heard yesterday

Beinart predicts a rightward shift on Israel among millennial Jews

Lara Friedman suggests progressive newcomers will bring 'more backbone' to Congress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Center for American Progress

Peter Beinart

Jewish Currents editor-at-large Peter Beinart argued that the moderate Democratic center of the Jewish community is collapsing, a move that will ultimately shift the future of pro-Israel advocacy.

Beinart spoke on Wednesday during a virtual panel event hosted by the Arab Center Washington DC — alongside Foundation for Middle East Peace President Lara Friedman, Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi and Carnegie Endowment fellow Zaha Hassan — about shifting demographic and political dynamics within the U.S. on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to Beinart, new generations — millennials and Generation Z — of Jewish Americans are splitting between two camps: less religious “universalistic” Jews who are disinterested in Israeli issues and “highly tribal” Orthodox Jews who align more with the Republican Party on issues related to Israel.

As a result, Beinart predicted, the future of pro-Israel advocacy in the U.S. will likely lean further right, as younger Orthodox Jews become more outspoken and connected on political issues.

“That future is further right than where AIPAC is partly because the Orthodox community is very ensconced in the Republican Party,” Beinart argued. “There are many, many, many, many, many Jared Kushners coming.” 

Friedman focused on potentially significant shifts in the U.S. political environment, including Rep. Eliot Engel’s (D-NY) primary loss to Jamaal Bowman and the resultant race to replace Engel as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and other similar defeats of longtime House members to upstart progressive challengers.

“Things are going to be changing in the next Congress,” she said. “We’re going to see some of the old guard departing.”

Friedman noted that outside spending in Engel’s race and other primaries failed to prevent several incumbents from being unseated.

“That sends a really powerful message to members of Congress,” she said. “There is some hope that [in] the next House in particular, you will see more backbone.”

But Friedman said she does not expect much change from the status quo in a potential Joe Biden administration.

“I think fundamentally it will be an effort to roll it back to the ‘highly successful’ — I say that with sarcasm — policy of the Obama administration,” Friedman told the panel, adding: “Either Trump or Biden… I think it is going to be a more interesting situation next year where you potentially have more progressives willing to hold the line, particularly on constitutional matters.”

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