Clash of American Liberal Jewry and Israeli Nationalism
The Daily Wire
April 30, 2019
recent landslide election of Benjamin Netanyahu and the ascendancy of the
Israeli Right has deepened the rift between Israeli and American Jews — the
latter of whom disproportionately identify with the political Left.
after the Israeli election, nine leading American liberal Jewish groups sent a
letter to the American president they hate so much and worked so hard to prevent
his becoming a president. In it, they urged Trump to preserve the
"two-state solution" in the face of a pledge by Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu to annex the so-called "West Bank" territory, also
known as Judea and Samaria.
ostensibly pro-Israel Jewish Democrats — Reps. Eliot Engel and Nita Lowey of
New York, Ted Deutch of Florida, and Brad Schneider of Illinois — released a
similar letter warning Israel not to annex parts of Judea and Samaria because,
yet again, such a move would endanger the two-state solution.
in an article days after Netanyahu’s election, Daniel Sokatch, the CEO of the
ultra-liberal umbrella group New Israel Fund, wrote:
move to annex the occupied territories would corrode Israel’s international
standing, rupture its relationship with the American Jewish community and likely
extinguish any remaining chance for a two-state solution between Israelis and
have reached a point where American Jews are calling upon the American president
to override the will of the Israeli people on matters of Israeli national
Chutzpah of the American Jewish Liberal Leadership
is the clamor of American liberal Jewish leadership to preserve the failed
two-state solution — which calls on Israel to cut 20 percent of its New
Jersey-sized landmass and give over the most storied stretches of the Promised
Land to the corrupt crooks of the PLO and the terrorist group Hamas.
the last Israeli election proved, and many polls reflect, that Israelis — as
opposed to the American Jewish liberal leadership — are done with the
two-state solution. In the aftermath of the 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip
and the immediate takeover by jihadist group Hamas which led to three full-out
wars and innumerable rockets being fired on Israel, most Israelis came to the
conclusion that the "land for peace" policy is a failure. Israelis
have now voiced that opinion democratically.
to the frustration of the American liberal Jewish establishment, the Israeli
sovereignty movement, to which Netanyahu alluded and which calls for Israel to
control the ancestral Jewish homeland of Judea and Samaria, is gaining momentum.
And in Washington, the Trump Administration is the first presidential
administration not to be reflexively pro-two-state solution. Indeed, rumors from
the Beltway whisper that the Trump Administration's much-ballyhooed "Deal
of the Century" does not call for Palestinian statehood at all.
State Jews and Blue State Jews
an Israeli Jew with conservative nationalistic leanings, I am often asked,
especially when visiting the American heartland, why is it that American Jews
are predominantly liberal? American gentiles are downright mystified as to why
any Jewish person would be against what they perceive to be a natural link
between conservatism and Judeo-Christian biblical values — values which, one
would think, would be commonly held by Jews. Many gentiles also want to know why
liberal Jews are anti-Trump and pro-Palestinian — a staunchly pro-Israel
president and a pseudo-entity that many Americans perceive to be the enemy of
the Jewish state.
his 2018 New York Times article entitled, "How America’s Jews Learned to
Be Liberal," Steven Weisman quotes an American Jewish Committee poll which
found that "Israelis approve of President Trump’s handling of United
States-Israeli relations by 77 percent… But only 34 percent of American Jews
feel the same way."
concludes: "Israelis are red-state Jews. American Jews are blue-state —
politically liberal in their outlook."
be sure, there are many American Jews on the political Right who agree with
Israeli nationalist policies, and there are Israelis on the political Left who
are much closer to the American Jewish liberal consensus. However, the broad
trends of American Jewish liberalism and Israeli Jewish nationalism are
do American Jews Tend to be Liberal?
the centuries, from Ukraine to England, and from Yemen to Syria, Jews lived in
countries prone to anti-Semitic violence. Jews were often victims of
intolerance, xenophobia, and exclusion. Yet they were able to thrive in these
places by succeeding financially, excelling educationally, and by gaining social
an effort to mitigate the dangers of the host country, Jews also employed a
sophisticated defense mechanism — the teachings of liberalism. At the
university, in the courts, in the banks, and in their dealings with local
authority, Jews sent out a message of tolerance, diversity, and inclusion in
hope that the host society would internalize those values and that the Jews
would benefit and be spared. This strategy worked until catastrophes such as the
English Edict of Expulsion of 1290, the Spanish Expulsion of 1492, and the rise
of Nazism in Germany came along.
American Jews may not feel themselves to be living in a hostile country — and
America is indeed a great country that has allowed Jews to thrive and live in
peace. Still, the U.S. is a majority-gentile host country and not a Jewish
state. Even with a high rate of public success and participation, Jews living in
America feel a 2,000-year-old subconscious impulse to broadcast the values of
tolerance and multiculturalism in an effort to mitigate any potential ferocity
on the part of the ruling host.
anti-Trump fervor that has seized American Jewry can be readily understood in
this light. The American Jewish Left sees in Trump a personification of
ultra-nationalism which, their collective memory tells them, leads directly to
violent anti-Semitism. While President Trump seems to be completely pro-Jewish,
American liberal Jews manage to paint him in anti-Semitic colors, seeing him as
the source of white nationalism and the dangerous "alt-Right."
him down before he brings us down! Stop the growth of nationalism before it
becomes full blown Nazism! Defang the potentially violent ruler using the
messaging of liberalism while you still can!" These are instinctive and
classical reactions of liberal diaspora Jewry.
