The American Political Science Association is now holding its 117th Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington even as woke values continue to permeate not just popular culture and the media but also academia.
My own field of political science seems to have fallen prey to the woke canon. I am not suggesting that political science is unique. Many university departments in sociology and anthropology, not to mention Middle East Studies, in Israel, the UK, the US, and elsewhere, have been hijacked by anti-Zionist campaigners. Many US campuses have become hostile environments to visibly Jewish and pro-Zionist students.
More and more lecturers seem to be using the classroom to push their opinions and assign readings to promote only one point of view—theirs. When I went to university in the 1970s and 1980s, though most professors were liberal-leaning, dissent and dialogue were tolerated, sometimes even welcomed, and required readings were often balanced.
As old school liberal baby boomers retire from academia, dogmatic wokers fill their places. Yesteryear’s liberal partiality has become today’s rigid progressive convention. As a result, the social sciences and humanities in the US, and Israel too, are often bastions of unabashedly one-sided curricula. Witch-hunts often instigated by woke students against those traduced as racists or gender offenders, are common occurrences on campus.
Academic literature more and more mirrors woke convention. The May 2021 edition of Political Science Today, a magazine of the American Political Science Association, reflected the editors’ obeisance to woke values. Obfuscation is a core element in woke-speak. Nonetheless, I was able to decipher the editors’ intention by scrutinizing this magazine. A theme that comes through is their concern that there are still too many white male political scientists about (40 percent). The editors inventoried all APSA journal authors by “Gender Self-Identification,” Again, white men dominated while non-binary persons were way down in the rankings.
An article about the often chauvinistic Black Lives Matter movement is uncritical except to question whether it fully articulates the interests of “Black LGBTQIA+ individuals.” There is no mention of antisemitism or anti-Zionism.
Another article bemoans the small numbers of “underrepresented students” in mathematically-oriented political science subfields. Turn the page, and a headline shouts: “Does Your Online Course Perpetuate Institutional Discrimination?”
A piece on “Strategies for Teaching the Insurrection and Impeachment” urges instructors to name “the insurrection for what it was.” I make no secret of my disdain for Donald Trump, nor do I play down the danger posed by the assault on the Capitol. Yet, a political science classroom is not a New York Times op-ed. Teachers should use less loaded terminology and make their lecture halls a safe space even for Trump-supporting students.
The May 2021 edition of Political Science Today also had brief agitprop about anti-Asian violence asserting these crimes were inspired by America’s white colonialist past. Boloney.
In New York City, almost all attacks in the first three months of 2021 against Chinese people were carried out by Blacks or Hispanics. Nationwide, between 1992-2014, hate crimes against Asian Americans were more likely to be committed by Blacks and Hispanics, not whites.
Further along in the magazine, a multi-page spread gives readers biographical sketches of “diversity fellows,” all of whom would appear to be students of color. Diversity? Finally, and I fear indicative of the discipline’s future, skimming the list of 2020 doctoral dissertations, I found only one by a Jewish American scholar on an Israel-related topic, and it was devoted to “settler violence.” An entire generation of students has now grown up oblivious to the fundamental issues of the Palestinian-Israel conflict. All they can do is repeat the “occupation” mantra unthinkingly. What a shame.
It is even painful to watch parodies of campus woke because they are so…real.
Poli Sci should neither be boringly abstract nor hostage to pop-political-trends. Your students need to know current events — beyond what they come away with by scrolling through their social media feeds. Courageous teachers of politics need to inculcate tolerance and Madisonian — not woke — values.
Read more here:
My father Asher Anshel Mordechai Yager Tziad זכרונו לברכה died at home in B’nei Brak on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 (17 Ellul 5781) at age 98. He was eulogized at the Spinka Synagogue in B’nai Brak where, as a Spinka Hassid, מזקני וחשובי חסידי ספינקא, he had worshipped particularly on Shabbat and the festivals.
In Jerusalem, he davened at שומרי אמונים ירושלים.
Born in Spinka, Rumania, in 1923, Anshel attended local cheder and yeshiva. His mother, Risa, died when he was young. During World War II, he was conscripted into forced labor by the Romanians allied with Nazi Germany. His sisters Golda and Sarah were sent to Auschwitz, where Sarah died of malnutrition. His father, Eliahu, died in the course of the war under circumstances unknown. Close to liberation time, at Passover, Anshel could trade his bread ration for a potato, he recalled years later. When the war was over, he discovered that his sister Golda and brother Chaim Yitzhak had survived (Chaim most likely had made it to Soviet lines).
From a DP camp in Germany, my father ultimately arrived in the US, was introduced to and married my dear mother Yvette עליה השלום in 1952. After I was born, we lived in the Jacob Riis Housing Projects on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
He was traumatized and haunted by his war experiences. Nonetheless, he tried to acclimate and learned English. He held down a series of jobs, including butcher’s assistant and eventually – with my mother’s savvy intervention – mail handler for the US Post Office.
By then he had discovered Reb Hershele’s stiebel, a Spinka enclave, between Avenue D and C where he found a “safe space.”
Outside the stiebel, Anshel never found his place in New York and ultimately departed for Israel when I was about seven. In due course, he divorced my mother. For the next 30 years, I did not see or speak with my father.
In Israel, he married Rivka, an immigrant from Iran, and had two daughters. He worked as a butcher’s assistant in Tel Aviv’s Shuk HaCarmel, rising well before dawn to catch a transport van to work. The work was hard and the noise piercing which may have contributed to his early hearing loss.
When we reconnected in the 1990s, I discovered a father who had found a way to give full expression to his life through deepened religiosity and ever stronger commitment to the ultra-Orthodox and Hassidic lifestyle in the Holy Land.
A man of few words, he was Haredi in the term’s original meaning – trembling before God. He was that rare and genuine article: an authentic Haredi.
It was told to me that when he glimpsed a Torah scholar enter the study hall while studying the Talmud, my father would inconspicuously close his volume so that it would not look like he had pretensions to scholarship.
