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Jewish World Review
Dec. 20, 2011
/ 24 Kislev, 5772
Tom Friedman's losing battle
Caroline B. Glick
Friedman with Hillary and Indyk
Is the New York Times columnist right? Do he and his friends on the Israel-bashing Left own the future? Are their efforts to convince young Americans to reject Israel working?
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman balanced his substantively
anti-Israel positions with repeated protestations of love for Israel.
balancing act ended last week when he employed traditional anti-Semitic slurs to
dismiss the authenticity of substantive American support for
Channeling the longstanding anti-Semitic charge that Jewish money
buys support for power-hungry Jews best expressed in the forged 19th century
Protocols of the Elders of Zion and in John Mearshimer's and Stephen Walt's 2007
book The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, Friedman denied the significance of
the US Congress's overwhelming support for Israel.
As he put it, "I sure
hope that Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the
standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That
ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby."
It would be nice if
Friedman is forced to pay some sort of price for finally coming out of the
closet as a dyed-in-the-wool Israel hater. But he probably won't. As he made
clear in his column, he isn't writing for the general public, but for a very
small, select group of elitist leftists. These are the only people who matter to
Friedman. And they matter to him because they share his opinions and his goal of
indoctrinating young people to adopt his pathologically hostile views about
Israel and his contempt for the American public that supports it.
doesn't matter to Friedman that overwhelming survey evidence, amassed over
decades, show that the vast majority of the American public and the American
Jewish community support Israel. It doesn't matter to him that the support shown
to Netanyahu in Congress last May was a reflection of that support.
put it, "The real test is what would happen if Bibi tried to speak at, let's
say, the University of Wisconsin. My guess is that many students would boycott
him and many Jewish students would stay away."
Embedded in this statement
are two key points. First, Friedman assesses that the prevailing view on US
college campuses are his own radical views. And he is convinced that college
students share his views.
As he sees it, if college students share his
views, then it doesn't matter that Congress supports Israel today. Through the
youth, he and his anti-Israel colleagues will own the future.
question then is is Friedman right? Do he and his friends on the Israel bashing
Left own the future? Are their efforts to convince young Americans in places
like University of Wisconsin to embrace leftist dogmas, including rejection of
Israel's rights working? Is support for Israel diminishing? A plethora of data
indicates that while the picture is mixed, the dominant trends do not favor
Friedman's views. This is true not only in the US but in Israel as
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For instance, last week the Washington Examiner's senior political
commentator Michael Barone noted a massive deterioration of US President Barack
Obama' support levels among voters under 30 years old. Whereas Obama won this
demographic in the 2008 elections by a 2-1 margin, two recent surveys show that
if elections were held today, he would receive the support of just over a third
of young voters.
Barone hypothesized that young Americans' disenchantment
has to do with their generational individualism bred of their limitless ability
to express themselves through technology. This individualism has nothing in
common with Obama's economic and foreign policy collectivism.
young American Jews, according to a study published in August 2010 by Brandeis
University's Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies, the ratio of young American
Jews who feel attached to Israel while lower than that of older Jews -- has
remained constant over the past twenty years. Moreover, Brandeis's researchers
told the Forward that "Every generation goes through a normal 'lifecycle,'…in
which attachment to Israel grows as people get older."
Even more notable
than the consistency of support levels over time is the fact that researchers
discerned no difference in levels of support for Israel across the political
spectrum. As the study reported, "We found that conservatives were no more
likely than liberals to feel connected to Israel or regard Israel as central to
their Jewish identities. These findings are remarkable given that liberalism is
associated with reduced support for Israel in the broader American
So not only have Friedman and his colleagues on the far Left
failed to convince the general public to give up support for Israel, they have
failed to get young American Jews to give up support for Israel.
FAILURE of Friedman's fellow radicals to convince university students to abandon
support for Israel or to water it down to the point of meaninglessness was
demonstrated last month by Berkeley's Jewish Student Union.
years, Berkeley's Hillel has come under withering criticism from pro- Israel
activists on campus and countrywide for its leadership's willingness to accept
anti-Israel groups as members of its community of sponsored
Hillel-sponsored groups like Kesher Enoshi have welcomed
the virulently anti-Israel Jewish Voices for Peace group into the Hillel tent.
Hillel groups have participated in Israel Apartheid Week activities and
supported university divestment from Israeli-owned firms. So too, Hillel's
leadership has held dances on Memorial Day for Fallen Israeli Soldiers,
published fliers demeaning observant Jews and discouraged students from flying
Israel's flag at demonstrations.
