Sunlit Water

October 18, 2009

Times Change

Filed under: Personal,Politics — by teofilo @ 6:31 pm

Matt Yglesias has an interesting post on Israel where he discusses how his own Zionist consciousness was formed in the “Oslo era” of the nineties, when Israeli politics was dominated by secular social democrats earnestly engaged in the peace process and secular liberal American Jews strongly supported them.  I’m a little younger than Matt, but my own understanding of the situation developed at around the same time under similar circumstances.  In retrospect, it turned out to be something of a dead-end and even an aberration in the course of the long and tragic history of Israeli-Palestinian relationship, but at the time there was a real feeling of hope and a sense that the violence and nationalism of the past was drawing to a close.  After being introduced to the issue in that frame, the subsequent total collapse of the peace process into chaotic violence and extremism was a really crushing blow, and I think it really left the American Jewish left feeling lost about what to do.  Personally I’ve gone a bit further down the road of rejecting Zionism entirely than most others in my camp, but even people like my mom, who remains both steadfastly Zionist and strongly opposed to the approach of the contemporary Israeli right, seem very dispirited about the way things have gone and unsure about whether or how they can be set right.

I think this is the best context in which to understand what J Street represents and who it is speaking for.  There are a lot of people out there who really want to return to where we were fifteen years ago, and while both American and Israeli politics have shifted in a way that makes that not quite possible at this point, there have been some faint glimmers of hope recently that make an organization explicitly advocating an anti-AIPAC, anti-Likud, pro-peace agenda really attractive to a big segment of the American Jewish population.

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