American Jews and Israel’s Future

For Christians today is Good Friday, as noted above, but for Jews tonight begins Passover. As Gershom Gorenberg notes in an important column at the Prospect, many American Jews will be tempted to skip the usual political talk over the Seder table, or at least limit it to domestic issues, thanks to bad feelings over the late Israeli elections. If so, says Gorenberg, they will miss a historic opportunity to participate in an American discussion of Israel that’s finally liberated from lockstep bipartisanship:

Until the current crisis, American acquiescence has enabled the Israeli right to continue pursuing self-destructive policies. The attitude that no one in Washington should criticize Israel is something that has developed over time. It’s hard to remember now, but the Johnson administration co-wrote Security Council Resolution 242, which set withdrawal from occupied territory as a requirement for peace. The Ford administration’s ambassador to the United Nations, William Scranton, said in a speech to the Security Council that Israeli settlements were illegal.

The fear of public disagreement with an Israeli government isn’t just the product of lobbying by groups that claim to represent American Jews. The theocrats’ takeover of the Republican Party is at least as significant. But the lobbying has played an important role, and Jewish liberals bear responsibility for letting those organizations speak to politicians in their name.

It was very common in the runup to the Israeli elections to observe that Bibi Netanyahu hadn’t just divided Israelis and divided Americans, but had divided the Jews of the Diaspora from the Jews governing Israel. That’s no one’s fault but Netanyahu’s. He should not be rewarded, says Gorenberg, with acquiescence or silence from the Americans most concerned about Israel’s future.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.