Orthodox, Liberals & Zionists

Posted on May 17, 2010 In Blog

Peter Beinart – a thoughtful and wonderful writer – has an essay in the latest issue of the New York Review of Books which will spark much discussion in many circles.

The core thesis of the essay is that liberal Jews, particularly younger ones, are less supportive of Israel because of the American Jewish “establishment’s” (ie: AIPAC, Conf. of President, etc.) commitment to defend Israel “no matter what.”

Proud liberal Zionist Jeffrey Goldberg has already kicked off the blogging and indicates he will be posting his exchanges with Peter.

For our part, a few initial reactions to Peter Beinart:

First, his essay is a kind of back-handed compliment to our community – the Orthodox Jewish community – for our passion and commitment to Israel. Something we are proud of, of course, and whose acknowledgment we welcome.

However, for some odd reason, Peter decided to publish this essay in, of all places, the NYRB which, as Jeffrey Goldberg has already noted, has a track record of pernicious anti-Israel hatred. (NYRB was the original publisher of Walt-Mersheimer after all.)

This placement – and Peter’s themes – thus seem to cast Orthodox Jews who are passionately pro-Israel as the “bogeymen” to be feared and designed to somehow scare liberals into supporting Israel more, lest AIPAC etc. become “all Orthodox.” This is an objectionable use of our community.

Second, Peter seems to think that any resentment among Jews (Orthodox, establishment or otherwise) toward Arabs is nothing other than invidious racism. It is reasonable however to suggest that among those most passionate about and most closely connected to Israel, resentment toward Arabs stems from the same factors that make many Israelis resent those who have demeaned the Jewish connection to the land and waged wars – of terror and others – against it incessantly. The best antidote to all that, in Israel and among American Jews – liberal, Orthodox or other – is Arabs acting more like Ghandi and less like Che Guevera.

There will surely be much more to discuss here.
Kudos to Peter Beinart for getting it going.