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Presently, there is an unintentional debate at the NY Jewish Week between Editor and Publisher Gary Rosenblatt and Washington Correspondent James Besser concerning the American Jewish community's concerns about and support for President Obama.  Yesterday, the Jewish Week, the largest Jewish newspaper in America, made Mr. Rosenblatt's op-ed, "Whispered Worries About Obama", available on its website.  Today, Mr. Besser's blog article, "Obama Angst Points To Widening Jewish Leadership Gap", was published.  This conversation is very important for the American Jewish community, as well as other parts of our society, as our President deals with Israel, Palestine, and the larger Middle East.

After reading Mr. Rosenblatt's columns over the years, I have always found him to be a capable person who is passionate about Judaism, Israel, and affiliated Jewish American communities.  Over the last several weeks, I have noticed a more urgent tone in his writings.  I believe that this change reflects a perception within the Jewish establishment that they are losing the ideological battle over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the existential threat from Iran.

On June 10th, Mr. Rosenblatt published an interview he had with New York Times Columnist Roger Cohen, "Times' Cohen: Getting Under Our Skin".  Mr. Cohen has never been accused of being on the radical left with respect to Israel and its relations with other Middle East nations.  However, it appears that the behavior of the Israeli government and its military during this winter's "Operation Cast Lead" disturbed Mr. Cohen to the point where he re-evaluated his past beliefs and became much more critical of the Israeli government and the established Jewish American leadership.

After giving Mr. Cohen space to describe his views regarding Israel, Judaism, the War In Gaza, the Israeli-Palestinian (I/P) conflict, and Iran, Mr. Rosenblatt challenged him with old ideas and personal criticisms that have been used often, in one form or another, by Jewish leaders when someone within the faith speaks out publicly.

-And while Israel, like every other nation on earth, has its shortcomings, it is too easy, and historically dishonest, to harp on its obligations to the Palestinians without mentioning Jerusalem’s repeated offerings of compromise and sacrifice, each rejected outright — not to mention a Palestinian culture that glorifies suicide bombers killing Jewish women and children amid calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

-It would seem from his writings and conversation that he believes that when it comes to the Mideast conflict, it is Israeli hearts that have hardened and that the government in Jerusalem is trying to ignore terrible things. He is welcome to his beliefs, of course, but Roger Cohen should be wary of conflating one tragedy with another.

Call it lack of balance or fairness, but to cite only one party to blame for the Israeli-Arab conflict is to deny history and reality, and to weaken one’s credibility beyond logic or truth.

Reading Cohen lately — the anger, blame and one-sidedness of his argument — one wonders whose heart, indeed, has grown brutal.

Mr. Rosenblatt's most recent op-ed reflects that he is more panicked about the standing of the establishment positions than he was a month ago.  He enlists American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris, Anti-Defemation League Director Abraham Foxman, and Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations Malcom Hoenlein to help sow the seeds of doubt about President Obama and his commitment to the State of Israel.  These statesmen of the American Jewish establishment start by defining the supposed problem that the President is not supportive of Israel and losing the confidence of many American Jews.

Mr. Rosenblatt:

- Leaders of American Jewish organizations note an unease among mainstream supporters of Israel and Jewish causes — we’re not talking about marginal "Obama is a Muslim" critics here — who say they voted for and admire Barack Obama and support many of his policies, but feel he is being overly critical of Israel and too soft on the Palestinians and on an Iranian regime bent on developing nuclear weapons that could end up aimed at the Jewish state.

As one leader put it: "Moderate people come up to me and ask, ‘Should I be worried?’ "

It’s a good question, though it’s being whispered more than spoken these days.

Mr. Harris:

- Lately, he (Mr. Harris) says, he is "hearing a growing number of questions and concerns about the U.S.-Israel relationship, and a sense that the Obama administration’s response to the Iran crisis was slower than it should have been."

Mr. Foxman:

- Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, says the normal anxiety level among American Jews when a new administration takes shape has been heightened to new levels because President Obama "champions change, and American Jews tend to approve of U.S. policy toward Israel and don’t necessarily welcome change" on that front.

Mr. Hoenlein:

- He (Mr. Hoenlein) later said his remarks (about President Obama's Cairo speech) were taken out of context, but he told me the other day that "judging from phone calls" he has received, and other responses, "there is an increasing unease" about a number of the Obama administration’s recent statements and actions.

Once creating the impression that American Jews who once supported the President are worried about his beliefs and actions towards Israel, these pillars of the traditional Jewish community attempt to explain why this is so.

Mr. Rosenblatt:

- But the Obama administration has a different take, and its seemingly willful refusal to recognize past U.S. commitments makes Israeli leaders worry about the trustworthiness of guarantees in the future.

