Monday, June 7, 2010

The Failure of the Jewish Establishment Peter Beinart

Tags: Beinart, Foxman, ADL, American Hubris, Failure Jewish Establishment, Luntz Survey USA Jews, Palestinians, Increasing Orthodox USA, Israel, Radicalism, Wars

Genetic studies recently has shown that the European Jews are all remarkably similar, but quite different in behavior in Israel verses the rest of the world, on average. Although the impact of environment on how genes are expressed was discovered several decades ago, the popular rhetoric and practice seems to assume the people from the same race or ethnic group behave similarly.

Even though we would not like to admit it, many Israelis behave similarly to our prominent radical Republicans in their paranoia, fear, lack of trust, and racism, yes racism. Much of this can be explained by the long history of wars and pogroms (eg. Scot-Irish and Jews). Our environment epigenetically turns genes off and on depending on environmental forces, a mechanism probably developed to keep us alive and propagate.

For example, Dutch studies show that during the Nazi occupation many Dutch got a starvation diet causing epigenetic changes in gene expression which made heir offspring thin all their lives. That is why fat mothers and friends lead to fat children. Yes, epigenetic changes in gene expression is carried from one generation to the next which is also confirmed in Scandinavian studies where records are kept for centuries.

Black children succeed much more if they are moved out of the ghetto. Why is Justice Thomas so conservative? He was raised by his grandfather who was a tyrant. Adultery is much higher among religious conservatives than the rest of the country. Schools are important, but the mind-set is even more important where we see Jews and Asians from poor neighborhoods do very well while Blacks of similar intelligence do not.

I found the book by Senator James Webb, who is Scots-Irish, Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America, quite illuminating and fun to read book. Many of the Scots-Irish in our country are from Southwest Scotland and Northern Ireland. The tribes living in Southwest Scotland experienced invasion after invasion from the Romans and finally to England. The survivors had to be very independent, act only in their interests, do not trust anyone (paranoid) and become superb fighters as we have seen in many movies. In Appalachia, this epigenetic tradition is seen in spades.

They are very good at winning wars such as elections, but very poor in running governments as many thinkers such as former Nixon lawyer, John W. Dean, still a Goldwater Republican, wrote in Conservatives without Conscience and Broken Government especially the current Republican and Tea Parties. The recent anti-Immigration law was written and supported by those sympathetic to the neo-Nazis in Arizona.

People with similar views and cultures tend to live in enclaves as especially notable in Los Angeles. If they do not move to another environment, the peoples tend to behave similarly good or bad. It is not surprising that sons of the Orthodox immigrants to Israel from Russia and the USA are much more radical in the West Bank than their parents. Violence begets violence.

The big question is that if logic does not work, what are we left with? That is why we need government and the corporations/affluent/wealthy to restore our high tax based after world war II that allowed large upward mobility resulting enormous gains due to better schools and a more livable income.

A poorly publicized book not reviewed adequately by the press/media and only seen on C-Span BookTV, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett did a marvelous, in depth study in The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, a ten-year study of the economies of the world that showed the Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger no matter the mechanism used achieve greater equality. A greater leveling of the income of a nation leads to a much better life with less crime and violence.

Unlike current schools in poor parts of the country, extreme violence within the school was virtually absent when I went to school which made it possible for me to learn enough to succeed in college, graduate school, work, and life. Know Thyself.

Perhaps South Africa and Arizona might be good examples to see how a change in outlook by inclusion or exclusion has on the state and its people.

Jim Kawakami, June 07, 2010,

Abraham Foxman Director ADL … There’s no evidence, contrary to Beinart, (see below) that there’s a fundamental change in Israel away from peace and away from concessions. What there is is a justified cynicism about the willingness of the other side to end the conflict and a confusion about what real options Israel has regarding its dilemma of how to withdraw and still have security.

The lesson that Beinart and the administration should draw from all this is not what kinds of pressures should be put on Israel to change the situation. Israel has taken initiatives and will be ready to do so again when the time is ripe.

The issue is what can be done with a divided Palestinian leadership and with at best a passive if not destructive Arab world, to bring about that long-awaited change in which the Palestinians fully accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state. That should be the goal so that when Israel once again moves toward a new initiative, for the first time there will be a Palestinian side, supported by the Arab states, ready to say yes, a yes that will finally change the lives of Israelis and Palestinians for the better.

Peter Beinart replies:

Abraham Foxman’s letter illustrates the problem my essay tries to describe: an American Jewish leadership that publicly defends the Israeli government, any Israeli government, rather than defending Israeli democracy, even when the former menaces the latter.

Obviously, as Foxman suggests, the Palestinians are not blameless. Yasser Arafat deserves history’s scorn for not responding more courageously to the chances for peace at Camp David and the much better ones put forward by Clinton in December 2000. And the election of Hamas was a tragedy, for both Israel and the Palestinians. But to suggest that Palestinian and Arab behavior fully explains the growing authoritarian, even racist, tendencies in Israeli politics is to don a moral blindfold, a blindfold that most young American Jews, to their credit, will not wear.

