When It Comes to Israel, Jews Can No Longer Sit on the Fence

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.”

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Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewry, Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Progressivism

 

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy