Jewish blogosphere debating article on American Jewish/Israeli divide

Most people don’t read the New York Review of Books and other pointy-headed journals, in which Ivy League-educated “intellectuals” argue with one another over the issues of the day.

You might want to know, however, about a growing debate (at least in the blogosphere) about a recent article in the lefty NYRB by Peter Beinart. It was called “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.”

The point of the article was that many — most? — American Jews feel a growing disconnect with Israel over Israel’s policies/behavior/attitude toward the Palestinians and that the American Jewish establishment, which defends Israel at every turn, is out of touch with what is happening.

Beinart, currently a writer at The Daily Beast, is former editor of The New Republic, the venerable liberal/centrist journal that has long been a strong defender of all things Israeli.

Beinart writes:

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Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral. If the leaders of groups like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations do not change course, they will wake up one day to find a younger, Orthodox-dominated, Zionist leadership whose naked hostility to Arabs and Palestinians scares even them, and a mass of secular American Jews who range from apathetic to appalled. Saving liberal Zionism in the United States—so that American Jews can help save liberal Zionism in Israel—is the great American Jewish challenge of our age.

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I was going to gather a sampling of opinion on Beinart’s strong words. But the Capital J blog of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency has already done so today, putting a lot more time into the effort than I could have.

So I’m going to link to them HERE and offer a sampling of opinions that JTA collected.

The New Republic’s Leon Wieseltier: “Beinart’s pseudo-courageous article is an anthology of xenophobic quotations by Israeli hawks and anguished quotations by Israeli doves: familiar stuff. I stand with the anguish, and have said so many times in these pages. But liberal Zionism must be as much Zionism as liberalism, and I do not see that the depredations of the settlers and their political sponsors relieve one of the obligation to include Palestinian behavior prominently among the causes of the conflict…”

Israeli diplomat Alon Pinkas: “American Jews will not “abandon” Israel per se, but their perceptions of Israel, the majority of which were forged after the watershed year of 1967, may very well impel them to a redefinition of relations.”

Conservative writer David Frum: “These liberals cannot understand why Israel would build a border fence, or invade Lebanon and Gaza, or lose interest in a peace deal with the Palestinians. They don’t know enough or care enough about Israel’s security predicaments to investigate the reasons for these Israeli actions. They are satisfied with the explanation that Israelis used to be nice people, but have now become not nice people.”

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg: “…the essay’s placement, in the New York Review of Books, the one-stop shopping source for bien-pensant anti-Israelism, is semi-tragic. If Beinart’s goal is to talk to the great mass of American Jews who support the institutions of American Jewry but who are troubled by certain trends in Israeli politics, this is not the way to do it.”

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.