As an adult, I’ve always found the stereotype that Jews are liberal a curious one; my parents’ circle was predominantly conservative, not just on Israel but on most political issues. Most of all, they were intensely (and this is a word I remember repeating in my own angry adolescent dialogues with myself) tribal. What I didn’t fully comprehend, until now, was why. Beinart unearths a story of 1970s politics that was unknown to me – except as I so intimately lived it – showing that at the root of this sense of embattled tribalism was a transformation worked by the leaders of right-leaning American Jewish organizations, who traded in their founding (liberal) aspirations to universal justice for a wagon-circling parochalism.
At my Bar Mitzvah, I lifted my voice and sang.At his Bar Mitzvah, he lifted his fists and fought.At my Bar Mitzvah, I wore a new tallit over a new suit.At his Bar Mitvah he wore a rifle an bullets over a suit of rags.At my Bar Mitzvah, I started my road to life.At his Bar Mitzvah, he began his road to martyrdom.
It follows that the actual world we kids inherited, in which Jews now serving on the Supreme Court outnumber Protestants three to zero and a Jew serves as House majority leader and the Jew who used to be the president's chief of staff runs our third largest city, and in which Israel is a nuclear-armed regional superpower can really be only a mirage. “Is It 1939?” Malcolm Honlein, the head of the influential Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, asked in a 2010 speech. It just might be, was his answer. Which is why he displays in his office a photoshopped image of Israeli F-15s liberating Auschwitz. Six million Jews are once more getting ready to die.