Tony Greenstein | 25 March 2018 | Post Views:

is one of the most positive stories yet to come out of America and indeed the Jewish
community as a whole.  Before 1945 the
majority of Jews world wide rejected Zionism. 
The reasons were quite simple. 
Most Jews assert that they are part of the nations amongst whom they
live.  Zionism posits that they are
members of another nation- the Jewish nation. 
Since you can’t be a member of 2 nations at the same time, what this means
in practice is that Zionism alienate people from the nations amongst whom they
was the Holocaust, the failure to defeat fascism, which led to support for Zionism
and the Israeli state.  It seems as if Zionism
had been right all along when it said that anti-Semitism is inherent in the
non-Jew, that it could not be fought.  Germany
was a terrible example of the truth of this.
in the 72 years of its existence Israel has been in a permanent state of
emergency, an artificial war-like nation that is always seeking an excuse to
make war on somebody somewhere.  Israel is
a state in search of enemies and where it has none it does its best to invent
in its time we have had Gamel Abden Nasser, the President of Egypt called the Hitler on the Nile, Arafat/Ahmedinajad
and anyone else Zionism doesn’t like has been called a new Hitler.  Hamas are genocidal Jewish baby eating
monsters as are Hezbollah.  At the same
time Israel has dropped the verbal attachment to collectivism as it has adopted
neo-liberalism with an enthusiasm not matched anywhere in the world.
all this with the Occupation, the daily human rights abuses, Ahed Tamimi, the
racist laws and house demolitions and it is not easy to be a supporter of Israel
and yet demand equality at home.
you find that those in society who are most anti-Semitic, like neo-Nazi Richard
Spencer of the alt-Right, Steve Bannon, Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Nick Griffin of
the BNP, Pastor John Hagee and assorted racists and fascists all love Israel whilst,
at the same not liking Jews then it begins to occur to young Jews that Israel is
not all that it is cracked up to be.  In
addition a Jewish state suggests that Jews don’t belong in America.
is therefore not surprising that in this survey of the Bay Area district in
California, only 11% of Jews between 18 and 34 were ‘very attached to Israel’. 
Even better only 40% of young American Jews are ‘comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state.’

 It is becoming ever clearer that it isn’t Jews
but racist non-Jews who most love Israel. 
In Fire & Fury it
describes how Jared Kushner felt Steve Bannon’s support for Israel was a cover
for his anti-Semitism.  Today the normal
response from anti-Semites is that they love Israel.

Jews Are Actually Winning The Generational War Over Israel

By Batya Ungar-Sargon, The Forward, February
13, 2018
Ever since the late 1960s, Israel has been a defining feature of
American Jewish identity. But for the first time in fifty years, this is
Wedge issues have been alienating liberal Jews from Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu’s hawkish, pro-Orthodox, pro-settlement platform, issues
like prayer accommodations for Reform and Conservative Jews at the Western Wall
and the treatment of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Now, a new study joins mounting evidence that young American Jews are
abandoning Israel. And unless this trend is somehow reversed, American Jews in
their newfound ambivalence towards Israel will lose a key part of who they are,
or at least, who they have been for the past half century.
The study, conducted by Steven Cohen and Jack Ukeles, was commissioned
by the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin, and
Sonoma Counties. In it, over 3,000 respondents from the Bay Area took an online
survey in which they were asked questions about Jewish life.
This is what Cohen and Ukeles found: Only 11% of Jews age 18-34 said
they were “very attached to Israel,”
as opposed to 25% of those 50 and older. Only 37% of American Jews age 18-34
said the Jewish state was “very
compared to 61% of American Jews 50-64 and 68% of American Jews
65 and older.
More shockingly, only 40% of American Jews age 18-34 said they were “comfortable with the idea of a Jewish
compared to 64% of American Jews 50-64 and 73% of American Jews 65
and older. And only 30% of American Jews age 18-34 said that they sympathized
more with Israel than with the Palestinians when it came to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, compared to 47% of American Jews 50-64 and 56% of
American Jews 65 and older.
A Portrait
of Bay Area Jewish Life and Communities

Now, California is the most liberal state in the union, and the Bay Area
is its most liberal area, and Jews are the most liberal of America’s ethnic
groups, all of which is to say, the data might not be completely representative
of the larger Jewish community. But the findings are compatible with a recent Stanford study, which found that Jewish college
students don’t want to engage in debates or conflict around Israel, and resist
being labeled as pro-Israel either by Israel advocates or by those critical of
These results were also consistent with the Pew Research Center’s survey of American Jewish life from 2013, as well as with a
Pew study that came out last month, which found a deep
political polarization and generational divide among Americans generally on the
subject of Israel. A full 79% of Republicans say they sympathize more with
Israel than the Palestinians, compared to just 27% of Democrats. And while 56%
of Americans 50 and over sympathized more with Israel than with the
Palestinians, only 32% of 18-29 year olds did.
Just as it’s dividing Americans, Israel is dividing American Jews. The
Bay Area study’s researchers concluded that there are four main predictors for
feeling a connection to Israel: age, politics, your level of Jewish engagement
more generally, and affluence. “People
who are conservative, older, more Jewishly engaged or wealthier feel more attached
to Israel than people who are liberal, younger, less Jewishly engaged and less
” Steven Cohen, one of the researchers, told me. “All these factors are interrelated.”
Which brings us to young Jews. “What
we’re seeing in comparing younger with older Jews is that younger Jews are
moving towards a more neutral position regarding Israel
,” explained Cohen.
The reason for this is twofold, says Cohen. The first stems from the
fact that American Jews are defining their identity in more personal and less
collective terms. “They are more
spiritual and less ethnic,
” he explained. “And Israel falls in the ethnic compartment.”

