Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Tuesday, 24 January 2012

When It Comes to Choosing Sides

Time was that is was easy to be a good Jew and a good liberal.  After all, most non-Orthodox Jews had at best a limited education in classic Jewish values and over time a new set of beliefs - that Judaism was secular liberalism with an all-approving godhead and latkes - became entrenched in the communal mindset.  To be a good Jew was to be a good liberal.  See?  Easy.
It also didn't hurt that for a time conservatism in the West was a source of anti-Israel sentiment while liberalism appreciate the plucky Jewish underdogs in the MiddleEast struggling to turn their little patch of desert into an oasis despite all the odds against them. 
All that changed in the late 1960's and early 1970s'.  One factor was undoubtedly Israel's miraculous victory in the 6 Day War.  The initial response was one of euphoria but as time passed the celebrations turned into the ominous realization that Israel was now perceived no longer as an underdog but as a bully occupying the land of the so-called Palestinians (how quickly people forget that only a few years earlier those lands were under Arab rule and it was pre-1967 that was ancient "Palestine").  Liberalism could support an underdog but a bully?  No way.
Then there was the Viet-nam war and its enduring effect on American and western society.  The great era of compromise ushered in by the ending of the Second World War came to an end.  For liberals Richard M Nixon was not an opponent or a guy with a different set of political views but the evil enemy of everything bright and good.  For conservatives, the liberal leadership was the same - a dark force plotting the destruction of everything worthwhile.  Since Nixon's time the divide has only deepened.  Recall the viscious liberal attacks on George Bush II while he was president of the United State included a movie in which he was portrayed as being assasinated.  How about the over-the-top rhetoric being slung at the current president which his supporters are capable of slinging right back?
Unfortunately for liberal Jews one of the values imported into liberalism over the last few decades is an unquestioning support of anything anti-Israel.  This value is completely illogical since it leads to liberal support of the Arab world despite that world's hatred of everything liberal.  This has not stopped liberal gays, for example, from attacking Israel despite the fact that in the so-called Palestinian Authority it is a capital offense to be gay.  It has not stopped feminists from demonizing Israel even though in many parts of the Arab world woman are lower than third class citizens.  It makes no sense but it is equally undeniable - to be a good liberal means being anti-Israel.
But where does that leave liberal Jews?  Unfortunately it leaves them in an awful position.  Captives of a philosophy that idealizes the post-national, they are asked to take a nationalistic position.  Either you are on Israel's side or you're not.  As one liberal writers notes, some prominent liberal Jews have chosen their side and when it came to deciding if they were Jewish Americans or American Jews they chose neither but instead went with "liberal":
There was a time earlier this year when you could barely spend five minutes on Twitter or Facebook without encountering pieces like Allison Benedikt's "Life After Zionist Summer Camp" or Kiera Feldman's "The Romance of Birthright Israel." Gil Troy described these essays for the Jerusalem Post as resembling 17th-century "captivity narratives": After being "force-fed diets of Zionist folk tunes" and dazzled by "hunkalicious Israeli soldiers," the writers "courageously flee their brainwashing into the welcoming bosom of the New York intelligentsia, rejecting Israel while embracing Palestinians, about whom they claim they never were taught."


For many religious Jews the choice - Israel or being welcomed in the local salon culture and country clubs - For most religious Jews the choice of choosing support for Israel or being welcomed into the local salons and country clubs was never a real one.  We all knew that the price of acceptance was a denial of our basic identity, that as Jews tied to the 3500 year history of our nation and that all-important piece of real estate, the centre of our world.  For liberal Jews, on the other hand, this is really an agonizing moment.  In today's society one cannot pick and choose from different systems of philosophy or belief.  One is either an abortion-hating, pro-war, pro-market deregulation conservative or a abortion-promoting, anti-war, pro-market regulation liberal.  Anything in between is perceved as traitorous by both sides.
Liberal Jews therefore have to make a decision - you're either in with us or you're out with them.  But sadly it seems that it is getting too difficult to be both.

4 comments:

SJ said...

libs aren't nationalists they're internationalists.

Adam Zur said...

Torah has two important areas of validity-moral and spiritual. History is an areas in which it is allegory (see rambam at the beginning of the Guide). It is possible that the reform noticed that the Torah is not accurate in many historical details and decided to throw away areas in which the Torah in valid.this leaves reform without those two important areas--the moral and the spiritual (numinous).

Chana said...

Ha! The only intellectual reservation I had at the time of my first conversion was whether or not I would be able to continue being a political conservative.

Adam Zur said...

Torah is in essence Conservative. But reform in place of Torah values chooses social justice which means redistribution of money and support Israel's enimies. This is a sad aspect of reform Judaism