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Does the Jewish Left Care Anymore About What’s Good for Jews or Israel?

It’s a truism that most American Jews are not one-issue voters with regard to Israel. They have a multiplicity of concerns about church-and-state issues. The majority of American Jews are politically liberal and view social justice issues as integral to their worldview if not their faith. But it is one thing to argue these other concerns as well as those related to Israel’s future must be considered when voting. It is quite another to say they must not only supersede support for Israel, but that the Jewish state’s survival may be considered a minor concern when compared to one element of the liberal agenda.

That is more or less the position taken by Jewish environmental activists who say their cause must take precedence over promoting American energy independence, which would thereby reduce our dependence on the Arab oil that finances both terrorism and regimes that support the war on Israel. Indeed, in denouncing the American Jewish Committee’s justified support for the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada recently halted by President Obama, Joelle Novey writes in the Huffington Post to say the whole notion of taking what is good for the Jews into account is itself part of the problem.

Novey is shocked that the organized Jewish world — which is, she neglects to note, largely in line with her point of view with regard to global warming — was absent from the successful effort to strong arm Obama into canceling Keystone XL. The reason for this is that though most Jewish groups agree with the liberal conventional wisdom about the environment, they know that promoting North American oil exploration and production is vital to American and Israeli security.

But for Novey, the minor issue of what is good for Israel — which remains under siege from a Muslim and Arab world still intent on its destruction — pales besides what she seems to think is the imminent end of the planet. To bolster her argument, she paints a picture of global warming that far exceeds what even most responsible environmental scientists claim about the planet’s future. This is a typical tactic of global warmers who, as the Climategate e-mail scandal revealed, believe they must resort to wild exaggerations in order to convince a skeptical public to embrace measures that will harm the economy. It is in this context that she transforms a complicated issue like Keystone XL from one on which reasonable persons can differ into a black-and-white case where supporters of the project can be demonized and delegitimized.

Novey’s position is the earth’s well-being trumps any petty worries about Israel. While there is a certain facile logic to this point of view — no earth, therefore no Israel; no earth, no reason to celebrate the Sabbath — it is something of a snare. To pretend as if this project will literally cook the earth is absurd. Even if one were to accept, as most Jewish groups do, her frame of reference about the environment, to claim that all fossil fuel exploration and development must be halted–even those that might boost American energy independence–is extreme if not completely indefensible.

But beyond the breezy apocalyptic nature of her argument against Keystone XL is the assumption that those Jews and groups who view the survival of Israel as well as American national security as a critical issue have their priorities out of whack. Her view describes a world in which Israel’s fate can always be called into question. The notion of caring about the well-being of Israel can always be trumped by a popular liberal issue of the day. Such a mindset makes it difficult to imagine any defense of Israel or Jewish interests possible on any account.

While some in the organized Jewish world have sought to promote a specific Jewish environmentalism in order to entice unaffiliated youngsters into the Jewish world, Novey’s treatise mocking the very idea of Jewish communal interests sets that largely futile quest on its head. If, as Cynthia Ozick once put it so well, universalism is the parochialism of the Jews, then Novey and her global warming alarmist crowd have now taken that insight to new heights of absurdity.



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