In retirement – by then we had reacquainted – he continued his early morning routine of rising at 3 am. Yet, instead of waiting for transport to Tel Aviv, he could go to the mikva before morning prayers. He spent as much time as possible in the beit midrash praying, reciting psalms, learning Talmud and listening to Musar.
His Siddur and Psalms at home were well-worn. His favorite Psalm, the one he always insisted I say when I sat with him, was 124 – appropriate for a Holocaust survivor and a haunted man. When he felt in a lighter mood he would tell a favorite story of the Baal Shem Tov. He tried to attend a rebbe’s tish or simcha when possible so that his eating would be connected to a mitzvah. Food was an opportunity to make a blessing as much as for nourishment.
The Pater – this authentic Haredi, poor as can be – took pleasure from mitzvot, gave charity (zealously), and constantly developed his faith.
He would never make small talk. There was no chitchat. Every minute counted in preparation for the World to Come. Our “conversation” was to review the opening section of the parsha of the week.
In his later years, he allowed me to help him when he donned his tefillin including רבינו תם.
His way of saying goodbye was to prompt me to say יחיד ורבים הלכה כרבים so that “we had learned together.”
In addition to me, he is survived by his daughter Miri, her husband Avishai, and their family with whom he lived for the six or so years after Rivka passed away. Until his final day, he shared a room with his not-yet-bar-mitzva grandson. He lived to see grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Miri, an ultra-Orthodox Florence Nightingale, would not entrust any outside caregiver and personally attended to his needs with an assist from Avishai. He was also beloved by our sister Ditza of Mea Shearim and her family and by Rivka’s son Yossi.
May the memory of הרה”ח אשר אנשל בן אליהו be for a blessing.
(*) My book, The Pater, with my father as a central character, is mostly about how Jewish men grapple with childlessness https://www.amazon.com/Pater-Elliot-Jager/dp/1592643728
אבא שלנו היה איש של מעט מילים. אבל סביר להניח — ואני בטוח שאחותי דיצה ואני בהסכמה — שהוא היה רוצה להודות לאחותנו מירי ולגיס שלנו אבישי על המסירות נפש והטיפול שלהם, במיוחד בשנים האחרונות.
בפועל אבישי לא היה חתן אלא בן אמיתי ונאמן.
כמו כן יוסי תמיד נתן הרבה כבוד לאבא.
אנחנו כמובן זוכרים גם את רבקה ע’ה שבנה יחד עם אשר אנשל בית נאמן בישראל.
אבא היה רוצה גם להודות לילדי משפחה שגם הם היו חלק אינטגרלי של האווירה של אהבה וכבוד בבית. הם נתנו למירי ולאבישי לטפל באבא בחמלה.
אם מישהו רצה להבין מה המשמעות האמיתית של המצווה
כַּבֵּד אֶת-אָבִיךָ, וְאֶת-אִמֶּךָ–לְמַעַן, יַאֲרִכוּן יָמֶיךָ, עַל הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ.
הם יכולים להסתכל על הדוגמה של מירי ואבישי
כמובן יוסף חיים ודיצה ובני משפחותיהם נתנו אהבה וכבוד לאבא בכל הזדמנות.
אשר אנשל היה איש של מעט מילים אבל עם הרבה יראת שמיים.
עבור אבינו, היידישקייט היה מַמָשִׁי ואוֹתֶנְטִי ללא פוזות בכלל.
בפרטיות בבית בדיוק כמו בציבור היראת אלוהים היה בדיוק אותו הדבר.
ללא ספק יש אלו שחשבו שהוא היה איש נאיבי. אבל ללא ספק הוא בחר להיות תמים – תפילה, תורה, מקווה, צדקה ומעשים טובים היו החיים שלו.
קשה להאמין בימינו, כאשר דרך ארץ כל כך חסרה בכל מקום, שאנשל נתן דרך ארץ לכולם.
הוא אהב מצוות ומסורת. אֱמוּנָה הייתה דרך חייו.
הוא נהנה להיות כמה שיותר בבית מדרש ובבית הכנסת.
הוא עבד קשה שנים רבות — קם מוקדם מאוד — וכשפרש מהעבודה הוא השקיע אפילו יותר זמן בתפילה ולימוד ומעשים טובים וצדקה.
צדקה הייתה התשוקה שלו.
אבא נולד בשנת אלף תשעה מאות עשרים ושלוש בספינקה, היום ברומניה בהרי הקרפטים ב אזור של אוקראינה, רומניה והונגריה. מדינות שאינו ידועות כידידים של העם היהודי.
להורים של אבא – סבא אליהו וסבתא ריסה זכרונו לברכה — נולדו אנשל, חיים יצחק, ושתי אחיות גולדה ושרה.
אמה ריסה נפטרה בטרם עת.
החיים לא היו פשוטים — ואז השואה הגיעה לרומניה עם מלחמת העולם השנייה.
אנשל נשלח לעבודות כפייה תחת הרומנים. גולדה ושרה נשלחו לאושוויץ – שרה נהרגה שם, גולדה נוצלה. אבא אליהו נהרג אבל לא ברור מתי ואיפו. האח חיים יצחק שרד — אני לא יודע איך.
לא היה שום סיבה להישאר באירופה אחרי. חיים יצחק עלה לארץ. אחרי שנים של המתנה במחנות פליטים באירופה, גולדה ואנשל הגרו לארצות הברית. לא היה לו קל בארצות הברית — הוא סבל מטראומה מכל מה שעבר באירופה.
ואז אנשל עלה לארץ בתחילת שנות ה-60.
למרות שאבא ואני לא ראינו אחד את השני במשך 30 שנה, מירי תמיד מספרת לי שאבא תמיד דאג לי והתפלל בשבילי. אני מאמין בזה.
כמו משפחות רבות, הנרטיב של המשפחה שלנו מורכבת ומסובכת.
אבל ברור לכולם במאה אחוז: אבא היה יהודי יראת שמים והוא עשה כמיטב יכולתו למען משפחתו.
