Between 1948 and 1967, American Jews could cherish the state of Israel on both particularist and universalist grounds. Israel was the state of the Jews, for sure. It had a part to play in the great universalism of nationhood. But it also leaned socialist. It could be exhibited as a case study of national liberation. Palestinians had no reality to the great majority of American Jews, but the Israeli victory in 1947-48 served both particularist and universalist needs. The Jews of the liberal-left were doubly blessed. Be it Old Jerusalem or New, Holy Land or God-fearing America as a “city on a hill,” the exalted state located elsewhere had long been, for the Diaspora, a badge of identity, a palpable sign that history has a vector and of renewal. Pride in the survival—indeed, the triumph—of the Jewish state evoked pride.
The Israeli victory in the Six Day War for a while re-cemented the salience of the Holocaust. David had crushed Goliath. But in the conquest of the Territories lay demon seeds. The statehood of Israel had the sanction of international law. It still does. But when Israel became an illegal occupier of the territories it conquered in 1967, it forfeited its universalist mantle. It made Israel look like a less compelling answer to the immense question of what might be left of chosenness, which dovetailed with the problem of what meaning might be found in the Holocaust. First under center-left Labor governments and more radically under the Likud, Israel interpreted chosenness as a title to land and a warrant for defying world opinion and international law. It justified its aggressions as defenses. But this was an almost fatal mistake. Israeli exceptionalism abandoned the high moral ground. Gripped by messianism and a volatile brew of desperation and truculence, Israel defies the hard-fought achievements of the Diaspora as it becomes steadily more illiberal, and thus more offensive to Jews who remain among America’s most liberal populations. In a world of sinful nations, Israel now, simultaneously, claims the privilege of victimhood and the right to be honored as democratic even as it abandons liberality. This is a hell of a climb-down from tikkun olam, the injunction to repair the world and welcome the stranger. It offers little solace or cohesion for American Jews. For the built-in ambiguities that face all minorities in America, Israel is no spiritual refuge.
By now, a growing minority of younger American Jews are so intensely angry at the actually existing, increasingly illiberal Israel, which is no longer the Israel of Martin Buber and Paul Newman, as to reject “Zionism” as a dirty word and endorse the whole bundle of BDS politics, including the academic boycott—a direction made easier as American-Jewish oligarchs fund land-grabs and implant enclave fortresses in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank. Some are naïve; some are thoughtless; some can think of no other way to get the Israeli government’s attention. Not many liberal American Jews go so far, but the gulf that has opened up between Israeli and American Jews will be a fundamental feature of the Jewish landscape for a long time...Sounds to me like "liberal American Jews" (Gitlin included) haven't got a clue about what animates Israel or Judaism. And if being "liberal" means dissolving your identity and aligning yourself with your enemies, these Jews are already lost to us.