- Such a blunt, public statement (concerning the total freeze in settlements) about a close strategic ally caused a ripple of worry among Jewish leaders, one of whom told me the only conclusion he could reach was that the administration wanted to bring down the Netanyahu government, hoping it would be replaced by a more moderate one.

- Complicating the problem further is that this administration is relying less on American Jewish leaders for input because two of the most powerful men in government, with daily access to the president, are high-profile Jews: senior adviser David Axelrod and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

Mr. Hoenlein:

- Those (Statements in President Obama's Cairo speech that trouble Mr. Hoenlien's acquaintances) include the president’s reference in his Cairo speech to 7 million American Muslims, when in fact most studies believe the number to be closer to 2.5 million; the narrative suggesting that Israel’s roots go back only as far as the Holocaust rather than to the Bible; the public pressure on Israel to halt settlements — as if they represented the key to peace rather than the Palestinians’ consistent refusal to recognize a Jewish state in the region — and the lack of specific demands on the Palestinians; and the concern that the president is still determined to engage in dialogue with Iran, despite the regime’s brutal behavior following national elections last month.

Mr. Foxman:

- "What troubles me most is a lack of consultation and the need [for the administration] to do things publicly. There’s a [U.S.-Israel] relationship of 60 years and all of a sudden they’re treating Israel like everyone else. I find that disturbing."

Now that the dilema has been defined and reasoned, Mr. Rosentblatt tells the readers what they need to do.

For now, it’s important for supporters of Israel to make their voices heard, pointing out the nuances and critical distinctions in discussing "the settlements"; emphasizing that the crux of the problem is and has always been Palestinian intransigence, terrorism and refusal to accept a Jewish state; and pressing Washington for a clear policy on dealing with Iran, and the Palestinians, beyond diplomacy.

Everything they have spoken, written, and recommended is understandable given their high ranking positions in the traditional Jewish communal world.  For many years, these people were the defining voices on Israeli issues for American Jews, both inside and outside of the communal world.  However, Mr. Besser's post points out that the power of their top-down influence has lessened significantly.

Last month I wrote a story suggesting the Obama administration is confident it can push Israel on the issue of West Bank settlements without risking a big political backlash from Jewish voters.

That story ignited a flurry of calls and emails from readers disagreeing with me, many from Jewish leadership types, and I had to concede they were right, up to a point: there is a spreading feeling of anxiety about Obama policies in the circles in which these responders move.

But they were also wrong, as far as I can tell, about the Jewish community as a whole.  I’ve seen no evidence the almost 80 percent support the president received from Jewish voters in November has eroded significantly.

That points to the likelihood the always-significant gap between an Israel-focused  Jewish leadership and rank-and-file Jewry is becoming a yawning chasm.

Reading Mr. Besser's article, it is apparent that many traditional "pro-Israel" American Jews already believe the things that people like Mssrs. Foxman, Harris, Rosenblatt, Hoenlein, and Dershowitz are talking about.  A big problem for these groups and individuals is that their numbers are shrinking.  The larger number of American Jews are not involved with these more traditional political, social, and/or religious groups and its leaders.

These voters are supportive of Israel, but it is not an exclusive issue.  For them, a candidate needs to back Israel and the U.S.-Israeli relationship, but not as complete and total as the more communal members desire.  As a result, most American Jews, who voted for President Obama, accept his positions on these issues, as well as the settlement freeze, and they continue to have confidence in him.

Several of those leaders, speaking off the record, account for the gap (between leaders of mainstream Jewish organizations and the majority of American Jews) by pointing out that they are more knowledgeable than most people about the complexities of U.S.-Israeli policy, following it every day on a high level.(emphasis mine)

For several decades, these traditional American Jewish groups and leaders held control over the "pro-Israel" message and greatly influenced the general Jewish community, as well as elected officials.  While these people still influence elected officials, their control over the majority of American Jews is ending.  As more people have come to realize that the ideas and opinions from these leaders have kept America stuck in an intolerable status-quo with respect to Middle East peace, they have started to think for themselves regarding Israel, the Middle East and the I/P conflict.

These Jewish Americans have started to find out that groups like Brit Tzedek v' Shalom and Americans For Peace Now offer views that are more compatible with a progressive pro-peace viewpoint, much like the President that they overwhelmingly voted for this past Novmember.  They are also finding out that the rapid growth of J Street offers them a chance to change the last part of the equation, the opinions of elected officials.

As the President continues his strong leadership to resolve the various Middle East conflicts, and maintains his large support within the Jewish American community, these traditional leaders will seek to re-establish their control with even more intense challenges to the President.  When this happens, please remember that these people are simply becoming more desperate because there are growing numbers of Jewish Americans who support a bottom-up democracy in their country and their faith.

