‘The Nation’ lifts up Jewish fears over Palestinian realities in a Zionist tract

Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in the north of Lebanon (UNRWA)

Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss  /  January 14, 2022

The Nation runs a right-wing religious endorsement of Zionism that opposes BDS and leaves out the forced expulsion of Palestinians from their land.

Important and dismaying: The Nation [Washington] has run a full-throated defense of Zionism as a thousands-of-years old connection of Jews to their land, and a project necessitated to this day by the threat to Jews in the west from antisemitism. Jews suffer “oppression” and “discrimination” in the west, writes Alexis Grenell, a political consultant and columnist.

The article, “How the Left Alienates Jews,” is remarkable for several reasons. At a time when The Nation is giving a platform to Mohammed El-Kurd, the poet and Sheikh Jarrah activist, it is offering a sop to the diehard Jewish Zionist community which obviously is a big part of its New York liberal constituency, and likely its donor base too. Rightwing Zionists are loving this article.

The argument is also remarkable for its denial of the Palestinian experience in favor of Jewish fears. Grenell says the left doesn’t understand how much Jews have to fear as an oppressed minority, so the left discounts the need for a Jewish state. This is the Jewish historical id talking and no one should discount those fears. They are meaningful, and flight is a genuine response to persecution. But in the Jewish case, Israel is much less safe than the U.S., and the reason is because of ethnocentric attitudes like Grenell’s that erase the Palestinian experience. She says that Jews are connected to the land from time immemorial, and the two state solution is a “compromise” for Jews –

a compromise position that reflects a historical reality dating back thousands of years, one that most self-described anti-Zionists seem uninterested in learning anything about.

There is no discussion of the Palestinian connection to that land, no understanding that the “two-state solution” for Palestinians has been an endless charade to justify apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

Grenell laments “the oppression of the Palestinian people but describes them as an ethnic minority in the land, and says progressives must not boycott Israel over its mistreatment because Jews have bad memories of boycotts going back to the Nazis. And going back to mythological history too: BDS strikes “profoundly emotional chords” in Jews because “in the Jewish liturgy ‘Am Yisrael’ refers to the ‘nation of Israel,’ often used interchangeably to mean the Jewish people, and our collective identity is inextricably bound up with centuries of forced exile from a historic homeland.”

So the recent Palestinian exile counts for nothing in this article against biblical “history” and fears, and anyone who doesn’t acknowledge that is “goysplaining” to Jews, she says.

The article also erases anti-Zionist Jews. A recent survey says that 40 percent of young Jews see Israel as an apartheid state and 20 percent say it has no right to exist as a Jewish state. But Grenell works as hard as other Israel lobbyists do to equate Judaism and Zionism. Jewish voices should be “leading” the progressive discussion of Israel, and not BDS-supporters, because Jews don’t support BDS, she says.

“Surveys consistently show overwhelming opposition to BDS among American Jewry, including young people and those who identify as secular or ‘cultural’ Jews.”

I’m told the comments at The Nation are critical. Twitter is publishing derision. “Is this a way to appease Zionists after giving mohammad elkurd a column in your paper? Bc it’s just ugly and gross… A place can have religious significance without justifying war crimes, ethnic cleansing, occupation, and apartheid to support hostile take-over and to maintain control over natives,” 48Refugee writes. “I’m just confused as to how this person thinks they are qualified to talk in broad strokes about two things with widely divergent ideas and experiences: ‘Jews’ and ‘the left’ cannot be reduced to one parochial viewpoint.”– Vilde Chayeh. “Drivel,” and not worthy of the Nation, says Alex Kane of Jewish Currents. “A despicable hit piece on DSA that the Nation should be ashamed of having published” — Nathan J. Robinson. “Zionism is white supremacy. What does that make you?” — Yoav Litvin.

My criticism is the denial of Jewish power in the U.S. In describing antisemitic violence, Grenell goes on to accuse the left of mysticism about Jewish media and political power. She puts the “Zionist lobby” in quotes as if this is a conspiracy theory not the lived reality of foreign policy that even the New York Times acknowledges; and says that the Democratic coalition relies on Jewish voters when plainly the Jewish presence in the Democratic Party is far more than that: we make up much of the professional class of the party, and are the biggest donors too, and among the leading media figures. And meantime the Republicans out-Israel one another to get Miriam Adelson’s millions.

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006

Thanks to Dave Reed, Adam Horowitz, James North, Donald Johnson and Bob Herbst