Mondoweiss is a useful website for getting the pulse of a particular strain of leftist Jewish opinion on American foreign policy. It captures the “self-loathing Jew” demographic pretty well. (Their About Us page begins: “Mondoweiss is a news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective.” One of their principal aims is “To offer alternatives to pro-Zionist ideology as a basis for American Jewish identity.”)
For example, there’s an article on how “Iran deal poses conflict of loyalties for US Jews, say Economist and Haaretz“.
The Iran deal is an important moment in Jewish history because the Jewish state has made clear that it wants American Jews to support it and oppose the deal, but American Jews aren’t buying. This is a crisis both for the lobby (the dovish segments of which are supporting the U.S. government) and for the Zionist construction of Jewish identity, which entails some measure of dual loyalty.
Two clips that back this up. The Economist speaks of a “terrifying split” that Israel faces between itself and American Jews, and says that Netanyahu has played a dangerous game by risking their solidarity. And at Haaretz, an American Jewish writer calls on American Jews to wallow in dual loyalty…
Here is Dov Waxman, an associate professor of political science at Baruch College and at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY)., speaking of the same issue, a “nightmare scenario for American Jews – forcing them to choose between their loyalty to the U.S. and their loyalty to the Jewish state.”
The countries’ interests are not the same, and Waxman says that we should accept our dual loyalty. I believe Waxman is right, and that dual loyalty is inherent in Zionism…
P.S. Eric Alterman said the same thing a few years ago. Zionism entails dual loyalty, and I embrace it. The U.S. can take a few hits, Israel can’t; I’m with Israel, he said. But then, where’s the line?
One commentor nails it when he writes:
Alterman’s isn’t dual loyalty, it’s a primary loyalty to israel and a secondary one to the US. That’s fine, if that’s how one feels. I don’t have a problem with that in and of itself (although if one is an American and one feels this way, that person should consider getting the hell out.) I do, however, have a problem with this being termed a “dual loyalty.” If one is, like Alterman, primarily loyal to israel (i.e., would chose israel’s interest when they depart), then that person needs to say so so that those of us who are loyal to the US can properly view the irael-loyalists’s arguments as being motivated by loyalty to this alien state.
Another column, entitled “It is Zionist to think that American Jews have any connection to Israel“, is written by M.J. Rosenberg, whose background is:
M.J. Rosenberg served as a Senior Foreign Policy Fellow with Media Matters Action Network, and prior to that worked on Capitol Hill for various Democratic members of the House and Senate for 15 years. He was also a Clinton political appointee at USAID. In the early 1980s, he was editor of AIPACs weekly newsletter Near East Report. From 1998-2009, he was director of policy at Israel Policy Forum.
Rosenberg recounts his recent encounter with a young Jewish man on a bus trip from NYC to D.C.:
We talked about Georgetown and why he chose to go there and then he asked me what I did.
I told him “my story” which led him to say that he had no interest in the Middle East at all. His issue was income inequality in the United States.
Nonetheless, he was fairly knowledgeable about the Middle East. As the conversation went on, I discovered he was fairly knowledgeable about everything. Judging from his looks I’d have taken him for a jock or a preppy but he seemed more intellectual than either of those categories would suggest.
After telling him about my odyssey from AIPAC to critic of both AIPAC and Israel, he said this (paraphrase, obviously):
“I don’t get it. I’m Jewish but Israel is not important to me. I live here and I’d like to help out people who live here. 46 million Americans live in poverty and the situation keeps getting worse and worse. In fact, this country keeps getting worse. Why should I worry about Israel?”
I explained why and he said:
“You may not realize it, but your premise is Zionist. You think Jews are, by definition, connected to Israel and have to care about it. But that isn’t who I am. I’m an American kid whose religion is Jewish. Period. I have no obligation to Israel or to Palestinians because I feel no connection to either. I feel that as a privileged American I do have an obligation to Americans who aren’t privileged. I’m not saying I don’t care about people in other countries. I do.
Maybe some day I will think about Israel more than I do. But, just as likely, I’ll care about poverty in Latin America. As for your point that America is responsible for Palestinian suffering by sending aid to Israel, I agree. But how does that make the situation unique? As a taxpayer, actually a future US taxpayer, I will be contributing to all kinds of terrible things everywhere. But my being Jewish has nothing to do with it. It’s not like I would ever take a Birthright trip! I don’t consider Israel to be my birthright.”
I asked him if he was typical of his friends. He said that he was.
“The Jewish kids who are deeply involved with Israel or Palestinians are sort of the same kids. They accept your premise that they are connected to that place. I don’t and most of my friends don’t either. I’d say we are post-national. America is our country because we live here. Period. It’s home. But then we travel, see the world, and want to help other people, at least some of us do. But Israel is not special to us and neither are Palestinians.
“You, MJ, are a Zionist. You think I have an obligation to try to stop the occupation because of my religion. To me, that is no different than telling me I have to support Netanyahu because of my religion. I see no difference. It is outmoded thinking. Tell me why Israel and Palestine is any more my problem than that of any other American my age, or why I should think about it anymore than I think about the treatment of women in India. I have the right to choose the issues I care about and work to solve, don’t I? Or does my being Jewish mean I have my choice made for me? Show me where I’m wrong? I’m sure that if you were 20, you would feel the exact same way. Am I right?”
I had no response.