Monday, November 22, 2010

Burston is (Mostly) Right

Bradley Burston's editorial in Haaretz today is worth a read. Burston is his typical thought-provoking self, drawing a distinction between the traditional "Jews of the Wall" and the more progressive "Jews of the Gate." Burston concludes:

"It's time for the Federations to come clean - they are, to a great degree, Jews of the Gate as well. Next year, at the GA, it will be time to invite anti-occupation people into the tent. Until now, they've never been able to bring themselves to say the word. They can't bring themselves to name the disease. But BDS is a symptom. Flotillas are a symptom. Emotional divestment from Israel is a symptom.

Occupation is the disease."

To some extent I would urge caution about Burston's statement that "when you consider it, it's in the direct interest of pro-settlement and right-leaning forces in the U.S. Jewish community to have a government which alienates and repels as many young, energetic, moderate American Jews as possible." I'm not convinced this is entirely the truth, and it sounds like Burston is implying intentionality. Firstly, a moderate case could be made for settlements, and the pro-Settlement movement would benefit from this voice. To argue, for example, that removing every settlement would be a huge pragmatic challenge would have far more salience than invoking 1967.

And I'm also not convinced that traditional supporters of Israel are purposefully alienating young Jews. Burston isn't saying this directly, but its an implication of his comment above. A more likely possibility is that traditional supporters of Israel want to have their cake and eat it too. They want young people to be engaged in Israel, but also want them to adopt the same positions as Israel supporters who were their age in the 1970's. The issue is less that the traditional right is purposefully alienating young moderates as that it is just out of touch. They don't understand that the young generation has a serious moral crisis of faith regarding occupation. And their ideology of unity around a common cause resonates poorly with the iPod generation with its focus on individuality.

Burston's assertion is correct, though, that the "new generation" of Israel supporters is very much in touch with the fundamentals of humanistic values, values which are shared by the majority of the Western world. The ironic element seems to be that not only is the "Generation of the Gate" not an enemy of the "Generation of the Wall," but the most necessary friend. The pro-Israel movement needs moderates who can adopt thoughtful views that don't ignore the realities recognized by the international community. They need people who can wrestle with Israel as well as hugging it. They need people who can support Israel's core liberal and Jewish values, even at the expense of supporting some of its policies.

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