Friday, April 01, 2011

Is A Split In The Jewish People Inevitable?

Is A Split In The Jewish People Inevitable? Two recent article make one suspect that this might be so. The first, by Carlo Strenger in Haaretz, comments on a new poll that shows Israeli youth is continuing to move the right.

A recent survey of the political opinion of Israeli youth shows a significant move to the right. More than sixty percent of 15 to 18 year olds and 21 to 24 year olds define themselves as rightwing; 60 percent of the first group prefers strong leaders to the rule of law; an overwhelming majority of the respondents do not believe that negotiations will lead to peace with Palestinians and prefer the status quo.


The picture that emerges is of a profoundly pessimistic group that sees little reason for optimism – a group that prefers power over freedom and whose values are nationalistic. How can this be explained? The youngsters who participated in the poll have never experienced a homeland without the occupation; they are too young to remember the hopes for peace in the 1990s. But they have memories of the second intifada, and many of them are traumatized by the suicide bombings. Those living in the North of the country have lived through the virtual paralysis of life created by Hezbollah’s rocket attack in 2006; those living in the South have lived through the attacks from the Gaza strip until 2009. ...


A large proportion of those 21 to 24 years old have done part of their army service in the territories. The 15 to 18 year old know that they will soon be called to do the same. The impact of this service is rarely spoken about in Israeli public discourse, and the attempts of ‘Shovrim Shtika’ to have Israelis face the realities of the occupation are met with great hostility. Yariv Horowitz’s poignant documentary ‘Aftershock’ shows why: the memories of these soldiers are difficult to live with since they are filled with guilt and shame.


The studies published by the Tami Steimetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University in the book ’40 Years of Occupation: The effect on Israeli Society’ show a clear trend. The longer the occupation continues, the more Israeli society is in need for narratives that justify it. No group can live in the long run with a negative self-image. Israel has been occupying the territories for more than two-thirds of its history. This is no longer an episode - it is an essential part of Israel’s history. My students at Tel Aviv University describe growing up in a school system that emphasizes nationalist values, and they are not taught critical analysis of what they see in the TV news and other media. They are taught that Ben-Gurion was the founder of the State of Israel; but nobody tells Israel’s youth that Ben-Gurion had flatly opposed occupying the West-Bank in 1948, and immediately after the Six-Day War, thought the occupation would lead to catastrophe. ...

The second article, published in the New York Jewish Week, the most widely read and mainsteam of mainstream Jewish publications in America, notes how, for many American Jews, the PLO now seems more reasonable than Israel, and how "even big givers [to Jewish causes] worry aloud about Israeli policies and the negative impact such policies are having on their children...." The article goes on to say:
Most American Jews want to feel proud of the Jewish State, not frustrated or ashamed. It doesn’t help when they read of continued settlement growth, the flotilla debacle, Foreign Minister Lieberman’s hard-line comments about Israeli Arabs and other issues, or that the Knesset conducted inquiries into the funding sources of NGOs, or that the Chief Rabbinate is increasingly rigid on matters of marriage, divorce and conversion. Never mind the complex challenges Israel faces in a hostile neighborhood, where compromise is seen as weakness. Many Jews just don’t want to read and see stories that portray Israel as the source of Mideast problems ... By the way, and analysis of the articles show that both communities are rapidly losing faith in a two state solution. According to the poll Strenger quotes,
While the Jewish Week article focuses on alienation between American Jews and Israeli government policies, the Strenger article points out that Israeli government policy may acurately reflect the will of most Israelis, and, in fact, the world view of Israeli youth may be even more right wing and nationalistic than the Israeli mainstream and that of the its government. Given that American youth - and this includes most American Jewish youth - is more left wing and cosmopolitan than the American mainstream and government, how long can it be until there is an irridemable rift between the two major Jewish communities in the world? Interestingly both community's are icreasingly pessemistic about a solution. As the poll quoted by Streger notes that "overwhelming majority of the respondents do not believe that negotiations will lead to peace". Their reaction is to claim they prefer the status quo to peace in any case. The Jewish Week telegraphs that it to believes a two state solution is sliping away.
... more creative ways must be found to convince the world, starting with American Jews, that Jerusalem really wants a two-state solution before the option becomes moot.
But as the writer clearly understand, young American Jews are not likely to embrace the discriminatory, chavensitic [dare we say "apartrheid"] status quo. They are mmore likely to define their Judaism as disengaged from (or in opposition to) Israel, or just disengage from Judaism entirely. As long as there was hope for a two state solution liberal Jews could view the God aweful state of Judaism in Israel as temporary. Once that hope is gone, Israel's chavanistic form of Judaism is exposed as real and permanent and making claims on the very definition of Judaism. This is the source of what will become (I fear or hope - I am not sure which) the coming crisis in Judaism.

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