The Religion of Social Justice

Last Sunday, a large protest was held in front of the AIPAC conference in Washington, DC, where demonstrators called for an end to what they referred to as “the Israeli occupation”. What shouldn’t come as a surprise by now is that many of the protesters were Jewish. The protestors were members of the group IfNotNow, a Jewish organization whose ideology is based on values of “social justice”, and whose members support the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement. In fact, Yonah Lieberman, one of the co-founders of IfNotNow, told the Huffington Post that it was “the biggest ever Jewish-led protest of AIPAC”. It’s of course upsetting to witness Jews turning against their own homeland and damaging 6.5 million of their fellow Jews. But we have to ask ourselves: Why are more and more young Jews adopting an anti-Israel narrative?

American Jews are at the forefront of the social justice movement, and this is nothing new. For years, a large part of the Jewish establishment in America has been teaching young Jews that Judaism’s core values should be defined by social justice ideals, which are dictated not by G-d or by the Torah, but by the leaders of the current social movements. They decide what is moral and the modern Jew follows suit.

Because most American Jewish education is so centered around social justice, traditional Jewish beliefs are put aside and if they are taught, it is only within the context of social justice. For example, in some Jewish circles, Passover is no longer about G-d’s relationship with the Jewish people or why he gave them the Torah; it’s mostly about anti-slavery and human rights around the world. And that is about social justice – not Judaism.

This is why many young American Jews don’t really see a reason to be Jewishly identified. Young Jews share an ideology with many of their non-Jewish peers, plus they live the same kind of lifestyle. So really, what do young Jews have left to identify with? This is why American Jewry is diminishing in larger numbers year after year, and it’s why many young Jews are now turning against Israel.

It is clear by now that the social justice movement, by and large, has adopted a pro-Palestinian narrative, one which views Israel as an apartheid state that must be boycotted and resisted and protested against. Here are some examples:

The National Women’s Studies Association, the largest mainstream feminist academic women’s association in the U.S., voted in favor of boycotting Israel, while many of its prominent leaders maintain that Zionism is equivalent to racism and has no place in the social justice movement. The leader of the recent Women’s March stated that the March has no place for feminists who are Zionists.

Black Lives Matter has also explicitly declared its solidarity with the Palestinian people, calling Israel an “apartheid state” while endorsing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of the State of Israel.

JStreet, another Jewish organization that sees itself as part of the social justice movement, lobbied for the December UN resolution condemning Israel for building in Judea and Samaria. JStreet also approves the boycott of Jews over the Green Line (including parts of Jerusalem) and even draws a moral equivalency between murderous Hamas (the Palestinian terror group) and Israel.

Young Jews have been taught that the leaders of the social justice movement hold the highest authority on what is moral and just. This is why Sunday’s demonstration found so many young Jews willing to protest against Israel. If the trend doesn’t change, we will find more and more Jews at the forefront of the fight against the Jewish state.

About the Author
Kobi Erez was born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel. He began his role as Executive Director for the Zionist Organization of America - Michigan Region in 2011 where he works to promote education, awareness and support for Israel and Jewish causes in communities, schools and on college campuses throughout Michigan.
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