June 17th, 2010
05:31 AM ET
From CNN Senior National Editor Dave Schechter:
Debate among American Jews about the proper relationship between the United States and Israel is often reasoned but often impolite. E-mail traffic and online comments can be venomous, rejecting the idea that an American Jew can support Israel while being critical of its actions or policies.
This is an intramural debate with ramifications beyond its participants. Israel counts on American Jews to help maintain U.S. support for Israel politically and—through foreign aid programs—a military edge over its potential foreign foes.
An event such as the Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla becomes a subject of disagreement. Gal Beckerman of The Forward, a Jewish-American newspaper, wrote: "Here was one more Rorschach test for an American Jewry that has become increasingly factionalized when it comes to Israel, viewing every situation through its various preconceptions on the left and right."
So when an article appears questioning the future of American Jewish support for Israel, that "Rorschach test" is applied anew.
The forum was The New York Review of Books. The author was Peter Beinart, who writes for the The Daily Beast, teaches at City University of New York and is a fellow at the New America Foundation. The title was "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment."
This excerpt exemplifies Beinart's argument:
Beinart's piece, which was rooted in the results of a 2003 survey of Jewish college students, is being batted back-and-forth in numerous forums, including on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS.
David Suissa is the founder of http://www.olam.org and a columnist for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. In a rebuttal titled "Beinart's Failure," Suissa wrote: "Tough love is one thing, but showing tough love for Israel to those who have no love for Israel in the first place isn't tough love. It's just pouring oil on the fire."
Noah Pollak of Commentary magazine found no bravery in Beinart's position:
Elsewhere, Beinart stands accused of allowing personal political allegiances to influence his conclusions, misreading survey data and ignoring contrary evidence. The authors of this criticism do allow this:
Beinart is well aware of the fire he's taking for his article:
Some American Jews consider it a shanda (Yiddish for a shame or a scandal) to air such a family squabble in public. There are those who muzzle their opinions to avoid recriminations. Others feel the louder the better. Ultimately, it's not just their connection to Israel that's at stake but the degree to which Israel's supporters can leverage that relationship to influence U.S. policy.
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