I don't think Alterman knows all that much about the organized American Jewish community because, like many left-wingers, he tends to lump all of the major communal organizations together. It is not true that the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee are on the hawkish side of the debate. Both support peace negotiations and both have taken positions consistent with those held by the majority of American Jewry. The Anti-Defamation League in particular was instrumental in building consensus for Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2006. Both organizations also reflect, in their domestic policies (since both deal primarily with domestic issues) the liberalism of American Jewry. The Conference of Presidents tends to be slightly to the right of these two organizations, but hardly "hawkish."
If the voices of the right-wingers in the American-Jewish community tend to be louder than those of the left-wingers, it is because the right-wingers are more committed both Jewishly and politically than left-wingers are. They visit Israel in greater numbers, send their children to Israel to study and work hard to support Israel politically. These values are not evident among many Jews on the left, who as a group display a certain apathy about their religion and about Israel. Indeed, it often seems as if critics of Israel hypocritically cite their Judaism to lend extra credence to their political views, when the fact of the matter is they are apathetic Jews and their religion is merely coincidental. As long as this is the case, the rightward tone on Israel heard in the American Jewish community will continue to predominate.
Feb 8 2008 - 3:33pm