Commentary Magazine


Israel Does Not Exist to Make Liberal Jews Feel Good

In one of the most important pieces written during the course of this conflict, Shmuel Rosner has taken to the website of the New York Times, where he is a contributing opinion writer, with a profoundly thoughtful riposte to the disapora Jews who have expressed their disaffection with Israel as a result of the goings-on—from Jon Stewart to Ezra Klein, from Peter Beinart to Roger Cohen.

Rosner says these men may be right that Israel is in danger of losing its bedrock support among American Jews in particular. He says that would put Israel in a difficult position and represent a near-tragic development. But his central point is this: Israel is not actually their country. They do not live in Israel, they do not vote in Israel, their children are not in the Israeli army. Israel is a nation of 8 million people,  and it must act in accordance with the views of its electorate and the existential needs of its people as Israelis define them. These liberal Jews, Rosner writes,

seem to believe that the implied threat that Israel might lose Jewish supporters abroad will somehow convince the government to alter its policies. This is a self-aggrandizing fantasy and reveals a poor grasp of the way Israel operates. To put it bluntly: These Jews are very important, but not nearly important enough to make Israelis pursue policies that put Israeli lives at risk.

Let me be clear: I believe Israel’s relations with Jews around the world are crucially important. Indeed, I’ve devoted a great deal of my career to thinking and writing about this topic. I often find myself preaching to Israelis about the need to be more considerate of more liberal Jewish views on issues ranging from religious conversion to women’s prayer at Jerusalem’s Western Wall. But I would never expect Israelis to gamble on our security and our lives for the sake of accommodating the political sensitivities of people who live far away.

American Jews who condition their support of Israel by standing in superior judgment of the extremely difficult choices it has been forced to make, for decades now, are guilty of converting a country of flesh-and-blood people into a one-dimensional player performing in an abstract moral pageant of their own staging and design.

These “fair weather friends,” as Rosner dubs them, hold Israel to a standard to which they do not hold other countries—and then claim they do so out of commonality and brotherhood. Light unto the nations and all that. But of course the act of separating yourself from your brethren by being their harshest critics is almost the polar opposite of true familial behavior, as Rosner notes:

If all Jews are a family, it would be natural for Israelis to expect the unconditional love of their non-Israeli Jewish kin. If Jews aren’t a family, and their support can be withdrawn, then Israelis have no reason to pay special attention to the complaints of non-Israeli Jews.

Or, to be cutesy about it, your grandmother might tell you to be a mensch while she’s stuffing you with brisket, but she does so while she stuffs you with brisket, not while she wags her finger at you and sends you to bed without your supper.

Moreover, she would be a fool if she told you that menschlichkeit required you to allow yourself to exist in a state of constant peril lest you violate some abstract moral stricture. And your grandmother is not a fool.

Which is why the more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone all too often taken by these fair-weather critics is so utterly and infamously disingenuous. They are using what they have in common with Israel as a weapon against it, all the while claiming they are acting on its loving behalf.

Read Rosner’s piece. 

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14 Responses to “Israel Does Not Exist to Make Liberal Jews Feel Good”

  1. KENT LYON says:

    Mr. Podhoretz seems to be confused in stating that there is such a thing as “bedrock” support for Israel among America’s diaspora Jews that might be lost. How he imagines this is hard to understand. At an 85% level, American Jews are bedrock supporters, not of Israel, but of Barack Obama, who is an implacable antagonist of Israel. Anyone, Jew or otherwise, who says he or she is a supporter of Israel and also an avid supporter of Obama, who is no Harry Truman, is either a fool or a liar. If one wants to understand what actual support for Israel looks like, one would have to go, not to Los Angeles, or New York City, or Washington, D.C., but deep in the heart of Texas to visit such as the reviled Pastor Hagee and his Evangelical acolytes. Now there is support for Israel.
    With bedrock supporters like American Jewry, Israel needs no antagonists.

  2. KAREN ADLER says:

    Peter Beinart and Roger Cohen were harsh critics long before this latest conflict. I haven’t read anything they’ve written in years for that very reason.


