There is an interesting column by Aryeh Rubin (no relation) from the Jewish Week that is creating some buzz. The column addresses the phenomenon that Norman Podhoretz deftly explored in Why Are Jews Liberals? Rubin writes:
I believe in equality for all. I support civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, universal health care, feeding the poor, social justice, separation of church and state, access to education, diversity, the arts, animal rights (I have not eaten meat or poultry in 33 years), and more. …
Still, I have not elevated liberalism to the status of religion. I do not blindly follow the liberal agenda and my convictions take a backseat to my commitment to the well-being of Israel and the Jewish people. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the majority of U.S. Jews, who have substituted liberalism for Judaism and whose actions are often governed by misguided priorities. In lieu of traditional Jewish belief or value systems, many American Jews have adopted what is essentially a theology of universalism and tikkun olam, or social justice. In doing so, much of American Jewry has essentially become de-Judaicized.
It is hard to dispute — what with the likes of J Street, Peter Beinart, et. al, daily attacking the Jewish state — that the leftist value system has run headlong into support for the Jewish state. (“Many American Jews have become distanced from Judaism’s larger core values and are uncomfortable making moral judgements concerning the distinction between good and evil, which is an inherent part of our heritage. In addition, many are uncomfortable with the notion of the exceptionalism of Israel, and even with the exceptionalism of the U.S.”) And we have seen time and again that the Jewish state comes in a distant second to their liberal dogma.
The irony here, as many of us on the right have pointed out, is that the very values the leftists champion are those protected and nourished by the Jewish state. If the Israel haters would put their animus aside for a moment, they might see that support for the Jewish state is compatible, indeed essential, to defense of their agenda. As Rubin puts it:
Liberal Jews should be making the case for Israel as a bastion of liberal values. Israel is the only country in the Middle East with a free press. It is the only true democracy in the Middle East, with equal rights for women and, in practice, a refuge for gay Arab men from neighboring countries. In Israel there are no honor killings, no stonings, no capital punishment, no cutting off of the hands of thieves.
Throughout our history there have been Jews who have opted out, and this is an acceptable reality. What is not acceptable is that today, entire legions of Jews, in the name of liberalism, are in effect working against the survival of the Jewish people, whether out of ignorance, different priorities, or a lack of understanding of the global perspective.
There are, I suppose, two ways to address this grim reality. One is to hope that the leftist Jews can be persuaded by evidence and reasoned with. But alas, they all too often seem to prefer constructing their own counter-reality — whether it is the Richard Goldstone report or the vilification of Israel following the flotilla incident. Another is to move on. It is not as if Israel doesn’t have friends in the U.S. Rubin suggests:
[T]oday it is the American right that has evolved to the point where it is much more philo-Semitic and more pro-Israel than the left. The hawks and the evangelicals among them are the most fervent supporters of the State of Israel. From the perspective of our own survival, we must gravitate to, and work with, those who wish us well and support our standing in the world.
And as we’ve seen in recent polling, Americans — excepting the left — remain overwhelmingly pro-Israel.
So I’d prefer not to waste too much time or breath on trying to persuade the unpersuadable. Their untruths should be combated and their propaganda exposed. But there is much to be done in making alliances across the political spectrum, rallying Congress to confront the administration’s laxity on Iran, and redirecting mainstream Jewish groups away from their obsession with non-peace talks and toward more productive activities such as delegitimizing Israel’s delegitimizers.