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The US, Israel, and American Jews


AI editor Adam Garfinkle has weighed in at Tablet with a must-read article on the slow but steady unraveling of the “triangle linking American Jewry with the governments of Israel and the United States.” For the last seventy-odd years, Garfinkle argues, the US, Israel, and American Jews found themselves in a mutually beneficial relationship. But post-Cold War geopolitical realities as well as shifting demographic trends in Israel and America are causing the tripartite relationship to gradually fray. Here’s a taste:

The horrors of the Holocaust and the unalloyed heroic phase of Zionist history are fading into history, as is the sense of common kindred ties between American Jews and Jewish Israelis. As a state with a strong economy and a strong military, Israel no longer needs American Jews as it once did, even as American Jews need Israel a lot more than they once did. It has already been three and a half decades since some prominent Israelis, notably Yossi Beilin, told American Jews to stop buying Israel bonds—because the cost of processing the things exceeded the value of the money being borrowed—and to use the money instead to seriously educate their children as Jews and Zionists. American Jews eventually got the “Birthright” program out of that tête-à-tête, which has been a great success, but little else. Older American Jews still have problems getting used to the idea that Israel no longer needs their ministrations and money. […]

Anyone who is honest about it knows that American Jewish demography is shattering. As the most recent Pew data vividly demonstrate, the overall weight of a numerically shrinking community is shifting to modern- and ultra-Orthodoxy, while the demographic bottom is dropping out of so-called liberal Judaism. Something similar, though not for the same reasons or in the same way, is happening in Israel, and a more visibly religious Israel is not attracting the affinity of nonreligious American Jews as the tanned and taut kova tembel-hatted kibbutzniks of the 1950s and 1960s once did.

Most writing out there on the US-Israel relationship and the role that American Jews play in it is chock-full of misunderstandings about the nature of American popular support for Israel, the extent to which Israel actually relies on American patronage, the significance of American Protestant and Jewish voting patterns, and the way American politics actually work. Garfinkle brings an erudition and clear-sightedness to the topic that’s largely missing elsewhere. For a real education on one of the most frequently misunderstood issues in geopolitics and American domestic affairs, read the whole thing.

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  • JDogg Snook

    “while the demographic bottom is dropping out of so-called liberal Judaism.”

    Many Americans Jews have substituted leftism for Judaism, and while they still identify as culturally Jewish, leftist politics has replaced the rest of their persona. They are not about being Jewish anymore. They are about abortion, and gay rights, and the environment, and universal health insurance, and so on. They have left Judaism for another religion.

    • Pete

      “They have left Judaism for another religion.”

      And that religion is known as human secularism of the ‘progressive’ variety.

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