ועכשיו הוא יכול להיות מליץ ישר עבור כל משפחתו.
אבינו קיבל הרבה נחמה מתהילים. תמיד ביקש ממני לומר ביחד איתו את הפרק הכי אהוב עליו.
Had God Not Been With Us…
קכד שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת לְדָוִד לוּלֵי יְהוָה שֶׁהָיָה לָנוּ יֹאמַר נָא יִשְׂרָאֵל: ב לוּלֵי יְהוָה שֶׁהָיָה לָנוּ בְּקוּם עָלֵינוּ אָדָם: ג אֲזַי חַיִּים בְּלָעוּנוּ בַּחֲרוֹת אַפָּם בָּנוּ: ד אֲזַי הַמַּיִם שְׁטָפוּנוּ נַחְלָה עָבַר עַל נַפְשֵׁנוּ: ה אֲזַי עָבַר עַל נַפְשֵׁנוּ הַמַּיִם הַזֵּידוֹנִים: ו בָּרוּךְ יְהוָה שֶׁלֹּא נְתָנָנוּ טֶרֶף לְשִׁנֵּיהֶם: ז נַפְשֵׁנוּ כְּצִפּוֹר נִמְלְטָה מִפַּח יוֹקְשִׁים הַפַּח נִשְׁבָּר וַאֲנַחְנוּ נִמְלָטְנוּ: ח עֶזְרֵנוּ בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה עֹשֵׂה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ:
יהי זכרו לברכה
When Israeli news outlet editors (many of whom are not Orthodox) are looking for a Tisha B’Av image, they invariably pick one of men somewhere on the ultra-Orthodox spectrum praying at the Western Wall.
Maybe next year, picture editors might consider an image that shows ordinary observant Israelis reciting Lamentations perhaps in non-Haredi synagogues or those in Jerusalem who gather family-style on the Promenade overlooking the Old City.
I for one was buoyed by the image of Prime Minister Bennett reciting Lamentations with his son. It was at least a step closer to how things really are, though few print outlets made room for the picture.
When editors are on deadline especially on a Saturday night it is easy to go for a “central casting” image, yet portraying ordinary Israelis engaging in Jewish observance would be no less a reflection of reality while also reinforcing the message that Tisha B’Av is a commemoration for all Jewish Israelis — particularly the Zionist majority.
On May 26, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar let it be known that Gaza was ready to renew attacks on Israel. “What has happened is but a drill for what will come if Israel violates the al-Aksa Mosque” – whatever that means. “The occupation must know – al-Aksa has men who will defend it.”
I imagine The New York Times will get around to reporting these jingoistic remarks. First, though, the editors want to imprint in the minds of their readers https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/05/26/world/middleeast/gaza-israel-children.html a pictorial spread featuring capsule histories of the “at least 68 children” killed because of “indiscriminate and disproportionate” bombing by Israel. The Times’ partner paper Haaretz dutifully carries the same piece in Hebrew.
It is a damming, stinging photo-heavy indictment. What’s our defense? That some of these poor youngsters were killed by Hamas rockets that fell short or because the Islamists used them as human shields or because in war, sweet children die? Any such explanations would offend even deaf ears.
The Times is here restating its oft-reiterated argument that Israel has a “right to defend itself,” but in the name of God, not with bombs or bullets or sharp implements.
Operation Guardian of the Walls, this month’s IDF drive to counter Palestine-Gaza-Hamas aggression, is now in the history books and I am exasperated. It has happened before, this sense that I have to do something because the media is against Israel, the Diaspora is not responding adequately, and some Jewish young people are championing the Palestinian Arab side.
Yet I am a jaded US-born baby boomer. The media’s negative portrayal of Israel is not new to me. I think back to the 1982 Lebanon War–Operation Peace for Galilee – aimed at stopping Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization from launching attacks on Israel from Southern Lebanon (where the PLO had set up a mini-state). The 1982 media coverage confirmed in my mind that Israel would never get a fair shake from the press. This was in the days before social media, when CNN was in its infancy, and old media ruled the day. CBS, NBC, The New York Times were then in the Israel-bashing vanguard, as well as other influential papers such as The Christian Science Monitor.
There’s a TV image in my head. Against a smoldering Beirut skyline, NBC network news anchor John Chancellor shamelessly told viewers, “Nothing like it has ever happened in this part of the world, I kept thinking yesterday of the bombing of Madrid [an arch reference to 1936 and Franco’s Fascists] during the Spanish Civil War. What in the world is going on? Israel’s security problem on its border is fifty miles to the south. What’s an Israeli army doing here in Beirut? The answer is that we are dealing with an imperial Israel…world opinion be dammed.”
In 1982, Chancellor could have anchored from Eritrea, where 90,000 civilians were killed in some forgotten war, or from Hama in Syria, where perhaps 40,000 were slaughtered in fighting between Islamists and the regime led by Hafez al-Assad (father of the present ruler).
What did I want? For Chancellor to provide context? To emphatically denounce the PLOs intentions. To not hold Israel to standards no other country is expected to meet.
So, while I am today intensely irritated and frustrated, I have no expectations that Israel will get positive media coverage under any circumstances. What does it even mean these days that an outlet is NOT anti-Israel?
Over a piece of herring at Kiddush last Shabbes, a neighbor wondered out loud, “what’s wrong with Israel’s hasbara?”
Friend, nothing, or nothing that justifies relentless, unyielding, myopic negative coverage. There is literally nothing Israel could point out that would persuade someone predisposed against us to change their mind. Especially ashamed, smug Diaspora Jews.
Tell them the IDF sends SMSs to innocents in targeted buildings warning them to get out? Yeah, check. Point out that Hamas uses civilian, media, and NGO facilities – hospitals even – for military purposes? Check. Respond to claims Gaza is one big prison by pointing out that it shares a border with Egypt? Check. That COGAT transports thousands of lorries of food, fuel, and medicine from Israel even while Hamas is shooting at us? Yep. Done that. That we supply water and electricity to our enemies? Check. That cement and other dual-use materials were redirected by Hamas from the civilian sector? Yes, we have shown the world this is so. None of it matters.
