President Bush almost surely will win more Jewish votes this year than he did in 2000. However, some Republicans I talk to are frustrated that, despite his support for Israel, he will win many fewer Jewish votes than John Kerry. These Republicans probably don’t understand that many American Jews don’t like Israel — that is, the Israel that exists today. They don’t like the fact that Israel has become a noisy, capitalist, materialist society (sort of like America). They don’t like the fact that Israel fights fiercely against its enemies (as America does at times). They don’t like the fact that Israel gets a lot of bad press. So, when President Bush backs Israel, many American Jews view this as confirmation that Israel has gone astray, not as evidence that Bush is a friend of Jews.
One such American Jew is Richard Ben Cramer. He has written a book called How Israel Lost . Bret Stephens of the Jerusalem Post reviews Cramer’s book, the thesis of which is that “Israelis have lost sight of their ideals, their common identity, their sense of purpose, the very ‘ache of humanity’ that properly makes a Jew. Everything that once made Israelis attractive has been squandered so they can hold on to the territories and be ‘the brutal kings of all they survey.'” This, of course, is the tired thesis of most European intellectuals and politicians, the American left, and some elements of the American right. It overlooks the desperate (and misguided) attempts of Israel to not hold on to the territories, as well as the systematic violence of Palestinians against Jews which, contrary to Cramer’s claims, predates the settlement movement by decades. Indeed, Stephens shows that Cramer’s book is plagued by errors of fact, nearly all of which put Israel in a bad light while flattering its enemies.
Most obscene of all is Cramer’s conclusion that “any Jew who’s not an Israeli, and not on psychotropic drugs, could solve this Peace-for-Israel thing in about ten minutes of focused thought.” As Stephens responds, “Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians is not so simple, and one needs to be a simpleton to believe that it is, or [to believe] that malice or stupidity or greed prevent Israelis from grasping what they so obviously yearn for, or that a conflict that did not begin with the occupation can be ended by ending the occupation.” Richard Ben Cramer is that simpleton.
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