Peter Beinart, former editor of Marty Peretz' New Republic has written a groundbreaking piece in the New York Review Of Books about the end of the "pro-Israel" lobby's hold on American Jews.
Beinart, in his late 30's, is one of the journalistic stars of his generation (he was editor of TNR at 28). He comes from an Orthodox background.
He is also pro-Israel. (In Beinart's case, I use the term pro-Israel without the quotation marks that I use when I describe organizations like AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee and The Israel Project which are in the "pro-Israel" business and insouciantly support policies that are destructive to Israel)..
Beinart cares about Israel and I think he is rather sad to have to conclude that most young American Jews do not. As the excerpt below points out, Israel is very foreign to young Jews. And that means that the the lobby's base is eroding daily and will soon consist only of seniors (mostly the baby boomers' parents) and the very Orthodox (a small percentage of the Jewish population).
Basically, the decline of the lobby is good news for America, for Jews and for Israel. That is because it is primarily the clout of the lobby that has led the US government to support an occupation that has virtually eliminated America's influence in the Middle East, has turned off younger Jews to Judaism, and will -- unless ended by Israel under US pressure -- lead to Israel's demise. The "pro-Israel" lobby is anything but pro-Israel.
Read the whole article. Start with the excerpt. But don't confuse one very important piece with the trend it is describing. It is the "pro-Israel" establishment and the Israeli government's horrific policies (capped by the Gaza war) that has produced this sea change. But also know that the fact that this piece is written by Peter Beinart makes it a major part of the very phenomenon it describes.
In 2003, several prominent Jewish philanthropists hired Republican pollster Frank Luntz to explain why American Jewish college students were not more vigorously rebutting campus criticism of Israel. In response, he unwittingly produced the most damning indictment of the organized American Jewish community that I have ever seen.
The philanthropists wanted to know what Jewish students thought about Israel. Luntz found that they mostly didn't. "Six times we have brought Jewish youth together as a group to talk about their Jewishness and connection to Israel," he reported. "Six times the topic of Israel did not come up until it was prompted. Six times these Jewish youth used the word 'they' rather than 'us' to describe the situation."
That Luntz encountered indifference was not surprising. In recent years, several studies have revealed, in the words of Steven Cohen of Hebrew Union College and Ari Kelman of the University of California at Davis, that "non-Orthodox younger Jews, on the whole, feel much less attached to Israel than their elders," with many professing "a near-total absence of positive feelings." In 2008, the student senate at Brandeis, the only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored university in America, rejected a resolution commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Jewish state.
Follow MJ Rosenberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mjayrosenberg