White Liberals Are Turning against the Jews and Israel

June 11 2019

Over the past five to ten years, writes Zach Goldberg, a new group of liberals has emerged—mostly white, mostly born after 1980, and greatly shaped by social media and Internet reporting—that has altered attitudes on the left. Recently dubbed “the Great Awokening”—after the use of the vernacular “woke” to mean awakened to injustice—the resulting changes in liberal opinion bode ill for Jews and the Jewish state:

[These] seismic attitudinal shifts . . . have implications that go beyond race: they are also tied to a significant decrease in support for Israel and—perhaps more surprisingly—an increase in the number of white liberals who express negative attitudes about the perceived political power of American Jews. . . . Then there is the marked shift in attitudes toward Israel. Between 1978 and 2014, white liberals consistently reported sympathizing more with Israel than with the Palestinians. Since March 2016, this trend has turned on its face: significantly more white liberals now report greater sympathy for the Palestinians than for Israel.

The surveys show that among white liberals, Jews are perceived to be “privileged”—at least in comparison with other historically victimized groups. . . . Jews are no longer the downtrodden collective that white liberals can readily sympathize with. Other groups lower on the privilege hierarchy and less tainted by association with “whiteness” now have priority. So long as anti-Semitism comes from whites, there is no problem here. But if the [anti-Semite is] a member of an “oppressed” or “vulnerable” group, there may be a cognitive dissonance.

To see how this logic extends to Israel consider that the same . . . outrage over the bigoted persecution of the vulnerable by the “privileged” that informs the changing policy positions on domestic issues is applied to the international arena. [In the “woke” view of things], a “white-supremacist” America holds people of color down and keeps the door shut for others, while a “Zionist-supremacist” Israel behaves in much the same way toward its minorities of color. It’s a narrow and warped perspective but one that’s easily assimilated into a broader worldview in which human relations are defined by categories of oppressor vs. oppressed; and where these roles are assigned based on one’s placement in the privilege hierarchy. . . .

As Jews have become [symbols] of “whiteness” in the liberal political imagination—to the point that Israel is considered a white state despite having a slight nonwhite majority—they have come to be associated with an oppressor class. We shouldn’t be surprised then that white liberals are significantly more likely to feel that Jewish groups have too much influence and less likely to say the same with respect to their Muslim counterparts.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Tablet

More about: American politics, Anti-Semitism, Liberalism, US-Israel relations


Is There a Way Out of Israel’s Political Deadlock?

On Tuesday, leaders of the Jewish state’s largest political parties, Blue and White and Likud, met to negotiate the terms of a coalition agreement—and failed to come to an agreement. If none of the parties in the Knesset succeeds in forming a governing coalition, there will be a third election, with no guarantee that it will be more conclusive than those that preceded it. Identifying six moves by key politicians that have created the deadlock, Shmuel Rosner speculates as to whether they can be circumvented or undone:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics