Israel, Affirmative Action, and the Vulnerability of American Jews—a View from 1975

Jan. 21 2019

Nathan Glazer—an often pathbreaking social scientist, tireless political commentator, keen observer of the American Jewish scene, and one of the founding fathers of neoconservatism—died on Saturday at the age of ninety-five. Among the numerous articles he wrote for Commentary on both Jewish and general themes was his prescient 1975 essay, “The Exposed American Jew.” It begins by speculating on why, unlike the pattern elsewhere and often in Jewish history, the political trauma of the U.S. defeat in Vietnam and the cultural upheaval of the sexual revolution had produced no anti-Semitic backlash in America. Then it moves to what Glazer describes as a new class of potentially unsettling threats to the position of American Jews: affirmative action, “the new ethnic frankness,” and the anti-Israel turn in elite circles:

Affirmative action has certainly affected the economic position of individual Jews—insofar as they are part of the “white male” group now identified as having been the beneficiaries of past discrimination—but since it is applied for women as well as ethnic minorities, and since the reservoir of qualified Jewish women ready and able to move into these newly opened opportunities is quite substantial, it is not clear that the overall economic position of the Jewish community will be seriously affected. Nevertheless the assumption behind . . . affirmative action, that differential achievement among groups must be the result of discrimination, may well have unsettling consequences for the Jewish community. . . .

Jews for the most part have wanted to be like everyone else. Indeed, ironically, the establishment of Israel was an effort to make Jews like everyone else: they would now have a state; they would no longer be an odd, homeless people, but a people like all other peoples. It has not worked out that way. Israel has made Jews more, not less, exceptional. No other state is the object of such nearly universal execration. No other state knows that losing a war means its destruction and disappearance. The pariah people, it seems, have simply succeeded in creating a pariah state. In America, the Jews have never been a pariah people, but the special situation of Israel forces them into a politically unique situation. . . . .

It is no longer the case that Israel has good press in the United States, surprising as that may seem when one considers that Israel is an open, democratic society with an almost unparalleled measure of social justice and with a record of remarkably good treatment of its Arab minority. . . . Israel is opposed by dictatorships, one-party states, and authoritarian regimes, . . . whose accomplishments are meager and whose record in oppressing their own peoples, opposition parties, and minorities is great. That these regimes should now be presented by Time magazine, by major columnists in the New York Times and contributors to its Op-Ed page, and by commentators on the national TV news programs as moderate, desirous of peace, and understandably concerned only with the recovery of conquered lands, while Israel is presented as—the word has apparently now been permanently tacked to the Jewish state—intransigent, is startling. . . .

How, asks, Glazer, should American Jews seek to combat this rising tide of opinion that threatens to direct itself against them?

[I]n the domestic area most Americans continue to believe that every individual should be free to improve his lot in life by his own efforts; they have been and are skeptical of a leveling egalitarianism and of ideologies which see wealth and earnings as theft, or individual effort and merit as illusions. Jews should appeal to those beliefs in individual freedom, effort, and merit, not simply because they are good for Jews, but because they are good in themselves, because they are good for the United States, because they are the best principles on which a good society can be organized. Thus Jewish opposition to . . . affirmative action should be based not on its presumed effects on the economic position of Jews, but on the ground that no individual should be penalized because he or she is a member of any particular group. . . .

[Vis-à-vis the Jewish state, American Jews’] main job is to argue for and defend the principles which are the only lasting basis for United States support of Israel: that the United States is committed to the independence of free nations, and of democratic nations most especially. One of our problems is that so many American opinion leaders no longer believe this, and that so few of our young people ever did. They believe instead that the United States is imperialistic and counterrevolutionary, and that any nation which receives American support must be imperialistic itself. Just as it is necessary, therefore, to argue that Israel, because it is an endangered democratic nation, is worthy of American support, it is also necessary to argue that Israel does not become unworthy because it receives American support. Thus the Jewish task also involves arriving at and spreading a proper understanding of American foreign policy in these past ten difficult years.

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Read more at Commentary

More about: Affirmative action, American Jewry, History & Ideas, Israel & Zionism, Nathan Glazer, Neoconservatism

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy