Identity, Israel, Politics

JNF should read Peter Beinart, then disappear

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I’m writing this post because Peter Beinart took my song and dance of the past five years and dropped it like a non-existant Israeli nuke on the Ahmadinejad-like belligerence of the Jewish establishment. He said what I say, and I’m happy to watch its effects burn across the intertubes. Amen, hallelujah, selah.
So instead and speaking of establishment types, the Jewish National Fund is wading to suppliment The David Project and AIPAC on Campus as protectors of Jewish college students’ fragile links to Israel: “Moms – Are Your Arming Your Children?” The solicitation raises money for high school Israel advocacy training.
Let me get this straight: the land-holding authority of Israel, ostensibly marketed in the Diaspora as a guardian of Israeli environmentalism (hyuk), has a high school advocacy program? Why? First, this is obvious mission creep. The JNF offers no core competancy to the field of education or advocacy. Second, this program is horribly redundant. As if every other federation and major Jewish youth group doesn’t already have campus-focused activism training.
Indeed, this is what Peter Beinart wrote about: the community’s “don’t question Israel” message so poorly prepared young Jews for the reality of the conflict that their heads explode when they encounter the Palestinian side. Despite anti-Semitism on the left and real threats of Ahmadinejad, there is yet a core of blame to the Israeli-Palestinian that lies with Israel, Jews and American support. This core of truth, small as the right-wing thinks it is, so disrupts the spoon-fed comfort with the occupation that the result is ingrained distrust, distaste, and disinterest. Goodbye, organized Jewish community.
But this JNF clue offers us the bigger subtext of the Beinart peice, if you care to look. The establishment isn’t just right-wing and morally pegged to odious Israeli policies. It’s lost. It has no moral compass, no calling, no grand mission statement. Raising money to feed a bloated infrastructure dedicated to fighting yesterday’s battles is the only motivation it seems to offer us.
I regard the organized Jewish community with distrust, distaste and disinterest because I have values. Powerful, commanding, universal values that I feel come from Judaism, via my family. It’s a shame those universal values aren’t shared by the previous Jewish leadership.

16 thoughts on “JNF should read Peter Beinart, then disappear

  1. This core of truth, small as the right-wing thinks it is, so disrupts the spoon-fed comfort with the occupation that the result is ingrained distrust, distaste, and disinterest.
    Yes. This is a real problem. Some eventually recover, but many are set on a lifetime track of Jewish-community alienation and Israel hatred, and indeed, eagerly adopt the Palestinian narrative (and propaganda, even when they know it’s propaganda) to a remarkable degree (Mondoweiss, etc.).
    I’m writing this post because Peter Beinart took my song and dance of the past five years
    Really? Peter Beinart’s store of information about Israel comes exclusively from the English language version of Haaretz. He really doesn’t know very much about Israel. It’s not a subject he’s paid much attention to, as he himself says. He is relying on Gideon Levy, whose radical left-wing perspective is shared by what, 5% of the Israelis, to inform his holistic option of the country and its policies. Yaacov has been writing on this extensively lately, and before Beinart. You should follow his posts on the subject. Here are a few:
    One
    Two
    Three
    Four
    The entire Israeli Democracy thread is good to go through.
    The problem isn’t so much Beinart’s lack of understanding, but that this alternate universe that the English language version of Haaretz prints – again, an increasingly marginal, left wing paper that represents the opinions and perspectives of a very small percentage of Israeli citizens – is becoming the only relevant source of information to a great many American Jews.
    American Jews who have never been to Israel, but who read Haaretz English, think that Israel is on fire, teetering on the edge of fascism, riveted by racial strife, theocratic totalitarianism and every other conceivable evil that an out of power Israeli left – whose policies have been increasingly rejected by the mainstream of Israeli citizens – can throw at the wall and make stick.
    There is no such Israel, and Israelis know this, even the ones who scream about it very loudly, but increasingly, leftist American Jews don’t.

  2. I dunno A-mouse. Beinart’s major points have to do with the Jewish community in the United States, not with Israel. Regarding Israel his views closely match far more than a hypothetical 5% of Israeli lefties. He more or less is in line with the Obama administration, Kadima, J Street, and on and on.
    It’s not as if 95% of Israelis think that the occupation is, in fact, moral.
    Then again, I’m not sure that standing in solidarity with an Israeli minority is the wrong thing. It’s what they stand for that matters.
    KJ, maybe we can find it in our hearts to celebrate the JNF’s latest move. Our ideological opponents find it useful to dig deeper holes in which to stand. Meh. If Beinart teaches us anything, it’s that the right wing Hasbarah machine is in fact, a massive failure and stands no chance of being anything else.

  3. His points have to do not so much with the American Jewish community, but on the relationship that community should have to Israel. He bases this not on the realities of Israeli policy or politics, but on a few, very vocal people – a minority of Israeli society not because they’re brave speakers of truth to power, but because reality mugged the rest of the mainstream into adopting other positions.
    I’m always confused about why people refer to Kadima as some lefty party that’s in sync with American liberal extremists. You realize that Netanyahu did not invade Lebanon or launch a war against Hamas, right? Kadima did this, with support of the left and right, everyone except parts of the editorial board of Haaretz. Likud implemented a settlement freeze and dismantled hundreds of checkpoints. Kadima created the siege of Gaza.
    This is what I’m talking about, this parallel universe where Avigdor Lieberman is clearly a fascist, except that he’s clearly not, where Netanyahu or Likud is opposed to peace, or to partition, except that he and it are clearly not.
    This narrative was created by Haaretz and certain lefty extremists in Israel, as part of Israel’s internal political debate. Except that, in Israel, people understand that it’s just hyperventilated politics by people who lost an election and are screaming for attention. When Haaretz prints it in English, however, the hyperbole is stripped of context.
    Liberal American Jews parrot what they hear coming out of Israel’s far left wing without critically examining what it is they are saying, and without the life experience of six million Jews who make decisions based on having to actual deal with their current reality.
    The result is that the Israel we read about in English less and less resembles the Israel that exists. That’s not something we should be proud of.

  4. I was deeply offended by the title of the post- ARMING YOUR CHILDREN? It heightens the militarized perspective. It proposes a militarized solution. JNF is a development organization in Israel, and their education department support that goal- both subtly and overtly. I am so disappointed that this got approval and so good jewschool is talking about it.

  5. Better they raise money in the name of bad hasbara than in the name of environmentalism. Of course, the underlying Jewish-only land policies of the KKL are one of the best arguments anti-Israel campus activists have….b

  6. The Anon thinks that Beinart’s argument can be dismissed because it is based on the “uncritical” examination of a few rabble-rousers. This despite the fact that the crux of Beinart’s argument is that the hasbara coming from the Knesset and the IDF, which we have illustrated time and again is more concerned with image than reality, is received “uncritically” by the Jewish mainstream. All Anon is doing is saying “NO U”, by turning the spotlight on the radical left and casting doubt on the veracity of THEIR claims, instead of where it belongs, on the mainstream.
    The point isn’t somehow some domestic left-right (or mainstream-marginal left) fight in Israeli politics, as Anonymouse wishes to put it. The point is the critical re-examination of the situation, based not only on ascertainable facts but multiple perspectives, of which the super-radical Haaretz left is only ONE. Too long has the American Jewish mainstream brushed this one off, and too long have they turned a blind eye to the more radical voices that are driving the debate (can we call it a “debate” when guns are involved?).

  7. BZ – I tried it in Geordie, Glaswegian, Scouse, Welsh, Norf London, and Cockney. I don’t get it.
    BTW, why is the JNF doing the job of the David Project?

  8. It’s funny you say that. The people “driving the debate” are the radical israeli left. The israelis are not against peace, but they won’t accept being slaughtered and lied to again. No amount of talking will convince them that the Arabs really want peace, only actions. And the only actions they see are rockets and hatred from gaza, and a PA that if it wasn’t trying to prevent a total collapse in the WB would be shooting and killing itself. Even the Israeli left acknowledges this, which is why the demands for withdrawal from the territories have increased, while the demands for a negotiated agreement have dissapeared.
    See, the Israelis know all this, because they live that reality. They get patted down before going into malls and hand their purses over for inspection before getting a cup of coffee. They also know how many seconds warning their kids have before more and more sophisticated rockets slam into the schoolyard, or the home or the israeli equivalent of chucky cheese, where a kid can be a kid.
    American Jews don’t know any of this. Sure, they might read about it in a blue moon, and might empathize intellectually, but they don’t know it, not really. Just speak to new American olim to Israel who settled in the south.
    All American Jews know is what they read. Many of them, many of liberal American Jews, read Haaretz, whose english language version is more radically left than any other mainstream publication in Israel. I think that’s a fair statement. There is a problem with a tiny portion of the Israeli population, a radical, discredited group in their country, driving the debate, the conversation, and managing the facts, sometimes disingenuously distorting the reality of Israeli life, to an American audience that doesn’t know better.

  9. The reality of Israeli life is that the occupation is managed and hidden in such a wonderful way that we are surprised when people take up arms against us.

  10. B.BarNavi writes:
    BZ – I tried it in Geordie, Glaswegian, Scouse, Welsh, Norf London, and Cockney. I don’t get it.
    “Are you harming your children?”

  11. Funny, I always thought that the “Israel as Disneyland” image driven by BRI and their cohorts in Hebrew Schools across the nation was setting the debate, but if you’re going to assign disproportionate power on the muckrakers, go ahead.
    Again, the spotlight is not on THEM, but the carefully-constructed image from the Knesset and held by the American Jewish establishment. Roll again.

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