American Jews on the left were beside themselves last week. Israel’s Jews did something that utterly infuriated these American Jews: Israel’s Jews overwhelmingly voted for a man of the right (or for other right-of-center parties). And not just any right-winger, but the only leader in the Western world to publicly differ from their hero, President Barack Obama.
To understand their fury, one must first understand that no one is more certain of their moral superiority than the left. This is true the world over, and among Jews it is particularly so. For the leaders of the American Jewish religious left (Reform, Reconstructionist, and now Conservative Judaism) Jews who are politically or socially conservative are a disgrace to Judaism, which, for left-wing Jews, is essentially the same as leftism. Both religious and secular Jews on the left regard Jewish conservatives as moral traitors to the Jewish people.
But certitude of their moral superiority is not the only reason American Jews on the left went ballistic last week. There are deeper, psychological, reasons.
Left-wing Jews live, work and socialize with left-wing non-Jews, and they believe that they are — to their great regret — identified with the Jewish state in the eyes of fellow leftists. Now, when Israel has left-wing governments — as it did in its first few decades and periodically after that — being identified with Israel is not problematic. But with Israel’s Jews repeatedly electing conservative governments, American Jews on the left believe that they must make it as clear as possible that they in no way support a right-wing Israel. Their moral self-esteem needs it and their left-wing credentials need it. Just look at how Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, a lifelong Democratic activist and fervent liberal, has been ostracized from polite left-wing company solely because he is an outspoken defender of Israel.
As American Jews on the left see it, their moral credibility in the eyes of fellow leftists in the news media, Hollywood, and academia is threatened by Israel. They must therefore make it abundantly clear that a) they not only do not support the right-wing government of Israel; they do not even support Israel at this time b) they regard Benjamin Netanyahu as a vile human being; and c) they are ashamed — simply ashamed — of Israel’s Jews for having voted for a right-winger.