At a recent Shabbat lecture in Silver Spring, Maryland, Joshua Muravchik, distinguished fellow at the DC-based World Affairs Institute and adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics, shared his concerns about a growing divide between Democrats and Republicans on their support for Israel. The leaching of radical left ideas into moderate left circles creates “real worry” that the Democrats, the party with which most American Jews historically align, will become anti-Israel, he said.
Author of 11 books and writer of hundreds of articles in magazines, journals, and newspapers, touching on international politics, U.S. foreign policy, socialism, democracy, political ideology, the United Nations, and the Arab/Israeli conflict, Muravchik spoke at Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim (HTAA), a Traditional synagogue, on Feb. 17.
Muravchik cited a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, which showed that Republicans and Democrats are growing further apart in their support for Israel, with Republicans remaining staunchly pro-Israel and Democrats drifting away from identifying with the country.
Muravchik argued that despite claims of opponents of Israel that their anti-Israel attitude isn’t anti-Semitic, attitudes toward Jews are ultimately “inseparable from attitudes toward Israel.” He queried, “If the Jewish state is as evil as they claim — apartheid, genocide, imperialism, colonialism, etc. — how can the Jewish people be innocent?” Further, he asked, “Would it make any sense to say ‘Poland or Hungary or France is a terrible country, but at the same time I have nothing against the Poles or Hungarians or the French?’”
As more of the world’s Jewry make aliyah — Israel already has a larger Jewish population than the United States, formerly the country with the largest number of Jews in the Diaspora — this trend toward identifying Israel and Jews is being reinforced, he said. Globally, “the Muslims hate the Jews because they hate Israel. In the U.S., the Evangelicals love the Jews because they love Israel.”
Muravchik cited a 2017 decision by a German court on a synagogue bombing as an “absurd illustration” of trying to separate anti-Israel feeling from anti-Semitism. The German regional court ruled that the 2014 firebombing of a synagogue east of Düsseldorf was an “act of criminal arson, but not anti-Semitic.” Instead, the court found it was a protest against Israel, even though the synagogue was obviously not in Israel and those who worship there are Jews, not Israelis.
“Consider the contrary opinion as expressed by the German court,” Muravchik said. “If people are bombing synagogues, the spiritual home of Jews, how much difference does it make if they say they don’t hate Jews?”
Muravchik was one of the group of writers who moved away from the political left in the 1960s and 1970s and came to be called “neo-conservatives.” Growing up in what he calls “an avowed atheist, socialist Jewish family who had nothing to do with Judaism, the religion,” he was national chairman of the Young People’s Socialist League from 1968 to 1973 and executive director of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority from 1977 to 1979. He said he became more conservative as he grew older.
He said that while Europeans as a whole have become less anti-Semitic, the Muslim population in Europe is making it unsafe for Jews to live there. In the United States, the shift of the locus of anti-Israel opinion from right to left has created an anomaly in which we find anti-Semitism among Jews, he said.
“In 1967, 99 percent of American Jews supported Israel; today it’s 85 percent,” he said. “Who are the remaining 15 percent?”
He cited the Palestinian Solidarity Movement’s Adam Shapiro, author Gilad Atzmon, the United Nations’ Richard Falk, and British Labour Party’s Jewish supporters of Jeremy Corbyn as examples of Jews who hate Israel.
While Muravchik worries that the Democratic Party will in time become anti-Israel because of its ideological drift and alliance with other anti-Israel movements, he offered hope on the future of Israel because of the country’s “spectacular success” in its 70 years of existence.
“We have one of the few shining stars in the world stage in Israel. While geographically it is a tiny morsel, Israel ranks among the top countries in the development of not only military strength, but science, medicine, technology, economy, morality, assistance to developing countries, freedom of religion and speech, and just about any measurement of development,” he said.
“With all the hatred all over the world and isolating activities against such a small country, Israel is not only a miracle of survival, but equally a miracle of success.”
Frank Solomon lives in the Kemp Mill neighborhood of Silver Spring, Maryland, and is a member of Har Tzeon Agudath-Achim.