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The Battle for the Soul of Jews in Israel and America


I recently attended a debate in Ventura, California by 2 journalists (JJ Goldberg from the Forward on the Left and Jonathan Tobin from Commentary on the Right) called "The Battle for Israel's Soul." Perhaps I looked at it through my own lense which is generally left of center and in keeping with Goldberg’s views which are very pro-Israel but nonetheless willing to see Israel’s mistakes. Tobin is less willing to accept Israel’s mistakes and takes the view of the Right that all the fault is with the Palestinians. Although Tobin recognizes the unpredictability and other flaws of Trump, he paints Obama as being unfriendly to Israel which I believe is not true. On the contrary, I believe being a friend of Israel does not require slavishly agreeing with everything that falls out of Netanyahu’s mouth.

Tobin voiced the view that every time Israel has extended its hand to the Palestinians, it has been rebuffed and answered with terrorism. He also said that opposition to Israel in the world community is due to anti-semitism and not to any action taken by Israel. Goldberg pointed out that the world community (including the UN) was favorable to Israel at the time of its founding in 1948 and this favorability ended after the 1967 War with the beginning of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. My view is that both are correct. Efforts by Israel to give the Palestinians sovereignty have been rebuffed, often violently (Gaza withdrawal, Clinton-Barak Plan). Many or perhaps most schools in Palestine and the Moslem world teach hatred of Israel and Jews. However, there are reasonable people out there in Palestine and Moslem countries who do not hate Jews and who see Israel as a window to progress. If Israel is to ever attain peace, those people must be cultivated. It won’t happen overnight or in one flashy conference. But the alternative is a pessimistic eternal conflict keeping Israel a mega-ghetto. The road to peace will be difficult but not impossible, and there is no reasonable alternative.

Finally I observed that all the people attending the debate were old like me or at least late middle aged. Where were the young people? I am sure they exist in Ventura County. Are they not interested in Israel? I fear that the drag to the Right in the government of Israel and a minority of right wing American Jews, and the embrace of Donald Trump by that Right have turned off many young Jewish Americans. Most American Jews and especially young ones tend toward progressive liberalism (which actually is not a new phenomenon). It is the Right that has strayed off the path. It is the resistance to Trumpism that has captured the imagination of young American Jews. We Jews in the USA, Israel, and the rest of the world must encourage a progressive Zionism which discusses freely and looks at itself honestly and critically. In that way, we might maintain our future.


This post first appeared on An American Hebrew, please read the originial post: here

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The Battle for the Soul of Jews in Israel and America

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