone else. This is the attitude of the ‘progressive’ Jew toward Israel.
Now suppose someone is arrested and charged as above. Only this time it’s my son. Everything changes. Would I support him no matter what he does? Of course not, but I would try much harder to understand him. I would give him the benefit of the doubt. I would listen to his story. I would give his explanations at least as much credence as those of his accusers, maybe more. This is the attitude of the Zionist Jew.
Zionists among the Jewish people gave birth to the modern state of Israel, sacrificed for it and supported it in its childhood. The Zionist feels differently about Israel than he does about, say, Japan. The best analogy is to say that he feels a family relationship.
The ‘progressive’ Jew that sees himself as a post-nationalist world citizen doesn’t feel that. He imagines that he’s gone beyond the narrow family of the Jewish people and joined the wider circle of humanity. For him, Israel is “just another country“.
“No,” the J Streeter says, “we really love Israel. But we believe in Tough Love.”
Sorry, I don’t buy that. Tough love is what you get to after years of trying regular love, what you do when you have no other choice, when your family member is so bad or destructive that you have to protect yourself. The slick, cool con men of J Street never had a love relationship with the Jewish state. The person or group at NIF that could choose Adalah to receive more than $1 million could not have loved the Jewish state, if they had read Adalah’s position papers.
This really isn’t a question of Left and Right. Amos Oz is a leftist who loves Israel, and he’s not the only one. I disagree with the Zionist Left the way I disagree with family members. There’s a bottom line that unites us, a bottom line of belief in Jewish self-determination, which presupposes a belief that it makes sense to talk about a Jewish people that we both belong to.
When Michael Oren refused to meet with J Street because it took positions — on Iranian sanctions, on calling for an immediate cease-fire in Operation Cast Lead, on the Goldstone report — that were damaging to Israel’s interests, he was in effect saying that J Street had gone beyond the bottom line. And I think we can see that this could happen because their staff’s idea of their ‘people’ is only secondarily, if at all, the Jewish people.
James Traub wrote an article in the NY Times Magazine about J Street, which, while it contained some of the usual nonsense about the Mideast, was revealing about J Street. It included this:
The average age of the dozen or so staff members is about 30. [J Street Executive Director Jeremy] Ben-Ami speaks for, and to, this post-Holocaust generation. “They’re all intermarried [see update — ed.],” he says. “They’re all doing Buddhist seders.” They are, he adds, baffled by the notion of “Israel as the place you can always count on when they come to get you.”
I think they are probably also baffled by, or at least see themselves as having transcended, the idea of the Jewish people — although I wonder how they would respond if asked if there is a ‘Palestinian people’?
Update [24 Feb 0803 PST]: I’ve been informed that in an interview Ben-Ami clarified that he did not mean that his staff was all intermarried, but rather that the young generation of Jews was “different”.