Since Mr. Rosenblatt offered a set of "asks" at the end of his article, I feel the need to do something similar.  Learn, for yourself, about the various issues concerning Israel and its Middle East neighbors.  

For those people who desire to get involved with more progressive D.C. Jewish organizations:

  1. Sign Brit Tzedek v' Shalom's Pledge to Support President Obama
  1. Donate to J Street PAC and any/all of their endorsed candidates
  1. Attend J Street's first National Conference: Driving Change, Securing Peace Oct. 25-28 2009 in Washington D.C.
  1. Sign up for American For Peace Now's weekly Legislative Roundup and Action Alerts to keep up on the governmental issues related to the Middle East.

 

Originally posted to rbguy on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 08:24 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Thanks for an important article... (0+ / 0-)

      ...though I'm afraid many outsiders to American Jewry will have a hard time following it.

      I will also suggest that it is time for the Jewish American pro-peace wing to go on the attack rather than be defensive:

      from where I stand, it seems that all these old jerks you mention here are mostly worried about their own personal power, with "the fate of Israel" becoming a lamer and lamer pretext.

      Happy 4th.

  •  the only thing obama is doing re: israel (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mickT, LynneK, NewDealer, sulthernao

    is what bush said he would do but never did.

    YOU NEED TO CALL THESE SENATORS ON PUBLIC OPTION NOW

    by lizard people on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 08:29:23 PM PDT

  •  I for one favor blunt statements (14+ / 0-)

    I support Israel, I support it's right to exist, to exist in peace and security.  But I don't support its tendency to keep putting a stick in it's neighbor's eye and then crying foul when they object.  The West Bank settlements are that stick.

    To be fair, the neighbors aren't all that much better, but this isn't about that, it's about how can peace be achieved.

  •  Interesting, well-researched post (15+ / 0-)

    Thank you.

    The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it. ~ H.L. Mencken

    by Jay Elias on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 08:36:47 PM PDT

  •  The quietude of this diary is uncharacteristic (9+ / 0-)

    of most diaries that touch on I/P issues.  Like nerves have been subdued or something.  Thanks for the interesting diary.

  •  A very interesting diary...and informative (5+ / 0-)

    I didn't know about most of this. Thank you for taking the time to research this.

  •  Good job (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    newpioneer, Terra Mystica, juancito, rbguy

    These days in America the people are usually better than the leadership, may their voice finally be heard.

  •  i agree.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    juancito

    it is an interesting diary.  

    i'm not sure that you argument is overly convincing about obama's support in the jewish community though. i wonder if there are any polls since the speech in cairo to this effect?

    "Democracy! Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather Boa!" - Allen Ginsberg

    by canadian gal on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:56:23 PM PDT

    •  Not sure a poll adds any meaningful info (0+ / 0-)

      to this type discussion.  Not usually any better than the actual construction of the questions and handling of data accumulated.

      Probably better for predicting leaders in political races and as we have seen continually miss the mark in that arena also.

      PaintyKat

      WWYTR? tikkyn olam - repairing the world.

      by PaintyKat on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 11:25:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  not sure i agree paintykat... (0+ / 0-)

        wouldn't a poll of the american jewish population help either prove or disprove the diarists assertions that the jewish community differs/shares the views of those cited?

        "Democracy! Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather Boa!" - Allen Ginsberg

        by canadian gal on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 12:30:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  This may be the best I/P diary ever (6+ / 0-)

    Thank you.

    You would not believe the nonsense attacks on Obama that are seen daily on right wing Jewish sites. It is disgusting. I've been calling them out for months.

    The three organizations you mention have a base of support that is neither wide nor deep. For example, I looked at J Street's internet site and could not find a single individual identified as a supporter whom I could identify as Orthodox. While only 10-15% of American Jews are Orthodox, if you look at synagogue attendance on a typical Shabat and you will likely find that there are more Jews in Orthodox synagogues than in all non-Orthodox movements combined. You aren't going to get a broadbased Jewish movement going without at least some Orthodox support.

    All my IP addresses have been banned from Redstate.com.

    by charliehall on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:58:00 PM PDT

  •  Foxman: "They are treating Israel like everyone (5+ / 0-)

    else. I find that disturbing."
    Foxman, such a funny guy. expects the US to treat Israel real special.

    If that is not a false sense of entitlement, then what is?

    Why shouldn't we treat Israel like every other nation?

    why do people like foxman expect us to "single out Israel"?

