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Old July 8th, 2018 #35
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Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 8,048
jewsign Fearing breakup of Israel lobby, liberal Zionists stress the power of Jewish unity

The partisan divide over Israel has never been greater (as Pew documented this week). Republicans love Israel, while Democrats are ambivalent. The difference represents a fundamental political divide: Democratic liberals know about the occupation and they don’t like it, and that’s driving them to have far greater solidarity with Palestinians than Israelis, by nearly two to one.

You might think that the liberal Democratic shift would hearten liberal Zionists who are trying to end the occupation. Finally, U.S. politicians will criticize Israel, and force change. But no; there is panic among liberal Zionists writing in the Forward. More than they hate the occupation, they hate the possibility of Israel turning into a political football. For that could lead to Israel ultimately losing its protection by the U.S. from all international criticism.

They warn that Jews must stick together, because that is how we exercise power, by speaking in one voice to the U.S. establishment.

Jane Eisner, the editor of the Forward, wrote last week, “Trump Has Handed The Israel Lobby To Evangelicals. That’s Terrifying.” What’s terrifying to Eisner is the possibility that a powerful institution Jews built, the lobby, will be undermined: “as ‘pro-Israel’ becomes synonymous with conservative Republicans, American Jews — still largely identified with the Democratic party — will move away,” she says.

Eisner urges American Jews to stay true to the lobby. “[T]here are many ways to love and support Israel,” she says, even if you don’t like Netanyahu; and she tells Jews there’s an organization for them: AIPAC.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee remains the largest, richest and dominant Israel lobby in Washington, and its “big tent” approach still defines support for Israel in Congress and beyond. AIPAC prides itself on being bipartisan, and its annual convention attracts scores and scores of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. While the number of yarmulke-wearing Orthodox Jews attending that convention has increased over the years, AIPAC still finds support in all Jewish religious denominations, and has actively courted other faith groups into its fold.

But after Trump’s unlikely victory, AIPAC is now directly challenged by Christians United for Israel, an evangelical lobby with a more hard-line and partisan approach that aligns with those setting the agenda in the White House.

AIPAC has long supported settlements and occupation and discrimination– whatever the Israeli government wants. But if AIPAC loses Democratic Jews, then Israel will become politicized; and Israel could come under a lot of pressure. Eisner is endorsing the idea that the lobby is an institution of Jewish influence, on the Democratic side anyway (and she downplays Sheldon Adelson’s influence on the right).

Yehuda Kurtzer, a Zionist speaker who appears at J Street gatherings, issued a very similar warning in the Forward this week: “The biggest threat to the Jews? The Partisan divide.”

Kurtzer says “Jewish power” derives from Jews sticking together.

People don’t like talking about Jewish power out loud because, despite good intentions, it either sounds anti-Semitic itself or gives fodder for anti-Semites. But Jewish power in America has been essential to Jewish thriving in America, and it has required instruments of solidarity — and specifically, the technique of presenting to the rest of the world an image, even if a facade, of communal unity.

That is an astute analysis. But as Kurtzer concedes, Jews now feel secure enough in the U.S. that they don’t need to huddle in a Jewish collective. And this loss of collective identity concerns him.