We need to focus on Jews who love Israel, not those who are against it.

I could define my first US speaking tour since the coronavirus by the angry Jew who called herself a “non-Jew”, lamented the establishment of Israel and then insisted that there are “good Hamas” and “bad Hamas. “. I could define it by The New York Times article, “Inside the Crumbling of American Zionism,” once again stating that American Jews are abandoning Israel. I could join the Israel Industry of Outrage in justifiably lamenting anti-Israel hatred, validated by new American Jewish leaders seeking to undo the Zionist consensus linking statehood, peoplehood, and religion: the “non-Jews.” . I could see how this anti-Zionism fuels hatred of Jews.

But that grim narrative misses most of the Jews and non-Jews I encountered. They appreciate Israel, oppose anti-Semitism, and celebrate a positive celebration of identity Zionism.

In 2009, the ever-insightful Jack Wertheimer summoned another spate of divorce-pending articles that uncovered American Jews who “loved Israel blindly” but were now “learning to ask tough questions,” the “newspaper cliché of our time.” If historian Simon Rawidowicz labeled Jews as “the eternally dying people,” hysterics caricature American Jews and Israelis as the people in constant distance. The Jewish establishment and too many Israelis believe that this scam empowers non-Jews, the deniers, while making the conversation about Israel too defensive.

Calling all demographers and their sponsors! We need demographic studies to show that this raucous elite of rabidly anti-Zionist professors, rabbis, and activists have not severed American Jews’ bond with Israel. The Times article was subtle. Its subtitle proclaimed: “How a New Generation of Jewish Leaders [my italics] he began to reconsider his support for Israel. “Marc Tracy acknowledged the Pew study that shows that 82% of American Jews support Israel (along with more than 70% of all Americans).

The Jews are not the people who always die, but the people who are always reviving, and the people always united. Most of us know that our destiny and our nerve endings are intertwined in such a way that when one of us is injured; many of us bleed, and that when one of us rises; lifts us all up. We do not need Jewish haters who criticize Israel and who are confused with Jewish haters who harass Israel to remind us that their obsession with Israel reflects the traditional (negative) obsession with Jews. And most of us are not short-sighted enough to allow fleeting differences to break this eternal bond.

France’s First Birthright Israel Group in Tel Aviv, after the pandemic outbreak (credit: VOLOSNIKOVA ALISA)

Yet the popular pessimistic narrative downplays Birthright’s 700,000 inspired alumni and Birthright’s rebound. The number of American Jews who have visited Israel doubled to more than 50%. Birthright spawned a new counter-elite that took on non-Jews.

The entire Israel Experience shows that as Jewish intellectuals become universalists and awaken, hundreds of thousands of increasingly secular American Jews realize that without God in their lives they need Zionism as a gateway to Jewish meaning.

I often make a reference to Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind to explain how Zionism nurtures a countercultural identity that many young Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish, seek. While researching in India, Haidt disdained the primitive-looking rituals of the Indians, until he realized that they were useful accessories for transcending the self. Haidt sums up his adviser Richard Schweder’s teaching that everyone needs Identity: the self, which Americans dominate; Community – us; and Divinity – the eternal. These three pillars support a vigorous critique of secular liberal culture’s self-obsession while illustrating how Zionism offers community as Judaism offers divinity.

However, I looked for a less religious notion because “Divinity” also excludes many. I finally realized what the paradigm is missing; It’s what American Judaism often lacks: purpose, a sense of mission.

Rethinking the framework as Identity-Community-Mission creates a more activist model, celebrating being, belonging and becoming. It is lovely to be a Jew. It can be comforting, even exhilarating, to belong to this historic town. But we have lasted so long because we were not passive, we are creators of meaning, freedom fighters, benefactors, each time better as dreamers and builders.

Judaism is not just a relic. My great-grandparents did not deliver valuables. Everything I inherited from them is something priceless: pride in being a Jew, delight in belonging to this extraordinary extended family, and a strong sense of mission, not just to remain Jewish, but to use my Judaism and Zionism to find meaning in my life. while improving. the world.

The crisis in the crown reinforced how lucky we are to belong to this people and how much we need each other.

Zionism counters the nihilistic self-hatred of the left aroused towards Israel and the United States along with the nihilistic and hyper-aggressive hatred of the right towards outsiders. Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, the mission of Zionism has been to defend and perfect Israel. That does not mean that you only defend Israel because it is perfect; rather, defending Israel includes perfecting Israel, strengthening it from within.

This is constructive patriotism. No one has ever gotten better by hating himself. Such negativity neutralizes the optimism necessary to stretch, to reform.

Zionism also counteracts hyper-individualism, technological addiction, materialistic insanity, and the unnerving anomie of modern society by providing community, human contact, inspiring narratives, constructive values, and work to do together.

Recently, Israel accused Palestinian human rights organizations of funding the terrorist PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) without first releasing evidence showing how Palestinians deceive the world by insulting noble-sounding names. A student asked me accusingly what I thought. The “aha” tone suggested – “you see, Israel is unworthy, why should it exist …?” I replied, “Like every move Israel makes in its fight against enemies, as I learn more, I will have one of two chances: either it is an opportunity to defend Israel again, or it is an opportunity to roll up my sleeves and improve Israel.”

That is identity Zionism: fostering a rich, resilient, multi-dimensional, historically infused identity in a world that often gutters the self; mobilize our historic community in a world that often invites disunity, not unity; and purposely dive in, to fulfill the Jewish mission of making our homes, our homeland, and our world better than they were yesterday, even if they’re still not as good as we’ll make them tomorrow.

The writer is a distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University, the author of nine books on American history and three books on Zionism. His book, Never Alone: ​​Prison, Politics and My People, co-authored with Natan Sharansky, has just been published by Hachette’s PublicAffairs.


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