More on Peter Beinart

The Peter Beinart event continues to reverberate within the Jewish community. (See here.) The whole thing is rather surreal. Critics focus a great deal on why American Jews might be excused for carving out a special place for ethnic nationalism while holding on to their liberal attitudes in the US. James Kirchick writing in Foreign Policy is among many who say it’s all the Palestinians’ fault.

There’s never any mention of the possibility that the liberalism of American Jews is a strategy that is well suited to Jewish ethnic aims in the Diaspora but is quite unsuited for Israel. Jewish liberalism in the Diaspora is a sign that Jews are morally superior people who have been forced by circumstances to accept a certain amount of illiberalism in order to have a Jewish state at all. As I noted previously, the reality is that the most prestigious and powerful Jewish communal organizations, such as the ADL, see no problem at all in supporting the most extreme forms of ethnonationalism in Israel while at the same time framing their advocacy of liberal policies in America as stemming from the very nature of Judaism as an ethically superior group — despite the fact that these liberal policies conform to Jewish group interests in the US and effectively undermine White identity and interests. Beinart is a bit more honest in at least feeling a tad of cognitive dissonance in this state of affairs.

In general, there is very little mention of one of Beinart’s main points–that the entire Jewish community in Israel and in the Diaspora is likely to become more religious and more nationalistic over time because of demographic trends. Simply put, the orthodox and nationalist elements are the ones having the babies. In his critique of Beinart, Steven M. Cohen writes that the main factor influencing the lack of involvement of young Jews is intermarriage — the “departure from all manner of Jewish ethnic ‘groupiness,’ of which Israel attachment is part.” Beyond that, secular Jews have fewer children than their religious/nationalist brethren, with the result that the Jewish community in general is moving in their direction.

As an evolutionist, I see this as natural selection for ethnocentrism within the Jewish community. In traditional societies, even the less ethnocentric Jews were more or less forced to marry within the community. Marrying a non-Jew effectively removed one from the community. It also carried huge penalties to the entire family that remained behind–a blot on their name for as long as communal memory remained. But since the Enlightenment, Jews have been able to marry outside the community, and many have done so. In the same way, traditional pressure to marry kept genes for homosexuality in the gene pool because people with homosexual tendencies got married and had children. There is doubtless strong selection pressure against homosexuality now — ironically, because gay activists have succeeded in making homosexuality an acceptable lifestyle  in the West. Intermarriage was seen as a serious problem by the early Zionists who viewed the creation of a Jewish state as preventing intermarriage and allowing Jewish ethnic continuity. As Cohen implies, liberal, secular Jews cannot maintain Jewish group ties over the long haul. The demographic engines both in Israel and the US are the more Orthodox and conservative elements–precisely the people who have aggressive, nationalistic attitudes toward the Palestinians.

So Cohen agrees with Beinart that American Jewish activist organizations will be run by nationalist Jews and the entire American Jewish community will be increasingly nationalist. And I predict that American Jewish nationalists will continue to advocate liberal policies in America. Psychologically, greater ethnocentrism would be expected to be linked to seeing issues more in terms of what’s good for the Jews–and rationalizing whatever  is good for the Jews in terms of whatever principles place them in a positive light. As Beinart notes, the Conference of Presidents continues to insist that  “Israel and the United States share political, moral and intellectual values including democracy, freedom, security and peace” — despite the obvious reality that Israel is an apartheid ethnonationalist state. The more ethnocentric one is, the less cognitive dissonance one will feel for holding such attitudes.

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