Liberal Zionism may indeed need a coffin. Proof of this is best seen through the microcosm of two young, passionate, eloquent, and outspoken Jews who were born in the early 1970s -- in 2012, they have challenged conventional norms on Israel.
American journalist Peter Beinart and Israeli politician Naftali Bennett are modern examples of two people who could not be further apart on their politics, nor on their influence. Beinart is an extremist liberal with fringe viewpoints and a small following; Bennett is a conventional conservative with a large and growing constituency.
Beinart’s book “The Crisis of Zionism” has been celebrated by the liberal media, yet the book has sold terribly. His argument that Jews are turned off because of the tension between liberalism and Zionism has been rejected by the Jewish community en masse. Beinart continues to push a message of BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions) as he stands with anti-Semites in advocating a boycott of those parts of Israel he deems to be “non-democratic.” While his fringe viewpoints are given widespread attention via the “Open Zion” blog at Newsweek/The Daily Beast his influence is restricted mainly to the media, as American Jewry has not accepted his viewpoints. In Israel, the polls show the left being trounced in upcoming elections.
A 2012 UJA community survey found that 74% of all New York City’s Jewish children are Orthodox, and it shows that liberal Jews are having fewer children, and do not provide meaningful Jewish education. They intermarry, assimilate and largely disappear as Jews. Yet rather than deal with American Jewish assimilation which continues at upwards of 60 percent, Beinart says “the great American Jewish challenge of our age” is “saving liberal Zionism.” It is doubtful that Beinart can view the thriving Orthodox community as a breeding ground for liberal Zionism.
Israel, the “Start-Up Nation” that it has handily become and has brought so much to the world, certainly does not need an American Jew to save the failed policies of liberal Zionism. While Beinart foolishly claimed that “Jewish fortunes have radically changed,” he overlooked Hamas, Toulouse and the rampant hatred toward Jews throughout Europe. That growing anti-Semitism has helped foment the increasingly right-wing philosophy of Zionism today.
Beinart was right about his concept of the “generational discord” which older Jewish leaders are unable to capture from the younger generations. The new, young leader who has emerged is the furthest thing from liberal Zionism; religious Zionist Naftali Bennett. He is a smart, eloquent 40 year old who formerly served as executive director of the settlement council. Bennett is a self-made multi-millionaire who leads the Jewish Home political party which is projected to be the third largest political party in the upcoming Israeli elections.
The face of success of Israel’s economic powerhouse, Bennett understands public relations and digital media, is media savvy and concerned about the importance of world Jewry. A political conservative, he is the son of American immigrants to Israel and cognizant of the new leadership which Jews worldwide need. Even as Prime Minister Netanyahu is labeled as “conservative” by worldwide media, the Prime Minister’s biggest challenge is from Bennett, who served as his chief of staff and is to the right of Netanyahu politically.
In sharp contrast to Beinart, Bennett understands that Israel is a self-sufficient country, and not a banana republic of the United States or any other nation. Bennett advocates that Israel annex Judea and Samaria. As he says, the world already refuses to recognize Jerusalem or the Golan Heights as Israel, and yet life in Israel goes on. A strong and secure Israel is the Jewish priority, and not the ever-elusive “peace” which Bennett deems impossible in this (and our children’s) generation.
Unlike foolish Beinart who believes if the world boycotts Israeli “settlements” everything will be dandy, Bennett realistically understands that the obstacles to peace for the Arabs and radical Islamists who control the regions surrounding Israel, is not merely Judea and Samaria, but rather Jews and the presence of the entire State of Israel. Zionism today doesn’t delineate that Jews need to be victims, and a proud, active people are increasingly representative of that fact.
The next generation of Jewish leaders worldwide is made up of young people like Naftali Bennett, Knesset Deputy Speaker Danny Danon, and others who spread the important message of a strong Israel. In America, liberal Judaism is withering away with its disappearing population, and authentic Judaism grows. While extremists like Beinart and his liberal ilk attract media attention, good old fashioned Zionism grows and thrives.
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