Bad ideas with legs

Here’s a notable difference between American and Israeli Jews:

…it is true that more funds are being raised today than ever before [by J Street] from donors who depict Israel as the obstacle to peace and favor U.S. pressure to force Israeli concessions. The campaign contributions put muscle behind a flood of articles and speeches that portray Israel as a strategic liability rather than an asset — a trigger-happy country that exaggerates the Iranian threat and is plotting the annexation of the West Bank at the expense of the Palestinians.

Spokesmen for this view, like author Peter Beinart and J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami, are taking ideas from the far left of the Israeli political spectrum and transforming them into mainstream beliefs of the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, however, their counterparts in Israel have shrunk to insignificance: Meretz, the party of Peace Now and Yossi Beilin, has contracted from 14 seats in the Knesset to a mere three. Shelly Yachimovich, the new head of the Labor Party and informal leader of the Israeli opposition, has resisted fierce pressure to embrace the Beilinist agenda. The vast majority of the Israeli public has spoken, and it has rejected the ideology these critics are bringing to the United States.

But in America, these voices have found fertile ground. The American Jewish community is on average more liberal and more dovish on the Middle East than the Jewish majority in Israel. Reform temples and college campuses are particularly receptive to Beinart and Ben-Ami’s message. — Steven J. Rosen, Is J Street Winning?

Could it be that the Israelis, who so emphatically rejected their left-wing parties, are on to something?

American Jews, who have not had to deal with the horrors of the terrorist intifada and rocket barrages, find it comfortable to accept the simplistic conception that there is a two-state solution out there — and that if it hasn’t happened yet, it is because Israel hasn’t tried hard enough. It is much harder to face the reality — as most Israelis have — that there is no solution in the near term because there is no partner for peace on the Arab side.

The Israeli Left, having lost local support, nevertheless has retained the ability to project its opinions outward. Supported to a great extent by money from European governments, international anti-Zionists like George Soros, and American liberals, Israel’s post-Zionist media, academics and NGOs articulate their positions in international forums and media in English.

They paint the centrist Netanyahu government — which has been anything but ‘hardline’ where concessions to the Palestinians are concerned — as reactionary, anti-democratic, racist and theocratic. Israelis, used to the hyperbole of their politics, know nonsense when they see it, and pay no attention.

But in America, there are powerful forces — including the State Department, the White House and he CIA — for whom it is a priority to see Israel forced to give up the territories and eastern Jerusalem, and who would love to see a more pliable regime in Israel.

They have found it effective to present the Israeli Left as the authentic voice of Israel. Through their compliant media (e.g., the NY Times and NPR), personalities like Thomas Friedman and Peter Beinart, and tools like J Street (whose leader, Jeremy Ben-Ami, once called his group “President Obama’s blocking back”), these positions are expressed as consonant with the liberal values that many American Jews hold.

Since they are not as well-informed about the realities of the Middle East as the Israelis that live in it, many American Jews are fooled, accepting J Street’s claim to be “pro-Israel” despite the consistently anti-Israel positions — even opposing sanctions on Iran — that it has taken. Even if they don’t follow groups like J Street, they accept what is now becoming the regular ‘line’ of the Democratic party, as Rosen explained.

One of the major obstacles to those elements that desire to meddle with Israel has, in the past, been the strong support for the policies of Israeli governments by American Jews, as expressed by the traditional Zionist organizations like AIPAC, etc.

Little by little, left-indoctrinated Jews are moving into American Jewish institutions like the Federations, Hillel and even AIPAC, and their influence dilutes the formerly strong support provided by these organizations. One has to appreciate the strategic ability of Israel’s enemies.

It’s ironic that an ideology that failed the test of reality in Israel has found a new home here — as a political fantasy among American Jews. But after all, we are the folks that gave the world Hollywood.

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