U.S. Jews failed to give their kids the ‘Israeli smell’ — Israeli minister laments

Last week Israel’s minister of Diaspora Affairs, Nachman Shai, made headlines when he said that young American Jews supporting Black Lives Matter are a threat to Israel.

I just listened to Shai’s full comments to the American Jewish Committee on August 5, and he said some other remarkable things about how the Israel lobby works:

American Jews are Israel’s “bridge” to the Congress and the White House for Israel, Shai said. Evangelical Christians are not. Through their donations and lobbying, American Jews insure that Israel is a bipartisan issue, and they insure that whoever gets into the White House supports Israel, and keeps giving Israel military aid and backing in international forums.

The progressive “Squad” in Congress are a serious threat to this consensus. “I don’t want to hear those voices coming from the Democratic Party sidelines of refusal to send arms to Israel or to support Israel internationally.”

Young Jews who don’t go to Israel are also a threat. Older American Jews screwed up by not making their kids go to Israel, so the kids didn’t get the “Israeli smell.”

Shai’s comments are revealing about how Israel has always maintained its power and impunity: by issuing demands to the Israel lobby– the Jewish branch, not Christian Zionists.

Bear in mind that Nachman Shai is a member of the Labor Party, a liberal Zionist, a mainstay at J Street, the liberal Zionist lobby in the U.S. So when J Street says that we have to maintain “robust” aid to Israel, and keep Israel support a bipartisan issue and not let it get politicized, J Street and Shai are reading from the same playbook.

Let’s go to the audio. Shai says that in their views of Israel, some American Jews are guilty of “arrogance and ignorance.” As Israelis are when they look at America.

On both sides, I can identify arrogance and ignorance… I guess you know much more about us than we know about you, but still you don’t know the whole Israeli story.

Every young American Jew needs to go to Israel for indoctrination purposes or Israel will lose them.

What I would like to see if you ask me, as a minister on Diaspora Affairs, is that every young student, starting from high school, university, young adult will have an Israeli experience, will spend some time in Israel– a few weeks, preferably a few months if not longer. And that will build a certain attachment to Israel that hopefully will survive for many years. Visiting the country is the key. If you cannot visit the country, we will send Israelis to teach and we will be working with American Jews as we have been doing but in a smaller volume. We would like every young Jew to be part of this story because I am afraid that we are losing them.

Shai has had studied American Jewish attitudes, and there is no easy solution. This will take years to fix. The problem? Previous American Jewish generations screwed it up by not getting their kids to have that “Israeli smell.”

And now those Jews without the smell are functioning inside Jewish communities!

What we see now is a culmination of mistakes committed by previous generations, kids that missed Jewish education, students that did not attend anything to do with Israel– they grow and they became adults and they function within the communities without any Jewish and Israeli background. How do you bring them into the system, I have no idea. But if they have the right roots, that’s what I mean, if you make sure that they have attended school, classes, courses briefings, visits–everything which has the Israeli smell and visions, you will have in the future other people. It will take time.

The joke here is on Shai: For 30 years the American Jewish community has thrown itself into Israel indoctrination, with Jewish schools and free trips to Israel for Jews under 26, financed with millions from Sheldon Adelson, Mark Cuban, Robert Kraft, the Tisch family, Charles Bronfman, Michael Steinhardt, Haim Saban, Leslie Wexner, Leonard Cohen, and Stacey Schusterman among others… And it still hasn’t worked! No, those older Jews made a lot of mistakes! (They gave Max Blumenthal a free trip to Israel and how did that work out!) Good luck Nachman Shai!

On to the politics of the lobby. Seffi Kogen of the American Jewish Committee asked how Shai deals with the “radicalisms” of the U.S. Jewish community, such as assimilation and anti-Israelism, and Shai then trashed Jews who support Black Lives Matter and said Israel needs to keep those Jews on board because Jews are the “bridge” to the Congress.

When I briefed the cabinet the other day I said, if we see more of the radical left or the progressive liberal Jews continuing to support BDS and Black Lives Matter, as similar to the Palestinians, if they relate to Israel as a genocide state or an apartheid state and so on, we may lose America – because the bridge to the Democratic party and to the Republican party goes through the American Jewish community. And that’s the only bridge I believe in.

The Jewish lobby. Not Christian Zionists:

There were ideas to rely on other groups in America today. You know exactly whom I mean. No– I believe only in you. And I have to make sure that 100s of thousands of you will stay with us. I mean they may be very critical of what’s going on in Israel, I also have a lot of criticism. It doesn’t matter. Basically we should share the same values, we should believe in the same things. We should get together and help each other for a common future.

Shai’s bottom line is, Keep the money flowing to Israel and shut down the Squad. Because the 10-year guarantee of 38 billion in military aid Obama made is about to run out. So American Jews have to go to bat.

I don’t want to hear those voices coming from the Democratic Party sidelines of refusal to send arms to Israel or to support Israel internationally. And you know exactly what I mean. I rely on you, on the internal American public discourse, to try and figure out, Can you produce other voices, in Democrats or Republicans politicians and party lines.

We need you for this. Not only for your donations and other ways of support, which I appreciate very much. I speak about politics, I speak about the political game, I speak about lobbying, I speak about public diplomacy – we need you for that.

Now you know why the Democratic Majority for Israel just spent over $2 million painting Nina Turner as a nutty radical, and why even liberal Zionist groups are for military aid to Israel. Because they’re the bridge. Israeli leaders have told them that. “We need you for this.” Or as David Remnick complained ten years ago about Israel demanding that we support the occupation: “The Jewish community is not just a nice breakfast at the Regency.”

Shai on the goal:

What is success? The success in terms of America is that we will be able to maintain bipartisan support to Israel. That any president, whoever he or she will be, will share Israel’s values and interests… That means investment. It doesn’t go without huge investment in this arena, the political arena.

I wonder what the Foreign Agents Registration Act says about all this.

By the way, here is Yossi Alpher at Americans for Peace Now saying that actually, American Jews do have that Israeli smell and they don’t like it:

[A]ssuming Israelis and Palestinians continue their shared march of folly toward some sort of single, binational political entity, “will it matter?” And if so, when? It already matters to the American Jewish mainstream and other liberals who see Israel’s path as a violation of their values. Yet that objection barely resonates with more and more Israelis whose ‘mainstream’ is increasingly right-messianic, who are convinced Israel has no viable Palestinian peace partner, who have smart hi-tech solutions for policing Palestinians, who reject the two-state solution, and who view outside criticism as uninformed and naïve…

Alpher’s also worried about that MOU — the memorandum of understanding that gives Israel $3.8 billion a year.

Without American support in the United Nations, without American jet fuel, without American arms, Israel is in trouble. Here the role of the American Jewish community is only one of many potential factors. Leaving aside the fearful strategic consequences for Israel of abandoning its alliance with American Jews and abandoning democratic values, this is the real worst-case consequence of ‘apartheid’–even if the term does not really fit.

I think Alpher’s wrong about the “many” factors. There’s one game, the American Jewish community. Nachman Shai just said it.

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