My Al-Jazeera Appearance on American Jews and Israel

Last Wednesday I went to D.C. to appear on The Stream, a smart Al-Jazeera English show that combines traditional, in-studio interviews with feedback from online social networks. The topic was American Jews' changing views on Israel, the subject of Peter Beinart's new book The Crisis of Zionism, which I reviewed favorably for The Nation.  

I was especially interested in the Skype interview with Saar Szekaly, an artist who appeared on the Israeli version of "Big Brother" as a sort of political, performance art project, in order to raise awareness about what he considers an unjust occupation. On The Stream, Szekaly made the point that the average young Israeli, especially outside of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, has almost no contact with Arabs, Palestinians or Muslims, and that this makes it difficult for many Israelis to understand the depth of Palestinian suffering. Because of the continuing conflict, the security wall, and increased racial and religious segregation, a young Israeli is less likely than her parents or grandparents to have befriended non-Jews. 

This is in remarkable contrast with the experience of young American Jews. Many of us attended racially and culturally diverse colleges, where we encountered the Palestinian narrative and grappled with it. In the post-9/11, Arab Spring era, most of us have far more interest in and contact with the Arab world than our parents and grandparents did in their formative years.

I do wish this segment had included a perspective further to the left, from someone who supports the broader BDS movement, for example, like the writers at Mondoweiss.

an earlier version of this post appears at The Nation

One thought on “My Al-Jazeera Appearance on American Jews and Israel

  1. Doug Sanderson

    I have been watching this Stream interview on Al-Jazeera (1st time I’ve watched that network), and am impressed by the even-handed approach of the show’s moderator. BUT, I sit here frustrated at the sense that many American Jews, and many Israeli Jews, too, seem to START their analysis straight out of BBC News, i.e., “Israel is being mean to Palestinians.” Why is there NO focus at all on the existential crisis under which Israel has existed since its inception 60+ years ago — that Arab peoples are uniformly desirous of terminating Israel, and that the “Palestinians (yes, I’m choosing to use quote marks)” have always supported ongoing acts of terror against Israelis? It seems to me that the more liberal Jews’ attitudes toward Israel’s government NEED to include a fair and workable response to Palestinian terror and its non-Palestinian Arab supporters. But I never hear much about this….

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