Aidan Segal
Aidan Segal
A Jew Without Trembling Knees

The False Zion of Progressive Jewry

In 1987, Judaic scholar Jacob Neusner penned an op-ed for the Washington Post arguing that American Jews are living in the Promised Land. Between the unprecedented freedom and security, along with our disproportionate achievements in nearly every field, Neusner concluded that “America is a better place to be a Jew than Jerusalem.”

Accordingly, if there ever were an American Dream, then Jews are certainly the living embodiment of it, but it has since devolved since the Zionist Dream has become a reality. Still, young American Jews enchanted with progressivism are increasingly unreceptive — even outright hostile — to the idea of Zionism. As the distance between Israel and American Jews widens, the last-ditch idealism of Progressive Jewry can only be explained by the coming of an inconvenient truth: America isn’t and never will be Zion.

This past week, young American Jews reached the apex of a Diasporan identity crisis. Staying true to their genocidal charter, Hamas fired more than 2,800 rockets toward Israeli citizens with the aim of destroying the Jewish state. Outside of Israel, however, the rocket attacks and attempted lynchings were not perceived the same way for much of the non-Jewish world. Politicians, activists, celebrities, and otherwise typical Americans thought to be allies, ran a non-stop “social media pogrom” of blood libel, Hitler-apologism, and incitements of violence — all in the name of Palestinian solidarity.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but many Jews were perplexed by the fact that the antisemitic defamation came almost exclusively from the Left. Jews who, above all, champion Tikkun Olam, appear on the frontlines of nearly every social justice movement. Yet in our hour of need, the favor was anything but returned. Wokeness officially casted out the Jews.

Under the banner of anti-Zionism, Londoners marching to the tune of “death to Jews” and “rape their daughters,” Germans setting fire to Israeli flags in front of synagogues, and an elderly Jewish man violently assaulted at a Toronto pro-Israel demonstration, proved not enough for many progressive Jews to realize that this has nothing to do with Sheikh Jarrah or the welfare of Palestinian children. It has everything to do with an antisemitic fever dream. And only when it’s too late, I fear, will they realize that.

It goes without saying that progressive Jews aren’t to blame for the antisemitism, but it’s still puzzling why they refuse to jump ship. “Repairing the world” is a noble purpose, but the idea of Tikkun Olam as we know it anymore isn’t even uniquely Jewish. A vague idea of social justice can be discovered anywhere. While it’s a central tenet of American Jewish identity, is it really worth compromising everything else about being Jewish simply to feel accepted in progressive spaces? — spaces where a repaired world to them is one without Jews at all.

In other words, “when Jews abandon identity in the pursuit of universal freedom,” Natan Sharansky wrote, “they end up with neither.”

As for the admittedly anti-Zionist Jews, there’s nothing new under the sun. No matter the degree of revolutionary frenzy, Jewish Voice for Peace, If Not Now, or any other Jewish groups kowtowing to the anti-Israel order fail to recognize that they will always be among the first to suffer the consequences.

As head of the Red Army, Communist revolutionary Leon Trotsky — a Jew born Lev Bronstein — rejected the chief rabbi of Moscow’s request for the military to protect Jews from the vicious Russian pogroms. “Why do you come to me?” Trotsky said. “I am not a Jew.” To which the rabbi responded, “That’s the tragedy. It’s the Trotskys who make revolutions, and it’s the Bronsteins who pay the price.”

Leftist Jews lament that Israel has become a pariah state, but Jews are quite literally the pariah people. And progressivism will not change that negative perception of us as anything but Jews — nothing will, especially not Zionism.

But that’s exactly the essence of Zionism. We are painfully aware, to paraphrase Menachem Begin, that nobody rescued the Jews from the gas chambers and ovens. The world stood idly by as Jews rose from the ashes of Europe to re-establish a homeland. Zionism has proven that only a Jewish nation will prioritize the security of Jews when the rest of the world hasn’t — and the past few days have shown the world never will.

In America, we Zionists are not Jews with trembling knees either, and progressive Jews should follow suit. To be a pariah is a distinguished honor for us, and we are proud to defend our people in spite of our condemnation. So fight for the Palestinian state if you will. But when it comes about, however, I can assure you we won’t be around to see it. The Bronsteins will have already paid the price.

About the Author
Aidan Segal is a student at the University of Pittsburgh.
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