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Sixty-Second Candle

Happy birthday to Israel. What was once an emotional outburst amid eccentric European Jews is an international fact and among the crowning achievements of the Jewish people. I wish, for your birthday, you wouldn’t squander your inheritance in shortsighted, paranoid and self-defeating ways. (Haaretz: “[Israel] is devoid of any diplomatic plan aside from holding onto the territories and afraid of any movement. It wallows in a sense of existential threat that has only grown with time…  it seems that Israel has lost the dynamism and hope of its early decades, and is once again mired in the ghetto mentality against which its founders rebelled.”)

Jeremy Ben-Ami, in J Street’s happy-birthday address, sums up how to break free of Israeli Shtetlism and how the rest of us can help:

We hope the year ahead sees substantial progress toward these goals and toward a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to Israel’s conflicts with its neighbors.

We will continue to stand with Israel as she faces the challenges ahead and pursues the two-state resolution necessary to securing the dream of true peace and security.

I’m about to get spiteful and hateful and tribal. Matthew Yglesias observed the pro-Israel posture of mainstream conservatism as a form of “a largely post-Jewish brand of pro-Israel politics.” That’s exactly right. There are those on the American right who like Israel because they see a bellicose land of mostly-white people ready to do whatever they feel like against non-white people. Call that what you like, but it’s not Zionism and it has nothing to do with any Jewish tradition worthy of one of the world’s great civilizations. It’s the responsibility of American Jews to keep pro-Israel politics informed by Jewish politics, and that means doing what Jeremy says and relentlessly fighting for social justice, two states for two peoples and Jewish democracy. Happy birthday and happy birthdays.

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman

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