Monday, December 29, 2014

American Jews Are Not A Liability To Israel

On December 27th an unusual pro-Israel activist, Fred Maroun, published a piece in The Times of Israel titled Have American Jews Become a Liability to Israel?. I greatly respect Fred. He brings a unique perspective as a staunchly pro-Israel Arab living in Canada but originally from Lebanon. He often sees things very clearly in ways those of us who are part of the Jewish community and who have strong direct ties to Israel cannot. We've become friends online and I greatly value his insights. However, while he makes some very valid points in the article he comes to an entirely incorrect conclusion.

Writing from outside the Jewish community and from outside the United States the article seems to judge where American Jews are perhaps by social media and news media, which often give a distorted picture. While most American Jews are politically liberal there is a slow but steady move rightward in response to the challenges Israel is facing and the increasing hostility of the left, including the left wing of the Democratic Party. Yes, there are American Jews who are uneducated about Israel, do not read the Israeli or Jewish press, and see things through an American prism. Yes, there are always people in any group who oversimplify things. Yes, there are Jews who lack any real connection to Jewish beliefs or Israel and take default left wing anti-Israel positions. I wrote about that phenomenon last year and I believe this is what Fred is addressing.

Where I differ from Fred is that he sees this as widespread among American Jews. I do not. Social media has a tendency to amplify extremes. Media outlets from the left and right chose to cover those who share their views. The result is a distorted picture of American Jewry.

The overwhelming majority of American Jews, roughly three quarters according to most polls, support Israel. Most support Israel strongly. Neither Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) nor J Street reflect the opinions of anywhere near a majority of Jewish public opinion in the United States. They do represent a loud, vocal minority who get disproportional coverage in liberal media and on Facebook. For many of the people they represent liberalism trumps Judaism every time. When people immerse themselves in liberalism and don't do the same with Judaism the result is predictable.

So, no, American Jews are not a liability to Israel. However, the minority of Jews, both in Israel and abroad, on the far left often are, especially during times of conflict. [Note: Parts of this article first appeared in comments on The Times of Israel and Facebook.]


Unknown said...

Good article Article. The only point we seem to perhaps disagree on is that you say that criticism of Israel is not as widespread among American Jews as my blog had implied. If that's the case, I am very happy to hear it. :-) ...Fred

Etay said...

Criticism of Israel is right and in place, the big issue is understanding things for the Israeli point of view. Things might look and feel very different when you actually live in Israel and when you see the world from an outsider point of view. Of course without casting aspersions...