Claims that Jewish groups take their orders from Jerusalem or put Israel’s interests ahead of America’s have come from respectable corners of society, not just fringe extremists. Especially in left-wing circles, a growing list of academics and journalists have signed on to this argument, most notably professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, whose writings fueled the unfair claims that Jewish groups played a key role in promoting the Iraq war and did so for Jerusalem’s benefit.
Former president Jimmy Carter gave voice repeatedly to claims that pro-Israel advocates were endangering the United States by stifling internal debate over Israeli policies.
If all that weren’t enough to leave many Jews feeling anxious, Mel Gibson resurrected a host of classic anti-Jewish images with the making and marketing of “The Passion of the Christ.” And the decade closes with Israel fighting a new blood libel – the claim that it killed Palestinians to harvest their organs.
In past decades, such developments could have been dismissed as isolated incidents. But the rise of the Internet has amplified their impact and reach, creating a seamless continuum among critics of Israel and the Jewish community, where fringe thinking invades the mainstream and establishment respectability rubs off on extremists. And tens of millions are reading and watching.
Is there a reason for optimism buried beneath all of this decade’s bad news for the Jews, any hope for a historical rebound of sorts?
The messianic sense of exuberance that bubbled up in some corners of Israel and the Jewish community back in the 1990s and 2000 seems impossible, if not farcical and illusory. Yet Israel and the Jews have survived worse.
Perhaps then, the lesson heading into the next decade should be to remember there is always a way out and a way up, but that dreams are not enough. You need plenty of will and an open-eyed realism to match.