We could point out that not many years ago, Gaza Arab motorists could be seen stuck in Tel Aviv traffic jams – that barriers then went up and movements were restricted because Israel had no other way of protecting itself from suicide bombers targeting buses and cafes. None of it matters.
Israeli hasbara has never been better. That’s a fact.
The IDF is skillful and ubiquitous on social media thanks to a strong and talented group of young people. So is the Office of the Prime Minister. In English, Hebrew, and Arabic. Even our Foreign Ministry, starved of resources by the PMO and Treasury, is nonetheless doing a yeoman’s job. On top of that, pro-Israel student and media monitoring groups that in my day had been run chiefly by busy people on a volunteer basis are today professionalized and well-funded. And they’re doing everything that can be done. Everything I would have wanted to do back in my day had we only had the resources.
We used to say that if only the world knew what the Arabs said in Arabic when they thought the West was not listening, public opinion would come our way. Nowadays, NGOs are disseminating translations from Arabic and Persian so that everyone can discover what our foes are saying almost as soon as the words come out of their mouths. It matters not a whit.
Supplementing all these efforts are hundreds of pro-Israel campaigners active on social media, with years of experience — some financed, others paying their way — tirelessly putting out tweets and posts and blogs to make the pro-Israel case.
In all these spheres, despite our best efforts, the enemy’s presence in English is overwhelming. A deluge. Scores of state and government-funded news agencies – like the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan mouthpiece TRT – craftily make the anti-Israel argument. As do Woke news sites like NowThis. Also, Palestinian Arab voices now have a powerful, multifaceted social media presence (partly thanks to EU monies). Then add the unfriendly mainstream press.
Still, I don’t think us Zionists being swamped is ultimately determinative because anyone open to what we are saying can easily find our messages. Many outsiders following the conflict have already had their blink moment. Their instincts are either with us or against us. We are broadcasting: “Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America. Hello Europe and all the ships at sea…this is Israel. This is our case. Hello?”
Maybe it is simply too much to expect ordinary casual consumers of social media – Diaspora Jews particularly – to judiciously weigh the evidence and, hopefully, side with us.
Faced with pervasive media distortions and concerted messaging from seemingly credible personalities, most people will have no clue they’re being manipulated to close their minds to Israel’s position. They take at face value the bill of particulars they’ve been fed:
That Palestinians have lived in Palestine for centuries. Jesus was a Palestinian. Zionism is like maybe 100 years old. European Jewish settlers are capriciously evicting indigenous Arabs from their Jerusalem homes and elsewhere in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” Jews are Judaizing and subjugating Arabs who fell under the Zionist boot with the 1948 occupation. Oh, and really, it is racial. White Jews against Black Lives Matter Arabs. Israel is an Apartheid state. Apartheid roads. Apartheid wines. Apartheid supermarkets and pharmacies. Apartheid hummus.
My conclusion is that Israel’s image problem can’t be fixed. The problem isn’t media bias — it is that we are operating in a toxic hostile environment. It doesn’t mean we should not try to do the right thing or put our message out there – but let’s temper our expectations.
For starters, we are up against a media that, with single-digit exceptions, even in the best of times, was not a bastion of pro-Israelism or pro-Zionism. One of those exceptions (see https://www.amazon.com/Balfour-Declaration-Words-Years-Conflict/dp/9652299243) was the Manchester Guardian in 1917. On May 7, 2021, came the retraction. The Guardian said that its support over 100 years ago for a national homeland for the Jewish people was one of its biggest mistakes https://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/may/07/guardian-200-what-we-got-wrong-the-guardians-worst-errors-of-judgment-over-200-years
One paper that doesn’t have to apologize for any history of philo-Zionism is The New York Times. The paper was owned by assimilated German Jews who, in the wake of the Holocaust, moved its stance from anti to non-Zionist. Now, under A.G. Sulzberger, Jewish only in the homeopathic trace element sense, the outlet is back to its original clenched-teeth hostility toward the Zionist idea.
With Times collaboration Haaretz began publishing a post-Zionist English edition of its Hebrew paper. The paper’s often slanted pieces provide a hechsher for censorious Diaspora Jews to side with the Palestinians. My attitude toward the BBC, Al Jazeera, the NY Times, The Washington Post, the gamut of prestige British media, Haaretz (and the various Haaretz wannabes in the Anglo-Jewish Diaspora) is to roll my eyes, take a deep breath, turn the page, or scroll on.
Moreover, media is only an element of the picture. We are up against a Diaspora Jewish establishment that, with some exceptions, finds defending Israel burdensome and onerous. Somehow a myth developed that Jewish leaders did not criticize Israel or that it took courage to speak out against “settlements” or other Israeli policies. That view is out of focus. For many organizations, a pre-Holocaust indifference or antagonism toward Zionism evolved to acceptance and even soft embrace after 1948. The US Jewish establishment was indeed a bastion of wholehearted pro-Israelism, but only between the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
However, from 1973 onwards, establishment support for Israeli policies became brittle, with organizational leaders and public intellectuals — among them Edgar Bronfman, Nachum Goldmann, Philip Klutznick, Bert Gold, Henry Siegman, Leonard Fein, Seymour Martin Lipset, Joachim Prinz, Menachem Rosensaft, Albert Vorspan, and Arthur Hertzberg (a historian of Zionism but not a Zionist historian) — remaining wishy-washy non-Zionists while noisily advocating for Israeli withdrawal to more or less the 1949 Armistice Lines.
These staunch advocates of Diaspora Judaism saw Israel – the Israel of David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir – as unpredictable or uncontrolled, potentially putting Diaspora Jewry at risk (“What will the goyim say?”)
