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Jewish Journal

Jews and ‘real’ Jews

by Brad A. Greenberg

December 12, 2010 | 2:46 pm

I’m no Roger Cohen fan—who can forget how credulous he was about the wonderful lives of Jews in Iran?—but he has a point here with this column, “The ‘Real Jew’ Debate”:

The view that American Jews supportive of Israel but critical of its policies are not “real Jews” is, however, widespread. Israel-right-or-wrong continues to be the core approach of major U.S. Jewish organizations, from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

To oppose the continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank (“Zionists are not settlers”), or question growing anti-Arab bigotry as personified by Israel’s rightist foreign minister and illustrated by the “loyalty oath” debate, or ask whether the “de-legitimization” of Israel might not have something to do with its own actions is to incur these organizations’ steady ire.

Debate remains stifled, despite Peter Beinart’s important piece this year in the New York Review of Books describing growing alienation among young American Jews asked to “check their liberalism at Zionism’s door.” Oh, sure, you can find all sorts of opinions about Israel all over the place; America remains an open society. But Aipac has systematically shunned a debate with J Street, the upstart Jewish organization that supports Israel, opposes the settlements and attempts to reclaim the progressive ideals of Zionism by saying that the systematic oppression of the Palestinians undermines Israel.

To be sure, Cohen quotes only two people in this column: a twentysomething American Jew who says he was jumped and spat on for opposing the settlements while in Jerusalem, and the head of the liberal lobby J-Street. But that doesn’t mean Cohen isn’t right about the existence of the “real Jew” debate.

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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