American Jews and Settlements: A Divorce in Progress

In an op-ed piece in the Jerusalem Post, Samuel Freedman writes:

With President Barack Obama's forceful, repeated calls for a total freeze on settlements, he is surely betting that he can assail a consistent policy of Israeli governments, both Labor and Likud, without alienating his substantial support among American Jewish voters.

Freedman has written an important piece. The leadership of the organized American Jewish community - that means you, Malcolm Hoenlein - doesn't seem to understand what is happening in America, among its Jews, and also, by the way, among its non-Jews. American Jews - or let's say, for argument's sake, the Jews who voted for Obama, which is to say, most Jews - no longer conflate support for Israel with support for the settlement movement. Quite the opposite: Many American Jews see the settlements, as I have written many times, as the vanguard of binationalism, which is to say, an ostensibly Zionist movement that is anti-Zionist in effect. But liberal American Jews not only see the colonization of the West Bank as a demographic threat to Israel; they see it as a moral threat as well, a moral threat to Israel, and a moral threat to the previously mainstream understanding that justice is on Israel's side.
 
What all this means politically is that Obama is positioned now, in ways that previous American presidents weren't, to tell Israel what it needs to hear; that the Zionist idea is just, but that the Palestinian idea has justice to it as well. He will be able to cajole, and ultimately force, Israel to make compromises that might be painful short-term (Judea and Samaria, a/k/a the West Bank, is historically Jewish, as well as, more recently, Palestinian) but that will save the Jewish democratic idea.
 
Malcolm Hoenlein and the other grandees of the organized American Jewish leadership believe that masses of Jews will rise up against Obama if he forces Israel out of its settlements. They won't. I believe the majority of American Jews want two things: A secure Israel, and a moral Israel that is a light unto the nations. Settlements make Israel insecure, and they make it seem immoral in the eyes of the world.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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