On the May issue:

The Perks of Isolation

To the Editor:
John Podhoretz observes that Israel’s isolation at the United Nations began in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967 (“Israel’s Splendid Isolation,” May).  Not to quibble about the extent and duration of UN hypocrisy with respect to Israel, but the United Nation’s perfidy to the Jewish state began even before it became a state.  

In November 1947, the General Assembly passed the famous partition Resolution 181, which provided legitimacy to the establishment of a Jewish state.  By the terms of that resolution, a cordon sanitaire was to be formed around Jerusalem (and Bethlehem). The Holy City was envisioned to be an international city where Christians, Jews, and Muslims would exist and enjoy access to their sacred sites. The Arabs, however, had other plans for Jerusalem.  In February and March 1948, gunmen under the direction of Arab leader Abd al-Kader al-Husseini cut the main road connecting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. A siege of the Jewish portion of Jerusalem commenced, and the Jewish population was compelled to ration their food stores. The leaders of the Jewish Agency turned to UN officials to plead the case that Resolution 181 called for an international Jerusalem with a Jewish population. The Jewish leaders called for the UN to enforce the terms of its own resolution (similar to the current day Israeli demand that UN Resolution 1701 concerning south Lebanon be enforced).  While there was a passing notion that U.S. Marines might be employed to escort supply convoys to feed the Jewish portion of Jerusalem, the UN and its member states did nothing to relieve the plight of the starving Jews. It proved to be the first instance of Jewish and Israeli alienation from and disappointment with the United Nations. It has been a continual theme of the relationship ever since.
Doug Klein
Skokie, Illinois

To the Editor:
My compliments to the eloquent John Podhoretz, whose article “Israel’s Splendid Isolation” stimulated my mind and stirred my Jewish heart. Toward the end, Podhoretz alludes to the blindness of Israel’s leaders regarding the gathering danger in Gaza—so true. There are, however, two other now-obvious blind spots that have been so clearly revealed. The first concerns the ramifications of Israel’s dependence on its once stalwart American ally. We now witness that when the going gets tough, the Americans get going, leaving Israel isolated and alone. Israel must dramatically increase its defense budget and greatly diversify its sourcing of all manner of armaments, munitions, aircraft, avionics, missile defense, and so on. Israel must also work to have key elements of its defense procurement come from Israeli sources. The Jewish nation must understand that depending on the non-Jewish world to be the ultimate guarantors of its safety has never, and will never, work. If there is one message that the entire history of the Jewish people makes clear, it is that.

Second, Israel must realize that the nuclear threat from Iran, both to itself and to the world at large, must be ended, and ended now. The mullahs are on the brink of being able to blackmail, and indeed to destroy, the world. They must be stopped. It shouldn’t be Israel’s sole responsibility, but if the world refuses to act, then it becomes Israel’s sole responsibility. Dark choices lie immediately ahead.
Alan Wolfson
Bradenton, Florida

To the Editor:
Thank you, John Podhoretz, for the positive article on Israel. I have taken to reading and rereading “Israel’s Splendid Isolation” when I am in despair, and it lifts me up and gives me hope in these difficult times. The evildoers are at it again, trying to destroy us. But, as you say at the end of your article, “They—we—are not isolated. They—we—are chosen.” Am Yisrael Chai!
Martha Greenblatt
Piscataway, New Jersey

Leaving the Ivies

To the Editor:
Tal Fortgang makes a very convincing case for Jews leaving the Ivy League (“America, Jews, and the Ivy League,” May). I agree with him completely but think he should take it one step further. Progressive American Jews should consider rethinking their allegiance to leftist ideology.  

Fortgang writes, “Top universities are not bastions of Jew-hatred despite being at the vanguard of progressive enlightenment but because of it.” If that is true, then why continue down that path?

There’s an old saying: “Whenever you get two Jews together, you get three different opinions.” Or, as Fortgang put it, “The long-standing Jewish approach to analyzing the world,” in fact, “emphasizes difficult analyses of right and wrong, fair and unfair, rather than shallow observations about power and color.” How is it, then, that so many Jews, who historically celebrate their diversity of thought, are marching lockstep under the influence of progressive liberalism? 

I’m sure that before October 7, most liberal American Jews accepted the “progressive enlightenment” on college campuses as a good thing. That illusion, however, should by now have been shattered. Perhaps it is time to seek out a more hospitable intellectual landscape where the nation’s best heterodox thinkers have a home.
Lawrence J. Feldman
Lake Oswego, Oregon

To the Editor:
Tal Fortgang describes an increase in anti-Israel and anti-Jewish actions at Ivy League colleges and other educational institutions. But anti-Semitism at the Ivies is not in itself new. What’s new is the attention it’s getting since October 7. 

Back in the mid-’70s, when my late husband was an undergraduate at Harvard, he endured plenty of the gentlemen’s-agreement type of anti-Semitism, which was in place a long time. There were houses that didn’t admit Jews, clubs where it was understood that Jews need not apply, organizations that had Jewish quotas, and so on. All of this with the tacit approval of the college administration. The reward for just sucking it up was a Harvard education. 

