Friday, September 24, 2010

"Israeli Apartheid Week"

We have come a long way since the 1967 Six-Day War. Before that watershed event, Diaspora Jewish life was not noticeably animated by a vigorous commitment to Israel's cause. But the country's spectacular victory in war, in tandem with the energies released by the burgeoning mobilization to free Soviet Jewry, as well as with larger societal trends favoring ethnic assertion of all kinds, served to deepen and solidify the connection between the Diaspora and the Zionist enterprise. In America, pro-Israelism became the defining characteristic of Jewish life.
Over the ensuing decades, however, the stubborn refusal of the Arab-Muslim war to abate, and the decisive turn of the United Nations and the international Left against the Jewish state, have led to a palpable wavering in elite Jewish opinion—and, today, signs of an actual pulling-away. This is manifested at the extreme in the open involvement of a minuscule but vocal number of Jews and Israelis in the Arab cause. More worrying is the articulation of feelings of "exhaustion" on the part of some Jewish liberals and the silent but palpable disengagement of many others from Israel's cause.

Since most American Jews have never visited Israel, it is perhaps no wonder that they are at a loss to defend its strategic policies against daily barrages of criticism. Already a decade ago, a survey by the sociologist Steven M. Cohen found that relatively few American Jews felt "extremely attached" to Israel. Today, the extent of disaffection may be gauged in a symptomatic proposal for launching a "Birthright Diaspora" program to vie with Birthright Israel for the allegiance of young Jewish adults (including Israelis).

The hate-fest known as "Israeli Apartheid Week," now taking place in cities around the globe, is bound to affect the morale of Diaspora Jews, if in different ways. Some may be induced to lower their pro-Israel profile, others to dissociate themselves from the Jewish state and its policies, still others to affirm their solidarity ever more resolutely.


A mirror phenomenon can be detected among some Israelis who, isolated and resentful, have either misplaced their sense of connectedness to the Jewish people at large or seem positively determined to cut the thread binding them to what one writer derides as Israel's "symbiotic relationship" with the Diaspora. Since we are no longer one, if we ever were, why pretend to an interest in the perpetuation of Jewish life abroad? Why promote, in the manner of Tel Aviv's Beit Hatfutsot museum, the idea of a "global Jewish people"?

Such are a few of the contending currents of the present situation—a situation that planners of "Israel Apartheid Week" and similar excrescences must hope will issue in an ever greater splintering of the Jewish collective. As against the massed anti-Israel forces, one can but posit an oddly cheering fact: the more they rail, the more they testify to the bedrock persistence of the oneness they strain to obliterate. Acknowledged, unacknowledged, or repudiated, Zion was, is, and will likely remain at the core of Jewish civilization.

-- March 2010

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