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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Was diminished secular support for Israel inevitable?

Recall the Peter Beinart article that I blogged on Monday. Beinart is worried about eroding Liberal Jewish support for Israel. Ross Douthat has an interesting comment.
What I wonder is whether the trend that Beinart describes — the diminishing bond between secular American Jews and the state of Israel — was more or less inevitable, no matter what policies were pursued in Israel and what kind of attitudes American Zionist organizations struck. Benjamin Netanyahu and Abe Foxman may have accelerated the process, but it’s hard to imagine that the more secular, more assimilated sections of the Jewish-American population wouldn’t have eventually drifted away from an intense connection with Israel anyway, in much the same way and for many of the same reasons that Italian-Americans are less attached to both Italy and Catholicism than they were in 1940 or so, or that Irish-American are far less interested in the politics of Eire and Northern Ireland than they used to be.

Yes, Jewish identity is far stronger and “stickier” than most other ethno-religious ties. But that doesn’t mean that liberal Jews are immune to the impact of secularization and intermarriage, or that what we think of today as secular Judaism won’t eventually melt away into something that’s basically post-Jewish.


If there’s an unspoken fear haunting Beinart’s piece, I think, it’s that this comparison is all-too-apt — that liberal Jews are (very gradually) following the same trajectory as liberal Episcopalians before them, keeping their politics but surrendering their distinctive cultural and religious identity, and that the demise of liberal Zionism says something, not only about the fate of Israel, but about the fate of secular Judaism in the United States. One reason, and perhaps the major reason, that young liberal Jews are less attached to Israel is that Israel has become less liberal. But they also may be less attached to the Jewish homeland because they themselves are simply less Jewish.
Indeed. But don't hold your breath waiting for Liberal Jews or Beinart to admit it.


At 5:49 PM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

When the muslims come door to door, asking what religion these so-called Jews are, I'm sure the thought of Israel will come back to them very quickly!

If they abandon Israel, it works the other way around too!

At 7:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "demise of liberal Zionism" is nothing but a symptom of the worldwide Left's movement to its Far (read Marxist, Communist) wing since the 1960s. Ronald Reagan: "I didn't leave the Democratic party, it left me." The nationalism-friendly Left of old had no problem with an exclusivist state of the Jews (heck, Mesozionism was created by left-wing Jews to begin with); it was the Marxist leftists who, in 1920, barred Zionists from the Second International because nationalism was against the Marxist goal of the abolition of all nationhood. Where are the nationalist Dems of old? Obama is a Communist, his pastor Wright and mentor Ayers are Communists, his czars are Communists. The old, nationalism- and Zionism-compatible Left is gone. It's not that Zionism has become right-wing, it's the Left that's let its internationalist, Marxist margins become its mainstream.

Jews need to realize exclusivist nationalism isn't a swear-word. The Torah says so, but even if you don't believe in the Torah, then history says so too. Multiculturalism has never worked anywhere (and that's an understatement).

At 12:36 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Its interesting. The Torah describes how the Patriarchs sought a Jewish woman. For good reason. Its not just the child is born Jewish but that mother is going to teach the child the faith, not the father. If a Jewish man marries a non Jewish woman, the odds are good the child is lost to the Jewish people.

There is a good reason then why the Torah frowns on multi-culturalism and why it doesn't work any better today.


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