Let me mangle metaphors: This paper was like the spark that lit the fire under the ass of the camel, the kindling being the straw that broke the camel’s back.
- WBUR: Progressive Jews paper author Al Rosenfeld interview
- Gershom Gorenberg: “Shotgun Blast: An essay attacking ‘progressive Jews’ actually concerns a radical fringe.”
- Andrew Schames: “Moses: the First Jewish Anti-Semite”
- Phil Weiss: “O.K., Leftwing Jews Have a Movement. What Does It Stand For?”
- Eliyahu Stern: “Were Martin Buber and Albert Einstein Anti-Semites?”
- The Forward: “Infamy”
- Richard Cohen: “Cheapening a Fight Against Hatred”
- Michael Lerner: “There Is No New Anti-Semitism”
- Daniel Septimus: “That Anti-Semitism Article”
In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a war on. The Jewish Left and the Jewish Right are currently splitting rather visibly, going so far as to drag their brawl into the mainstream press. Right now is a crucial moment in Jewish history and it will determine the future of world Jewry. Unfortunately, there seems to be very little coordination between the various factions on the Left, despite our momentum.
As I wrote to Phil Weiss @ The NY Observer last night:
I question as to whether recent events indicate the presence of a movement so much as what I regard as fractious groups with overlapping areas of interest and little coordination.
Some folks are focused on liberal domestic political issues such as labor practices, women’s rights, gay rights, etc., others are focused on shifting the priorities of the Jewish funding establishment away from intermarriage and Israel advocacy towards Jewish education and cultural initiatives; while others yet still are focused on finding a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
That last group is broken into left-leaning Zionists (of the Meretz/Labor cadre), post-Zionists (who believe either in two states or a binational solution, yet overall, a solution which respects both Jewish and Palestinian rights), and anti-Zionists who are more often than not anti-Israel reactionaries.
The one thing these three groups can agree on is that things are headed in the wrong direction and that the mainstream Jewish leadership is steering us down a dark road.
However, it is practically impossible for these groups to collaborate because of:
A) Ideological differences. Group one believes in Israel’s right to exist securely within its established borders. Group two believes Israel’s existence is an interim step on the road to binationalism. And group three believes Israel ought to cease existing immediately and that its leaders should all be sent to the Hague. These positions cannot be reconciled with one another. However, if they can find areas of overlap on which to focus, such as ending the occupation, stopping the settlement enterprise, giving Palestinians sovereign statehood, and elevating the rights of Arab citizens of Israel, then a coordinated effort may be possible. But because of our propensity for infighting (two Jews, three opinions) chances are rather slim.
B) Competition. Every group wants to be THE group responsible for doing the moving and shaking, and thus be recognized as a potential funding candidate by wealthy donors. Michael Lerner, for example, doesn’t know the meaning of collaboration. He simply wants Tikkun to have the spotlight. I wanted to come to his Spiritual Progressives conference in DC this summer in order to cover it for Jewschool. He told me I could only come if I bought his book and reviewed it on my site first. I had a similar encounter with Arthur Waskow and the Shalom Center when I approached him with the idea of creating a Jewish issues focused MoveOn. He has his own action center through the Shalom Center and wants IT to be the centerpoint, under his own stewardship. Time and time again, this ownership issue rears its head. This group won’t work with that one, this one sees working with the other as counterproductive to its own interests, this one has too many levels of bureaucracy to get the go ahead, etc. The only group seemingly bringing folks together these days is Jewish Funds For Justice, which has gobbled up several organizations in the last couple of years, consolidating various efforts from around the US into a strong base of operations for progressive Jewish action. However, it’s focused solely on domestic issues, like minimum wage, and does not comment on Israel.
C) Fear of career suicide. Groups like Jewish Funds for Justice do not comment on Israel, because while its donors can all agree on the progressive domestic agenda, they cannot agree on Israel. Some people may be pro-choice, pro-gay, etc., etc., but when it comes to Israel, they can turn into Meir Kahane. For that reason, first and foremost, individuals working in the progressive Jewish community are afraid to speak up about the American Jewish community’s stance towards Israel because they fear that it will harm their reputations as well as the funding potential of their organizations.
The groups trying to put together the counter-AIPAC lobby are currently still in negotiation and they haven’t yet secured a drop of funding. Regardless of whether it comes to fruition, it’s got a long way to go before it will have any impact at all.
What we really need is, as I suggested earlier, a MoveOn exclusively for Jews and Jewish issues, and to begin having a communal conversation among the Jewish Left to find out what we can all agree on and commit ourselves to pursuing.
The problem, ultimately, is money. The reason why the Jewish right is dominant is because they’re the dominant segment of the Jewish funding world. Left-wing Jews give their money to liberal arts colleges and museums. They do not invest in Jewish causes. The wealthiest liberal/left-wing members of the Jewish community are alienated from the Jewish community and therefore do not invest in the Jewish community. The only people with enough pride or ethnocentricity to invest in the Jewish establishment are the right-wingers. Under these circumstances, we’re fucked. That’s why simply hearing of Soros’ potential interest in this alternative left-wing pro-Israel lobby was exciting… because a rich lefty Jew is actually considering giving money to a Jewish cause.
We need more Jews who earn $50,000+ to stick loot in the reserves behind an organization that strives to find commonality between all the various factions of the Jewish left, and lobbies and organizes on our behalf.
To that I say good friggin’ luck.