December 5, 2023

I first noticed this topic about 10 days ago when Michelle Goldberg wrote about it. Simply put, American Jews who polls show mostly lean left, have been shocked and dismayed by the reaction of fellow progressives to the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust. Over the weekend there were several good pieces about this topic. First up is one published yesterday bt the Free Press. Author Konstantin Kisin says he heard a friend joke that some people woke up as progressive on Oct. 7 and went to bed as conservatives.

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A friend of mine joked that she woke up on October 7 as a liberal and went to bed that evening as a 65-year-old conservative. But it wasn’t really a joke and she wasn’t the only one. What changed?…

The reaction to the attacks—from outwardly pro-Hamas protests to the mealy-mouthed statements of college presidents, celebrities, and CEOs—has exploded the comforting stories many on the center-left have told themselves about progressive identity politics. For many years, they opted for the coping mechanism of pretending that the institutional capture of universities, corporations, and media organizations by the woke mind virus was no big deal. “Sure, students shutting down events they disagree with is annoying,” they would say, “but it’s just students doing what students do.”…

We woke up on October 8 to the clamor of street protests in cities across the West condemning Israel even before any major Israeli response to the attacks. We watched celebratory crowds brandish swastikas and chant “gas the Jews” at events purporting to be about the loss of Palestinian lives. We saw Black Lives Matter chapters lionize terrorists…

The events of the last two weeks have shattered the illusion that wokeness is about protecting victims and standing up for persecuted minorities. This ideology is and has always been about the one thing many of us have told you it is about for years: power. And after the last two weeks, there can be no doubt about how these people will use any power they seize: they will seek to destroy, in any way they can, those who disagree.

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Kisin isn’t writing explicitly about Jews but I think it’s fair to say they have been at the forefront of this sudden realization about the nature of the progressive left many have been affiliated with. The NY Times had an article about this last Friday.

Progressive Jews who have spent years supporting racial equity, gay and transgender rights, abortion rights and other causes on the American left — including opposing Israeli policies in Gaza and the West Bank — are suddenly feeling abandoned by those who they long thought of as allies. This wartime shift represents a fundamental break within a liberal coalition that has long powered the Democratic Party.

In Los Angeles, Rabbi Sharon Brous, a well-known progressive activist who regularly criticizes the Israeli government, described from the pulpit her horror and feelings of “existential loneliness,” her voice breaking. “The clear message from many in the world, especially from our world — those who claim to care the most about justice and human dignity — is that these Israeli victims somehow deserved this terrible fate.”…

Interviews with dozens of liberal Jewish leaders and voters, and a review of social media posts, private emails and text chains of liberal Jewish groups, reveal a politically engaged swath of American Jewry who are reaching a breaking point…

“I am in such a state of despair — in my generation, we have been warned how quickly people would turn on us and we just thought no way,” said Nick Melvoin, 38, a member of the Los Angeles Unified School Board who is now running for Congress and keeps a framed picture of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his office. “Now we see, this is how that happens: When you dehumanize the group. This indoctrination that many of us have been warned about hit us like a ton of bricks.”

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The LA Times also published a story today which considers the case of Jonah Goldman, a progressive Jew who was active in the left-leaning Jewish group J Street. Now he suddenly finds himself shocked by some of his former comrades.

He was shocked by how quickly friends mobilized for the Palestinian cause while failing to condemn the attack. The militants killed more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians — slaughtering families, including children — and taking about 200 more hostage.

Good people he never considered antisemitic suddenly seemed “supportive of Jewish genocide,” he said…

“The left in America has really let us down,” said Goldman, 31, who lives in the Washington area and considers himself a Democrat and a socialist.

Even some far left Jews are ready to defend the attack by Hamas on the grounds that violence is legitimate, even violence against civilians and children.

“Antisemitism is very real, but I feel a lot of solidarity among Jews who are anti-Zionist like me,” said Benjamin Toby, 22, a social worker who recently graduated from New York University and calls himself a “socialist, progressive leftist.”…

“I do not want to support Hamas because I do not know enough about it, but I do support violence as an answer to settler colonialism against oppressed people.”

The most interesting paragraph in the entire piece is this one in which the author points out that part of the divide Jews are experiencing comes from the far left’s obsession with race which categorizes Jews as white and therefore as oppressors.

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…as a minority group that is by and large white, American Jews — who number 7.6 million, or 2.3% of the U.S. population — have also struggled to find their place in the new hierarchy of identity politics, where racial categories have become shorthand for the oppressed and the oppressor.

Finally, there’s a pretty good piece in Politico today about the 1967 war in which Jews found themselves in a very similar situation.

In late May 1967, the armies of Jordan, Egypt and Syria encircled Israel at its borders and choked off its access to international waterways. As the United Nations quietly submitted to Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s demands that it withdraw international peacekeepers from the Sinai Peninsula, a terrified American Jewish community braced itself for sweeping physical destruction and human losses in Israel. American Jews took seriously Nasser’s threat to drive Israel into the sea. They expected nothing short of a second Holocaust…

After Israel launched a preemptive strike, it took the small Jewish state just six days to drive back its three assailants and capture East Jerusalem, including the Old City, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip.

American Jews were relieved and elated. But many of them were also angry. Most American Jews then (as now) identified as liberals. And as longtime anchor participants in a host of progressive movements — from civil rights and social welfare, to interfaith tolerance and peace (particularly during the Vietnam War) — Jewish liberals recoiled at the silence or outright betrayal of former allies.

Like the 2,000 delegates to the New Politics Convention that fall, in Chicago. Originally conceived as an organizing platform to recruit an anti-war challenger to President Lyndon Johnson, the convention adopted a resolution denouncing the “imperialistic Zionist war.”

Or the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), once a mainstream civil rights organization, which published a broadside asserting that “Zionists conquered the Arab homes and land through terror” and that “the famous European Jews, the Rothschilds, who have long controlled the wealth of many European nations, were involved in the original conspiracy … to create the ‘State of Israel.’” These claims ran beside a cartoon of Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, with dollar signs plastered to his epaulets and a rendering of a hand bearing a Star of David and a dollar sign, tightening a noose around the necks of Egyptian President Nassar and the boxer Muhammad Ali.

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So here we are again. Not all but many progressive Jews find themselves surrounded by people like the Squad who burst into tears over deaths in Gaza but have much less to say about the murder of Israeli civilians.

None of this means Jews are about to move right and join the Republican Party but it may mean they move away from the woke fringe of the Democratic Party, a fringe that continues to lose friends every time they open their mouths.