    "The sword of murder is not the balance of justice." Mom's Day Statement

    by Tom J on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 09:58:53 PM PDT

    •  Is this the first time we've rec'd the same diary (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      podster, rbguy

      All my IP addresses have been banned from Redstate.com.

      by charliehall on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 10:17:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That is not something (0+ / 0-)

      I find particularly objectionable because it reflects a common position of many countries vis a vis the U.S.

      Canada and Mexico as bordering states, expect to be treated differently, the UK has its "special relationship," China is asserting a unique relationship now as emerging superpower and North Korea is demanding one as a matter of diplomatic bluster.  The list of such examples could go far longer.

      Far more pernicious, in my view, are Foxman's persistent conflation of US and Israeli national interests and his always reflexive impulse to misuse and thereby de-legitimize the serious charge of anti-semitism.

      Rome is burning ... put down the fiddle.

      by ancblu on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 10:24:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  US/Israel interests ARE intertwined (0+ / 0-)

        as they both fought against the Soviets in the Cold War, and against Radical Islam today. And given that they're the only country in the ME to fight with us on both sides AND be a full fledged democracy, per Freedom House(unlike Turkey) and the Economist, the US/Israel relationship must stay around. Doing anything else would give Radical Islamists a big win and encouragement.

        "If someone was sending rockets on my house where my daughters were sleeping at night, I would do everything to stop it"-Barack Obama, Sderot, Israel

        by deaniac20 on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 10:48:20 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Before the flame war starts (6+ / 0-)

          Just stop you know we can't let that  stand so stop. The Bush rhetoric has to stop, the Islamofacist, radical Islam threat, War on Terror stuff has to stop. We voted against that remember? We are not going to be fear mongered into anymore wars, or anymore conflict between nations if we can help it. The greatest boom for radicals was singling them out as a threat to western civilization which is ridiculous idea.

          •  what Bush rhetoric? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Karmafish

            radical Islamism IS a threat. before they were widely called out, they got away with killing 3000 people in New York. How is calling the ideology of hate behind this "Bush rhetoric?" Are Democrats not allowed to be behind an ideology of totalitarianism? Obama even used the term when talking about Wright:

            But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

            Thats out President, when he was a candidate. Is he a Republican now or then? I never use the term "war on terrorism." Ever notice that?

            I am not trying to fear monger into any war. But an ideology which is being spread in the Mid East which preaches hate and violence must be called out, and whenever it fights allies or us, we cannot simply sit back and get hit. If you wanna believe after 9/11, 3/11, 7/7, and the countless attacks moderate Muslim countries endure and non-Muslim countries like India endure radical Islam is not a threat, go ahead.

            "If someone was sending rockets on my house where my daughters were sleeping at night, I would do everything to stop it"-Barack Obama, Sderot, Israel

            by deaniac20 on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:59:27 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Your right Obama said that (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Lepanto, juancito

              There would be some conflict in the Middle East without Israel but we all know how many wars and civil wars are directly associated with the creation of Israel. In that sense Obama's statements were a distortion history. Better to say Western Influence in general has created instability and conflict within the middle east for some time.

              Radical Islam is not a existential threat.  9/11 was not going to destroy civilization as we know it and the impact would have been minimal if we had not drove ourselves insane, abandoned the constitution, and created a imperial presidency.
              The Point is the greatest threat from a terrorist attack comes by the way of our own leadership. The damage done is insignificant compared to what we did and do to ourselves. The annual murder rate alone is 5 times the total number of deaths in 9/11. I for one refuse to be manipulated by irrational arguments insisting that we wave the flag and start killing people in other countries whenever someone from abroad commits an act of mass murder. Shit happens that's life we move on. Perfect safety is a recipe for a totalitarian states.

          •  the ideology is a political force (0+ / 0-)

            whose groups are trying to infiltrate and take over governments, and they did in Gaza, as has been in Iran for years now which funds more groups like Hamas/Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, which not only work in Israel, but in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Al-Qaeda in places. India is under threat from these guys, Russia, and Europe has been hit, and the number of Islamist groups in countries is rising, due in part to Saudi backed Wahhabism which is spreading. I am not advocated for invading whole countries and occupying them, but the ideology of violence behind radical Islam must be confronted as we did communism, and fascism.

            "If someone was sending rockets on my house where my daughters were sleeping at night, I would do everything to stop it"-Barack Obama, Sderot, Israel

            by deaniac20 on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 12:01:49 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Look at the pressures Gaza was under (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              juancito

              Under those circumstances one could probably radicalize a convent. The ideology is strengthen by perceived threats giving it legitimacy in the mainstream. Obama knows that, and that is why he made the speech in Cairo.  

