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The al-Aqsa intifada of autumn 2000 and the ensuing war of attrition have brought security back to the center of the Jewish agenda and have decisively shaped the ongoing process of mutual renegotiation of identities between Israeli and American Jews. Recent political and security developments have clarified the indivisibility of Jewish security within and outside Israel, as well as the inextricable link between anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity. Recent efforts to equate Zionism with racism and to deny the legitimacy of the State of Israel and the connection of the Jewish people with the land of Israel have revived the kinship dimension of the Middle East conflict, involving and implicating Jews worldwide in Israel's political struggles. At the same time, the increase in the intensity of political violence in the Middle East and the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States have thrown into stark relief the ties between anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism. The second intifada has motivated Israel to articulate a desire to expand the security role of its Jewish kin in the United States in ways that may empower Diaspora voices on the most fundamental issues of boundaries and sovereignty. This shift may call into question the core of the traditional Zionist vision, which always gave supremacy to the sovereign state over the Diaspora. It also has the potential to broaden the concept of national security beyond state frontiers.
From National to Religious Conflict?
The eruption and continuation of violence between Palestinians and Israelis have been accompanied by a rhetorical raising of the stakes that has called into question the very possibility of political accommodation of any kind. Erstwhile Palestinian moderates who had ostensibly committed to a political solution of the conflict with Israel indulged in virulent anti-Semitic propaganda and sought to delegitimize the very notion of a Jewish people, and the right of this people to a sovereign homeland. This completely transformed the Israeli and Jewish political agenda, abruptly halting or even reversing salient political trends of the previous seven years at least. The apparent breathing space of the years following the September 1993 Oslo accord had allowed Israel to redirect some attention from security to a long list of pressing issues bearing on national identity. These issues included the incorporation of Israeli culture into the Middle East, the enhancement of citizenship for Israeli Arabs, the relationship between Israel and the Diaspora on religious pluralism, globalization of the market economy, growing class disparities, and various interlocking issues pertaining to the nature of the Jewish-Zionist state, all of them manifestations of a long-running debate between universalism and particularism. Security certainly did not recede entirely as a major Israeli concern, as violence continued throughout the peace process. However, Israel's main political parties and its security, economic, and intellectual elites generally agreed that a peace deal was indispensable and inevitable, allowing "soft" security and even non-security issues to become politically prominent. By the time of the May 1999 general election campaign, the Israeli public could detect little difference in general strategic and diplomatic vision between the two main parties, One Israel on the center-left and Likud on the center-right. Party leaders argued instead over specific details of agreements and their implementation and over domestic policy.
Renewed violence and the breakdown of the Oslo process have dramatically altered both Israeli and American Jewish thinking. The quest for conflict resolution has been replaced by a less ambitious vision of conflict management. June 2001 surveys showed that an overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews and Arabs "think" or "are certain" that there will be no peace in the coming years. (1) This new reality has already imprinted itself on the Israeli psyche and has shaken Israeli Jews and Arabs. Both sides have retreated back to the "us vs. them" postures of Israel's early years. Long accustomed to the periodic outbreak of violence in the West Bank and Gaza, Israeli Jews had generally seen the "Green Line" demarcating these territories as a geographic and psychological barrier between their relatively ordered, peaceful lives within Israel's pre-1967 boundaries and the zone of conflict on the other side. But the participation of Arab Israelis in the violence and their open support for--and even identification with--mi litants' refusal to recognize the State of Israel came as a powerful shock to Israeli Jews, especially members of the Zionist Left. Instead of the familiar debate over the disposition of the West Bank and Gaza, controlled by Israel since 1967, the conflict had in many ways retreated to its pre-1948 configuration, with the very existence of the State of Israel being called into question. In May 2001, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, a veteran of all of the country's political struggles since the 1950s, said that this was the most fateful hour in Israel's history. These changes in Israeli perceptions brought about an apparent realignment of Israeli politics, with Sharon's overwhelming election win in February 2001 signifying the return to a security-focused agenda and discrediting the "de-securitized" Oslo vision. Many leading figures in the Labour Party, the Left's political anchor, accepted posts under Sharon and generally agreed to his principal policy of rejecting political negotiations with the Palestinians while violence continued.