    Caroline Glick has pointed out that we have an American President on the wrong side of an Israeli war for the first time. Bringing Qatar’s and Turkey’s brief for Hamas as the starting point of cease-fire negotiations, whether to actually prosecute Hamas’ stance (disregard the effrontery of this), or to have our President force the PA as a sanitized (it’s not) peace-partner onto Gaza to ‘create’ a Palestinian state, the weakness of the political punch ascribed to the Diaspora Jews disinclined to support Israel cannot be overstated. While it would help pep up Israeli morale to have such Jews override their liberal druthers and decry the war reporting, they’re not in much of a position to undue the President’s and State Department’s malevolence. This fictive support of Israel by our leader that was always qualified and timed to election cycles was never tied to the amount of money American Jews could pump into election coffers, but rather to how much quiet could be bought with demagoguery to do what State and the Chief Executive wanted to do: Excoriate Israel for making America’s relations difficult with Muslims and bad actors the world over, and to assist the piecemeal undoing of the work since ’48 that raised Israel up. This reprobate group of Jews that would rather argue than support Israel is not a fitting target for Mr. Rosner, loathsome though they may be. Rather, the ire for non-support should be directed at all of those who cannot keep a straight, unqualified thought about a Democratic ally in their heads.

  4. TIKI SHAPIRA says:

    If all Jews are family than you stand by them as you would
    stand by your child, even if he has done something bad…..especially than!

    You tell him you love him, will stand by him, encourage
    him to be strong, find the best lawyer etc.etc.etc.

    The US Jewish Liberal Left has a funny way of showing it’s family ties!

    It probably has to do that they left when it was not right according their little book of morals and they prefer being liberal versus being united!

    A sorry bunch of people.

    • JOE MAHONEY says:

      Unfortunately Jon Stewart, Ezra Klein, Peter Beinart, Roger Cohen are liberals of Jewish origin. Are their views any different from Stephen Colbert, Chris Matthews or the rest of the liberal establishment? Another misfortune is the cover these men and others give to anti-Semites of both the left and right.


      Israel shouldn’t take the behavior of the fair weather friend seriously – Family? How could they see Israel as family when according to the last Jewish census, “liberal” Jews were abandoning Jewish institutions and relationships in their own families – see the divorce rares, the intermarriage rates and the shockingly low birth rates. Politically they favor the party that minimizes family – seeing the government as the provider – and they stick with the political party which (1) almost voted G-d and Jerusalem out of their platform at their last comvention, and (2) plcaes Jimmy Carter on a petistal at their conventions.

  5. JAY GOLDSTEIN says:

    I told my cousin that for me, balance means supporting Israel in its relationship with the Palestinians, whether the government is right wing or left wing.


    American Jews need to shut up regarding Israel. What do we know about rockets fired into our communities, tunnels dig to annihilate us, living in a perpetual state of war? And where will we diasporic Jews go when the tide of rising antisemitism washes away our easy life here in The States? I suppose the only option will be Israel where they have to take us in. Think we’ll criticize Israel for protecting and defending our right to exist then?


    The late Anthony Lewis pioneered the more-in-sorrow-than-in anger tone with respect to Israel. His columns were suffused with phrases such as “friends of Israel” and “those who care deeply about Israel”, which were followed immediately by arrogant, self-righteous oratory on the evils of Likud, orthodox Jews (especially West Bank settlers)and Palestinian suffering at the hands of the Israelis. He passed the torch to Roger Cohen and Tom Friedman whose written detritus is best ignored.

  8. DAVID S LEVINE says:

    Let’s see how Jews vote in Senate and House elections where their vote will make a difference. Will they follow the lead of the teachers’ unions and vote for Democ-rats or will they vote for the Jewish people and oust Democ-rat congressmen and senators who invariably vote the Obama line? That’s the question that will be answerted this November.


    The vast majority of these Liberal American Jews did not serve in the IDF, nor in our own. Personal sacrifice on behalf of their country is not “their thing.”

    • MARLANE BORMEL says:

      The fact is that Jews who are liberal, when challenged, agree with most conservative principles. Their bubbehs loved Roosevelt, so they identity with Democrats regardless of how far to the left liberals are next to how we Jews really live. As far as Israel goes, Jews in this country, for the most part, have seen decades of wealth and freedom from antisemitism, and so they identify more as Americans than as Jews. Just look at the intermarriage rates.

      When the liberals come for us, regardless of our material prosperity and positions in society, where will we find safe haven? In Israel. It just comes down to that.

  10. HAROLD HELBOCK says:

    Well the liberal Jews may be soft on Israel but a lot of us Christians are bed rock supporters rain or shine. Remember this the next time the Jewish community gives us “what for” for past evil we personally had nothing to do with.

    As a side issue: When the progressives come after us will Israel take us in?


      while moving to Israel is a good option, why not stay here and shoulder to shoulder take down the so called “progressives”?!!!
      It’ time to bring the pendulam back.

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