I very intriguing post about conceptualizing Israel, Palestine and our relationship with them. This is from Jerry Haber, a pseudonym for an Orthodox Jewish studies and philosophy professor who blogs as The Magnes Zionist.
As a religious Jew, I believe that the Jew qua Jew has three homes: the state of which she is a citizen; the Jewish community of which she is a participant, and the land of Israel. Jews do not need political sovereignty in an exclusivist ethnic state in order to feel at home in that land. In fact, increasingly I am feeling less at home in the State of Israel, then in the United States.
Anyone interested in the Israeli-Palestinian issue who didn’t hear Peter Beinart speak at Northwestern on Tuesday really missed something. Although the headline above looks like everyday hyperbole, if those who were there would have to agree that he captivated the near capacity audience for ninety minutes.
Beinart’s NY Review of Books June, 2010 article The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment sent a shock wave through the American Jewish community. Why this article has become a phenomenon among those who follow Jewish issues is not patently obvious. The ideas in it are not earth shatteringly unique. There are no secret papers uncovered. Not even any shocking off-the-record quotations. Instead, the article is simply so well written, its arguments so well documented, its organization so logical and compact that it strikes the reader (particularly those involved with the major American Jewish organizations that Beinart writes about) full in the chest like a hammer (one might say, a Hebrew Hammer – but that’s another story). And it certainly helps that he brings tremendous credibility as someone who comes from the Center Right, and who practices Modern Orthodoxy.
These same characteristics came through in his speaking. Not only his prepared remarks, but his answers to ad hoc questions were so well structured and economical that the listener was just carried along. It was amazing to me that he could construct responses to questions that were not only logical and understandable, but were chock full of facts, figures and quotations. This is a very rare gift. I have heard him speak several times, and regardless of the content, I find that listening to him speak, how he structures his points and arguments, is analogous to listening to Itzhak Perlman play the violin. Peter Beinart is simply a virtuoso.
But beyond admiring his intellectual and rhetorical abilities, what he is trying to tell us, the American Jewish community, is so very important. His main thesis can be summed up by a quote from that article:
For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.
Those in the Major American Jewish Organizations are at their own peril if they reject his analysis of the schism between today’s Jewish American youth and Israel. Since his article was published in NY Review of Books he has quickly become one of the most incisive commentators on what may turn out to be the most significant crisis in American Jewish history: the disaffiliation, disconnection and delusion of a majority of today’s non-Orthodox American Jewish Youth with Israel, and beyond that to their very Jewishness. Beinart’s ability to boil down complex themes and/or questions into an organized holistic answer – on the fly – is truly a gift. He is knowledgable, thoughtful, logical, insightful, understandable and direct, and quietly passionate. If you were not there, I urge you to be there when he returns. You will not be disappointed.