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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Americans get it but American Jews don't

Earlier today, I posted about a new survey that shows that the American people would support a pre-emptive Israeli attack against Iran. The American people also understand that creating a 'Palestinian state' would not solve anything in our region.

The American people get it. But American Jews - those reflexive Democrat-voting liberals - apparently don't.
But since falling into line behind the two-state solution, the position has become a linchpin of American Jewish identity, and American Jewish public life. We depend on being able to say that Israel is ready to make peace, that Israel recognizes the concept of a Palestinian state, that Israel as the Middle East's only democracy treats in Arab minority with full rights. Right now, in the privacy of their conscience, I would guess that many centrist American Jews are wondering if they can still say all these things so credibly. It's going to be on you, more than on anyone, to either convince them they can or persuade them why they shouldn't.

You're up against a major demographic divide. Nearly two full generations of American Jews have been born since the Yom Kippur War. Their firsthand experience is not of a beleaguered Israel fighting for its life. It is of the Israel of elective wars, though also of the Israel that tried to make peace at Camp David. The attacks on the "Israel lobby," including from American Jews themselves, have made Israel advocacy seem a tainted concept for many of these younger American Jews. Despite the efforts of programs like Birthright, many feel disengaged from and faintly embarrassed by Israel, ill-prepared to argue its case on college campuses against smart, savvy, motivated Arab-Americans whose families are new immigrants from the Middle East and intensely absorbed in the Israel-Palestine issue. Somehow, you need to engage these younger American Jews, not just the self-selecting portion that attended day school and frequents Hillel or Chabad on campus.
The Netanyahu government needs to do a lot of work on education. Educating American (and to some extent European) Jewry that is. Birthright was originally conceived as a way of making young unaffiliated Jews appreciate their Jewish identity. Because that was the goal, the government of Israel made the decision to keep Birthright non-political. Unfortunately, Birthright has become a forum for the pro-'Palestinian' extreme Left. For every person caught (see the link), there are dozens who are not caught and who go on the type of program described in the link. We cannot allow our young people to be hijacked in this way. Israel must ensure that American Jews who come on Birthright get sufficient exposure to understand why Israel is being attacked on college campuses across the United States - and how and why they should defend it. Birthright should be a beginning of pro-Jewish and pro-Israel activism - not an occasion for unaffiliated Jews to feel ashamed of Israel and of their Jewish identity.

Netanyahu also needs to undo the last 16 years of American Jews being told that a 'Palestinian state' is in Israel's interest. It's not in Israel's interest. The American people recognize it. But many of the Jews who are most connected with Israel have been sold a false bill of goods and have bought into it lock, stock and barrel. Maybe that's why Avigdor Lieberman was given the foreign ministry. He is the anti-Tzipi Livni, Shimon Peres, Shlomo Ben Ami and yes, even Sylvan Shalom. Yes, for too long, Israel's public relations has been the province of the Left. That too has to change. The Foreign and Education Ministries need to work together to present diaspora Jewry with a coherent picture of Israel that reflects the thinking of this government and of Israel's people.

It's a tall order. Let's hope that Netanyahu and his government are up to it.


At 12:03 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel Katz said the other day that Israelis elected a nationalist government and made the decision to adopt certain policies and this democratic choice should be respected. The Israeli Far Left must not be allowed to obtain through foreign pressure the very goals it could not convince Israeli voters to accept at home. Israel's government needs to underline the fact Oslo is dead and Israel needs to adopt a new approach to peace and security. And it needs to inform Jews that a sovereign country has every right and duty to do what is best for its own people, not what the rest of the world thinks is best for them.

Let's hope the Netanyahu government begins the hard work of making sure European and American Jews know why Israel's thinking has changed and how that is indispensable to Israel's continued survival. So Jews in the Diaspora will be able to defend Israel without feeling estranged from the Jewish State.

At 1:35 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

American Jews are not stupid, Theyare just so assimilated that they don't care.
Non-Orthos are more likely to have an intermarried kid than to visit Israel.
Non-Orthos are more likely to have a gay kid than an oleh.
Sad but true.


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