Beginning in the 1980s, Jewish personages with ties of one kind or another to US officialdom embarked on a campaign to transform the image of Yasser Arafat and the PLO. They messaged the Palestinians to stop yapping about driving the Jews into the sea. It was this change to non-zero-sum messaging that made it impossible to dissociate US Jewish support for Israeli retention of the West Bank on security grounds. Delinking rank-and-file US Jews from Judea and Samaria was essential to give various administrations a free hand to pressure for an Israeli withdrawal to the Green Line (more or less).
The Arabs needed to be cajoled into making the rhetorical change. Jerome Segal, for instance, drafted Arafat’s first declaration of Palestinian statehood in 1988 implying the PLO’s unstated readiness for land for peace and a two state solution. It set the stage for a fuller cosmetic makeover of the PLO undertaken by Rita Hauser, Stanley Sheinbaum, and others in 1993 that gave birth to Oslo. The goal was to create the perception – false, to my mind – that the nature of the conflict had shifted. Funding for these efforts came from dark money sources. But it wasn’t money that carried the day. These US Jews embraced gullibility about Arafat, the PLO, and Palestinian intentions, with eyes wide open.
In 1973, a group of connected but radical intellectuals, including Eugene Borowitz, founded Breira to champion Palestinian statehood without conditioning it on the Palestinians ending terror and accepting Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people. A college student named Tom Friedman became active in Breira as it emerged as a pro-PLO lobby. When Breira became noxious, it essentially morphed into the New Jewish Agenda in 1980 led by Gerald Serotta. Organizationally, these were amateurish shoestring operations. But they paved the way for something bigger.
In 2007 J Street sprouted (follow the initial money trail if you’re so inclined, but as I say, message not money is the main explanation of their success) as a professional, super-well-funded agency designed to displace parve but pro-Israel AIPAC. J Street sold Diaspora Jews what they wanted to buy: you can be pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel. Pro-Israel-Pro-Peace. You can believe the Iran Nuke Deal is good. That settlements are the core problem. That Israel’s intransigence is blocking peace. Repeat: Pro-Israel-Pro-Peace.
In contrast to J Street, which claims to offer “tough love,” IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace offer a kick in the groin. A new generation of unabashed Zionism-bashers has arisen. They pay no lip service to the pro-Israel and pro-peace mantra. Historically, Jewish opposition to political Zionism is as old as Herzlian Zionism itself and there have always been anti-Zionist Jews whether ultra-Orthodox or red who didn’t pretend they were anything else. Hence no need to get our knickers totally in a twist over the latest mutant strain.
Every generation has its Alie Lilienthals and Noam Chomskys. Some, like Peter Beinart, wait until they are nearly 50 to come out as flaming anti-Zionists. These public intellectuals afford an avenue of expression for AsAJew young adults to dissociate from the Zionist enterprise and perversely feel they are doing something Jewish. Emily Wilder, the Associated Press staffer who lost her job because of her ongoing anti-Zionist campaigning, is part of the AsAJew cohort. You can lead a Jewess to water, but you can’t make her embrace her birthright. By the time young people like Wilder leave university, too many are farbissina and farbrente anti-Zionists who are unlikely to be swayed by a sentimental stroll through Yad Vashem.
Let’s put another myth to sleep. Israel was never the alpha and omega for American Jews. However, now support for Israel is tepid and thinning. Tinkering with Israel’s image in the media (even if we could influence coverage) will not win over an American Jewish community that was never wholly comfortable with the Zionist enterprise. With the US and UK Diaspora demographically shrinking and increasingly illiterate about Jewish civilization, there is only so much Zionists can do.
Being vastly outgunned on social media and in old media, the pro-Israel community needs to target its efforts where there is potential to influence. And that probably means our Zionist millennials need to challenge their fellow Diaspora millennials to swim against the tide of moral relativism and Woke Group Think.
All I am saying is that we should be realistic about what can be accomplished in the face of a Diaspora that does not have our back and a media that didn’t suddenly come to be biased, but has been historically hostile.
Thank you to my frequent collaborator Judy Montagu for editing this blog.
For some decades after 1949, US politicos debated how the Communist Party under Mao Zedong managed to seize the China mainland from Chiang Kai-shek’s American-backed Kuomintang Nationalists. Were Washington’s policies to blame for the loss of China? Who lost China?
I thought about that historical debate as the IDF’s “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” which began on May 10 slogged on and as I beheld the US Democratic Party’s near abandonment of Israel.
Was it something we did? Was it payback for a dozen years of Binyamin Netanyahu tying our country to the Republican Party? And more latterly to a Trumpian GOP.
I have argued that Donald Trump’s administration did incalculable damage to the stability, mores, and resiliency of the American political system and what’s bad for America is bad for Israel. Brownnosing Trump may have been obligatory, but brand Israel paid the price. I had no doubt that Trump had it in him to proffer a bad “deal” to Israel if only Palestinian diplomacy had been adroit. Providentially, instead of playing Trump, Mahmoud Abbas went into a deep sulk,
Whatever his mistakes, however, Netanyahu did not lose the Democrats. What lost Israel the support of Democrats is the party’s demographic, social, and political makeup. Barring the sexagenarian-plus crowd who still retain a spark of pro-Israelism, the sentiment of the party is with “Palestine.”
How come? Start with African American voters, whose numbers alone make them a potent Democratic constituency. Historically speaking, Black Americans have not been a reservoir of philo-Semitism. Add in the three-million-strong Muslim community that’s lately come of political age. There are four Muslims in the US Congress but that belies their influence. Both Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian Arab, and Ilhan Abdullahi Omar are combative charismatic personalities, PR savvy, and committed to anti-Israelism. Omar is also one of 56 members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Into this interlocking directorate factor about 90 House members who align with the Congressional progressive caucus. Uber-progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is leading efforts to block arms sales to Israel.
