The Unbridgeable Gulf between the Israeli Left and the American Left

August 17, 2021 | Daniel Gordis
About the author: Daniel Gordis is the Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem and the author of the ongoing online column, Israel from the Inside.

In a recent book, the Israeli-born philosophy professor Omri Boehm argues that the Jewish state should be dismantled and replaced with some sort of confederation of Jews and Arabs as a means of preserving “liberal Zionism.” Having read a review of Boehm’s book by the American scholar of Ḥasidism Shaul Magid, Daniel Gordis is struck not so much by the poverty of the arguments themselves, but by the strangeness of the very discussion: an American Jewish post-Zionist who lived in Israel during the 1980s is examining the views of an Israeli post-Zionist who likewise hasn’t lived in the country for over a decade. Gordis writes:

I understand how [Boehm’s proposal] (temporarily) saves liberalism. I’m not entirely sure how it saves Zionism in any way. And I’m definitely not clear on how it saves the lives of the Jews who live in the Jewish state, but that issue didn’t quite come up in the review. . . . But I found myself wondering—other than fueling hatred against not only Israel, but Jews (for example: “The ‘Jewishness’ that Israel seeks to protect is not culture or religion, ‘but Jewish ethnicity, Jewish blood’”)—what is this book supposed to accomplish?

Note that it was written in English, and that Boehm, born in Israel, could have written it in Hebrew. (I could find no mention online of a forthcoming Hebrew version.) So why English? Because there’s exactly zero audience for it in Israel. Even the Israeli left would pay it no attention; it is adamantly opposed to the occupation, it objects to all sorts of Israel’s policies—but overwhelmingly, [it’s made up of] Zionists. The idea of taking apart the country in which they live, in which they’re raising their children and grandchildren, that they’re working to save—well, it just doesn’t grab them.

So what policy needle is Boehm trying to move? He’ll have no impact on Israel. He’s not going to change President Biden, obviously. He’s not going to affect most Republicans. He’s not going to influence the traditional slice of the Democratic party. And as for the progressive Democrats, he doesn’t need to move them. [The “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization] J Street became irrelevant when the progressives leap-frogged it.

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