There has been a considerable amount of self-congratulation amongst the lite Zionists over a recent poll which appears to support the view that American Jews are progressive, liberal and other good things, including being unsupportive of the American attack on Iraq. I was going to write about the real message, but James Petras (or here or here) has beat me to it:
“This progressive interpretation however avoids an even more fundamental question: How is it that a majority of US Jews who, according to the AJC poll (and several others going back over two decades) differ with the principal American Jewish organizations, have not or do not challenge the position of the dominant Jewish organization, have virtually no impact on the US Congress, the Executive and the mass media in comparison to the Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organizations?”
“On the surface these polling results would suggest that American Jews would be at the cutting edge of the congressional anti-war movements, arousing their fellow Jews to join and resurrect the moribund peace movement. Nothing of the sort has occurred.
One reason for the gap between the ‘progressive’ polling results and the actual pro-war behavior of the major American Jewish Organizations is found in several of the opinions not cited by progressive analysts but emphasized by the 52 leaders of the major communal organizations (Daily Alert, December 13, 2007). Over eighty percent (82%) of American Jews agree that ‘the goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel’. Only 12% of Jews disagree. And 55% to 37% do not believe Israel and its Arab neighbors will settle their differences and live in peace. On the key issue of a compromise on the key issue of Jerusalem, by 58% to 36% American Jews reject an Israeli compromise to insure a framework for permanent peace.
Given the high salience of being pro-Israel for the majority of American Jews and the fact that the source of their identity stems more from their loyalty to Israel than to the Talmud or religious myths and rituals, then it is clear that both the ‘progressive, majority of Jews and the reactionary minority who head up all the major American Jewish organizations have a fundamental point of agreement and convergence: Support and identity with Israel and its anti-Arab prejudices, its expansion and the dispossession of Palestine. This overriding convergence allows the reactionary Presidents of the Major Jewish Organizations in America to speak for the Jewish community with virtually no opposition from the progressive majority either within or without their organizations. By raising the Israeli flag, repeating clichés about the ‘existential threat’ to Israel at each and every convenient moment, the majority of Jews have bowed their heads and acquiesced or, worst, subordinated their other ‘progressive’ opinions to actively backing the leaders ‘identity’ with Israel. Their franchise on being the recognized Jewish spokespeople intimidates and/or forces progressive Jews to publicly abide to the line that ‘Israel (sic) knows what is best for Israel’ and by extension for all American Jews who identify with Israel.”
“. . . a serious analyst clearly must distinguish between ‘opinions’ and ‘commitment’. While a majority of American Jews may voice private progressive opinions, their commitments based on their identity as Jews rests with the State of Israel and its principal mouthpieces in the US.
This probably explains the unwillingness of progressive Jews to criticize the principal reactionary Jewish leaders and their mass organizations, even worse to attack and slander any critics of the pro-Israel power configuration. Progressive Jews have subordinated their progressive opinions to their loyalty and identity with Israel. Organizationally this has meant that the majority of major American Jewish organizations are still led and controlled by pro-war, pro-Israel leaders. Progressive Jewish organizations are on the fringe of the organizational map, with virtually no influence in the Congress or Presidency and backers of a pro-war Democratic Party and Congress.”
“The apparent paradox of progressive anti-war Jews contributing big bucks to pro-war Democrats is based on the latter’s unconditional support for Israel which trumps any ‘dissonance’ that might exist in the head of progressive Jewish political activists.
With the American Pro-Israel Power Configuration leading the way to savaging the National Intelligence Estimate study, released in December 2007, on the absence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, progressive Jewish opinion is silent or complicit. Worse still, progressive liberal and radical Jewish peace activists have acted as gate-keepers in the anti-war movement – prohibiting any criticism of Israel and labeling individuals or citizen activists critical of the pro-war Zionist lobby as ‘anti-Semites’.
The AJC opinion poll on the high proportion of American Jewish with more progressive opinions than the leadership of all the major mainstream organizations would be officially welcomed if it led to something else besides private opinions compromised by Israeli identities.”
I’ve been denounced for writing about the ‘Jew-controlled’ media. You are not supposed to speak that way. If you must, speak of the ‘Zionist-controlled’ media, as the presence of Christian Zionists in the United States diffuses the words. But it is not the Zionists I’m worried about. Despite the power and money of the Jewish Billionaires and their employees, they would not have any power in the United States without the understanding that they represent fundamental values of the wider Jewish community. The hard-core Zionists are too small a group to have such major political importance. The people who scare me are the ‘progressive’ American Jews.
You can be the most assimilated Jew in the world, never have been within five hundred miles of a synagogue, eat swan for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and never have the slightest thought about your Jewish identity . . . and yet . . . . And yet the slightest reference to Israel, or to those purporting to speak for Israel, and you freeze up. Magical tribal thinking automatically kicks in. The unspoken but almost universal commandment amongst American Jews: Thou shalt not speak evil of Israel, or those who purport to support Israel, no matter how wicked or insane such support appears to be. This commandment extends to the fact that the most radical proposals have to receive fill airing, without censorship or the slightest criticism.
This magical thinking is the only possible explanation for the paradox of the most ‘progressive’ group tacitly supporting the vilest policies with respect to this one issue. How does a guy like Norman Podhoretz, gleefully calling for the nuclear annihilation of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people, get any platform at all? He purports to speak for Israel. Therefore, while you would normally expect universal denunciation from his nominally ‘progressive’ community, you only hear a few bleatings from a couple of blogs. The commandment prevents any criticism, and thus encourages further and further radicalization from the worst extremists. Without any criticism, the extremists appear to represent mainstream opinion.
The usually excellent blog Muzzlewatch writes (my emphasis in red):
“And still, 69% of the Jews interviewed (exactly one half of the sample is affiliated with a synagogue) agreed with the statement: ‘Caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew.’ And why shouldn’t we? And what does that really mean? Caring about Israel can mean any number of things, donating money to Rabbis for Human Rights, helping rebuild homes with the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, wanting the country to cease its destructive and self-destructive actions.”
Sorry, but you don’t get it. You are only truly assimilated when you don’t care about, or even follow, the politics of your ‘homeland’. If you give a shit about Israel, you’re not an American, you’re a Jew. You can eat the food of ‘your people’, follow the religion and culture, even watch travelogues and pine for the ‘homeland’ you’ve never been to, but once the politics has personal meaning to you, you have crossed the line into the kind of destructive thinking that has already caused too much suffering (I’ll always remember hearing the great literary critic Leslie Fiedler on NPR discussing giving up his beloved American-Jewish identity because of all the problems it was causing). The real irony is that this magical thinking is clearly not even in the real interests of the real Israel, but supports the mythical dreamland of the religious fruitcakes, both Jewish and Christian. You can’t continue to have it both ways.