This brings me to the Democrats’ Jewish constituency. Jewish America has changed irrespective of the Arab-Israel conflict. Few US Jews ever voted based on a candidate’s support for Israel. Now, the American Jewish community is shrinking, and its identity is fading. Sure Jewish progressive Democrats in the coming decade will still eat kosher-style-plant-based deli, chortle at comedians offering shtick stand-up, but the serious sacrifices they’ll make will be at the Altar of Woke. I’m saying changes in America and within the US Jewish community – and not Israeli policies per se – have driven a permanent wedge between us in Israel and much of our family in the US. This is not an original insight but it deserves to be reiterated.
We don’t see things differently – we see different things.
Part of the “credit” goes to the assiduous efforts of progressive Jews (encouraged by various administrations since Jimmy Carter and plenty of dark money) to dissociate the American Jewish community from Israeli policies toward the Palestinian Arabs. I wrote about this trend back in 1994. There have been influential non- and anti-Zionist American Jews since there’s been an Israel. Only briefly, between 1967 and 1973 were ardently pro-Zionist American Jewish leaders ascendant. The narrative that it took courage to criticize Israeli policies inside or outside the Jewish establishment is bogus. It has been peddled since David Ben-Gurion’s days.
The J-Streeting of American Jewry has been 48 years in the making. The idea was always to offer US Jews fed up with the “occupation,” “settlements,” dead Gaza babies, West Bank checkpoints, settler fanatics, and in-your-face-Judaism, an off-ramp that leads to a new normal. For some, J Street’s sham “pro-Israel and pro-peace” mantra is not enough, and they’ll slither down to more radical anti-Zionist groups with their own clergy, catechisms, and utopian theology.
Given this lay of the Democratic land, heartfelt kudos to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, age 81, who has held off anti-Israel resolutions in the House. When the time comes, her successor, to paraphrase Exodus 1:8, will not know Israel. If there will be such a bird as an unequivocally pro-Israel House Democrat, they will be in the closet and shtum.
The Senate’s leading progressives Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have labored to salvage Hamas’s battered fortunes by demanding Israel adhere to a premature ceasefire. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Brooklyn Jew, has seen no political downside to letting Israel twist slowly in the wind. New Jersey’s Sen. Robert Menendez, Chairman the Foreign Relations Committee, once a reliable friend of Israel, let Schumer be his moral beacon. But it’s not personal – it’s strictly politics. The Democratic side of Capitol Hill is today J Street-occupied territory.
In this context, Israelis need to express Hakarat HaTov – gratitude – to 78-year-old President Joe Biden for having Israel’s back during the first 11 days of the conflict. He had supported Israel for as long as he politically could, repeatedly blocking Western Europe and the Arabs from pushing through one-sided anti-Israel UN Security Council resolutions. He kept lines of communications open with Netanyahu, made his criticisms as private as such interchanges allow, and refrained from publicly panning the Jewish state.
Thank you, Mr. President.
We Israelis appreciate that you are among the last of a generation of Democrats who are Israel-friendly even though you disagree with some of our policies. I know there will be a price to pay for your forbearance, and we will face your demands when the time comes.
Ancient Israelite history teaches us that forming alliances is a tricky business. Under conditions now extant in Washington, progressive Democrats have sided with the Islamic Resistance Movement of Hamas. In contrast, Trumpian Republicans are pro-Israel and viscerally antagonistic toward the Islamist agenda.
So Republicans and Israel are political bedfellows. I am grateful for GOP support, mindful that politics is about interests, not friendships. I’d prefer if the Democrats reversed themselves on Woke and the GOP reversed itself on Trumpism. However, realistically Israel needs to play the cards it has been dealt.
Politics in the grownup world is seldom straightforward. That helps explain why Israel simultaneously bombs Hamas installations in Gaza and supplies the territory with water, electricity, and truckloads of food and supplies.
A final word. If you are a befuddled young Jew in the US and facing what The New York Times has the chutzpah to characterize (for it has spent decades fanning the flames) an “identity crisis” because woke-ism is at odds with pro-Israelism, I ache for you.
It is a make-or-break moment. I pray you consider siding with the Jewish people in the land of Israel. Come on aliya. Come up to Zion. Help us repair our imperfect Zionist enterprise. Serve in the IDF. Learn Hebrew. Become Jewishly literate. Struggle with Judaism and how to make it personally meaningful in your homeland. Discover the Covenant.
Such a choice requires tremendous spiritual and emotional strength. So, it depends on what you want for the children of your children (there’s a thought!) and how best they can be “a light unto the nations.”
Updated Erev Shavuot
JERUSALEM – With Israel in the grip of domestic anarchy and under attack from Palestine-Gaza, it is difficult to maintain a dispassionate perspective. So, I tell myself that this conflict began before I was born before even Israel was reborn. That Arab opposition to the idea of a Jewish national homeland in Eretz Israel dates back over 100 years.
If you are Jewish and oppose political Zionism and believe Israel never had a right to be born or that we were born in original political sin of the Balfour Declaration, I have nothing to say to you. I do not engage in polemics with Jews for Jesus, Scientologists, messianic Chabadniks, or Jewish quislings. What’s the point? Disappointed? Get your relief here: https://youtu.be/ohDB5gbtaEQ
However, if you are stuck in the density of the forest and can’t see the wood for the trees, you need to know that the Arabs are engaged in a zero-sum, winner-take-all game. They do not countenance our presence. They utterly reject the legitimacy of our claims to any part of this country. No Arab leader says Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state. The millennial generation of Palestinian Arabs was raised on a narrative of victimization, taught to demonize us by a generation that had already canonized the Book of Intransigence. The most moderate Palestinian Arab member of Israel’s Knesset sees us as colonial interlopers and as the “occupation.” An occupation, they’d say, that in 1967 we extended to the West Bank and Gaza.
In 2005, we unilaterally pulled out of Gaza, but their line is that we didn’t. Indeed, we supply Gaza with its electricity and water. Ours is a Kafkaesque relationship with Palestine-Gaza, which is simultaneously at permanent war with Israel and in permanent dependency to Israel. Through COGAT https://www.gov.il/en/Departments/faq/faq_gaza we try to square what really can’t be squared.