            •  Islam has different sects (0+ / 0-)

              and there is considerable friction among them.
              They cannot be dumped into one group.

              Hizbulla and Hamas are supported by Iran, which is Shia, Al Qaeda is Wahabi [Sunni], and each bloc thinks they are the true standard bearer of Islam. There are constant "battles" going on.
              There is also a cultural component--most of the Shia are in Iran [which is a 5000 year old Persian civilization]--the Arabs have large nomad origins, and they are looked down upon by the Iranis as "uneducated" and "uncivilized".

              Unfortunately, most Americans don't understand the deep divisions among the Shia and the Sunni.
              Yes, both groups are using the Palestine situation to mobilize their supporters, but you cannot lump them together fundamentally.
              The biggest gift that the Shia got was the removal of Saddam. Iran and the Shia got more power,

  •  I too am a Jew (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    juancito, edtastic

    who supports Israel's right to exist, if they want to. Personally, I don't see the need for a Jewish state, as it seems a total fallacy that that little state will protect Jews. However, I do not support the Israeli governments treatment of the Palestinians.

    I do know there are a lot of Palestinians and Jews who don't hate each other, who will live peacefully together, and who long to move on.

    Whether the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships can have generosity of spirit and creativeness in making that happen, I don't know.

    It really feels like the Middle East has so much boiling just under the surface. Iran's people want to come into the 21st Century. Lebanon didn't vote for Hezbollah. More and more people demanding a two-state solution. But history moves so slowly sometimes. Wonder how long it will take for the Middle East to come out of its dark ages.

    "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

    by MillieNeon on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 10:15:41 PM PDT

    •  Don't personally see the need? (3+ / 0-)

      Why does your new-agey opinion counts at all? You are totally ignorant of the multiplicity of reasons for a the Israeli state.
      If there were pograms in Eastern Europe, where would the Jews there go? To the United States? Mexico? Argentina? Last time there were problems, they were shut out of the US. I suppose that all of history is a sham and the world is much too civilized to ever persecute Jews again.
      I won't even go into the importance of Israel for the continuation of the Jewish religion, the resurrection of the Hebrew language, a place to practice the complexities of Judaism and Jewish Law. But I guess you think that is all Middle-Ages darkness.

      "America - The land where no one is allowed to mind his own business." William S Burroughs

      by shmuelman on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:32:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  well, (0+ / 0-)

        this is the first generation in a millennia or so that Jews haven't been persecuted and murdered around the world.

        •  uh (6+ / 0-)

          that's not quite true.  Antisemitism is a form of persecution.  The attack on the Holocaust Museum is just one example and it's on the rise worldwide:

          http://www.cnn.com/...

          •  it seems to be the trend to (5+ / 0-)

            say that there is no need for Israel- and that American Jews aren't interested. At least that is the impression I'm getting. I don't agree and find the sentiment disturbing.

            So, all I can think is that Jews haven't been persecuted and murdered in droves for a whole generation, so problem endured for millennia solved? Cancel need for Jewish state?

            •  Israel's treatment of Palestinians and its (4+ / 0-)

              turn towards racism add significantly to antisemitism and make Jews around the world less secure. Believe me, if there are pogroms in Berkley or Brooklyn I'm going to fight them here.

              But wait.. Jews in the diaspora are supposed to be persecuted. . . so they will all ascend to. . . eretz israel...  the eternal homeland. Pretty new-agey not see that. . .

              the inability of Israel to live with Palestinians without domination or occupation or subjection signifies a radical failure of Zionism. So it's not that Jews don't need Israel (some do), it turns out that Israel needs the United States. American Jews are perhaps not really in exile. . . because they live in a country that derives its sovereignty from all its people. Israeli Jews are still in golus, in exile, however, for precisely the reason given above.

              The idea that if the USA were taken over by an antisemitic  exterminationist force that imperiled Jewish existence here,  that Israel (the 51st state, let's face it) would then be a refuge is ludicrous.

              Human reason is beautiful and invincible --Milosz, Incantation

              by juancito on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:57:17 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  So, I'm not sure I'm understanding (3+ / 0-)

                what you are saying, because it sounds like you're suggesting that Jews cause their own persecution.

                •  Not "Jews" in general. This is sort of a (0+ / 0-)

                  sensitive thing to say, I acknowledge, in that anti-semitism has a long history and a developed ideology , and blaming the Jews for it is, in general, a case of blaming the victim. Antisemitism long predated zionism and Israel, and the latter would not have come into being without it.

                  But I think that the actions of the state of Israel do contribute towards current anti-semitic feelings and actions in some quarters, e.g among muslim youth in Europe(but not only there).

