American Jews Must Mobilize America’s Silenced Pro-Israel Majority

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Jewish Journal 14 .02.2024


American Jews Must Mobilize America’s Silenced Pro-Israel Majority


Four months after October 7, American Jews are still reeling.  Polls find American Jews feeling threatened by antisemitism – validating the need for Robert Kraft’s Super Bowl commercial denouncing Jew-hatred, and all bigotry. The Jewish People Policy Institute’s Voice of the People  Index keeps finding that most American Jews support Israel’s war against Hamas – even if some Palestinians are harmed unintentionally in the crossfire. And most American Jews agree with the record 24 percent  of Americans who recently told Gallup pollsters that America is not supporting Israel enough. My first post-October 7th  speaking tour to the US confirmed those results: most American Jews are Awakened Israel Warriors feeling deeply connected to Israel –and totally committed to its survival.


These American Jews are donating generously, doom-scrolling constantly, still crying periodically, and hugging their Israeli friends with a newfound intensity. Most are fed up with Benjamin Netanyahu – proving that you can love a country and hate its prime minister, while disproving the big Bibi lie, long passed its expiration date, that he has magical abilities with Americans. His refusal to retire annoys most American Jews and most American politicians, especially in the Biden Administration. 


Most of these American Jews have always passionately supported Israel and the Jewish people. Others are newly-awakened to Zionism’s relevance in their own lives. They keenly feel the anti-Semitic venom of the ongoing Hamas and Palestinian attack, the Jew-hating delight of the anti-Zionists, and a profound love for the plucky, embattled Jewish State.


As a result, for the first time in their lives, these Awakened Israel Warriors feel out-of-synch with America. Even in Florida, where law-and-order holds and the Jew-hating threat feels diminished because the authorities have zero-tolerance for hooliganism, many of these Jews feel a gap. They still feel unsettled since October 7, as everyone around them goes about their daily lives.


The last time Israel suffered so much— when Palestinians unleashed a wave of anti-Oslo terrorism in the early 2000s — American Jews were in concert with Americans’ post-9/11 anti-terrorist agenda. This time, it’s different. Even though Iran proxies have launched over 180 attacks against America, even though most Americans are pro-Israel, American society is not sufficiently enraged by the Iranian threat. The denial is dangerous and exasperating.


That difference, and the media’s hyper-criticism of Israel’s justified, remarkably restrained military tactics, is leading American Jews to miscalculate politically. The conversation, pushed by the mainstream media, the Ivy Leagues, social media, and, increasingly, the Biden administration, emphasizes Israel’s supposedly disproportionate response, the poor “innocent” Gazans, and the delusion that a two-state solution will work – even though 89 percent of the Arab world , not just the Palestinian people, resist normalizing relations with Israel.

A second, smaller group of American Jews – call them the Liberal Worriers – echo those concerns. These Israel-faultfinders are psyching out mainstream American Jewry – and the American Jewish leadership organizations.


Watch the polls. Don’t focus on the young people who in the future might be anti-Israel (or might change). Focus on the overwhelming majority of the American people still appalled by October 7, who understand that the only way to prevent another calamity is by crushing Hamas militarily. These are the Silenced Majority, who feel pro-Israel but don’t quite know how to show their support. Call them the Fetterpeople – people like Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senator, John Fetterman, who refuse to let illiberal liberals ruin genuine liberalism with their anti-Zionist agenda. And these are the patriots who notice that the pro-Palestinians merge their anti-Americanism with their Anti-Zionism. These anti-Israel, unpatriotic goons vandalize iconic American institutions, violate core American ideals, and, believe it or not, cheer America’s enemies like the Houthis – chanting “Yemen, Yemen make us proud, turn another ship around.”


The Biden Administration needs to hear more from these mainstream pro-Israel Americans, who must demand more loudly that America support friends like Israel and target deadly foes like Iran’s mullahs. That’s why the next pro-Israel rally should fill the Washington mall with non-Jews as well as Jews. That’s why pollsters, columnists and activists should emphasize that supporting Israel is the right as well as popular thing to do too. And that’s why ever more Americans must be mobilized to support Israel’s right to defend itself – asking, What would you do against such a threat? 

Those who don’t offer alternatives beyond “not targeting civilians” fail to acknowledge the depth of Hamas’s military build-up in Gaza and its evil cowering behind civilians and civil niceties. They must be educated to understand why calling right now for a two-state solution sounds to Israelis – and Hamas –like demanding a blanket pardon for Osama Bin Laden four months after 9/11.


I keep asking my Liberal Worrier friends – “Mah Nishtana?” Why is this two-state call different from the other two that triggered Jewish bloodbaths? In the 1990s, the push for a Palestinian state armed Palestinian militias, reduced Israel’s security presence in most Palestinian cities, and empowered terrorists who murdered over 1,000 Israelis when Yasir Arafat stopped negotiating in September 2000, and returned to violence in earnest.  Despite that bloody lesson, in 2005 Israel withdrew from every inch of Gaza – only to see the Hamas coup, the rise of Hamasistan, waves of rocket fire, and, ultimately, the massacre of October 7.  No two-state champion bothers to explain why it will work this time.  Just as Israelis who believe that Bibi still has some special touch sound so 1980s, these two-staters sound so 1990s. Shouldn’t we learn from history?


Beyond the Awakened Warriors and the Liberal Worriers are two other groups. There are the Israel-Weary Ones. They don’t want to be  singled out as Jews, forced to defend Israel, or targeted. They just want to go back to normal. Unfortunately for them, life doesn’t always cooperate. 


And there are the marginal, rabid, anti-Zionist Woke Warriors.  American Jews spend far too much time worrying about them, arguing with them, giving them attention. We should concentrate on reaching out to the non-Jewish pro-Israel majority, rather than bashing our heads trying to convince this spoiled, disloyal, totalitarian minority. They feed off the negative attention, just as the mainstream needs more positive attention, more cultivation. 


Watch the tear-jerking #StandUpToJewishHate commercial, “Tony,”  showing a kind non-Jew silently painting over anti-Semitic graffiti marring his Jewish neighbor’s garage.  That’s the America I know.  Over the years, whenever I have reached out to non-Jewish friends to support Israel, denounce anti-Americanism, and fight bigotry, they usually responded positively, thanking me for showing them how to act on their feelings and values. And if they say “no” to such basic requests – at least you know who your friends are – and aren’t.

Traumatic moments like October 7 are powerful reset moments. The American Jewish community has a remarkable opportunity to revitalize a constructive Zionist debate about what Israel means individually and communally, in Israel and abroad. More broadly, with a rare moment of bipartisan support for Israel in Congress, this is a moment to re-energize the broader pro-Israel agenda, as more Americans see how anti-American anti-Zionists are, and how America’s values, interests and challenges resonate with Israel’s.


A Distinguished Scholar in North American History at McGill University currently living in Jerusalem, Gil Troy is an award-winning American presidential historian and a leading Zionist activist. He is, most recently, the editor of the new three-volume set, “Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings,” the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People ( www.theljp.org )  . Two years ago he co-authored with Natan Sharansky Never Alone: Prison, Politics and  My People,  was published by PublicAffairs of Hachette. Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of  The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist. 




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Prof Gil Troy · 20 Derech Bet Lechem · Apt 2 · Jerusalem 9310925 · Israel