This August, I traveled to Israel as one of 40 Israel Law and Policy (“I-LAP”) delegates. The I-LAP tour was hosted by Our Soldiers Speak (“OSS”)—a non-profit organization focused on elevating the discourse surrounding Israel. In addition to international trips like the one I was participating in, OSS facilitates high-level, pro-Israel, speaking events at elite universities throughout the Western world.
As one of the I-LAP delegates, I joined an international delegation hailing from 13 different countries. Every delegate brought with them a unique perspective regarding Israel. In conversations with my fellow delegates, it was refreshing to engage in constructive debates regarding Israel rather than the ill-informed and pernicious slander that had permeated the discourse surrounding Israel during my time in law school.
The I-LAP tour was a full immersion experience. Each day was filled with high-level briefings by the true experts in the field. From former Ambassadors and IDF generals, to current reporters and politicians, we heard from the left, right, and center of the who’s who in Israel. Every speaker forced me to challenge my deeply-held beliefs and to consider a different aspect of Israel’s identity.
Despite the incredible briefings, I believe that many of the speakers, and my fellow delegates, are ignorant to one of the greatest threats facing Israel and the Jewish people. This threat has only been heightened as I have returned to my comfortable life here in the US. The threat I speak of is not a military concern nor a foreign one. Sadly, it is much more personal. In short, I believe the greatest strategic threat to the future of Israel and the Jewish people is the growing divide between my generation of American Millennial Diaspora Jews (“AMDJ’s”) and those previous generations of diaspora Jews and current Israelis who believe in the survival of the Jewish state.
The danger that AMDJ’s pose to Israel and the Jewish people is in the incredible privilege they have in being born as American Jews. Despite Israel being the eternal home of the Jewish people, I would argue that there is no country that allows Jews to live safer lives than in America. Here in the US, Jews are able to practice their religion freely, without fear of daily attacks. Yes, it is true, that Jews have been recently murdered in synagogues in Poway and Pittsburgh. Nevertheless, these attacks are incredibly rare when compared to the constant threat of terrorism and violence Jews face throughout the world—including Europe and Israel. Anti-Semitism, does, of course, exist in the United States, but it is not publicly tolerated, and fomented, as it is in so many other parts of the world.
Because the majority of AMDJ’s grew up in such a philo-Semitic society, they have never experienced any sort of hate or violence for being Jewish. After all, most American Jews live in major centers of Jewish life within the US. In my home-town of Los Angeles, for example, copies of the Jewish Journal are on every street corner in the Valley. Furthermore, many AMDJ’s come from well-off families. Such an upbringing gives AMDJ’s even more freedom to live a life of comfort. AMDJ’s have, arguably, lived the most privileged lives of any generation of Jews in the history of the world.
Because of their incredible privilege, AMDJ’s have never suffered for being Jews. Being Jewish has never made them an “other.” They have never experienced anti-Semitism directly or had to take up arms to defend their country like their Jewish peers in Israel. Thus, in living their incredibly privileged lives, AMDJ’s do not see themselves as being part of a people that have been persecuted throughout history. Rather, they view themselves as part of “white America”—a label that is anathema to their progressive bona fides.
With the current zeitgeist of progressive politics—particularly with the concepts of intersectionality and identity politics—AMDJ’s have fully embraced the notion that they must forsake Israel to be a part of progressive coalitions. They have fully bought into the stereotypes pedaled by the progressive movement that American Jews are part of the “system of white oppression” prevalent throughout the US. Because AMDJ’s view themselves as “white” due to the majority of them sharing Ashkenazi heritage and being financially well-off, they assume that all Jews must be the same as them. Thus, their thinking goes, “Israel, filled with Jews, must be a white ethno-state oppressing indigenous, brown, people.”
No matter the extent of their ignorance, their manipulation of facts, or their complete obliviousness to the reality on the ground in Israel, such canards have permeated their collective mindset. In order to be a part of progressive coalitions, AMDJ’s see no issue in forsaking Israel. Rather, support for Israel is a liability in them being able to live their privileged lives.
Therefore, I believe that it is imperative that pro-Israel supporters directly address the very real schism currently plaguing diaspora Jewry. The inherent privilege that AMDJ’s have here in the US makes them oblivious to the history of the Jewish people. Although forging alliances with non-Jews is important, how can any state survive when its people no longer believe in its very existence? As I continue my advocacy for Israel, the mindset of AMDJ’s will continue to be the threat that worries me the most regarding the future of the Jewish state.