The “Liberal Zionist” Assault on Birthright Betrays the Irrationality of Progressive Jewish Hostility toward Israel

Recently, the organization If Not Now, whose stated goal is to end U.S. Jewry’s “support for the occupation,” has made the Birthright program—which gives young American Jews free trips to Israel—a target of its invective. They have now been joined by the somewhat more moderate voice of the journalist Peter Beinart, who argued in a column this week that Birthright is morally suspect unless it starts bringing participants to meet Palestinians living in the West Bank. Daniel Gordis, a friend and regular sparring partner of Beinart, dissects his argument, and what lies behind it:

Which Palestinians does Peter think Birthright participants ought to meet? Palestinians in the West Bank are no more monolithic than Israelis or American Jews. Does he want them to hear from Palestinians who will tell them that they’d much rather live under Israeli occupation than under the corrupt Palestinian Authority (there are, indeed, such people), or Palestinians who will tell them that ending the occupation is but the first step on their drive to ending the state of Israel? Or does he want them to hear from Palestinians who insist on ending the occupation but have no desire to destroy Israel? What percentage of Palestinians are those people? How does Peter know? On what basis of what would Beinart have Birthright choose? Those who represent the majority? Or those who mirror Beinart’s progressive yet “Zionist” values? . . .

How are we to explain the intellectual sloppiness? Perhaps it’s because American Jewish progressives, with If Not Now at their helm, have decided to destroy Birthright, and Beinart would rather join the crowd than try to lead them back to a responsible position. Or perhaps (as he notes) it’s because he finds Sheldon Adelson so distasteful that he wants any program that Adelson funds taken down? [I]s that reason enough to destroy a program that has brought hundreds of thousands of young American Jews to have a meaningful engagement with Israel? Instead of destroying Birthright, why don’t Beinart, If Not Now, and others raise the tens of millions of dollars it would cost to run an alternative program? . . . The reason has to do with the particular form of Zionism characteristic of much of the American Jewish left.

At the heart of this brand of Zionism, writes Gordis, is the conceit that it is the duty of American Jews to save Israel from itself:

If 82 percent of Israelis now define themselves as center-to-right-wing, [as a recent study suggests], how can American liberal Jews save Israel without subverting the will of Israel’s majority? At the same time, though, how can American Jews both boast about Israel’s robust democracy and also decide to override it in the name of their American, suburban, progressive ethos? . . . Is Israel’s democracy not sacred? Or is it simply less sacred than the moral comfort of American Jewish progressives? . . .

[As for the] young American Jewish progressives [of If Not Now]: do they believe that they are more moral than the Israeli left? . . . Or, more likely, is it that they care about their progressive credentials much more than they care about Israel?

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: American Jewry, Anti-Zionism, Birthright, Israel & Zionism, Liberal Zionism

 

How America Sowed the Seeds of the Current Middle East Crisis in 2015

Analyzing the recent direct Iranian attack on Israel, and Israel’s security situation more generally, Michael Oren looks to the 2015 agreement to restrain Iran’s nuclear program. That, and President Biden’s efforts to resurrect the deal after Donald Trump left it, are in his view the source of the current crisis:

Of the original motivations for the deal—blocking Iran’s path to the bomb and transforming Iran into a peaceful nation—neither remained. All Biden was left with was the ability to kick the can down the road and to uphold Barack Obama’s singular foreign-policy achievement.

In order to achieve that result, the administration has repeatedly refused to punish Iran for its malign actions:

Historians will survey this inexplicable record and wonder how the United States not only allowed Iran repeatedly to assault its citizens, soldiers, and allies but consistently rewarded it for doing so. They may well conclude that in a desperate effort to avoid getting dragged into a regional Middle Eastern war, the U.S. might well have precipitated one.

While America’s friends in the Middle East, especially Israel, have every reason to feel grateful for the vital assistance they received in intercepting Iran’s missile and drone onslaught, they might also ask what the U.S. can now do differently to deter Iran from further aggression. . . . Tehran will see this weekend’s direct attack on Israel as a victory—their own—for their ability to continue threatening Israel and destabilizing the Middle East with impunity.

Israel, of course, must respond differently. Our target cannot simply be the Iranian proxies that surround our country and that have waged war on us since October 7, but, as the Saudis call it, “the head of the snake.”

Read more at Free Press

More about: Barack Obama, Gaza War 2023, Iran, Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy