Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Comfortable Zionism has become a moral abdication."

Peter Beinart, who admits that he "was comfortable there too," explains why "the American Jewish establishment" has lost its former luster among a new generation of Jews. (Via.)

A sample:

[T]he message of the American Jewish establishment and its allies in the Netanyahu government is . . . : since Jews are history’s permanent victims, always on the knife-edge of extinction, moral responsibility is a luxury Israel does not have. Its only responsibility is to survive. As former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg writes in his remarkable 2008 book, The Holocaust Is Over; We Must Rise From Its Ashes, "Victimhood sets you free."

This obsession with victimhood lies at the heart of why Zionism is dying among America’s secular Jewish young. It simply bears no relationship to their lived experience, or what they have seen of Israel’s. Yes, Israel faces threats from Hezbollah and Hamas. Yes, Israelis understandably worry about a nuclear Iran. But the dilemmas you face when you possess dozens or hundreds of nuclear weapons, and your adversary, however despicable, may acquire one, are not the dilemmas of the Warsaw Ghetto. The year 2010 is not, as Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed, 1938. The drama of Jewish victimhood—a drama that feels natural to many Jews who lived through 1938, 1948, or even 1967—strikes most of today’s young American Jews as farce.
As John McWhorter has argued in a different context, the sense of victimhood, even if it begins as an entirely appropriate reaction to horrendous injustices against the victimized group, can gradually make a "transformation . . . from a problem to be solved into an identity in itself." (That's from page 2 of his 2000 book Losing the Race -- a brilliant page-turner that I give my highest recommendation.)

Previously on this blog: "How to think: Minimize your identity?"