                  Jews did not cause their own persecution. But Israeli oppression of Palestinian Arabs contributes toward hatred of Jews. And since Israel claims to derive its sovereignty from the Jewish people everywhere, who are claimed to be one nation whose homeland is Palestine, I think that when the state acts in particularly reprehensible ways-- such as, and this is my opinion of the events-- the deliberate killing of civilians in Gaza-- and its defenders claim that those who critique such actions are fundamentally motivated by hatred of Jews, antisemitism, and fundamentalist antipathy to Jews as such; I think it helps to confuse opposition to Israel with antisemitism, and to encourage antisemitism. And there is real anti-semitism that has a political and ideological life of its own.

                  But I think that the Israeli right and its supporters in the US has done everything possible to conflate opposition to the occupation, principled opposition to the idea of an ethnically-exclusive state, specific criticisms of the use of force against Palestinians, settlements, racism, etc with classic,fundamentally motivated antisemitism. I think there is an element of cynicism and of crass manipulation. Jews as a people are traumatized by the recent memory worst genocide in history, and to constantly restimulate the emotional response to that, in order to  justify bombing civilians is wrong. It also devalues that memory in the minds of those appalled by such actions.

                  Egregious example: Menachem Begin claimed that Israel's invasion of Lebanon (wherein thousands of Lebanese civilians were killed by bombs) was needed to prevent "another Treblinka."

                  And I do think that at the heart of Zionism is an ideological antipathy to the diaspora, although it is more complex than that, and probably plenty of people who consider themselves zionists don't think that way.

                  I have found that there are real anti-semites who also hate Israel, and from whom we have to distinguish ourselves, and some truly equivalent pro-Israeli racists who think of--and will describe-- Arabs, in the manner that Hans Frank spoke of Polish Jews, as "lice."

                  I don't know if this fully responds to your inquiry; actually i would say I am still thinking about it. But I think that the actions of the state of Israel do fan the flames of antisemitism, at least among Muslim youth, etc. If you think this is some sort of an apology for muslim antisemitism, however, it is not. Wrong ideas lead to bad outcomes; the oppressed become the oppressors, and this could certainly apply to Islamist forces with backward ideas if they come to gain power over Jews.  Ideas matter.

                  Human reason is beautiful and invincible --Milosz, Incantation

                  by juancito on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:45:26 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I was replying to your post (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    canadian gal

                    maybe you need to reread it.

                    It also devalues that memory in the minds of those appalled by such actions.

                    There is nothing about the holocaust experience that is lovable.

                    Where were all those appalled by such actions at the time?

      •  New Agey? (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Lepanto, juancito, Conure

        That's the biggest insulting adjective you can think of? Bwahahahaha

        My grandparents were escaping pograms in Eastern Europe and came to the U.S. I've been to Israel three times. I much prefer the U.S. And where do you reside?

        It's always interesting to me how many Jews who get so upset at the slightest criticism of Israel don't actually live there. Why don't they all go and live there?

        The Jewish religion managed to survive quite well for 2000 years in diaspora. Why? Because they had a book that united them. Most religions didn't have books. In fact the book was so well done, that an African chief in Uganda, Kukangulu created the Abayudaya, the Jews of Unganda just from reading the book. Later the group met Jewish people who taught them Hebrew and other things.

        As Jewish writings state, one can practice the complexities of Judaism and Jewish Law anywhere. And people do practice it everywhere. New York, Memphis, Chicago. These are the cities I've personally seen Judaism flourish in.

        Actually by Middle Ages, I wasn't particularly referring to Israel -- except for the ultra right wing orthodox who treat women like 2nd class citizens. Don't say they don't, I've been there amongst them, and was told I had to cover my arms and wear a long skirt. Women couldn't even sing at the Sabbath meal. Etc. Same here in Chicago at my orthodox cousin's house.

        I was referring to places like Egypt and Iran and Saudi Arabia where Mullahs try to keep their people stranded in ancient history.

        But you know what? Whether you like it or not, I am entitled to my opinion, which despite yr little temper tantrum, is not ignorant of the history of Judaism and Israel. I don't believe in states built around religions. I don't like it in the Muslim world. I would certainly hate for the right wing Christians to be able to make the U.S. a Christian nation. And it doesn't appeal to me in Israel. I think the Fertile Crescent Crew (Jews/Christians/Muslims) have been beating each other up over their gods for way too long. I wouldn't mind seeing all three of those religions die out.

        Not the people, just the stupid ideology.

        "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

        by MillieNeon on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 01:36:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Slightest Criticism? (0+ / 0-)

          That was one of the most overtly anti-Semitic comment I have ever read. We've been through this before. You can't invent Judaism in your image just because you feel like it.