Last month, Berkeley's Jewish students
took a step to regain control over their community from the anti-Israel radicals
running Hillel. On November 16, Berkeley's JSU voted to deny membership to J
Street U, the college wing of the anti-Israel lobby J Street.
the local Jewish paper j.weekly, Jacob Lewis, co-president of the
pro-Israel student group Tikvah explained, "J Street is not pro-Israel but an
anti-Israel organization that, as part of the mainstream Jewish community, I
could not support."
Hillel's leadership is up in arms. Rather than
respect the decision of the JSU, Hillel's professional "grown-ups" are urging
them to reconsider.
In a letter to Haaretz and to the j. weekly, Berkeley
Hillel's board president Barbara Davis and its executive director Rabbi Adam
Naftalin-Kelman wrote, "We respect the right of the Jewish Student Union…to make
its own decisions, but we encourage JSU to reconsider its vote and include J
Street U as a member." The two then pledged that despite the verdict of
Berkeley's Jewish students, Hillel will continue to find J Street U's
THE SITUATION on Israeli college campuses is similar. Here
too, Israeli students are in revolt against post-Zionist and anti- Zionist
academics. Here too, the best efforts of radical professors to convince their
students to abandon Zionism seem to be faltering. A poll of young Israelis taken
last year by Dahaf for the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation indicated that
young Israelis are far more politically conservative than their baby boomer
parents and professors. And this disparity is apparent on university
Last year the Im Tirtzu student group published a report on the
state of Political Science studies in Israeli universities. In a follow-on
report, it placed a spotlight on the situation at Ben Gurion University's
Politics and Government Department.
Both reports were attacked by the
media and by the professoriate as cheap, academically shoddy attempts to harm
Im Tirtzu's reports were based on an analysis of course
syllabi at all university departments and they concluded that there was a clear
far left ideological bias inherent in course materials. Pro-Israel and
non-hostile books and research were almost entirely absent from the curricula,
As for Ben Gurion University's Politics and Government
Department, the Im Tirtzu report claimed that aside from political bias
reflected in the course curricula, the department's faculty is dominated by
anti-Zionists. It charged that nine out of 11 permanent faculty members were
involved in "radical left-wing" political activities and that six signed a
letter supporting refusal to serve in the IDF.
While the media and the
professorate pilloried their reports, the group's charges caused the Council for
Higher Education to form a blue ribbon committee last November comprised of
seven political scientists three from Israel and four from abroad -- to
conduct a study of all of the political science departments in Israeli
universities. Last month the committee presented its conclusions to the CHE. And
they were devastating.
The committee's general recommendations involved
requiring professors at all universities to make a differentiation in their
classrooms between facts and their political opinions. It also called for a more
theoretical approach to political science with emphasis on research methods
rather than activism and ideology. University departments were urged to use more
politically balanced curricula.
As to Ben Gurion University, the
commission said the Politics and Government Department needs to clean up its act
or be shut down. Not only is it giving short shrift to the academic foundations
of the discipline in favor of activism, its instructors use the classrooms to
So too, due to the department's academic
inadequacy, the committee claimed its master's program's "value…is doubtful,"
and said that the faculty could not adequately educate doctoral
On November 29, the CHE unanimously adopted the committee's
findings and recommendations.
It gave Ben Gurion University until April
to enact the required changes in its Politics and Government Department or shut
It will be interesting to see how events progress at Ben
Gurion in the coming months, but one thing is clear enough, like Friedman and
the Berkeley Hillel, its professors will no longer be able to pretend that they
are fair and balanced professionals.
Their bluff was called.
December 7 Politico's Ben Smith published a detailed report about how two of the
Democratic Party's core institutions, the Center for American Progress and Media
Matters are waging a concerted, continuous campaign to diminish left wing
Democratic support for Israel. Media Matters official M.J. Rosenberg
acknowledged that given the depth of popular support for Israel in the US,
chances are remote that their efforts will pay off in Congress today. He
explained that his goal is to shift the Democratic Party's position on Israel
through its younger generation.
As he put it, "We're playing the long
Happily, to date, they are losing the long game as well as
the short game both in Israel and the US. While it is important to remain on
guard against radicals like Friedman and Rosenberg and their fellow travelers on
campuses, it is also important to recognize that despite their powerful
positions, they remain marginal voices in both Israel and the
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JWR contributor Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East Fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, DC and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where her column appears.
© 2009, Caroline B. Glick