Posts Tagged ‘Association for Civil Liberties in Israel’

Netanyahu Rejects Liberal American Jews for Christian Zionists

December 8, 2017

Yesterday, 7th December 2017, Jonathan Cook published a very revealing piece about Netanyahu’s attitude to towards liberal American Jews in Counterpunch. The Israeli butcher is basically turning his back on them. Cook begins his piece by noting that most American Jews are politically liberal domestically. But they support Israel, and have been prepared to overlook or support the atrocities it has committed as they believed they had the right to a strong state themselves following the Holocaust. But he goes on to argue that Netanyahu’s increasing intolerance towards liberal Judaism makes this position increasingly difficult, and that they will have to confront their hypocrisy.

Much of this centres around the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, the remains of Solomon’s Temple. At the moment it’s controlled by Orthodox rabbis, who do not want Reform Jews and women praying there. There was an attempt to set up a special space for them, but the Orthodox was resolutely against it and Netanyahu caved in. As a result there has been outrage amongst Jewish Americans. Avraham Infield, a liaison to the American Jewish community, told Haaretz that many Jewish Americans now believe that Israel doesn’t give a dam’ about them.

Matters have been made worse by Tzipi Hotovely, the deputy foreign minister. She criticised American Jews for not fighting in either the US or Israeli militaries. They were leading ‘convenient lives’. Cook notes that this echoes the views of Orthodox rabbis, who argue that Reform Jews aren’t real Jews, and may even be enemies of Judaism.

This has been accompanied by an increased intolerance of Israeli critics of the regime. Netanyahu’s government has for a long time denounced the Palestinian human rights group B’Tsalem and the veterans’ organisation Breaking the Silence as traitors. But now they have targeted the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which is the Israeli equivalent of the American Civil Liberties Union. According to Netanyahu, the group supports ‘terrorists’. Recent decisions by the government allow pupils to give racist answers in exams, and expand gender segregation at the universities. The government is also trying criminalise boycotting the Israeli state. There are two bills to make advocating this illegal, punishable with seven years in jail or $150,000 fine. The Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, wants stronger power to clamp down on protesters and critics, including the ability to detain without charge.

And Cook notes that for the first time, Jews are being asked at their airports what their political views are.

He also cites an article in the far-right Israeli newspaper, Makor Rishon, owned by the American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. This apparently gave Netanyahu’s reasons for turning his back on liberal American Jews. Netanyahu is convinced that the low birth rate and high rate of intermarriage amongst American Reform Jews mean that they will die out within a couple of generations. So he’s abandoned them in favour of cultivating closer ties to Orthodox Jews and Christian evangelicals.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/12/07/netanyahu-ditches-us-jews-for-alliance-with-christian-evangelicals-and-the-alt-right/

I am not surprised at Netanyahu’s attitude towards Reform Jews. Orthodox Judaism very much is the religion of the Israeli state. And the pronouncements of leading Jews in this country have shown their intolerance towards Reform Jews. A few years ago, the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, caused outrage when he declared that Reform Jews were ‘enemies of the faith’. There is indeed a very high rate of intermarriage amongst male secular and Reform Jews in the Diaspora. I think it’s about 80 per cent, though against that the rate of intermarriage for women is much lower. As a result, many Jews are worried that they’re people are disappearing. As for Christian Zionists, as Richard Coughlan pointed out in his video on this issue, they’re the largest Zionist group in America.

It is thus all too credible that Netanyahu is turning his back liberal, American Jews.

I don’t know whether it will force them to reconsider their support for Israel. It may well do so, as an increasing number of young Jewish Americans are coming to despise the country and the way it treats the Palestinians, even when they have been on the heritage tours organised by the Israeli authorities. This includes Jews, who have been victims of anti-Semitism. Other critics of Israel, like Norman Finkelstein, have pointed out that Israel was traditionally very peripheral to mainstream Judaism, and that by far the majority of American Jews wanted to live as equal citizens in America. They definitely did not want to go to Israel, and did not see Israel as having any potential to revive interest in their religion or community.

This all changed in the late 1960s, when Israel defeated the Arabs in the Six Day War. The American Right also seized on these victories as psychological compensation for American defeats in Vietnam. And the Neocon movement was launched by American Jewish Zionists as part of a campaign to drum up support for Israel. American support for Israel is therefore a relatively recent phenomenon.

Whatever happens, I think we can expect more screaming and shouts of anti-Semitism at Israel’s critics, including Jews, as Netanyahu’s government becomes increasingly intolerant. And this may, in turn, cause more people to turn away from supporting Israel, as they find themselves tarred as anti-Semites and supporters of terrorism simply for not being quite so enthusiastic in their support as Netanyahu demands.

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