Israelis Tend to be Nationalistic
contrast, the modus operandi of Israeli Jews is not like that of the Diaspora
Jews at all. The Jewish state is just that: An ethnic-national Jewish state in
the ancient Land of Israel. The collective unconscious of Israelis tells them
that they live in their own land, speak their ancient language, are rightful
sovereigns, and are in the process of rebuilding the Third Commonwealth.
message that is conveyed to the elected officials from the average Israeli
citizen is not of liberalism at all, but is rather: "Rule in strength!
Defeat the enemy! Defend our family nation-state and do not be overly-liberal to
our foes! Never again!"
this light, Israeli support of the current American president makes sense: Trump
is understood to be a determined, defense-minded fellow sovereign, a strong
ruler, and an ally.
American Jews are dumbfounded at the nearly ubiquitous Israeli approval of a man
they detest so much. But from across the pond, and in the tough Middle East
reality, things look quite different. Trump’s nationalism and certitude might
threaten American liberal Jews, but these characteristics play well in Israel
where those very characteristics are needed and admired.
Policy and the Wall
example of the difference in outlook between American and Israeli Jews can be
seen in immigration policy. American liberal Jews perceive themselves to be an
ethnic-religious minority in America and descendants of recent immigrants. They
tend to identify with potential incomers — and therefore call for a liberal
immigration policy. Unsurprisingly then, Trump’s tough stance on Muslim and
Mexican immigration is perceived as a direct attack on American liberal Jews and
Israeli Jew, however, sees it quite differently. For many Israelis, African or
Arab migration to Israel is seen as a threat — a concerted effort to chip away
at the Jewish state from the inside and endanger Israel’s stability. In
Israel, Trump’s wall policy is understood to be a normal course of action for
a sovereign nation surrounded by hostile countries. Indeed, Israel itself has
put up defensive walls!
the contrast in the reality of Israeli Jews and American Jews leads to policy
prescriptions that are drastically different. The very modes of thinking about
these problems are oceans apart.
Some, Nationalism Looks Like Fascism
if Israeli Jews are red-state Jews and American Jews are blue-state Jews, it is
not surprising that they often collide with one another.
liberal Jews tend to see the "Palestinians" as a downtrodden minority,
but Israelis, in large measure, see them as part of hostile Arab Middle East
majority. Similarly, the "West Bank" which the American liberal
establishment continues to see as "occupied" is seen by a majority of
Israelis as an integral part of our ancestral homeland. The same goes for the
behavior of the Israeli army, which American liberals often see as being too
forceful, while Israelis, whose children serve on the front lines, often see as
being too restrained.
turn, many Israelis discount American liberal Jewry’s policy prescriptions.
Without verbalizing it, Israelis wonder whether American Jews, whose approach to
statecraft is one of a powerful and vocal minority in a host country, can give
useful advice to Israeli Jews who drive tanks and fly jets in defense of their
own threatened yet sovereign Jewish state.
Security is NOT a Jewish Issue
I was in Washington and sat with a Christian red-state congressman. We talked
about Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and the position of the
"settlers" — Jews proudly living in the ancestral homeland and
blocking a jihadist takeover — who clearly favor Israeli control of the areas
in which they live. Suddenly, the congressman asked me: "OK, but what will
my colleagues, the Democratic Jewish congressmen, say about this?"
replied: "Congressman, do you ask these Democratic Jewish congressmen how
to vote on issues of abortion? Of course not. So why would you ask them about
Judea and Samaria? What should be done with these territories is an Israeli
issue — not a Jewish issue. The American liberal congressmen don’t serve the
Israeli constituency, they haven't served in the Israeli army, and they don’t
bear the burden of dealing with jihadism. They don’t own this issue."
when it comes to policy issues in the Jewish world, there should be a
distinction between general Jewish issues and local ones. General Jewish issues
might be the question of conversion, or even of religious control at the Western
Wall. However, the issues of Israel foreign policy, Israel security, dealing
with Palestinians, decisions on Judea and Samaria, Knesset election — these
are not general Jewish issues, but rather are Israeli issues. The loud parading
and weighing-in of the collective American liberal Jewish voice on strictly
Israeli issues is illogical, patronizing, and shameful.
Israel to Death
Jews and Israeli Jews are two related communities living across the ocean who
share DNA, familiarity, goodwill, a love of the Torah, and a love of the
homeland. However, we live very different lives and have consequently developed
a very different mindset.
than fighting about it, the way forward is to adopt a posture of mutual respect
and support where possible — but also allow for some daylight between one
another when dealing with respective regional policy issues. It’s great to
pipe up because it shows love and care, but on the other hand, since the
American Jewish and Israeli realities and perspectives are so different, it is
also good to know when to butt out.
American Jews who publicly defend Israel’s choices give voice to the Israeli
policies in the halls of American power — and that is an important task. Yet
those American liberal Jewish voices who have become detractors from Israeli
policy should have less sway. They endanger the U.S.-Israel alliance and,
frankly, endanger Israel’s security. They advocate for bad policy, like the
misbegotten "two-state solution," for a region they do not understand
and in circumstances they do not share. They go against the will of the Israeli
people and give Jewish cover to anti-Israel forces. Their mindset and behavior
are that of a minority ethnic group living in a host country, and not like that
of Israel — a sovereign state, an American ally, and a burgeoning regional
power dealing with the harsh everyday reality of the Middle East.