The idea of Israel has long been an integral part of Jewish-American identity. But with a generational change among American Jews and increasingly stark political differences with Israel’s leadership, could this be the dawn of a new era?
Last summer Michael Oren, who served as Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 2009-13, blithely offended virtually the entire policy, journalism and government elite in New York City and Washington, D.C. with a series of accusations directed at President Obama and liberal Jewish Americans.
In a nutshell, Oren accused Obama of deliberately sabotaging relations with Israel in order to achieve the goals of ingratiating himself with the Arab Muslim world and negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran. He also suggested the president was soft on terror — because he had Muslim daddy issues (his father, who had not been present when he was growing up, was a Kenyan Muslim). Oren also characterized American Jews who criticized Israel as anti-Israel and/or insufficiently Jewish.
Oren offered up his frank opinions and amateur psychoanalysis in a controversial Wall Street Journal op-ed and in a Foreign Policy essay – both of which acted as pre-publication publicity for his memoir, “Ally.”
The response of the foreign policy people who figure so prominently in the discourse about Israel in the so-called Acela Corridor (the name of the rapid train that links New York and D.C.) was one of outrage and betrayal. They had regarded Oren as an ally who shared their worldview. Instead he had ripped off his mask of moderation to reveal a strident nationalist who was carrying some heavy baggage packed with Hebrew warrior fantasies, a Holocaust obsession and a fortress mentality.
But while prominent members of the inner policy circle like Martin Indyk challenged Oren’s accounts of his dealings with the Obama White House in testy exchanges on CNN, almost no-one addressed the former ambassador’s curiously clichéd personal narrative, which is like a plot ripped straight from a Leon Uris novel. A nerdy, physically unprepossessing Jewish boy grows up in suburban America, relentlessly bullied at school by anti-Semites. As a teenager he becomes intensely aware of the Holocaust, vows to make sure it never happens again, becomes an ardent Zionist and works hard to save his money so he can immigrate — or make aliyah — to Israel, where he magically morphs into a handsome combat warrior who wades heroically into battle and...Read More