Palestine-Gaza should be the Singapore of the Middle East. Instead, it is more like Hezbollah-Lebanon. That is the choice of the Islamic Resistance Movement, popularly known as Hamas. And if free elections were held in Gaza and in the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank, surveys show Hamas would win. So, the choice to turn Sunni Gaza into Iran’s rabid lapdog of Shi’ite imperialism is a price Palestinian Arabs are willing to pay in their vitriolic hatred of Israel.
Now, I want to zoom in on the events of the past several weeks.
This did not need to happen. It caught us with our pants down.
The conflict finds us at a point where tribalism is superseding Israelism. We have what amounts to a caretaker government. Many key ministerial positions are unfilled or are held by ministers who barely speak with the prime minister.
Voters keep going to the polls – in 2015, twice in 2019, in 2020, and in 2021. The Binyamin Netanyahu-led Likud keeps winning a plurality but can’t muster or maintain a governing majority. There are two main blocs: pro-Netanyahu and anti-Netanyahu. The anti-Netanyahu camp is comprised of disparate parties and personalities that run the gamut of Israel’s political spectrum.
Now, the country is on its way to a fifth round of elections.
If Netanyahu had the country’s best interests at heart, he would step aside so that Likud colleagues Nir Barkat or Tzachi Hanegbi, or Israel Katz could become acting prime minister and form a broad-based Emergency Unity Government whose goal would be to uproot the Islamic Resistance Movement from operating as a military force in Palestine-Gaza.
But Netanyahu’s biggest bet has been on Hamas. Every month he funnels $100 million of Qatari money into Gaza to keep Hamas afloat. “Success Has Many Parents, Failure is an Orphan.” His wager failed. It will go down in history as Netanyahu’s Oslo. Like Oslo, if the stars had been perfectly aligned it might have delivered de-facto peace for a generation. It is too bad Bibi’s gambit has proven a colossal mistake.
Zooming in further: Netanyahu’s appointment in May 2020 of the utterly incompetent Amir Ohana as Public Security Minister (he has paltry security experience compared to more talented alternatives) set off a series of unintended consequences that undermined the public’s faith in law enforcement during the COVID-19 epidemic.
Ohana and Netanyahu then selected Kobi Shabtai, a not-ready-for-prime-time policeman, to become Israel’s top cop. His primary qualification for the job is that he is not unsympathetic to the prime minister’s legal (i.e., criminal) predicament.
The Ohana-Shabtai team first brought us Meron, and now this.
Last night, Arab mobs driven by primeval religious fervor again ran murderously amok. These are Arab citizens of Israel, so the dilemma of containing their violence without resorting to live fire is real. Now Netanyahu is planning to empower the IDF to operate against the Arab insurrection inside the Green Line. An army is not a police department. If the IDF is fielded, it will not be to give out parking tickets.
No Arab Knesset member or sheik or imam seems to have any influence over the Arab youths who are on the rampage. They’ve tried. Some Arab analysts say the violence has been egged on by powerful Arab criminal syndicates that hold sway in many Arab townships and cities. The analysts point out that Israel allowed a criminal infrastructure to take root so long as it was only Arabs killing Arabs (and they were with abandon). Now the chickens have come home to roost.
Whether instigated or lobotomized, a violent genie has been released from the Seventh Circle of Hell intent on “defending” the hemispherical golden shrine known as the Dome of the Rock and the nearby Al Aksa mosque situated on the Temple Mount inside Jerusalem’s Old City meters from the Western Wall.
And if you’re wondering, no – Israel does not constrict Muslim worship at these shrines. However, we do not allow them to be used as staging areas for attacks against the Western Wall. To my knowledge, Islamic prayer does not call for rocks or bullets in any of its five daily services.
Historically, false Muslim Palestinian Arab claims that the Haram esh-Sharif or the Temple Mount compound is in danger have been exploited to set off anti-Zionist violence since the 1920s. These tempests sporadically erupt when burning politics mixes with scorching air over blistering terrain. To paraphrase Robert Zimmerman (aka Bob Dylan), “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”
As for this particular eruption – why now? The answer is Sheikh Jarrah.
All of us are paying the price because a group of ultra-nationalist-orthodox true believers and their misguided financial patrons in the US (none of whom consider themselves fanatics) wanted to swing their dicks around (beg your pardon, ladies). Here is my earlier take on Sheik Jarrah https://onjewishcivilization.com/2021/05/07/sheikh-jarrah-because-we-can/
We were stupid. They are lying. There is no government policy to drive Arabs out of their homes or out of Jerusalem. Nearly 40 percent of the population is Arab. The city’s current mayor is trying to rectify the municipality’s laissez faire attitude about service delivery in the Arab sector. Yet it would help if the Jerusalem Arabs exercised their right to vote instead of boycotting as both the PLO and Hamas demand.
In ordinary times coexistence – sometimes cordial, other times grudging – prevails not just in Jerusalem and the West Bank but throughout Israel. It was a glimmer of hope, sometimes strongly felt sometimes less so. And, frankly, there’s no viable alternative. In fact, adding to the convergence of factors that has hurled us toward calamity, Hamas may have been worried that Knesset Member Mansour Abbas, a Hebrew University educated dentist and head of the United Arab List would lead his Islamist party into, or support from the outside, the next government. He was being courted by both Netanyahu and the anti-Netanyahu camp. Hamas needed to torpedo that because it undermined the narrative that Arabs who did not flee during the 1948 War of Independence were living under “occupation.”
But there’s no sugarcoating it – Sheikh Jarrah was the spark. The Arabs rioted atop the Temple Mount last Friday night under the mistaken conviction that Sheikh Jarrah was somehow the final bulwark before the Shrine itself was breached. That elicited a fathomable but imprudent police response. If the police had professional guidance, they might have found a better way to handle the violent onslaught. In the event, they lobbed stun grenades at Arabs who were throwing rocks (and worse) from inside the Shrine.
