Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Comments on my Ingall post (part 1)

In response to my post about Marjorie Ingall's column in Tablet, Stan took offense at my overly broad characterization of American Jewish liberals:

I agree with your analysis of this person's point of view but to title the post. "The problem with American Jewish liberals, personified"  is offensive, and ridiculous.  This title would never characterize me, as an American Jewish Liberal. It demeans people like Alan Dershowitz and countless others who have worked tirelessly for Zionism and will proudly declare themselves American Liberals.
After a bit of thought, Upon reflection, I think that the main problem is with young Jewish liberals. The major pro-Israel American liberals seem to have all been born before 1960, certainly before 1970. The younger ones have grown up reading the media after 1967, when Israel was no longer regarded as the underdog and therefore (almost by definition) the oppressors. So, indeed, there are very pro-Israel American Jewish liberals, but they are aging - and they have not done a great job at finding replacements.

Sshender wrote:
The Tinok SheNishba analogy is interesting, although for me it conjures up purely religious context, whereby me and my fellow Israeli atheists were referred to as such online (without the slightest hint of irony) by religious crackpots who in turn can't even fathom the idea that what they've been brainwashed into from infantfood, may, just may, not be entirely likely or true.

On a broader sense, your claim that without knowing one's roots and traditions (i.e. Judaism) one is inevitably doomed to oblivion (at least nation-wise) is quite a challenge to us - who in spite of losing our faith in god (or having never entertained one at all) still identify themseleves as Jews first and foremost, and who passionately support the idea of Jewish self determination. There might be a grain of truth to it, but don't you feel that this kind of support or association is NOT being done for the RIGHT reasons? It takes little effort and thought to associate yourself with a group you belong with and support them with no reservation. This is the default position of most human being and is compatible with what we know about human nature in general. the problem is, that for the most part that identification with the group is the default gut feeling reaction with little if any objective thought given to the weight of the pros and cons of your position. To sum up, I see little virtue of supporting Zionism on the sole principle of being born and raised a Jew (whether religious or secular). I do, otoh, think that Zionism deserves my (and all civilized peoples') support for its substance, values and background. I admit that being a Jew myself makes me somewhat biased in favour of it, but I assure you that the reason for my support of Israel are strictly non-tribal, but humanistic, universalist and practical ones. One does not need a Judaistic moral compass to study history and take sides.

Now, as I see it, what's stopping other Liberal minded Jews from identifying with Zionism is largely their ignorance and the anti-Israel propaganda being fed to them from all over. Moreover, "thanks" to post-modernist notions of relativism, multiculturalism and PC in general many people who call themselves liberals have completely lost their ways and can no longer tell right from wrong. This woman embodies many of these themes. If Liberal Jews were taught about the history surrounding the conflict by scholars instead of propagandists, if the media actually took their declared journalistic principles seriously and if absolute norms of right and wrong were being adhered to, then Jewish secular Liberals would have been making the obvious choice that best suites their values and reason, which largely coincides with the tenets of mainstream Zionist thought.

To make a long story short, while it is true that secularization among Jews has divided their ranks, the cure, it seems to me is not getting back to religion, but to try and get the much needed and missing objective truth out there for the liberal Jews to see and decide for themselves whether it is compatible with their Liberal views. I think we'd be pleasantly surprised by the results. What more, instead of tribal support (which is great for brute force but holds little argumentative sway) we will get more critical and though-out supporters of Israel who can defend Israel on the world stage much better and more effectively counter the lies against it by solid facts and appeals to their liberal counterparts in a language they understand and empathize with.

My response was: I am not going to argue against any initiative that educates young liberal American Jews about the reality of Zionism, believe me! And I do understand and respect where you are coming from.

My view is that, beyond that, we have to think in terms of how to survive and thrive over centuries, not years. I don't see a secular Zionism or a secular Judaism as having a chance of doing that. Even the secularism of Ben Gurion and Abba Eban was infused with a sense of history, of culture, and of peoplehood that might make today's secular Jews uncomfortable.

For example, here was part of what Ben Gurion told the Peel commission in 1936:
More than 3300 years ago, long before the Mayflower, our people left Egypt, and every Jew in the world, wherever he is, knows what day they left. And he knows what food they ate. And we still eat that food every anniversary. And we know who our leader was. And we sit down and tell the story to our children and grandchildren in order to guarantee that it will never be forgotten. And we say our two slogans: ‘Now we may be enslaved, but next year, we’ll be a free people.’ “. . . Now we are behind the Soviet Union and their prison. Now, we’re in Germany where Hitler is destroying us. Now we’re scattered throughout the world, but next year, we’ll be in Jerusalem. There’ll come a day that we’ll come home to Zion, to the Land of Israel. That is the nature of the Jewish people.

This is not logic, it is emotional. The best way for emotions to span generations is a strong belief system that gets taught, by parents directly to children. The bias that makes you uncomfortable is a good thing, but I agree that support for Israel must be both innate and intellectual.

Raise your children to love their people first; then explain why.
More coming up...