Tuesday, December 13, 2011

When Israeli Music Was Part of the Progressive Songbook

If your read about the 50-year-old history of Sing Out, the folk song bible, you learn that it "grew out of a legacy of social commitment and a tradition of singing both to effect change and to share the pure enjoyment of songs. The original idea for a magazine was served up by the aspirations of a group of urban singers who believed in the power of song – musicians who raised their voices in harmony and against injustice." At the time of Sing Out's ascendancy, in the 1960's, Israel fit right in as the homeland that promised to redeem centuries of injustice against the Jewish people. Progressives -- except the communist left, that is -- honored the Zionist movement and included its songs among the 'world music' of the day.

Well, that ain't happening anymore. Israeli music is now relegated to Bar Mitzvahs and Federation events and all those cool Jews who are losing faith because, in their view,  Israel is no longer a projection of their progressive ideals, wouldn't be seen dead dancing the Hora.

And haven't we seen alot of breast-beating by those Jews who feel betrayed by their friend. The ball started rolling with Peter Beinart and, my, what a terrific second career he now has lecturing Jewish organizations about their failure to serve as Israel's conscience.
For him, Israel is almost lost to progressive Jews. And, to the younger generation, it is practically dead.

And just in the last couple of days we've had Eric Alterman, whose home is The Nation,  a magazine once supportive of Israel, now a bastion of establishment anti-Zionism. He writes in The Forward about the 'final split' between theocratic Israel and liberal world Jewry. 

Then there is Gershom Gorenberg, author of The Unmaking of Israel, writing in Hadassah Magazine, that despite all he has done to cast it in the most negative light, his progressive Jewish friends mustn't give up on Israel.

Jeffrey Goldberg, a more nuanced hand-wringer, does point out in his review that something is missing from The Unmaking of Israel, namely the role the Arab world has played in undermining Israel's peace efforts and democracy:

"...Gorenberg, like many on the left, pays scant attention (to): the Arab states that provoked the Six-Day War and then, after their defeat, remained defiant and mainly uninterested in a quick exchange of territory for recognition of Israel. Nor does Gorenberg waste much ink crediting various Israeli governments with trying, over the years, to reach an equitable arrangement with the Palestinians (most notably under the aegis of Bill Clinton at Camp David). Nor does he grapple in any serious way with a subject of some relevance — the civil war among Palestinians, between an organization, Hamas, that seeks Israel’s destruction, and a Palestinian Authority that claims adherence to the idea of a two-state solution. Moreover, the corrosive anti-Semitism that long ago infected parts of the Palestinian polity (not to mention other parts of the Muslim world) is dismissed rather blithely."

Even more pointedly, none of Israel's recent Jewish critics admit to the extraordinary successes Israel's delegitimizers have had in the last decade, especially their ability to completely shut down the campus debate on the Middle East. For progressive Jewish students there is no space in which to debate the finer points of Israel's history and political dilemmas and so they are hiding, or giving up.

Jewish critics have bought into the delegitimization and blame Israel exclusively for the retrenchment of liberalism, for a 'siege' mentality, for the ongoing occupation, for the checkpoints, etc., as if there are no actors on the other side. And that seems to be the only song being played and listened to in progressive circles.

1 comment:

  1. The entirety of the White House and MSNBC would be directed to make your life a living hell if you did something like that today.


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