On Israel, progressive Jews feel abandoned by their leftist allies | ET REALITY


Progressive Jews who have spent years supporting racial equity, gay and transgender rights, abortion rights, and other causes on the American left (including opposition to Israeli policies in Gaza and the West Bank) suddenly feel abandoned by those whom they long considered allies. This wartime shift represents a fundamental break within a liberal coalition that has long buoyed the Democratic Party.

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

In Atlanta, a Jewish mother involved in local politics wrote an open letter lamenting that her son’s progressive private school had not approached the attacks in Israel with the same kind of empathy it showed after local killings of Asian Americans. “Our people are massacred and no one talks about it?” she wrote. “I don’t know if I’m angry or just sad.”

And while Hamas attacks on Israel were still ongoing, leaders of the New Israel Fund, which supports progressive Israeli and Palestinian groups, responded to calls from American supporters demanding that the organization label Israel an “apartheid state.” , even as they waited to find out whether colleagues from another organization, hiding in Israeli air raid shelters, had been killed.

Many of the most incendiary comments came on social media, from progressive groups that responded immediately after the massacre of Israeli civilians by skipping even a moment of mourning and instead acting immediately to try to justify the attack.

“When a people have been subject to decades of apartheid and unimaginable violence, their resistance should not be condemned, but rather understood as a desperate act of self-defense,” Black Lives Matter Los Angeles posted on Facebook, in its first response to attack. A reproductive rights group sharply criticized the “Zionist occupation,” saying the Israeli government denied “Palestinians control over their bodies” and that “there can be no justice, peace or reproductive freedom under colonial occupation.” Several socialist organizations across the country did not directly condemn the killings committed by Hamas.

And many protests have included chants of “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan that leaves no room for the State of Israel to exist on its own land.

From email lists of progressive Jewish groups to protests on college campuses to social media campaigns by prominent liberal Jewish celebrities like Sarah SilvermanThe war is bringing to a head more than a decade of tensions over Israel on the American left.

Interviews with dozens of liberal Jewish leaders and voters, and a review of social media posts, private emails and text chains from liberal Jewish groups, reveal a politically engaged swath of American Jews who are reaching a breaking point. They have long opposed the Israeli government’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, supported a two-state solution and protested the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

But in the Hamas attacks, many saw an existential threat, evoking memories of the Holocaust and generations of anti-Semitism, and provoking anxiety about whether they might face attacks in the United States. And they were bewildered to discover that many of their ideological allies not only did not perceive the same threats but also saw them as oppressors worthy of blame.

“I’m in such a state of desperation; in my generation, we were warned how quickly people would turn against us and we just thought there was 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 photograph of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his office. “Now we see that this happens like this: when you dehumanize the group. “This indoctrination that many of us have been warned about hits us like a ton of bricks.”

The most shocking episodes have occurred on university campuses or on social networks, where the statements of small organizations have been amplified throughout the world. But during a global conflict, such statements have taken on totemic status, raising fears that they are a precursor to a more treacherous and lasting change in the position of Jews in the United States.

Eric Spiegelman, a lawyer and podcaster in Los Angeles who has served on city boards, was furious about the protest in New York City promoted by the Democratic Socialists of America after the attack. He sent hundreds of letters to Los Angeles city officials urging them to denounce the organization and label it a “hate group.” The DSA has since he retreated of the protest and apologized “for not making our values ​​explicit.”

“It’s like I belong to this political organization that believes in three things: affordable housing, raising the minimum wage and the mass murder of Jews,” Spiegelman said, his voice dripping with sarcasm as he condemned affiliated local leaders. with the group. “Two out of three isn’t bad!”

With President Biden making a personal show of support through an unprecedented wartime visit to Israel this week (and promising the country billions in aid), traditional Democratic support for Israel is not in question. The crisis has largely unified the Democratic Party establishment, including many progressive elected officials. Vote since the attacks indicate strong national support for Israel, including a notable rebound with the support of the Democrats.

Still, cracks have begun to emerge within the Democratic coalition. Younger, more liberal voters remain more focused on the Palestinian cause than older generations, a divide that emerged over the past two decades and accelerated during the Trump administration. Among them are many American Jews who are much more critical of Israel than their ancestors and who have flocked to groups like IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace, which organized a protest at the US Capitol calling for a ceasefire. and repeatedly accused Israel of plotting genocide in Gaza.

“We need to remember that anyone who dehumanizes Israelis rightly has no representation in the United States government, while many federal officials have been dehumanizing Palestinians for decades,” Eva Borgwardt, political director of IfNotNow, said in an interview. .

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