Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Growing Concern about Israeli Behavior Exposes Limited Appeal of American Jewish Groups

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Growing Concern about Israeli Behavior Exposes Limited Appeal of American Jewish Groups

Article excerpt

Concern is growing on the part of respected Jewish voices both in Israel and the U.S. about Israel's future as a democratic society given its pursuit of additional settlements rather than moving toward peace with the Palestinians.

At the same time, Jewish extremism and terrorism appears to be on the rise. In its Oct. 7-12 edition, The International Jerusalem Post reported that, "The attack against the mosque in the Galilee on Oct. 2 [see December 2011 Washington Report, p. 14] is a clear escalation, and if proven to have been carried out by right-wing extremists it will be just the latest sign that terrorism is gathering steam...While attacks on mosques in the West Bank have sadly become something of the norm in recent years, an attack on a mosque in an Israeli town is quite rare, particularly in a Bedouin village like Tuba Zangariya, whose residents serve in the IDF."

This attack, declared the Post, "needs to serve as a long-overdue wakeup call...In recent months, the Shin Bet (Israel Security agency) has recorded a growing number of so-called 'price tag' attacks, amounting to several dozen over the past year. These include attacks on mosques, the uprooting of olive trees, the puncturing of tires on military vehicles, and the harassment of left-wing activists, IDF officers and Shin Bet officials and others...In most cases no one is arrested and those detained are let off without charges."

In the Oct. 14, 2011 Forward, columnist Leonard Fein lamented that, "the ship of the Israeli state and, for that matter, of its people lists rightward...things that were unthinkable 20 years ago and unspeakable 10 years ago are now part of daily discourse, are now proposed as legislation by Knesset members; that survey after survey shows a coarsening of attitudes regarding Palestinians, whether Israelis or not..."

In their recently published book, Israel's Palestinians: The Conflict Within (Cambridge University Press), Profs. Ilan Peleg and Dov Waxman write that Palestinians "suffer from numerous inequities, tacit discrimination, government neglect and social prejudices. They are largely excluded from the country's public life, they have not been integrated socially or economically, and they are generally treated with suspicion by the state and by Israeli Jewish society. As such, collectively, Arabs are very much second-class citizens in Israel."

More and more Jewish voices are being heard in criticism of the direction in which Israel is now moving. New York Times columnist Roger Cohen wrote on Aug. 21, 2011 that "Jews with their history cannot become the systematic oppressors of another people. They must be vociferous in their insistence that continued colonization of Palestinians in the West Bank will increase Israel's isolation and ultimately its vulnerability."

It is becoming increasingly clear that American Jewish organizations, which tend to support and promote whatever policies the Israeli government pursues, "do not speak for most American Jews," argued Forward columnist Jay Michaelson on Oct. 14, 2011. Citing a "peculiar dynamic" in American Jewish organizations, Michaelson continued: "These institutions are inherently to the right of most American Jews. People who, facing a wide range of philanthropic options, choose to devote considerable resources to Judaism and to Israel fund them. This is laudable. But it also selects for those philanthropists who tend toward more nationalistic and particularistic points of view. Non-particularist Jews give more to non-Jewish causes. Jewish particularists fund Jewish causes."

In Michaelson's view, "Most progressives have less interest in Jewish particularism, and are more likely to be found at The New Yorker or Amnesy International than at specifically Jewish institutions...Because of this 'liberal drain,' what's left in our Jewish communal institutions tends naturally to the right."

Michaelson went on to describe the views perpetuated by much of the Jewish establishment as "bad for both America and Israel. …

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