And Harvard was hardly the exception. The same bans were in place at Princeton, Yale, and other schools.
Toni Kamins
Paris, France

To the Editor:
As a graduate of Cornell University disgusted by its growing tolerance of anti-Semitism, I regard Tal Fortgang’s essay on the Ivies as cogent, compelling, and thought-provoking. It should be disseminated as widely as possible, especially to parents and grandparents of high-school students today.
Edward Hoffman
New York City

To the Editor:
Tal Fortgang questions the value of the “prestige” of an Ivy League education. He is right to do so. I am a retired CEO of a large engineering company headquartered in Baltimore with offices throughout the U.S. It’s worth noting that when hiring aspiring scientist and engineers, we never really focused on which college they attended. We focused on someone who achieved good grades and showed serious dedication to hard work. Whether the candidate’s degree came from the University of Pennsylvania or Penn State really mattered not at all to us. I believe that many other employers feel the same.
Jack Kinstlinger
Towson, Maryland

Tal Fortgang writes:
I thank all who wrote in response to my essay. I share Lawrence J. Feldman’s view that we should seek to build and support institutions that are unafraid to challenge current campus orthodoxies. Toni Kamins’s observation that Jew-hatred has always percolated beneath the surface at elite schools is surely true. But aside from the attention these schools have received for failing to stand up for their Jews, what has changed is that “the reward for sucking it up,” as Kamins puts it, is no longer worthwhile. The education on offer is nothing special; to the contrary, it’s increasingly just power-analysis gobbledygook. Finally, Jack Kinstlinger identifies a crucial takeaway: If we really believe that elite schools use their status to hamper Jewish flourishing in America, we need not be major donors or public figures to erode the mystique that gives them their power. We just need to treat them as if they are nothing special, in whatever realms we can influence. Companies that select for good attributes, rather than credentials, will remain productive and profitable. 

Anti-Zionist Jews

To the Editor:
Thank you for publishing Harvey Klehr and David Evanier’s article on the long-running devotion that some American Jews have had to anti-Zionism and the Communist movement (“The Shameful History of Anti-Zionist Jews,” May). The article helped me understand just how thoroughly these people have committed themselves to the Party. And it was enlightening to discover the level of sophistry they will use to justify their thinking. The history explains a good deal about the left-wing Jews who spout off about Israel today.
Doug Miller
Prescott, Arizona

To the Editor:
Harvey Klehr and David Evanier make it clear that Jew of the far left, like others of the far left, are too steeped in moral equivalence to be able to tell right from wrong. 

The question is: Why are so many Jews adherents of socialism and related utopian fantasies?  Is it their expansive view of humanity? The idea that human nature is changeable and a New Man is just around the corner, if we can just show the way? In any event, it is largely pseudo-intellectualism, and it overshadows reality.

But pride comes before the fall. The good news is that many leftist Jews will eventually be forced to face reality. The bad news is that by then it might be too late.
Ira Winograd
Juneau, Alaska

Harvey Klehr and David Evanier write:
We thank Doug Miller and Ira Winograd for their letters. Mr. Winograd’s question has been the subject of innumerable books and articles over many decades. For many years, the greatest danger to European Jews came from the political right. The utopian hope that Communism would eradicate Jew-hatred (despite Karl Marx’s own vicious contempt for his kin) attracted many Jews to Communism and socialism. That illusion vanished as the Soviet Union replaced Nazi Germany as the chief persecutor of Jews. What the USSR added to the menu was to link anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism. The result was the widespread dissemination of the myth that Israel is a racist-colonial state, to which a small group of Jews has become enamored. Today’s anti-Zionist Jews seem to have forgotten that part of history.

Jonathan Glazer’s Choice

To the Editor:
In thinking about Liel Leibovitz’s article on Jonathan Glazer, it appears that Israel and the Jewish community have reached a critical juncture that has been forced upon them by the rapid rush of events (“Jonathan Glazer, Liberal Jewish Prophet,” May). This rush is only enhanced by the power of simple sound bites, a market of social-media “likes,” the pursuit of virality, and the vast, addictive power of the digital loop. In this environment, any complicated history, such as that of Israel and the Palestinians, stands little chance of being truly understood. Reason and truth are sure to fall by the wayside, as well. That leaves irrationality to flourish as a dominant force in the public square.

Technology has turned the hoped-for progress of the Information Age into a regression toward a new Dark Age. And there’s good reason to expect a more dangerous and fearful future.
Sumner Kagan
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Liel Leibovitz writes:
Amen to Sumner Kagan’s brief and eloquent ode to complexity. And amen as well to the reminder of technology’s role as the steamroller making everything flat, fast, and facile. But let us not repeat the mistake too many well-meaning souls make when they seek refuge in the soothing, warm waters of “complexity.” True, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is a century-old thicket of outrages and heartbreaks. And true, Jews have been waltzing with classical liberal ideas for a long time now, a dance that has also seen its share of missteps and stumbles. But at the core of our current predicament lies a stark and terribly simple question, the same one that has haunted Zionism from its earliest days—and the one, if you’re being pedantic about it, that has resonated for much longer, since the moment the first Jewish sovereign declared the first Jewish kingdom in our indigenous homeland of Israel. The question is this: By whose laws must we live? By the dicta of mighty empires and international communities? Or by our own moral codes, delivered to us from on highest? Should we, in other words, aspire to be like everyone else, or simply be ourselves? Jonathan Glazer delivered one definitive answer. Thankfully, many Israelis and American Jews these days are choosing differently.

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