Many young Jews don’t see Israel as the promised land

The New York Times publishes this weekend a feature on the “pro-peace and pro-Israel” lobby J Street (a group I’ve mentioned many times here.)

The piece is important, for no other reason than it tells the world that not all Jews subscribe to the fanatical Greater Israel mindset. Sure, the writer talks about the “very real danger” posed by Hamas and the predictable bleating about Iran, but a generational shift in Jewish thinking is profiled:

Abraham Foxman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League, was born in Poland in 1940, and he often sounds as if only eternal vigilance will ward off the Holocaust in the offing. Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, was born in a camp for displaced persons, to parents who were Holocaust survivors. The prophetic voice comes naturally to such men. So does the sense of besetting peril. Important Jewish organizations are normally reached through a series of locked doors presided over by glassed-in functionaries. The peril may be real. But it can also feel like a marketing device. “You know what these guys are afraid of?” says M. J. Rosenberg, Washington director of the Israel Policy Forum. “Their generation is disappearing. All the old Jewish people in senior-citizen homes speaking Yiddish are dying — and they’re being replaced by 60-year-old Woodstock types.”

J Street, by contrast, is wide open to the public. Visitors must thread their way through a graphic-design studio with which the organization shares office space. There appears to be nothing worth guarding. The average age of the dozen or so staff members is about 30. [J Street founder Jeremy] Ben-Ami speaks for, and to, this post-Holocaust generation. “They’re all intermarried,” he says. “They’re all doing Buddhist seders.” They are, he adds, baffled by the notion of “Israel as the place you can always count on when they come to get you.” Living in a world of blogs, they’re similarly skeptical of the premise that “we’re still on too-shaky ground” to permit public disagreement. There’s a curious and striking analogy with the situation of Cuban-Americans, whose politics until quite recently were dominated by the generation that fled Castro’s revolution and were grimly determined to see his regime overthrown. Obama has not had to pay a price for moderating the American embargo, as his predecessors would have, because Cuban-American opinion is no longer in thrall to the older generation — precisely J Street’s goal in regard to the Middle East.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

Site by Common