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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Who needs the Jews?

I know that some of you are going to disagree with me, but I believe this is spot-on.
Assumptions and prejudices to the contrary, Diaspora Jewish support has never been a decisive factor in Zionist success. As has been chronicled most effectively by Michael Oren in his 2007 book Power, Faith, and Fantasy, gentile support for Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel far predates political Zionism’s coalescence as a viable movement.

To cite only two meaningful examples, John Adams, the second American president, wrote in 1819, “I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation” and imagined an army of “a hundred thousand Israelites.” Daniel Deronda, the deeply Zionist novel by George Eliot, was published in 1876, 20 years before the appearance of Herzl’s The Jewish State.

Both were expressions of deep-seated pro-Zionist feeling among many American and European gentiles. And it was this feeling – more than anything else – that gave the pre-state Yishuv its two most important victories: the Balfour Declaration of 1917 (endorsed unanimously by both houses of Congress in the United States) and Harry Truman’s quick recognition of David Ben-Gurion’s declaration of statehood in 1948.

AMERICA’S JEWS did not come to a full-throated support for Israel until 1967, after the crucial battles for the state’s existence had already been fought. In the 1920s and 1930s – some of the years of the Yishuv’s greatest fragility – they were far more concerned with failed attempts to increase American support for Jewish rights in Eastern Europe or to allow greater Jewish immigration to America. Most of their leading organizations, like the American Jewish Committee, were explicitly anti- or non-Zionist, as was Cyrus Adler, perhaps the most influential American Jew of the age. (He helped found the AJC and later served as its president at the same time that he was president of the Jewish Theological Seminary, among other major leadership roles.)

American Jews like Adler opposed Zionism because, like most Westernized Jews of the time, they followed the classic Reform view of Jews as a strictly religious group, not a people or nation. This, they thought, was the path to full acceptance in the American (or French, or German) mainstream. They also saw the Yishuv’s aspirations as an unrealizable distraction to the tasks of ensuring the security of the Jews of Eastern Europe and managing the vicious outbreak of anti-Semitism that followed World War I. (Orthodox Jews – the most reliably pro-Israel Jewish group in America today – also largely opposed Zionism as a religiously forbidden attempt to jumpstart the messianic age.)
Read it all. Those of you who believe that the 1.7% of Americans who are Jews are deciding American policy on the Middle East, are probably nearly as wrong as Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer.


At 8:27 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - am I right in thinking the author is THAT Michael Oren, the current Israeli Ambassador to Washington? That would explain a lot of things.

At 8:36 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


Yes, the book was written by THAT Michael Oren. But not the article I blogged.

At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh please....that article follows the same logic as rabid jew hater, norman finkelstein

it feeds right into the myth of the "holocaust industry"


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