MJ Rosenberg, over at MediaMatters, has a great piece on the Millenial-American relationship to Israel, which is, as he says, typified by the worldview of the host of The Daily Show.
And what is the worldview Stewart conveys? It is skepticism about any and all ideology, a belief that racial and ethnic boundaries between people are just plain dumb, and, above all, that true believers in anything are downright funny.
Not surprisingly, Jon Stewart is Jewish and assertively so. Being a Jew is part of his shtick. But he’s clearly neither religious nor an ethnic chauvinist. As for his politics on Israel, I’d classify him as J Street. And that makes him typical of both the late boomers and their kids.
That is why all the free Birthright trips to Israel aren’t changing anything. And it’s why those cheering young AIPAC-ers do not represent anything.
The generation coming up now tries to think for themselves. And, although no smart kid would ever turn down a free trip to Washington, DC or to any foreign country with a beach, they take the propaganda with a grain of salt. It does not matter that they are told that the Palestinians are responsible for their own problems, these kids don’t buy it.
I feel like it’s a pretty decent description of my generation. When my brother was going on birthright, I sent him a copy of Joe Sacco’s Palestine for another perspective (Rosenberg’s grain ofsalt). My own politics aren’t J Street’s, but I appreciate the work they are doing to widen the acceptable conversation within the US Jewish Community – despite the recent witch-hunting in SF and Boston (I thought those were liberal cities!).
Rosenberg closes on a hopeful note:
Luckily, all is not lost for those of us who do care about Israel. No, the kids are not going to come around to seeing Israel as central in their lives. (It isn’t — they live here.)
But an Israel that establishes peace with the Palestinians, that brings the settlers home, that ends the tyranny of the Orthodox in matters that should be left to civil authorities, will have their support. Not their allegiance — their support.
As someone currently living and studying in Israel, in a program to teach Torah in the US, I spend a great deal of time thinking about my future students and their relationship to this place. Where Rosenberg describes the Israel he thinks that American Jews could support, I see my role more as bringing about that reality than waiting patiently for Israel to come around, mostly because I think it won’t. I wonder what can be done to facilitate engagement and a feeling of responsibility, in order to help the “Jewish” state reflect the values we learn from our understanding of Judaism.