          "America - The land where no one is allowed to mind his own business." William S Burroughs

          by shmuelman on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 01:53:32 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I didn't say anything abt inventing Judaism (0+ / 0-)

            How was I inventing Judaism? I just gave my opinions about politics in the middle east. And speaking of invention, Jews who feel that Israel can do no wrong and the Palestinians can do no right are inventing history.

            "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

            by MillieNeon on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 10:38:52 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  that hat is on way too tight (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          canadian gal

          Most religions didn't have books.

          because it's cutting off a suitable amount of oxygen to feed your brain.

          or you are just making this all up as you go along?

          here is a little hint:  the epic of gilgamesh.

          _______________

          Don't confuse them with facts. They have stereotypes on their side. (rserven)

          by dadanation on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 02:16:18 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, they had stories (0+ / 0-)

            but they didn't have a book. Their stuff was written in stone and clay. A book is far more transportable, or a scroll is.

            "If religion is the opiate of the masses, then fundamentalism is the amphetamine." Miz Vittitow

            by MillieNeon on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 10:36:34 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  do you know what you are talking about? (0+ / 0-)

              The Book of the Giants was published in not less than six or seven languages. From the original Syriac the Greek and Middle Persian versions were made. The Sogdian edition was probably derived from the Middle Persian, the Uygur from the Sogdian. There is no trace of a Parthian text.4 The book may have existed in Coptic. The presence of names such as Sām and Narīmān in the Arabic version proves that it had been translated from the Middle Persian. To the few surviving fragments (texts A-G) I have added two excerpts, the more important of which (H) probably derives from a Syriac epitome of the book. Naturally, Manichæan authors quoted the book frequently, but there is only one direct citation by a non-Manichæan writer (text O). With the exception of text O, all the passages referring to the Book of the Giants (texts J-T) go back to Syriac writings (apparently). They are, therefore, to be treated as quotations from the Syriac edition. E.g. the Parthian text N is not the product of a Parthian writer who might have employed a Parthian version of the book, but was translated from a Syriac treatise whose author cited the Syriac text.

              that book would be the holy text for the manichaens.

              let's not forget hinduism:

              There are four Vedas, the Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. The Vedas are the primary texts of Hinduism. They also had a vast influence on Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Traditionally the text of the Vedas was coeval with the universe. Scholars have determined that the Rig Veda, the oldest of the four Vedas, was composed about 1500 B.C., and codified about 600 B.C. It is unknown when it was finally committed to writing, but this probably was at some point after 300 B.C.

              you do know that the stone tablet was the "book" of its time, don't you?

              and what about the egyptian's book of the dead?

              how about zoroastrians and the avesta?

              i haven't even begun on taoism...

              _______________

              Don't confuse them with facts. They have stereotypes on their side. (rserven)

              by dadanation on Sat Jul 04, 2009 at 03:55:44 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for this well-written and smart diary. (6+ / 0-)

    Your thesis is that the American Jewish community is splitting from the older leadership, such as Foxman and others.  This may very well be true and I do not necessarily believe that this is a bad thing either for Israel or American Jews.  

    I do wonder, tho, if you have really established either your premises or your conclusion.

    For example, you write:

    Over the last several weeks, I have noticed a more urgent tone in his (Mr. Rosenblatt's) writings.  I believe that this change reflects a perception within the Jewish establishment that they are losing the ideological battle over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the existential threat from Iran.

    While this may be entirely true, there is no way for the reader to determine the truthfulness of the claim from what you have written, because you offer us no evidence.  You say that you notice a "more urgent tone" in Rosenblatt’s writings, but this is something that we are asked to take on faith.  No evidence is proffered.  And then we are asked to accept this unsubstantiated claim as evidence for a personal belief that is also unsubstantiated.

    I am not saying that you are wrong.  I am saying that you ask us to believe what you say purely on faith.

    You then reference an article from New York Times Columnist, Roger Cohen, who is becoming more critical of the Jewish state and Rosenblatt’s response.  Among those responses, which you characterize as "old ideas and personal criticisms that have been used often, in one form or another, by Jewish leaders," you give us this:

    Call it lack of balance or fairness, but to cite only one party to blame for the Israeli-Arab conflict is to deny history and reality, and to weaken one’s credibility beyond logic or truth.

    If Cohen has, in fact, cited only one party to blame for the endless I-P misery, then Rosenblatt is entirely correct.  This idea may be old, but it surely true and it is not a personal criticism of Cohen.  Anyone who lays all blame at the feet of one party is denying history and reality.  It's simply undeniable.

