To Liel Leibovitz, something has changed about the condition of American Jewry between the last eruption of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and the current one. He identifies the change not so much in the intensity or extent of the anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence it has provoked, but in the fact that the fighting “opened up a chasm that many of us [American Jews] have spent our lifetimes trying to avoid.” In short, it has ceased to be possible to remain neutral or aloof with regard to Israel; Jews must now choose to be either Zionists or anti-Zionists:
The reason for this shift is that the Democratic party, where American Jews long made their home, has embraced intersectional politics—a tactic that, judging by recent election results, is working well for it, if not necessarily for its Jewish members. In this new cosmology, political victories are achieved by draining the landscape of nuance, which allows for the kind of [combative] social-media messaging at which their standard bearers excel. To make this [tactic] work, there must be only two answers to any question: one that is right and commands the allegiance of the entire coalition, and one that is wrong, and which deserves only universal condemnation and scorn. There is only racism or “anti-racism,” “white supremacy” or “restorative racial justice,” nationalism or socialism, and, for Jews, Zionism or anti-Zionism.
The Jewish leftist activist Sophie Ellman-Golan had to tweet, pleadingly, this week that “Jewish safety & Palestinian freedom are not opposing causes,” because, in her movement, they have become precisely opposed—regardless of whatever role she and her fellow Jews imagine they’re playing. Increasingly, the energies of this group will be devoted to conjuring new loyalty tests for Jewish members—yesterday’s was “OK, so you have denounced Zionism, but you won’t be considered virtuous until you stop condemning anti-Semitism,” which is as insane as it sounds, and also perfectly predictable.
Rabbis and communal leaders will be the first to face this. An acquaintance of mine who goes to a progressive shul and expected this week to hear a few simple words of solidarity, as friends and relatives in Israel were cowering for safety, instead heard the rabbi mutter some mealy-mouthed nonsense about how a lot of people have a lot of different feelings about the conflict so let us just praise tikkun olam. This infuriated both my friend as well as the lefties in his community who demanded that the rabbi devote a sermon to “Israeli war crimes.”