An End to Umbrella Politics

Gershom Gorenberg

My latest column for Moment is now on line:

There’s an old story from the cold war era, the kind of unsourced anecdote that probably never happened but nonetheless contains a truth about history. A Soviet diplomatic delegation once visited the West — so goes the story — and a Jewish member of the team spoke to journalists.

Asked about the Middle East, he parroted the party line and attacked “Zionist imperialism.” Afterward, a reporter cornered him and said, “You’re Jewish. You must have your own opinion about this.”

“Yes,” said the Jew from Moscow, “but I don’t agree with it.”

Sadly, quite a few prominent American Jews — claiming to represent the entire Jewish community — often behave in a surprisingly similar fashion. The party line, in this case, comes from Jerusalem. I’d like to believe that these sometimes self-appointed spokespeople doubt the wisdom of expanding West Bank settlements, or question the attempt to ban two Arab parties from Israeli elections, or feel qualms about the firepower that Israeli forces directed at civilian areas during the war in Gaza. But if they have those doubts in private, they don’t agree with themselves in public. To revamp another cold war saying, originally about Western communists: When it rains in Jerusalem, they open their umbrellas in New York.

And sometimes they open their umbrellas — or rather, their mouths — even when officials in Jerusalem are tactful enough to keep theirs closed

Read the rest at Moment, and come back to SoJo to comment.

While you’re dipping into the new issue of Moment, I strongly recommend reading Eric Alterman’s column on recent Israeli film.

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