The Inside Agenda Blog

Livechat: The flotilla and American Zionism

by Mike Miner Thursday June 3, 2010

The world is still reacting to Israel’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. And some of the most vocal critics to the raid have been North American Jews.


For two generations, there was reflexive support for Israel. Bound by a legacy of faith, tradition and tragedy, that support was unwavering. Now it appears the two sides don’t share common values. Some North American Jews are questioning if Israelis share their values, and are particularly concerned about a shift to the right in Israeli foreign policy.


And that presents a conflict with their mostly Liberal North American sensibilities. Do young North American Jews no longer feel connected to Israel? Are they too far removed from the conflict and uncertainty in Israel? Or is it that Jews across North America have embraced American values that don’t jibe with the realities of modern Zionism?


Tonight we have a great lineup of guests: John Mearsheimer, co-author The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy; Peter Beinart, author of The Icarus Syndrome; David Frum, editor of Frum Forum; and Derek Penslar, University of Toronto’s Centre for Jewish Studies.


An article by Beinart in the New York Review of Books helped set the stage for tonight's discussion. Here's an excerpt:


Among American Jews today, there are a great many Zionists, especially in the Orthodox world, people deeply devoted to the State of Israel. And there are a great many liberals, especially in the secular Jewish world, people deeply devoted to human rights for all people, Palestinians included. But the two groups are increasingly distinct. Particularly in the younger generations, fewer and fewer American Jewish liberals are Zionists; fewer and fewer American Jewish Zionists are liberal. One reason is that the leading institutions of American Jewry have refused to foster—indeed, have actively opposed—a Zionism that challenges Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and toward its own Arab citizens. For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.


Join us tonight at 8 p.m. for our livechat, and let us know what you think.