The eruption of mass violence in the Middle East also deeply affected the thinking and organizational efforts of the majority of American Jewry that had generally become habituated to think and act in a "peace" mode. American Jewish organizations that had spent the better part of the 1990s learning to focus inward on domestic challenges and searching for new roles in the changed political environment produced by the Oslo accords quickly reverted to their pre-Oslo programming and rallied to Israel's side as the extent of the danger to Israel became clear. After nearly a year of violence, Mort Zuckerman, Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, commented, "one of the things Arafat has accomplished is a greater degree of unity among Jews in Israel and [the United States]. There is a wider degree of support and unanimity within this community than has existed in a long time." (2)
This fundamental reorientation was but a small indication of the apparent expansion of the Middle East conflict from a Palestinian-Israeli dispute to one between the Jews and their American supporters and the Arab-Islamic worlds--in other words, the magnification and spread of a theoretically solvable conflict between competing nationalisms over tangible assets such as land and water, to a confrontation between mutually exclusive cultural and religious absolutes. Yasser Arafat, coming Out of Camp David in July 2000 to embark on a tour of Muslim countries in defense of Jerusalem, was instrumental in transforming the conflict from a national to a religious one, especially in the context of the struggle over the Temple Mount. Already at Camp David the Palestinian leader warned President Clinton, "Do you want to attend my funeral? I will not relinquish Jerusalem and the holy places.
...Jerusalem is not a Palestinian city only; it is an Arab, Islamic and Christian one. If I am going to take a decision on Jerusalem, I have to consult with the Sunnis and the Shiites and all Arab countries." (3) For Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization this was a departure from previous rhetoric that theirs was a nationalist struggle, and that their quarrel was therefore with Zionism, and not with Jews. The Palestinian Authority and media increasingly abandoned the pretense of attacking Israel only and indulged in virulent attacks on Jews in general, going as far as the use of blood libels and Holocaust denial. Other Arab governments and media publicized similar material. The new PLO posture reflected, in fact, the philosophy of the Hamas, which denies Jewish religious connections to Israel, denies Israel's right to exist, and considers Zionism "simply a racist entity responsible for translating the aggressive Jewish idea into a belligerent reality." (4) Arafat's call upon the larger Arab and M uslim communities for support against Israel revived for Israelis and American Jews, even those advocating the most far-reaching territorial concessions, the image of Israel as an embattled minority, a David to the Goliath of the Arab and Muslim worlds. (5)
In response to the PLO's religious-oriented campaign, dozens of diaspora Jewish leaders, including six former chairmen of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, took out a full-page advertisement in Israel's leading newspapers, The New York Times, and major Jewish-American publications in January 2001 declaring that "Israel must not surrender Judaism's holiest site, the Temple Mount." The signatories wrote that the fate of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount could not be decided solely by the Israeli public, but rather by the entire Jewish people. Malcolm Hoenlein, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents, said, "Israel has a right to make decisions that affect its security. All Jews have a right to discuss it, but it's up to the government of Israel. The Temple Mount is a different issue. It belongs to all Jews, it is the inheritance of all Jews, and all Jews have a vested interest in it." (6)
Soon after the new round of violence erupted in September 2000, many Jews in Western Europe (especially in countries with large Muslim communities) and even in North America were exposed to shockwaves of hostility and insecurity. (7) As anti-Semitism returned to the top of the Jewish international agenda, culminating in the unprecedented attempt to make Jews a pariah community at the 2001 world conference against racism in Durban, "Jewish security" inside and outside of Israel appeared, as in the past, as a web of deeply entangled strands of mutual dependence and mutual constraint. This at a time when the leading trend in Israel-Diaspora relations emphasized a divergence between identities, primarily on the issue of religious pluralism. (8) In the conflict's earliest days, when media images of Palestinian rock-throwers facing Israeli guns invoked worldwide condemnation of Israel, Jews and Jewish institutions and property came under physical attack everywhere from the United States to Central Asia. Then-Diasp ora Affairs Minister Michael Melchior said at a cabinet forum, "The effect of what is happening in Israel on Jewish communities in the world obligates us to take special responsibility." (9)
While many in Israel have expressed a deep yearning for political unity in this time of peril, some fear that the return to the "us vs. them" mindset inhibits Israeli Jewry from thinking about questions of state vs. national identity that began to take center stage during the Oslo years. This view has been articulated by the writer Yossi Klein Halevi, who wrote in the Washington Post that "Israel's regression from a state groping toward new self-definition back to a traumatized society focused on personal security and national survival" prevents the society from focusing on critical non-security matters. (10) Yet, others have seen in the newfound unity …