A new thought on why America’s Jews continue to roll over for President Obama when it comes to U.S. policies toward Israel: they are chicken.
There is well-documented history on the social and cultural battles between America’s “German Jews” (the elites, whose family roots were in Germany and other areas of advanced western culture) and its “Russian Jews” (whose roots were in the cruder cultures of eastern Europe and Russia). The German Jews were embarrassed by the Russian Jews and feared that the German Jews’ assimilation into the higher social classes in America would be slowed by their being associated with the negative stereotypes attached to the Russian Jews. Of particular concern, by the late 19th century and well into the 20th, was the role of Jews in the advancement of 19th century socialism and 20th century communism, a role that was somewhat significant but was exaggerated by popular myth. Karl Marx was neither the first nor the last anti-semitic Jew to observe and emphasize the historical association of the Jews with free markets and capitalism and, in particular, with the financing of bellicose activities by nation-states.
Just as in the 19th century, when most of America’s German Jews practiced Reform Judaism (the liberal or progressive branch of the faith) while its Russian Jews were mostly members of Orthodox or Conservative Jewish congregations, America’s 21st century Jewish elites (academics, members of the media or entertainment businesses, politicians, etc.) are virtually all lefties – Democrats, progressives, “liberals,” etc. – and almost none are willing to be identified by any term that sounds even remotely conservative. Today, most American Jews are delighted to be considered assimilated into American culture at all levels, and, while they no longer feel stigmatized by their background, they tend to view their Jewishness as a vague sort of cultural identifier rather than something having anything to do with – God forbid – religion. America’s Reform Jews and non-religious Jews are generally indulgent of the few remaining Orthodox or Conservative Jews in America and view them as a quaint curiosity, but are disturbed by the very idea that there are Jews who are conservative in matters of politics.
Israel is the issue where these opposing forces come into open conflict. America’s Jewish lefties are anti-Israel, for all practical purposes, but they are sensitive about the topic and they know in their hearts that the Obama White House’s perfunctory acknowledgements of Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself are grudging, hollow, and unconvincing. They know that the Obama position is irresponsible and dangerous and that it would offend and possibly frighten their own ancestors were they alive today. They know that Israel is a critically important ally of the United States. They know the history of Israel’s having offered the Palestinians exactly what Israel was asked to offer, only to be turned down. And yet they say nothing, indeed they defend the White House’s position when they are pressed on the subject.
Many of us wonder why America’s Jews do not openly admire and support Israel, given the socialistic orientation of Israel’s politics (at least in its earlier days) and its strong support of equal rights for women, gays, religious minorities, and any and all other groups that might be viewed as minorities within Israel. Israel is a classically liberal democracy, its marquee industry is information-technology (very 21st century), and even its restaurants are pretty good. What’s not to like?
I think I know the answer: America’s modern, successful, assimilated, irreligious Jews know they have it all, and they are afraid to rock the boat. Their passivity on Israel is an act of cowardice. They do not want to jeopardize their parity with the non-Jewish lefty elites. More seriously, more dangerously, they fear they might once again be singled-out and identified as Jews (or “dirty Jews” as the older ones may have been called when they were young). They do not want to put at risk their privileged status by going against the mainstream anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and anti-semitic policies of their political party. After all, what could look more Jewish, more offensively-Jewish, than supporting the world’s only Jewish state?