Thu 3 Jun 2010
“The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” Peter Beinart, 12 May 2010, New York Review of Books
Harold Meyerson – The collateral damage from Israel’s raid, 2 June 2010, Washington Post
Amos Oz – Israeli Force, Adrift on the Sea, 2 June 2010, NY Times
Dear Mr. Beinart,
I must thank you for writing your piece in the New York Review of Books. It’s striking coincidence that the article was published before the Gaza flotilla incident, but serves as a reminder of how American Jews are grappling with Israeli actions. As a late-20s American Jew myself, I can see my own connection to the new organized Jewish “establishment.”
Autobiographically speaking, I went to Israel in 1999 for my sister’s bat mitzvah. I moved to McGill in August 2000, weeks before the second Palestinian intifada. As an American Jew who was raised by parents who were much among the “old guard” you describe, I found the demonstrations for the Palestinian cause to be enlightening (and we all know what happened when Binyamin Netanyahu tried to speak at Concordia). Just before the American Thanksgiving break, I was accosted by a skinhead in the Montreal Metro, largely because I was wearing an IDF patch on my backpack (from my ’99 trip). I was told that the Jews were the Nazis of the 2000s; a terrifying experience for a young student in the big city.
Over those next few years, I took in my political science classes and Canadian media coverage and my own modes of thinking/ideological thought started to turn. Though I never became a Palestinian sympathizer, I did see myself becoming a Palestinian empathizer. I became more pragmatic about the entire issue, noting that as a Jew and as a humanist, my emotional pendulum would swing, depending on circumstances. The generational bifurcation you speak of demonizes the “new guard,” silently suggesting the new guard believes that Israel has to give up — surrender its existence in order to appease the Palestinians. I dont think that’s the case at all. Right now, my sister is in the middle of a five-month internship in Tel Aviv. I think that even there, the morality and philosophical questions are coming into play.
One of the things I wish your article emphasized more (perhaps an addendum article) was the growth of actual, organized American Jewish Establishments that promoted this new form of liberal Zionism. You vaguely alluded to the Peace Now movement, but that and J Street have seen definite growth, not only in scope, but in funding as well. In its two years of existence, J Street has rapidly become a counterpoint force to AIPAC; obviously, following your article, they quickly embraced your message.
The fundamental problem of humanity is the quest for absolute truth; we’re all shown the same videotapes and told a different story. To that extent, there is no right or wrong answer to any of this. As is human nature, conflict erupts over an inability to reconciliate the differences. However, I do feel that there is has to be a pragmatic solution to the entire conflict and I’d like to think that these new establishments are looking toward enabling or lending voices to pragmatic solutions. (This even applies to several domestic issues.) Regrettably to me, many do not share my pragmatism (but are, as such, entitled to their opinions) toward the conflict. It goes beyond a mere “we said, they said” tit-for-tat approach; as I’m sure many of Mr. Luntz’s respondents would agree, it’s only to the detriment of humanity if we can’t approach a common peace.