The « Netanyahu’s anti-American Jews ads » Affair

An interesting issue linked to my previous posts about Jewish demographic policy: the Ministry of Absorption produced a few ads directed toward Israelis living abroad, in the USA in particular.

Here is one of them:


Unexpectedly, these ads sparked a strong hysterical reaction from American Jews: this one and that one for example.

I don’t know exactly why the critics decided that the boyfriend in the ad is an American Jew – the actor probably is, but the character was intended to be « American » more than anything. The core issue is that they felt these ads were insulting for American Jews. Which, from an Israeli point of view, is kind of weird: the ads are not directed at them, and just say obvious things (in an horribly heavy handed way, that’s true): in the USA, Jews do assimilate at a very high rate and (obviously secular) Israelis likewise. In addition the laters also lose their « Israeliness » in the process. The children won’t be real Israelis anymore even if they stay Jewish.

I already quickly discussed the fact that US Jewry does not really have a bright future.  Apparently, it seems that American Jews don’t like when somebody reminds them about it. David Hazony explains it here.
UPDATE: In the same vein, the excellent « Spengler » develops a similar line of thought.

It is interesting that in the ads, the focus is more on « Israeliness » than Jewishness: Yom Hazikaron, Hebrew, and Hanukka – but as a National Festival more than a religious one.

This illustrates the gap between Israel and America’s understanding of Jewish identity: in the USA, Jews are a religion – even if the concept of « ethnic Jews » does exist, mainly for people of Jewish origin who are atheist and/or not halakhically Jewish. In Israel, Jews are a people, a « leum » – meaning a Nation. Judaism is a very important part of the Jewish national identity, but it is not all of it. Hebrew, living in the land of Israel, the army, songs, TV, the collective experiences and history: these are integral parts of the Israeli Jewish identity. The American Jews debates about the ways of dealing with Jewish identity and survival and what it means to be a Jew in America are totally irrelevant for Israelis. I must admit they seem to me largely irrelevant for many non-American Jews even in the diaspora. Many (I can’t say that it is the majority but certainly a big minority) of French Jews share the Israeli view of Jewishness and are aware that you can be a full Jew only in Israel.

In the end, Netanyahu – who of course had nothing to do in this, as much as he has nothing to do in the internet movies we are producing at my ministry – decided to cancel the campaign. American Jews won’t be insulted even if the outrage is more in their imagination than areal. But the facts on the ground won’t disappear because they don’t want to speak about it.

Israelis still believe that they need the money and the influence of American Jews. They don’t. And anyway, within a generation or two, they won’t be enough American Jews left so that it will matter.

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