Why Israeli Jews are Conservative and American Jews are Leftist
The Left lost in Israel, but still rules over American Jews.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam.
The Israeli left as a democratic political movement is dead. That piece of bad news was delivered by a recent survey which shows that only 8% of Israeli Jews identify with the left, 55% with the center and 37% with the right.
In the last election, the establishment Labor Party had to dress up as a wolf in Zionist centrist clothing by renaming itself the Zionist Camp (it still lost). The left had to create two other fake centrist parties to stop Netanyahu, but just ended up having to roll them into his center-right coalition.
The Israeli left still controls the usual undemocratic elitist outposts of the Deep State, media, academia, popular culture and the judiciary, but it can no longer even call itself the left and still hope to win. All it can do is undermine the will of the people and sabotage the country out of selfishness and spite.
The situation in Israel stands in sharp contrast to the United States where 49 percent of Jews lean to the left, 29 percent tend to the center and only 19 percent identify as conservative.
It’s a popular and simplistic conclusion on both the left and the right to attribute this split to terrorism. But if Muslim terrorism made people move to the right, New Yorkers would all be Republicans. And until the latest Knife Jihad, the Israeli right’s policies had ended Islamic terrorism as an everyday problem.
The Israeli left’s disastrous peace process with terrorists, which killed more Israelis than the Six Day War, helped discredit it, but it’s far from the whole story. The Israeli left didn’t suddenly implode because of PLO deal. It made the deal with the terrorists because it had been losing elections left and right.
The Israeli left had gone from dominating Israeli politics for thirty years to losing its grip in the seventies. By the eighties, the Israeli left was dying. For the last fifteen years, every Israeli prime minister has come out of the conservative Likud party (even if he didn’t always stay there.)
The rise of the Israeli right was fueled by immigrants. It still is. The Israeli left had set up its Socialist utopia of intertwined labor unions, collective farms, social welfare and political organizations in which your ability to earn a living depended on your political ties to the left. Holocaust survivors were violently assaulted by leftist thugs as soon as they reached the shore if they didn’t belong to the left. Middle Eastern Jewish refugees encountered a bigoted leftist system that viewed them as only slightly better than animals. Russian Jews fleeing the USSR often found an equally hostile welcome waiting for them.
These groups helped topple the left from power. The Holocaust survivors had been fleeing National Socialism. Middle Eastern Jews had fled Arab Socialist dictatorships. Russian Jews had escaped the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Socialism had few positive connotations for them. And the discrimination they encountered from the left as soon as they arrived convinced them to join the right.
The left had always understood that Jewish immigration to Israel posed the biggest threat to its rule. It needed immigrants, but it also hated and feared them. And they learned to hate it back. In the United States, first-generation and even second-generation immigrants make up a much smaller proportion of the American Jewish population than they do in the Israel. And, like their Israeli counterparts, first-generation Jewish immigrants in America from the USSR or Syria tend to be politically conservative.
That’s part of the story. But it’s also not the whole story. To see the rest of it, we have to look at American Jews. You can predict the politics of American Jews based on their religiosity.
60 percent of Jews who attend weekly religious services disapprove of Obama. Only 34 percent approve. Among those who don’t attend religious services, approval stands at 58 percent to 38 percent. In Israel, the left finds its greatest support among secular Jews and the right hits its best numbers among religious Jews. left-wing identification in America is 50% higher among Jews of no religion. The number of American Jews of no religion has tripled since 2001. Meanwhile the Israeli secular population is declining.
Twice as many Israeli Jews as American Jews believe in G-d. What do American Jews who don’t believe in G-d believe in? Usually the answer is Obama. Or in Israel, a fantasy of peace with Islamic terrorists.
Secularism does not in and of itself translate into leftist politics. Even secular Israelis are more likely to identify with the right than with the left (though by a much smaller margin). But secularism does create a vacuum that the left is quite adept at filling with its cults of personality, political messianism, pseudoscientific doomsdays and apocalyptic struggles for the future of mankind.
The American Jewish left is the product of a spiritual vacuum. It is a decadent movement of the directionless, of the neurotically unhappy needing validation and narcissists clamoring for attention. It has no real challenges to grapple with and so it immerses itself in borrowed sufferings and ennobles itself by lecturing others. There is nothing Jewish about the Jewish left. That is the whole point.
American and Israeli Jews exist in fundamentally different political, economic and religious contexts.
Both American and Israeli Jews have an immigrant narrative, but their narratives are very different. The Israeli immigrant narrative began with a pioneer story of settlers clearing land for settlements and fighting off savages. This resembles the American pioneer narrative, but has little in common with an American Jewish narrative of modern urban immigration. While American Jews also went west, built cabins, farmed, mined and were scalped, their narratives were discarded for social justice reasons.
To many American Jews, land is not finite and there is no reason to fight anyone over it. But tell that to a Jewish farmer or herder on a plot of land overlooking a terrorist encampment. His life has less in common with New York than with a Texas outpost before a Comanche Moon or Afghanistan.
The next phase of the immigrant narrative ended very differently in America and Israel. In America, the left won its struggle with poor religious Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe whose descendants became secular leftists raised to think of the Democratic Party as their religion. In Israel, the left lost its struggle with poor religious Jewish immigrants from the Middle East despite using every dirty trick.
The fall of the left in Israel reflects a country where the struggle between religion and the left, between immigrants and political elites, ended with a fundamentally different outcome than it did in America.
Generations of American Jews have been indoctrinated to think of left-wing ideas as elementally Jewish. They are unaware of any conflict between their ideas and their origins. But to many Israeli Jews, left-wing agendas are antithetical to Jewish values. Middle Eastern Jewish refugees and Soviet Jews had to defy the left to remain Jewish.
Finally in the economic context, Israel has opened up economic opportunities by moving away from the left to a more open economy. Americans have never lived under Socialism and so are more willing to believe the empty promises than people who have suffered under the real thing.
American Jews define themselves by a progressive narrative of struggling for equality. In Israel, the struggle for equality for a majority of Jews was a struggle against the left. The left has taught many American Jews to view religious devotion and nationalism as evils. In Israel, they are virtues.
All of these combined created very different cultural contexts. American and Israeli Jews both felt vulnerable, but the former responded to it by becoming less Jewish and the latter by becoming more Jewish. Israeli Jews have found strength in becoming more Jewish. American Jews have only found neurosis and spiritual emptiness in becoming more leftist.
And so the left lost in Israel, but still rules over American Jews.