Progressive trolling has become a common refrain from the Israeli Right to denounce the excesses of extreme progressivism and the far-left. In the Israeli and American Jewish public discourse, the danger of extreme progressivism is often touted as a moral and political threat to Israel while the real danger to our identity is much more in the Jewish supremacy ideology and its supporters in the American right.
The challenge posed by the extreme Left is not without merit, but it is overblown. The extreme leftist behavior decried in Israeli and United States media remains on the fringes of the progressive camp and has possessed relatively little influence on mainstream politics in both countries. Take, for example, the Progressive Caucus of the American Congress: of about 100 members, 95 continue to vote in favor of security aid to Israel, seemingly contravening the alleged extremities of the American progressive movement and its deep hatred of Israel.
Admittedly, extreme progressivism does express itself in unproductive cancel culture and exaggerated identity politics, which alienates the less radical and divides progressives. The ostracizing, for example, of progressive Zionists from the efforts to promote Palestinian rights and of American Jews from supporting the rights of other minorities demonstrates a limiting approach that blows back on the larger progressive camp itself.
This limiting approach excludes a great many allies and prevents vital connections between spheres of society, which are more powerful when united. The relationship between Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, for example, demonstrated the power of inter-minority political mobilization in the US. The extreme progressive phenomenon, namely cancel culture, which has been demonized, mocked and inflated by conservative media, however, has become an all-too-common political tool for the Right, a tool that has been utilized by more than just the fringe.
On the Right, any criticism of Israel has increasingly been altogether condemned as antisemitic, a phenomenon that looks suspiciously akin to the cancel culture that has been so frequently denounced by conservatives. Charges of antisemitism have been levied against those who oppose the political ideology of Zionism altogether. However, at its conception, it was US Jewish movements that ardently opposed Zionism, and many ultra-Orthodox communities still oppose it today.
Limiting productive conversations about Israel
These accusations of antisemitism severely limit productive dialogue about Israel, while shielding it from accountability. Effectively separating antisemitism from legitimate criticism of Israel helps to develop a healthier discourse and strengthen accountability mechanisms for Israeli democracy; whereas, weaponizing antisemitism as a political tool only discounts the legitimate danger it poses to the global Jewish community.
IRONICALLY, SOME of the most unconditional supporters of Israel today would be unlikely to sign Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence reflects a tolerant progressive Zionism that fully endorses the democratic character of Israel, as well as the equality of all its citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike.
The toxic ideology of Jewish supremacy that has risen to power with this new government is dangerous to the democratic character of Israel and violates the fundamental principles of Israel’s founding. Israel has been making a dangerous transition towards ethnocentric theocracy, a political system more reminiscent of Iran than the only democracy in the Middle East, which Israel proclaims itself to be. The ideological identity of the newly inaugurated government directly contravenes the moral ideals of Israel to which its founders aspired.
Many Trump-aligned populists and white supremacists in the US, like the far-Right populists of Europe, attempt to whitewash their antisemitism through support for Israel. Their partners in the Republican Party, evangelical Christians, have supported Israel as a means to accelerate Armageddon, a process which they believe will culminate in the return of Jesus and the wiping out of the Jews (those who don’t convert, at least).
Tragically, the unpragmatic progressivism of the far-left and the anti-democratic zealots of the far-right rendezvous at the reality of a bloody de facto one-state between the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. This political reality contains an Arab demographic majority and forces the hand of Israel to choose between its identities as a democracy and the homeland of the Jewish People.
In this reality, to choose the former is to abandon the latter; terminate the Jewish national home in the embrace of a free and fair democracy, or fully affirm a state of Jewish supremacy over an Arab majority, a system that would comfortably fit into the definition of apartheid.
The attack on the progressive movement as anti-Israel is a cover to the march of an Israeli far-right government to destroy the Zionist vision. This new government urgently demands political practicality and unity across the liberal spectrum against those who willingly sacrifice Israel’s democratic identity in favor of Jewish supremacism.
The new government and its supporters on the far-right in the US must be met with fierce resistance to secure the vision of Israel’s identity, as laid out in the spirit of our Declaration of Independence.
The writer is the executive director of J Street Israel.