Wednesday, March 10, 2010
American Jews Need to Get Loud About Israeli Settlements
Obama seems unwilling to get tough with Israel about halting settlement growth. He's issued requests and ultimatums, but is loath to go beyond tough talk out of fear of losing of Jewish support. The Israeli hawks currently in charge continue to brazenly expand settlements in spite of the administration's rhetoric.
But I get the feeling that a slim majority (or at least a hefty minority) of American Jews may be against settlement build-up - likely enough of them to change the political calculation. Unfortunately nothing's being done to channel this sentiment to achieve change.
In the 1960s and 1970s, American Jews were unwilling to publicly condemn Israel, which they believed to be in desperate need of their staunch and undivided support. This is a different generation, with much less tow-the-line sentiment. Post 9/11, people want peace a lot more than they want to maintain ethnic solidarity. Yet the political wisdom on American Jews remains the same: we're seen as a one issue constituency, and any politician advocating contradiction of Israeli policy would be assumed to automatically forfeit this constituency en masse.
So wouldn't it be fantastic if large number of American Jews spoke out about this one issue? Not just the usual lefty doves, but even some Zionists. Israel itself is conspicuously splintered, with a wide spectrum of attitudes and opinions on practically everything. It's ridiculous that American Jews, for their part, are unwilling to take a stand when they disagree. If they'd stand up on settlements, that would give Obama political cover to force the issue - and that'd be an impressive first domino toward peace. And what American Jew wouldn't be honored to topple the first domino?
I'd help organize such a movement, but, given that I've never been a Zionist (I'm more or less equally disgusted with both Israeli Jews and with Palestinians), I lack proper credentials. But if we presume that the administration is sincerely anti-Settlement (it sure sounds that way), and that Rahm Emanuel (a staunch Zionist) doesn't spend his days begging the president to change his thinking, then Emanuel really ought to be doing this very same political calculus right now, and taking steps to build support among American Jews for the application of much stronger pressure on the Israeli government.
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