The second reason younger Jews are less invested in Israel has to do
with Israel itself. “Israeli policies are
far more appealing to political conservatives and more alienating to political
said Cohen. “American
Jewry outside Orthodoxy remains overwhelmingly liberal and overwhelmingly
associated with the Democratic Party.”

But Jews stand to lose a lot more than non-Jewish Democrats when they
lose their ability to proudly identify with Israel. The Israeli policies which
appeal to conservatives and alienate liberals are actually costing American
Jews a core piece of their identity. When young Jews stop identifying with
Israel or caring about it, this reinforces a lack of engagement with their
Jewish identity overall. Which means that losing our connection to Israel is
catastrophically, existentially dangerous for the Jewish diaspora community.
policies are depriving American Jewry of a major pillar of inspiration and
Cohen said.
Others are worried, too.
“It’s a huge
said Jason Isaacson, Associate Executive Director for Policy of the
American Jewish Committee. It’s why AJC puts an emphasis on contrasting Israel
with what Isaacson called Israel’s “more autocratic neighbors” and stresses
Israel’s “hunger for peace with the
Palestinian people whose leadership has resisted the course of the

But Isaacson admits that it’s a case that’s becoming increasingly
difficult to make, thanks to the inherent tension between some of Israel’s
actions and the liberal values that matter to American Jews – especially young
Jews. “Obviously the actions of the government
on matters relating to the Palestinians color this,”
Isaacson said.
Then you have the Israeli government’s embrace of the Trump
administration, which is hardly popular among liberal youngsters. “All this is part of this mix, so cutting
through that and introducing the reality of Israel and the reality of Israel’s
situation is a challenge,”
Isaacson said.
And it’s not just young Jews. Based on polls the AJC
regularly conducts, Isaacson says that the mainstream American Jewish community
is “uncomfortable with the occupation.”
“It’s not in our nature and it’s not the
destiny of the Jewish people to occupy another people,”
Isaacson said.
But the days when American Jews will support Israel in spite of
illiberal policies are coming to an end. Other data strongly suggests that that
when American Jews perceive a tension between Israel and leading an ethical
life, they will choose their ethics.
Take, for example, the poll that found that American Jews ranked remembering the
Holocaust, leading an ethical and moral life, being intellectually curious, and
working for justice and inequality as more important to their Jewish identity
than Israel. The same poll found that as important as Israel to being Jewish is
having a good sense of humor (Israelis disagreed – strongly).
In other words, for huge amounts of Jews, their core beliefs about what
is ethical and just — beliefs which preclude the occupation of the Palestinians
— are more definitive of who they are as Jews than the nationalism represented
by the fact of a Jewish state.
Indeed, nationalism has been tainted by the rise of white supremacists
in the US, and its stain is spreading through President Donald Trump to
everything he touches – which now includes Israel. And while there is still a
minority willing to support Israel on its own terms, the younger generation and
the majority of Jews no longer fit into that category.
And yet, we know from the past that American Jews want an Israel
they can identify with — fiercely. What’s more, they need it to survive in
America as Jews, as Cohen pointed out. Absent the strong ties of community and
religion, Israel has provided a source of inspiration that kept Jews connected
to each other even in the Diaspora.
Values-driven millennials wont endorse something that doesn’t fit within
their belief system. If moneyed American Jews want to strengthen Jewish
continuity, they should stop spending money trying to convince American Jews
that they aren’t seeing what they say they are seeing when they look at Israel,
and start convincing Israeli leaders to pursue policies that American Jews can
be proud of.
In fact, this does seem to be happening. Recently, Jonathan Greenblatt
of the Anti-Defamation League criticized Netanyahu’s efforts to deport African refugees
on the ground that it seems racist. “African refugees, who seem like the
Dreamers in the US — young people who by dint of their parents’ decisions have
grown up in this country — who speak fluent Hebrew, when you start physically
picking them up and sending them over the border back to South Sudan or Rwanda
all the while, while you don’t do the same to Ukrainians or Eastern Europeans
who overstay their visas, guys, this is not going to end well,” Greenblatt
And the AJC’s Isaacson told me he, too, speaks to Israeli officials and
leaders about the ways in which they are alienating young Jews. He sees his
work as cutting both ways. “It’s hasbara, but it’s not just hasbara,” Isaacson said,
referring to Israeli government propaganda presented in a positive light. “It’s action. It’s policies. And obviously
these are issues that we discuss intensively and continuously with our friends
and brethren in Israel.”

Young American Jews are having an effect on the American Jewish
leadership. By refusing to endorse Israel’s shortcomings, they are pushing their
leaders to demand change.
It’s a good thing. Our future as Jews – even in the Diaspora – depends
on it.
Ungar-Sargon is the opinion editor of the Forward.

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