For decades most American Jews have claimed an “Israel exemption”: resolutely progressive on domestic issues, they are hawks on their cherished cause. Racism they would vigorously oppose if applied in the United States is welcomed in Israel.
Reports at the weekend suggested that Donald Trump was about to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, throwing a wrench in any peace plan.
If true, the US president will have decisively prioritised support for Israel – and pro-Israel lobbies at home – over outrage from Palestinians and the Arab world. But paradoxically, just as American Jews look close to winning the battle domestically on behalf of Israel, many feel more alienated from a Jewish state than ever before.
There has long been a minority whose concerns focused on the occupation, but most American Jews’ support for Israel itself was unwavering. A Law of Return denies non-Jews the right to migrate to Israel. Admissions committees bar Palestinian citizens – one in five of Israel’s population – from hundreds of communities. A refusal of family reunification has torn apart Palestinian families in cases where one partner lives in Israel and the other in the occupied territories.
Most Jews have justified to themselves these and many other affronts on the grounds that, after the European holocaust, they deserved a strong homeland. Palestinians had to pay the price.
Given that half the world’s Jews live outside Israel – the great majority in the US…