It has become increasingly common for prominent liberal Jewish Americans to voice anguished disquiet over Israel’s behaviour. The most visible signs of this trend are books, such as Peter Beinart’s “The Crisis of Zionism”, which came out three months ago, and the growing support for the (admittedly patchy) achievements of J Street, an advocacy group that lobbies for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. In his eighth book, “Knowing Too Much”, Norman Finkelstein, an American academic who became a critic of Israel long before it was fashionable, traces the underlying dynamics of the disquiet.
Mr Finkelstein’s central claim is that American Jews’ feelings about Israel were always guided more by self-interest and personal values than by Jewish solidarity. They cared little about the country before the war of 1967, fearing accusations of “dual loyalty”. Israeli concerns, to them, were not American concerns. They rallied round after the war, Mr Finkelstein argues, chiefly because that was when Israel’s fight against the Arabs became geopolitically tied to America’s fight against the Communists.
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