The Shocking Indifference of American Jews

Laurie and I held a party at our house in the Oakland hills on Saturday. It was probably, in fact, one of our more successful get-togethers. A good time was had by all, including one of my progressive-left Jewish friends. I would mention this gentleman’s on-line moniker, which some of you would know, but he seems to be going through something of a difficult time at the moment and I have no desire to contribute to his issues in the world by turning the more vicious “progressive Zionists” against him.

The conversation, at one point, naturally turned to Israel, Obama, and the progressive movement and I found myself rather shocked at his apparent indifference to the fact that Barack Obama has supported the rise of political Islam throughout the Middle East and his casual minimization of the role of the progressive-left in supporting anti-Semitic anti-Zionism and the BDS.

When I mentioned the fact that Obama invited the Muslim Brotherhood to his 2009 Cairo speech, my friend simply didn’t believe it. He asked me to send him some verification of this fact, which I have done, but my suspicion is that this little fact will not impress him much. It will probably be seen as one small thing, isolated from everything else, and in no way indicative of Obama’s larger foreign policy approach or agenda.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle that liberal Jewish critics of the progressive-left have is in convincing our progressive-left Jewish friends and family that the Obama administration did, in fact, support the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, and political Islam, more generally, and that their very own movement has betrayed them through accepting anti-Semitic anti-Zionism and BDS as part of its larger coalition.

Conveying these messages – which just so happen to be the truth – are among the core goals of Israel Thrives.

The problem, in my opinion, is what I like to call ideological blinkertude. It’s also known as confirmation bias. We all have a tendency, including myself, to look for evidence that supports our views and to downplay or ignore evidence that contradicts them. None of us are Mr. Spock, after all. There is no such thing as perfect objectivity and none of us have a G-d’s Eye View on the doings of the world. Yet I am perpetually amazed at the capacity of most American Jews to simply turn a blind eye to the behavior of the current administration in regards Israel and the utter failure to acknowledge the significance of anti-Semitic anti-Zionism within the larger progressive-left.

As for the former, inviting the Muslim Brotherhood to the 2009 Cairo speech was merely the beginning of Obama’s friendly outreach to political Islam, i.e., to the very people who took down the twin towers on 9/11. Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic wrote this in early June of that year:

“A sign that the Obama administration is willing to publicly challenge Egypt’s commitment to parliamentary democracy: various Middle Eastern news sources report that the administration insisted that at least 10 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s chief opposition party, be allowed to attend his speech in Cairo on Thursday.”

Obama supported the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. He supported radical Islamic forces in Libya and now he is arming radical Islamic forces in Syria. The only rational conclusion that one can come to is that the Obama administration has supported, and continues to support, radical Jihadi forces throughout the Middle East.

Just why he does so is open to question, but that he does so is not.

Clare Lopez, in an article for the Gatestone Institute entitled, U.S. Keeps Joining the Forces of Jihad, wrote the following:

With the June 13, 2013 confirmation by senior Obama administration officials that the president has authorized sending weapons directly to Syrian rebels, there is a trend developing that can no longer be ignored. This is the third country and the third instance in which Barack Obama has leapt into the fray of revolution to the defense of al-Qa’eda and Muslim Brotherhood…

This is not a matter of interpretation that can simply be disregarded. It is a matter of fact. In the last national American election 69 percent of American Jews voted for a president of the United States who supports a misogynistic, homophobic, genocidally anti-Semitic, and anti-American movement that is rising throughout the Middle East. This is not hyperbole, nor is it exaggeration. It is merely a fact.

As for the progressive movement, itself, my friend insisted that only a tiny, fringe element on the left was in any way responsible for the BDS and the presence of anti-Semitic anti-Zionism within the movement. What I failed to get him to appreciate is that BDS is not a matter of an irrelevant fringe that has taken up residency on the western left, but that the western left has made a home of itself for the BDS and anti-Semitic anti-Zionism. It’s not that most western progressives are, themselves, anti-Semitic anti-Zionists, but that they provide a place at the table for them.

Anti-Semitic anti-Zionism is part of the larger western left coalition and this should not be ignored, yet diaspora Jews have turned away their faces. They simply do not want to face the implications of this because doing so would have considerable social, and even financial, repercussions. But if we do not face it then we can never deal with it.

I say that it’s better to face it.

The international left, as a movement, has betrayed the Jewish people precisely because it does accept anti-Semitic anti-Zionism as one voice among others within their ranks. That being the case, what I fail to understand is how they can also expect to maintain diaspora Jewish support?

Yet they do and, furthermore, they get that support.

And that’s precisely what needs to change.


Mike Lumish is the editor of Israel Thrives.

About the Author
Mike Lumish is a PhD in American history from the Pennsylvania State University and has taught at PSU, San Francisco State University, and the City College of San Francisco. He regularly publishes on the Arab-Israel conflict at the Times of Israel and at his own blog, Israel Thrives ( He has in recent years given conference papers on American cultural and intellectual history at The International Society for the History of Behavioral and Social Sciences in Dublin, Ireland, as well as at the Western Historical Association in Phoenix, Arizona and the American Cultural Association in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lumish is also the founding editor of the scholarly on-line discussion forum H-1960s. He can be contacted at