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October 8, 2017 12:51 pm

The Growing Jewish Divide on Israel

avatar by Steve Kramer

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Senator Bernie Sanders. Photo: Nick Solari via Wikimedia Commons.

The divisions between Jews in Israel and the US are wide and far-ranging.

In Israel, there are four basic groups: secular, traditional, religious and haredi (ultra-Orthodox). In the US, the groups consist of the Reconstructionist/Reform/Conservative bloc, the Orthodox and the ultra-Orthodox. The latter two are growing in adherents, while the former are combining congregations, closing synagogues, and generally failing to produce the requisite number of Jewish youngsters necessary to continue, let alone grow, the community.

The split among American Jews is also increasingly evident in the political realm. Most Jews are, by nature, liberal — and for many, “liberal” has become associated only with the Democratic Party. It seems to have been forgotten that one could also be a liberal Republican. More importantly, the division between supporters of the two parties has become an impenetrable wall — with no meeting of the minds possible on most issues. Sadly, support for Israel is becoming one of them.

For as long as I can remember, Jews have overwhelmingly been associated with the Democratic Party, at a ratio of about 3:1. Yet, increasingly, many Democrats are drifting away from Israel.

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Following Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign, Senator Bernie Sanders has become a key leader of the Democratic Party. Though Jewish, Sanders likes to talk about his “Polish” ancestors. Unfortunately, or perhaps typically, he has little regard for the Jewish homeland.

In his interview at on September 22, Sanders revealed his true feelings on Israel: “Certainly the United States is complicit [in the Israeli ‘occupation’ of ‘Palestinian’ land], but it’s not to say… that Israel is the only party at fault.”

Though nearly the whole world backs the Palestinian Arabs, with the US being one of the few countries to back Israel, Sanders said, “In terms of Israeli-Palestinian relations, the United States has got to play a much more even-handed role.”

Sanders also said that there was “extraordinary potential for the United States to help the Palestinian people rebuild Gaza and other areas. At the same time, demand that Israel, in their own interests in a way, work with other countries on environmental issues.”

The senator ignored the fact that much money donated to Gaza goes to making and buying arms, and building tunnels to terrorize Israel. Regarding environmental issues, the tiny country of Israel has only a negligible impact on pollution. Israel is, however, a global leader in irrigation, desalination, water purification, automated driving (which will reduce car ownership dramatically), solar field arrays, and other environmental technology.

A September 25 editorial in the Jerusalem Post was entitled, “The popularity of US Senator Bernie Sanders signals an ominous change in American public opinion.” As mentioned above, while the majority of Jews vote Democratic, the Democrats’ support for Israel has traditionally been lower than that of Republicans — and the gap continues to grow. The current gap between the two parties on Israel is now the widest that it’s been since 1978, when the Pew Research Center first began polling Jews on this subject.

The article said that, according to Pew, “In the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, 74% of Republicans said they sympathized more with Israel, compared to 33% of Democrats. Conversely, 31 % of Democrats said they sympathized more with the Palestinians, while just 17% of Republicans said they did.”

Pew also said that the level of Democratic support for the Palestinians has reached a high point in this century. “Among liberal Democrats, support for Palestinians surpasses support for Israel, according to a 2016 Pew survey.”

The Jerusalem Post editorial board is worried by this situation, not just for Israelis but also because they believe this could signal the abandonment of traditional American values within the increasingly-dominant progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

Divisions among groups of people are to be expected, but Judaism cannot afford to have a wide divide among its adherents. Perhaps this split will result in many thoroughly assimilated Jews giving up their tenuous Jewish identification. If that is the case, it appears that the liberal stream of Judaism will lose further ground to those who stand by a more literal interpretation of Judaism’s holy texts.

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  • Leslie Benjamini

    Or mostly nothing. But you can bet the antisemites out there will not let them forget who they are.

  • Abelardy

    Sanders is a typical self-loathing Jew. He speaks of his “Polish” ancestors? No self-respecting Jew from Poland calls himself Polish! This is the tip off.

    • Michael Garfinkel

      How disgusting of Sanders to refer to himself as being of Polish descent, when Polish Jewry has disappeared – because they were massacred.

      This Holocaust was often met with the endorsement of the Polish people themselves, who did – and still do distinguish themselves as a Catholic people, very different from the Jews who lived in Poland.

      To put it bluntly, Sanders is an abomination.

  • Zvi

    I have been speaking to people about this for years. The Ancient Jews (Hebrews, if you wish) began around the same time as the Chinese. They are 1.x billion, and we are 15 million. Much can be explained by wars (Chinese conquered and integrated people) or atrocities against us, but much is just plain old… assimilation. We are an accepting people, and many times.. being Jewish is just .. too… much. My 2 brothers and sister came here at the end of the 60s-70s. My parents didn’t want us to grow up in USA and we all came on programs and we all stayed. We have built a big family here. My cousins stayed in the states. They have few children, and those have little or no connection to being Jewish, not to mention – Israel. The future is obvious….

  • LtcHoward

    Bernie Sanders went to Madison high school in Brooklyn New York. There he was known as a wild eyed radical supporter of the Soviet Union. He has grown older but not wiser. He lives a rich lifestyle and preaches share everyone’s else’s wealth. He has never considered himself Jewish except when it is to his benefit to say: ” although I am a Jew, I must admit that Israel is the worst persecutor on the face of the earth.”

    • Toby

      He’s a putz.

    • Leslie Benjamini

      It has been said , I am not the originator, “ your enemy will come from within.” May not be exact, but it is close. Applies to all American Jews who give up on that miracle of a country, Israel. And a culture & religion that has given the world so much. The know not what they are losing. Mores the pity.

  • Thought is Free

    The Dems are now dominated by the extreme left, a pack of liars bent on destroying the social fabric of the US. They have much in common with the Palestinians, a pack of liars bent on destroying the social fabric of the entire West. Horrible, dangerous bedfellows. Sanders should hang his head in shame that he echos their calumnies.

  • Unfortunately, for many American Jews, assimilation is the path they choose to achieve the elusive “American Dream.” And Jewish support of Israel continues to decline because of materialism, leftwing ideology, and biblical illiteracy.

    • Leslie Benjamini

      Bingo. Biblical illiteracy. Along with any knowledge of what they are rejecting. I always say, ok you want to reject Judaism, study it first ……then reject it. At least then you will know what you are giving up.

  • wally knowll

    Democracy in Israel has been hijacked by the Orthodox and Ultra Orthodox Jews and they are using it to fight and hate non-orthodox Jews. It is better that Israel be ruled by the Israeli Armed Forces/ Intelligence Services so that all Jews around the world are protected.

    • Leslie Benjamini

      The observant Modern Orthodox should not be thrown in the same in the basket as the ultra orthodox Haredim. They fight in the IDF, the women work more & more, they are keeping the traditions alive. Would you be happy if Judaism disappeared altogether? If we all became secular atheists? This I think would be a tragedy. The Haredim with the fur hats, extreme clothing, ridiculous insularity, extremism that are only 350 years old, which is a blip in the time frame of historical Judaism are a blight on Israel. Naturai Karta are horrible traitors, but Reform Jews who are once a year Temple goers ( maybe) who have never been to Israel & do not know anything about the religion or country they reject are just as bad. Both extremes are dangerous to the modern miracle of Israel. Both should be rejected.

  • benfivel

    The Frits Haber of pur time.sold his sole to assimilate.

  • Reb_Yaakov

    The need to compartmentalize and label people is what feeds the divisions.

    If you consider Jews to be people who consider Judaism to be a way of life for themselves, you find that differences between Jews are not all that great.