Firstly, Palestinian rejectionism cannot explain Avigdor Lieberman’s crusade to humiliate, disenfranchise, and perhaps even eventually expel Arab Israelis, the vast majority of whom want nothing more than to be accepted as equal citizens in the country of their birth. Lieberman is not a marginal figure. He was Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff; he heads Israel’s third-largest party; he serves as foreign minister; and when Israel held mock elections in ten high schools last year, he won.

Nor are his views marginal. In 2008, in a poll cited by Yediot Ahronot, 40 percent of Jewish Israelis did not believe that Arab Israelis should be allowed to vote. Among Jewish Israeli high school students surveyed this March, the figure was 56 percent. We cannot wish this away, and we cannot blame it all on Israel’s foes. When do American Jewish organizations plan to start forcefully opposing Lieberman and the forces he represents? When he becomes prime minister?

Secondly, Palestinian rejectionism does not explain Netanyahu’s deep-seated hostility to a Palestinian state. Foxman praises Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert for their willingness to concede such a state in East Jerusalem and almost all of the West Bank. (Olmert’s was never a formal offer, and came when he was already a lame duck, but he deserves credit for it nonetheless.) But if Foxman genuinely supports those offers, why does he not criticize Netanyahu’s opposition to them? Netanyahu, after all, spent the Barak and Olmert years opposing a Palestinian state. And even last year, when under intense American pressure he verbally endorsed the concept, he simultaneously added two conditions that make a peace deal virtually impossible: that Jerusalem remain united under Israeli sovereignty and that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state. …

The Failure of the Jewish Establishment Peter Beinart Peter Beinart is Associate Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York, a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, and Senior Political Writer for The Daily Beast. His new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, will be published in June

… The philanthropists wanted to know what Jewish students thought about Israel. Luntz found that they mostly didn’t. “Six times we have brought Jewish youth together as a group to talk about their Jewishness and connection to Israel,” he reported. “Six times the topic of Israel did not come up until it was prompted. Six times these Jewish youth used the word ‘they‘ rather than ‘us‘ to describe the situation.”

That Luntz encountered indifference was not surprising. In recent years, several studies have revealed, in the words of Steven Cohen of Hebrew Union College and Ari Kelman of the University of California at Davis, that “non-Orthodox younger Jews, on the whole, feel much less attached to Israel than their elders,” with many professing “a near-total absence of positive feelings.” In 2008, the student senate at Brandeis, the only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored university in America, rejected a resolution commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Jewish state.

Luntz’s task was to figure out what had gone wrong. When he probed the students’ views of Israel, he hit up against some firm beliefs. First, “they reserve the right to question the Israeli position.” These young Jews, Luntz explained, “resist anything they see as ‘group think.’” They want an “open and frank” discussion of Israel and its flaws. Second, “young Jews desperately want peace.” When Luntz showed them a series of ads, one of the most popular was entitled “Proof that Israel Wants Peace,” and listed offers by various Israeli governments to withdraw from conquered land. Third, “some empathize with the plight of the Palestinians.” When Luntz displayed ads depicting Palestinians as violent and hateful, several focus group participants criticized them as stereotypical and unfair, citing their own Muslim friends. …

Israeli governments come and go, but the Netanyahu coalition is the product of frightening, long-term trends in Israeli society: an ultra-Orthodox population that is increasing dramatically, a settler movement that is growing more radical and more entrenched in the Israeli bureaucracy and army, and a Russian immigrant community that is particularly prone to anti-Arab racism. In 2009, a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute found that 53 percent of Jewish Israelis (and 77 percent of recent immigrants from the former USSR) support encouraging Arabs to leave the country. Attitudes are worst among Israel’s young. When Israeli high schools held mock elections last year, Lieberman won. This March, a poll found that 56 percent of Jewish Israeli high school students—and more than 80 percent of religious Jewish high school students—would deny Israeli Arabs the right to be elected to the Knesset. An education ministry official called the survey “a huge warning signal in light of the strengthening trends of extremist views among the youth.” …

Because they marry earlier, intermarry less, and have more children, Orthodox Jews are growing rapidly as a share of the American Jewish population. According to a 2006 American Jewish Committee (AJC) survey, while Orthodox Jews make up only 12 percent of American Jewry over the age of sixty, they constitute 34 percent between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four. For America’s Zionist organizations, these Orthodox youngsters are a potential bonanza. In their yeshivas they learn devotion to Israel from an early age; they generally spend a year of religious study there after high school, and often know friends or relatives who have immigrated to Israel. The same AJC study found that while only 16 percent of non-Orthodox adult Jews under the age of forty feel “very close to Israel,” among the Orthodox the figure is 79 percent. As secular Jews drift away from America’s Zionist institutions, their Orthodox counterparts will likely step into the breach. The Orthodox “are still interested in parochial Jewish concerns,” explains Samuel Heilman, a sociologist at the City University of New York. “They are among the last ones who stayed in the Jewish house, so they now control the lights.” …

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