At a panel sponsored by the Jewish Council on Public Affairs to discuss Rosenfeld’s thesis, in which I participated, Leonard Fein, the venerable lion of American Jewish liberalism, mooted the notion that what was at play here was the fact that Jews were very good at “playing the victim.”
Fein, whose long record of support for Israel is not in question, believes that by seeking to hound foes of Zion from the public stage, we are not only flailing at an insignificant target but also turning off young Jews who want no part of the knee-jerk, pro-Israel spin of the organized Jewish world.
Fein is correct that the right of dissent against specific Israeli policies – or support for the Israeli Left’s stand on borders or settlements – ought not to be questioned. But it is support for Israel that’s more likely to be unpopular in the secular media and on college campuses these days than opposition to it.
What Weiss, Buchanan, and those of like mind have put forward are not legitimate differences with Israeli government policies, but a dismissal of the state’s right to exist and the legitimacy of its right of self-defense.
It is not “playing the victim” to point out that the treatment of Israel and its supporters in Europe is provoking haunting memories of the 1930’s. How can we sit back and allow these ideas and their supporters to expand their beachheads on American soil? Failing to respond ultimately plays into the hands of marginal figures like Buchanan and others who hope to turn American foreign policy against Israel.
The Weiss-Buchanan alliance is an overt acknowledgement of what many on the Jewish Left know is true, but won’t face up to: The connection between this brand of Jewish anti-Zionism and traditional anti-Semitism is now in the open. Ignoring it is no longer an option.