Thursday, May 9, 2013

Collapse Of The American Jewish Center?

Ten days ago, the Jerusalem Post held a conference in New York, and inadvertently exposed the most important trend in American Jewish politics: the collapse of the “pro-Israel” center.

It happened when Alan Dershowitz began telling the crowd about his plan to revive negotiations in pursuit of a two state solution. Dershowitz is legendary for his ferocious attacks on Israel critics like Jimmy Carter and Richard Goldstone. But at the Jerusalem Post conference, he found himself under attack as the audience booed and jeered his claim that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas might negotiate in good faith. The crowd was far more impressed with Dershowitz’s co-panelist,Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick, who demanded permanent Israeli control over the West Bank and condensed her solution to Iran’s nuclear program into two words: “bombs away.” She got a standing ovation.

To understand the incident’s significance, it’s important to understand that Dershowitz—along with people like Abe Foxman and Dennis Ross and institutions like AIPAC—defines the American Jewish mainstream. For more than a decade, that mainstream has been liberal on domestic issues, secular in its approach to Israel, rhetorically supportive of the two-state solution and adamant that the failure to achieve that solution rests with the Palestinians. And for more than a decade, support for this American Jewish mainstream has depended on a particular species of American Jew: the “secular tribalist.”
For secular tribalists, Zionism is less an outgrowth of religious commitment than an alternative Jewish identity in place of religious commitment. Their tribalism makes them instinctive defenders of Israeli action. But their secularism puts them at odds with the GOP on key domestic issues, and inclines them to root their support for Israel in the language of democracy and security, not theology. This in turn inclines them to support the two-state solution—at least rhetorically—because they don’t see controlling the West Bank as a religious imperative.

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