My interview with Michael Oren, the new Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., was quite lengthy (but fascinating throughout!), so I've broken it up (actually, Goldblog Deputy Managing Editor for Transcription Tali Yahalom has broken it up) into smaller pieces, and by topic. Below is our exchange on Zionism and the American Jewish experience.
Jeffrey Goldberg: Do you think that the Jews who stayed in America, who didn't pick up and move to Israel, are living in exile today? Do you think of this country as a form of
exile for Jewish people?
Michael Oren: No. ... The Zionist movement, as it was conceived in the 19th
century, and as it was formulated by the founder of Zionism, Theodore Herzl,
never came to grips with the realities of American Jewry. American Jewry didn't
fit the Zionist paradigm. In the Zionist paradigm, Jews cannot become major
figures in a government; they can't have more than a minyan in Congress, or in
the Senate -- that would be inconceivable. To be a powerful Jew in a Zionist
universe, you have to become an apostate. You have to be an Israeli.
JG: Is the American Jewish experience, then, a reproach or a critique in a
way of this Zionist idea? I mean, Herzl ignored American Jewry because he
couldn't explain American Jewry. So is the fact that American Jews, that Jews
in America, have found a kind of promised land in a Christian majority country,
does that mean that the Jewish state is somewhat superfluous?