Let me pause to remind you that the Palestinian Muslims who manage the Shrine take the position that any Jewish presence in the compound is pollution and a desecration. It is a religious chauvinism that cosmopolitan Europeans and progressive Americans conveniently dismiss with a bat of an eye.
The Israeli Police response ignited uncontrollable rioting that spread throughout Israel and presented Hamas with an opportunity it was incapable of resisting – or maybe helped orchestrate from the get-go.
In any event, toward the end of Ramadan, it all blew up on Jerusalem Day shortly after Netanyahu dithered about whether it was a good idea to allow Jewish young people to have a celebratory march around Jerusalem’s Old City walls.
Further darkening our skies, in response to runaway and asymmetrical Arab violence, Jewish louts festering on the underside of our own society – whether in benighted football fan clubs or on hilltops where apocalyptic antinomian mindsets prevail and instigated by their duly elected Knesset representatives and God-inspirited clerics – took the law into their own vigilante hands.
They smashed Arab-owned shop windows, tried to lynch random Arab passersby, and taunted frantic and aggrieved worshippers outside their mosques.
In other words, these Jews signaled that they had no faith in the legitimate institutions of the Zionist state – if that is not post-Zionism, then what is?
Netanyahu gave the Haredim autonomy, and we saw the lamentable results during COVID. He gave the Arabs autonomy when he took a hands-off approach to “honor killings” and runaway criminal behavior within the Arab sector. He allowed Hamas to build its arsenal as long as it didn’t shoot at us. In the short term, all this bought quiet.
I am not finished….
On the military front, the IDF cannot stop Hamas from launching rockets on our cities and settlements. Unless we were to play by Assad Rules, doing so is militarily impossible. Now, Gulf Arabs wonder if their bet on us as a “strong horse” against Iran was smart after all.
Presently, a ground incursion into Gaza looks like it might be on the offing. Maybe that is what Hamas wants. We go in. They capture one of our boys (or hold on to a fresh body), and we are in another Gilad Shalit nightmare. Paradoxically, some of the Palestine-Gaza leaders now running the show were released by Netanyahu in a 2011 prisoner exchange.
We Israelis enabled Netanyahu’s bad bet on Gaza. It was quiet in most of the country. We turned away from our fellow Israelis who lived along the border with Palestine-Gaza and suffered the “occasional” booby-trapped explosive balloon, mortar, or rocket attack.
The Sheikh Jarrah intifada has allowed Hamas to make political strides at the expense of Arab Knesset members and the PLO in Ramallah. To the untutored it looks as if there are no Green Line/Israeli Palestinians or West Bank Palestinians or Gaza Palestinians or Diaspora Palestinians. There is only one Palestinian people with Hamas as its champion. By forcing the demilitarized PLO out of any political role in east Jerusalem, by forbidding Jerusalem Arabs to send in postal ballots in the now canceled Palestinian Authority elections Israel created a political vacuum filled by Hamas.
Moreover, do not discount the fact that the PLO in Judea and Samaria has not turned its guns on the IDF. Better to have a modus operandi with a faction that dreams of our phased destruction than with the Islamic Resistance Movement which is lobbing thousands of rockets at us. If we take Iran at its word why do we not take Hamas at its word?
As we approach Shabbat and the Shavuot holiday, the Biden administration has blocked a one-sided Security Council resolution sponsored by the Europeans. Thank you, Mr. President. But instead of appreciating their efforts, Netanyahu’s churlish UN diplomat said it was not enough because the State Department made some noises to which no one was paying attention.
Now, worryingly, the president, the German Chancellor, and other European leaders all say that “Israel has a right to defend itself.” Whenever I hear that sort of Diplo-speak I know there’s a “but” coming down the line.
If you pray, pray the IDF has time to defang Hamas.
Erev Shavuot Addendum
The New York Times has an expose today (16 May) fed to it by an Israeli foreign-funded NGO operative. It turns out that on Israel Memorial Day Eve 13 April, which coincided with the first day of the violence-prone Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Israeli officials blocked Islamist clerics atop the Temple Mount from blasting loudspeakers from “four medieval minarets” during a Jewish memorial service below. The President of Israel was speaking, and authorities did not want his remarks to be drowned out.
Perhaps in an alternative universe the Times might carry a story headlined: “Muslim Clerics Lower Volume of Loudspeakers Out Sensitivity to Jewish Mourners.”
In this universe, we Israeli Jews engage in lots of soul-searching. And I do it in my blog above. It is crucial to keep an open mind … just not so open that your brain falls out.
Besides the Loudspeaker Expose, on Saturday, the Times and several other unfriendly-to-Israel media outlets expressed chagrin that the IDF spokesman may have fed them disinformation on Israeli troop movements — which they duly disseminated — only to discover that it might have been part of an Israeli ploy to expose the whereabouts of enemy forces
I know this is hard for the Woke Community to get their head around, but Marquess of Queensberry rules are not honored anywhere in the Middle East. Israel will not be the first to introduce Marquess of Queensberry rules to the region.
The US can pack up and leave Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam and abandon its former allies to fend for themselves. You gotta do what you gotta do. I get that.
And we gotta do what we gotta do.
Look at it this way: If we hitched our survival to the whims of The New York Times editorial board the result would be that Jewish Americans might have to add extensions to their Holocaust museums and memorials – alas, another Six Million Jews gone. Tsk. Tek.
They’d recall, tearing up, that as the Zionists went down they recited Mahatma Gandhi’s catechism: “An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”
Jewish America would be so very proud of the example Israel set.
Yet that is not our way. Israelis prefer to defend our homeland and peoplehood. This comes at a price. The UN Security Council — with the People’s Republic of China in the president’s chair — will denounce us as human rights violators. The Times and the Woke Community will get to enjoy the moral high ground from the slopes of Manhattan’s West Side. Our image as the neighborhood bully of the Middle East will be reinforced.
It is a price most Israelis are willing to pay.