    This comment is already plenty long, so I will skip some of my other criticisms to go straight to this:

    While these people still influence elected officials, their control over the majority of American Jews is ending.  As more people have come to realize that the ideas and opinions from these leaders have kept America stuck in an intolerable status-quo with respect to Middle East peace.

    Here you are claiming that the American Jewish leadership directs US foreign policy and has, thus, kept it in an "intolerable status-quo."  While I certainly agree that the status-quo is quite intolerable, it is unclear to me just how you come to the conclusion that American Jewish leadership drives American foreign policy.

    Will you explain?

    "War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell

    by Karmafish on Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 11:17:26 PM PDT

  •  the thing is (3+ / 0-)

    it might be that

    A big problem for these groups and individuals is that their numbers are shrinking.  The larger number of American Jews are not involved with these more traditional political, social, and/or religious groups and its leaders.

    I can't speak for anyone else, but in the small, personal anecdotal sampling that is my dysfunctional family, interest in Israel, Jews and Judaism has gone from total ambivalence to enormous concern-- while simultaneously maintaining our strong affiliation to the Democratic party and Obama.

  •  Beyond Diplomacy:If this is all they've got (6+ / 0-)

    I wouldn't be surprised that many American Jews don't feel represented anymore by these politically conservative status-quo defenders.

    Rosenblatt objections to Obama's outspoken policies amount to little more than GOP/Neo Con talking points, and worn out rightwing Israeli politic stances, there is not one single constructive peaceseeking idea in his article.
    -He is worried about the money, US military aid and political support based on past agreements.
    -Accusing Obama of wanting to let the Netanyahu Government fail
    -Calling for thougher stance on Iran
    saying Obama is not listening to them(traditional mainstream jewish religious organizations.( Supposedly beacuse of Rahm and Axelrod having Jewish Roots[sic]."What troubles me most is a lack of consultation and the need [for the administration] to do things publicly. There’s a [U.S.Israel] relationship of 60 years and all of a sudden they’re treating Israel like everyone else. I find that disturbing."
    -Undermining the political clout of American muslims by questioning their numbers.
    callimg for recognition of Israel by the Arabs of Israel as a Jewish State stalling technique
    -wanting to focus on steps the palestinians have to take diverting attention from Israel.

    If you look at this talkingpoints, you'll recognize there is not one constructive thing in there. There's a total lack of substance of idea's here; GOp like emptyness. These are exactly the talkingpoints that destroy IP discussions on D-Kos, they're stalling techniques meant to maintain the status quo and not to build a peacefull road to co-existence in a two sate solution.The two state solution never even gets mentioned. I'm not surprised if many jews expect more from their traditional leaders than these lame talkingpoints.

  •  Let me mention another progressive (7+ / 0-)

    voice worth supporting:

    Jewish Voice For Peace

    http://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/

    Human reason is beautiful and invincible --Milosz, Incantation

    by juancito on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 05:36:35 AM PDT

  •  My observations (6+ / 0-)

    from my involvement in American Jewish community affairs over the past 25+ years is that the forces who favor a continuation of the status quo have -- collectively and consistently -- been louder and more vocal than those who want change. This has created a false perception that their views are shared by a majority of American Jews. But a closer scrutiny reveals that this is simply not the case. What is true, however, is that the forces within the community who favor the status quo are far better organized than those who oppose it.

    But, those leaders shot their wad with their tolerance of the silly criticism of Obama during the campaign. They tolerated -- via the Rev. Wright, Rashid Khalidi, and other shenanigans -- the festering perception that Obama was at heart an Israel-hater. This sillyness was overwhelmingly rejected by the American Jewish community, who plainly understood that support for Israel and support for the status quo are not inextricably intertwined.

    So, it is only natural that those who have defended the status quo will try, once again, to paint Obama as biased against Israel because he opposes the status quo. Problem is, anyone who actually listens to the entirety of his thoughts on the subject knows that his views are aligned fairly closely with those who care passionately about Israel's security yet do not support the settlements.

    Get used to it -- Obama will not win accolades from those on either side of the issue who seek victory rather than compromise.

  •  Excellent diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sofia, Terra Mystica, rbguy

    I do perceive a division within the Jewish community on these issues, and many find ourselves disillusioned by the traditional leadership, but still wary of many critics of Israel. I think J Street and other similar organizations can help, but they have a difficult balancing act ahead of them.

    Economic Left/Right: -4.00 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.82
    A yam.
    What a Yam!
    And that's all that - A yam.

    by AaronInSanDiego on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 12:36:08 PM PDT

  •  Simply a very enlightening& well written diary.nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rbguy

    ...We have many issues that bind us together than separates us!

    by ThisIsMyTime on Fri Jul 03, 2009 at 06:17:09 PM PDT

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