Sunday, December 14, 2008

Reality - Israeli-American gap of perception

JPost - R' Jonathan Rosenblum writes:

No subject so divides the Jews of Israel and America as that which once bound them most closely: Israel itself. To appreciate the gap, try telling an American Jew that George W. Bush was the president who best understood Israel's predicament and watch his jaw drop.

American Jewry is lining up behind a return to the hyperactive American peacemaking of the Clinton years. The Jewish Alliance for Peace and Justice, according to an article in New York's Jewish Week, recently obtained the signatures of 800 rabbis on a petition to President-elect Barack Obama urging him to make the Israeli-Palestinian peace process an early priority, beginning with the appointment of a high-level envoy to the region. And the new left-wing group, J Street, contacted the Obama transition team to argue that American Jews want a more active peace process and that large Democratic majorities in Congress provide the incoming administration with the power to push an aggressive peacemaking agenda.

J Street is likely right. For many American Jews, Israel has become a drag. If they were to wake up tomorrow and find that Israel had bloodlessly disappeared and its Jews had found safe haven elsewhere, they would be relieved. That includes the 50 percent of American Jews under 35 who told sociologists Steven Cohen and Ari Kelman that they would not view the destruction of Israel as a personal tragedy.

Others, such the Jewish Alliance for Peace and Justice and Americans for Peace Now, are intensely concerned with events in Israel. But it is their cherished image of the Jew as the bearer of universal justice, not concern with the lives of Jews of Israel, that primarily drives their Middle East agenda. So long as Israel does not have peace with its neighbors and is the subject of widespread obloquy, that image is tarnished.

Even among the 3% of Reform Jews and 6% of Conservative Jews for whom Israel is the crucial issue driving their voting choices (according to a May study conducted by the American Jewish Committee), there are many who would not protest intense American pressure on Israel, as long as known "pro-Israel" figures like incoming secretary of state Hillary Clinton, and prominent American Jews such as Dan Kurtzer, Martin Indyk and Rahm Emmanuel, are the ones turning the screws.

And who can blame them, when Israel's prime minister himself says Israel's future depends on the speedy achievement of a peace agreement with the Palestinians? For all Ehud Olmert's venality, nothing so reveals his soul-deep corruption as having deliberately handed any future American president the club to pressure Israel without doffing the mantle of "a true friend."

THOSE AMERICAN Jews who still fret about the safety of their brethren in Israel should at least ask themselves: Why do the majority of Israel's Jews view matters so differently? Why are they poised to elect as their next prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the bete-noire of the Clinton administration in the heady days of Oslo? Is it that Israelis are an anomaly in Jewish history - fanatic warriors craving permanent warfare? Or is it rather that they learned something over the
past 15 years?[...]

1 comment :

  1. There are, in fact, 3 groups in this paradagm. The first are non-religious American Jews who feel no connection to Israel, but very little to Judaism in general. These are the ones Rav Rosenblum writes about when he talks about Jews who would not care, chas v'chalilah, if Israel were to disappear.

    The 2nd group are those Jews who feel a strong connection to their Judaism, the Orthodox but also many non-observant, for whom Israel, as the centre of the Jewish world from time immemorial, has tremendous significance. Israel as a lifeboat is not the reaason for this allegiance. America is a much safer lifeboat these days which is why the first group doesn't feel a great connection.

    The third are Israelis who realize that while many American Jews don't care much about them or see a strong connection to them, they're the ones who stand to lose their homes and, chas v'chalilah, their lives if our enemies are successful.

    Israel as a progressive "Zionist" entity can hold no appeal for the "progressive" secular non-Israeli Jew.

    Israel as a lifeboat simply doesn't carry any cache in this day and age.

    Israel as the centre of our religious lives, the home of 6 million of our brethren, now that's the connection we need to nurture.


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