Monday, March 31, 2008

Towards The Creation Of A Liberal Jewish Lobby

Look out Mearsheimer and Walt.

Last year saw 2 attempts at splintering support for Israel.

In a review of Zev Chafets' book A Match Made in Heaven: American Jews, Christian Zionists, and One Man's Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Evangelical Alliance, Jonathan R. Cohen writes in the January 2007 issue of Commentary about the increasing antagonism of Protestantism for Israel:
A large part of the problem, he [Zev Chafets] writes, is the "post-millennial" theology of the liberal churches, which holds that "every house built for Habitat for Humanity; every hot meal served at a downtown soup kitchen, every human-rights document signed at the United Nations, helps speed the arrival of the messiah." In this deeply political view of the "end of days," Israel is prayed as an obstacle to peace, a war-mongering nation that imposes suffering on the innocents. Thus, while evangelicals proudly declare their Zionism, many of the mainline churches battle the Jewish state with every tool at their disposal, from meeting with Islamic radicals to disinvestment campaigns that equate Israel with apartheid-era South Africa. [emphasis added]
This "political view of the 'end of days," may be one element in the creation by Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton of a New Baptist Covenant that would differ from more conservative Baptists on the issue of Israel, tending more to the view that Carter has taken in his new book.

But this "political view of the 'end of days" is not so different from the worldview of liberal Jews who have been critical of Israel--even after the Disengagement, and claim that Olmert is not doing enough. Liberal Jews chafe at the idea of AIPAC taking a leading role in putting the stamp of approval on what is best for Israel.

So besides Carter trying to challenge the conservative landscape, we now also have George Soros who spent millions funding and tried to have Bush defeated in the 2004 election--not to mention the bogus Lancet study that widely exaggerated the number of casualties in Iraq.

Similarly, we have Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun magazine, who definitively stated:

“I would not be surprised to learn that some branch of our government conspired either actively to promote or passively to allow the attack on 9/11,” Lerner wrote in an essay published in the new book, “9/11 and American Empire: Christians, Jews, and Muslims Speak Out.” Lerner added that he would also not be surprised if it turned out that the attacks were not the result of a government conspiracy. [emphasis added]

Besides the fact that we see that nothing surprises Michael Lerner, apparently Lerner--by buying into the conspiracy theory--puts himself in the interesting position of potentially allying himself with other like-minded conspiracy theorists: the kind that think that Israel was behind 9-11 and warned Jews to leave in advance of the attack.

Not surprisingly, Lerner also buys into actual anti-Israel claims. In his defense of Jimmy Carter Lerner buys into Carter's repetition of the accusation of excessive Jewish influence whereby:
peace is impeded by the powerful voices of AIPAC and the mainstream of the organized Jewish community, who manage to terrify even the most liberal elected officials into blind support of whatever policy the current government of Israel advocates.
Then there is Yossi Beilin, who also wants to create massive change--but this time not just in terms of Israel itself. This time around, Beilin wants to do for Judaism what he did for Middle East Peace with his Geneva Plan. Beilin wants to create a secular Jewish movement:
The new forum's goals include instituting some kind of civil marriage and divorce, instituting secular conversions to Judaism and obtaining state funding for secular yeshivas. It will also work to promote separation of religion and state.

...The forum's long-term goal is creating a secular Judaism movement, including secular conversions. Such conversions, according to Beilin, will require familiarity with Hebrew culture, the Hebrew language and Jewish history. "Secular conversion might be harder and more complex than religious conversion," he said, adding that such conversions would be the real revolution.

...Shabbat is also likely to be a subject of controversy. Beilin wants Jews to be able to work on Shabbat and to choose any other day of the week as their day off, as members of other religions can.
So: what happens when you combine Jimmy Carter, Michael Lerner, George Soros, and Yossi Beilin together? The results are really not all that unexpected:

Michael Lerner, founding editor of the liberal bimonthly Tikkun, wrote in an email to the magazine’s contributors early this month that he is in the process of exploring the possibility of working with the former president to build support for a left-wing alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Lerner mentioned that he and Carter had just spoken on the phone about the issue, but declined to discuss specifics, saying the chat was confidential.

Lerner is not alone among Jews on the left eager to launch a counterweight to the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse. The Forward and JTA have reported that financier George Soros has been consulting with leaders of dovish groups, including the Israel Policy Forum, Americans for Peace Now and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, on launching some sort of pro-peace process initiative.

In an interview with the Forward, Lerner said that his envisioned collaboration with Carter would be in harmony with the efforts of Soros and liberal Jewish groups, not in competition with them. [emphasis added]

And of course
Meretz chairman MK Yossi Beilin yesterday commended the establishment of the new lobby. Beilin told Haaretz that the lobby would not compete with AIPAC but portray another facet of American Jewry. [emphasis added]
So we have anti-Israel Carter and anti-Zionist Soros along with extremists like Lerner and Beilin focused together on the same project--all to provide a voice to the under-represented liberal Jewish voice.

Gershon Gorenberg lays this out in the current issue of Prospect--A Liberal Jewish Lobby. But Eric Trager challenges:
the assumption that American Jews are overwhelmingly dovish on Israel, and therefore poorly represented by AIPAC. Gorenberg’s empirics actually suggest otherwise. For example, seeking to prove American-Jewish dovishness, Gorenberg cites a recent AJC survey that found a 46-43-plurality support for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Yet support for Palestinian statehood is not a particularly dovish position in the U.S. Indeed, it represents a rare instance of Republican-Democratic consensus-and the close divide among American Jews therefore suggests, if anything, a hawkish streak. In this vein, the same survey showed that 58 percent of American Jews opposed compromising on the status of Jerusalem-a step that Israeli-Palestinian peace likely requires no less than the evacuation of most settlements. Gorenberg therefore completely misses the relevance of American Jews’ 57-percent opposition to military action of Iran: rather than suggesting a dovish outlook on Israel, it most likely reflects weariness with the Iraq war, which American Jews now oppose 67-27.

Trager goes further:

Gorenberg’s suggestion that an American “liberal Israel lobby” is the best means to affect this change strikes me as odd. After all, any lobbying effort against the Israeli settlement policy should appeal, first and foremost, to the Israeli government and Israel’s voting public-not the U.S., which bears no responsibility for the settlements and has long opposed their construction.

...But Gorenberg is an Israeli citizen, with all the voting rights and civil liberties that come with it. He therefore possesses direct levers for influencing Israeli policy, and hardly needs American Jews–a group he misunderstands anyway–to adopt his cause.

It's one thing to talk about a liberal version of AIPAC, but with Soros, Beilin, and Lerner--we are not talking about your father's liberal Jews.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a Christian Zionist I've been closely following this anti-Israel development within Christendom for years, including Carter's New Baptist Covenant, and while Carter's group's convocation discussed their general positions, they also made clear they intended to put their theory into practice--and so I noticed this week's announcement of as much: "Liberal Religious Group Set to Launch Social Justice Rallies". Wow, that didn't take long.