Sunday, March 9, 2008

Liberation of the Liberal American Jew

There is strange and new wind that is subtly but ever vigorously blowing across the American Jewish community which I find terribly vexing. I first felt its chilling wind about four years ago around the time of the general election in 2004. At the time, good friends of mine asked me how I voted. Even though I knew that these people were liberal democrats I unabashedly answered that I voted for George Bush. Upon further questioning as to why I voted for him after pointing out how poorly he performed during his first administration, I explained that my first concern and consideration was the welfare of Israel. I made it clear that all other issues such as abortion, stem cell research appointments to the Supreme Court took a backseat to Israel’s welfare. Bush, in my estimation, was infinitely better for Israel than the alternative. Their reaction was bitter and I shall never forget it or forgive them for it. “If Israel is so important to you why don’t you move back there”?

Their remark was ridiculous because it would be the same thing as telling Jessie Jackson or Al Sharpton that if you don’t like the policies of the United States, go back to Africa. Somehow I don’t think that my liberal democratic friends understood what I was saying, nor would they have been willing to entertain the idea that in essence the two propositions were similar.

I filed that inauspicious discussion away, hoping that there remark had been out of context, not reflecting a trend within the American Jewish community. Was I ever wrong! Speaking to the same couple a few weeks ago we once again talked politics. This time they were voting for Obama. I expressed once again my concern for Israel’s future and this time the answer I receive was a bit more tactful. The gist of it was that it was time for Israel to grow up, stand on its own two feet and not be a burden on America. Reading between the lines what they were really saying to me was it was time that Israel stood on its own two feet and stopped embarrassing liberal American Jews who are in disagreement with Israel’s approach to the Palestinians.

Once again I was hoping that their opinion wasn’t typical of most liberal American Jews, but I was terribly wrong. What bothered me wasn’t the analysis of the pollsters indicating the support of many liberal Jews for Obama, but a piece in the recent issue of Sh’ma (January 2008 / Shvat 5768) entitled Affinities and Israel: A Roundtable.

The roundtable consisted of an intellectual group of Jewish adults whom I assume were all under the age of forty, ranging from a reform rabbinical student to a professor of Jewish studies and a professor of American studies as well as a few others working in Jewish organizational life. One of the questions with which they dealt was whether or not American Jews needed Israel. One of them unreservedly said, no. Others took a softer position, redefining the role of Israel within global Jewish life-in short intellectualizing the hell out of the issue. One of the participants had the audacity to comment that American Jews under the age of forty only know Israel as an occupying power. He went on to say that American Jews are so well integrated into American life that they don’t need Israel as much as before. He continued by saying “this is even more complicated because we live in a post-ethnic world where being a Jew for many people under the age of thirty, is only part of their identity”.

Let me remind these “yifey nefesh” that before Daniel Pearl died all that mattered to his Islamo- fascist murderers was that he was Jewish. I don’t know where these liberal Jews are living, but I don’t think it is in a post-ethnic world. Anti-Zionism around the world and here in America is just another buzzword, for being anti Jewish, or anti-Semitic. It may not be politically correct to be anti Semitic, but perfectly acceptable amongst our liberal friends to be anti-Zionist, because, after all, the wretched Palestinians are the underdog. If we are living in this post-ethnic world, then why didn’t the UN issue a statement condemning the murder of eight defenseless yeshiva students at Yeshivat Mercaz Harav Kook, not to mention countless other atrocities against Israelis? I have no reason to believe that there has been even a minute reorientation of the world to the Jewish people. All that has changed has been terminology and some nomenclature, but if I read between the lines regarding some statements made at enlightened universities such as Berkley, anti-Semitism is alive and well.

Hey, yefeh nefesh, read the press. When was the last time you saw a complimentary picture of an Israeli in the press. They are always depicted as angry and aggressive, while the pitiful Palestinians are depicted as suffering, living under the boot of the Israeli. Israeli soldiers are shown with an assault rifle pointed in the direction of a defenseless Palestinian indicating that he’s been victimized, once again. And what about Jewish depiction in the press; whenever they want to depict a real, authentic Jew, they pull out of the archives a picture of a black hat and bearded Jew. That’s tantamount to posting a picture of a Native American in full head dress with nothing more than a loin clothe and moccasins. Do you think that would ever happen?

So there it is. American Jews under the age of forty are no longer in need of Israel because we are living in a post-ethnic world. I hope they “grow up” post haste, otherwise they may do us irreversible harm. Who knows, maybe they’ll reach their fiftieth birthday and God willing, Israel will still be a beacon of light to all of us who need her.