Jewish Studies colleagues along with readers of Tablet Magazine online and the Jewish Review of Books should find of interest this piece by here by JJ Goldberg. The article is about a recent rightwing plan, promoted by one Bezalel Smotrich, whose party belongs to Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, to annex all of the West Bank, to create there a formal apartheid system with the ultimate aim of encouraging ethnic cleansing. The interest lies not simply because the plan is odious, but that it was promoted in the pages of a Hebrew journal in Israel sponsored by the Tikvah Fund. While Goldberg does not directly address the responsibility of Jewish Studies colleagues involved with the Tikvah Fund and its various and associated platforms in the States, the question is unavoidable. The involvement of the Tikvah Fund with this journal speaks (as per Goldberg) to deep moral rot not just in conservative Jewish thought in the U.S. but also to political blindness, if not creeping moral erosion in Jewish Studies. I want to be clear. I am not accusing anyone of directly or even knowingly supporting this kind of fascism in Israel. But if you work with or have ever contributed to a Tikvah Fund or Mem Bernstein affiliated publications, you have to understand that you are a part of the problem if and for as long as you continue to remain silent in action and word.
“Smotrich’s plan was released September 6 in an 8,600-word lead essay, “The Decision Plan” (Tochnit Ha-Hachra’ah) in the fall issue of the Hebrew-language bimonthly Hashiloach, a conservative journal of ideas published by the New York-based Tikvah Fund.
That’s right – this plan’s institutional backing includes one of the most distinguished philanthropies in Diaspora Jewry. Tikvah is one of several conservative foundations endowed by the estate of the late investment fund manager Zalman-Sanford Bernstein. It is largely controlled by his widow, the philanthropist Elaine Mem Bernstein, and Tikvah’s board of directors includes some of the most prominent names in Jewish neoconservatism, including William Kristol and Elliott Abrams.
In addition to Hashiloach, launched a year ago, Tikvah also has a number of other publications, including the English-language journals Mosaic, Jewish Review of Books and the Library of Jewish Ideas, a book series published jointly with Princeton University Press. Another Bernstein foundation, Keren Keshet-The Rainbow Fund, publishes Nextbook and Tablet Magazine. A third, the Avi Chai Foundation, is a major force in Jewish education reform.
Hashiloach takes its name from an early Hebrew-language journal founded in 1897 by the Zionist essayist and gadfly Ahad Ha’am and later edited by the revered poet Hayim Nachman Bialik before folding in 1919. Tikvah’s choice of that name for its journal might be deemed ironic, given the contrast between the liberal stance of the original Hashiloach, which championed a spiritual, anti-nationalist brand of Zionism, and the hardline politics of the current incarnation.
On the other hand, the choice is in character for the Bernstein family of publications, which tend to combine their core political conservatism with a free-wheeling cultural sensibility and an openness to diverse, challenging ideas.
Still, Smotrich’s right-wing theories are a stretch even for the free-wheeling, open-ended conservatism of Bernstein-world. The notion of a mass population transfer to rid Israel of Palestinians, even if imagined as somehow voluntary, has long been consigned to the fetid corners of Israel’s radical right. If it’s now moved into the mainstream to the point where it can be taken seriously in a distinguished journal of ideas, that’s a depressing comment on the current state of Israeli and Jewish political discourse. If, on the other hand, it hasn’t gained that sort of broad respectability, then its appearance in Hashiloach suggests an alarming erosion of moral focus in Jewish neoconservative thought, as represented by the Tikvah Fund and its affiliates.”