Young Jews Are Fantastic!

During work hours my web browser will often find itself in some political blog, occasionally I can’t help myself and I will spend time banging out some ranty comment in the post. Often the comment is moderated since I inconveniently didn’t confirm the blogger’s point of view.

Daniel Gordis wrote this, and I couldn’t help but reply. Since I spent time writing it, maybe it’s worth a post of my own? You’re welcome.

You may not like it, but I am extremely encouraged by where young people, in particular young American Jews are taking us. A new generation is taking a fresh look at Israel today, and it doesn’t like what it sees.

On one hand we learn about the American civil rights movement, about separation of church and state, about a progressive immigration policy, about multi-cultural multi-ethnic society, and about the rule of law. We learn to cherish and defend these principles especially as Jewish minority, especially after our experience in the Old World. And then we go to Hebrew school, where first we are lied to (“a people without a land, for a land without a people”), and later we are told to love Israel, an ethnocentric state where one set of laws does not apply to half of it’s population, where a secret police reigns supreme, where it views 1/5 of it’s population at best as a blight in the landscape and at worst as a fifth column or a “demographic time-bomb”.

We are lucky that this new Jewish generation is not outright schizophrenic, but overall has understood these contradictions in its education.

“Pro-Israel” advocates will try to re-brand and encourage the narrative of a pluralistic, secular, gay-friendly and technologically advanced Israel that is contrasted with its dark, backwards, violent, and poor neighbors. This is meant to appeal to democratic and progressive ears, but it is nothing more than veiled racism that simply rekindles our fear of the unfamiliar, of the brown, and of smelly poor people.

You say “the only association they have with Israel is the conflict with the Palestinians”. A good observation. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict rightly eclipses every other aspect of Israel’s image. It cannot be overstated, any attempt to trivialize it is simply dishonest. Even the word “conflict” deceives, as it implies the clash of two equal parties, where the reality is of an occupying power and a (increasingly) dispossessed and disenfranchised population.

Judging by the comments on this post, it seems like your readership is mostly middle-aged and concerned about their children’s attitude towards Israel. I just hope your kids manage to remind you what it’s all about and help you snap out of the euphoria and delusion you have been in since ‘67. Your children’s expensive education does not teach them to agree with you, even though you are footing the bill.

I was reminded of my moderated comment when I saw this essay by Peter Beinart that was just posted on The New York Review of Books.

Young Jews Are Fantastic!