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Updated Dec 8, 2023, 9:34am EST
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Semafor Signals

Liberal US Jewish group threatens to pull support for Israel’s military campaign

REUTERS/Leah Millis
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J Street, a liberal U.S.-based group that advocates for Jewish rights, said that it is considering withdrawing “organizational support” for Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

“If we do not see evidence soon that the government of Israel is, in fact, making meaningful changes to its conduct of the war and its attitudes regarding post-war arrangements, then J Street will no longer be able to provide our organizational support for the current military campaign,” the group said in a statement Thursday.

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While reiterating support for Israel’s right to respond to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, the group said that it was “strategically and morally unacceptable” for Israeli troops to engage in “large-scale bombing,” including in areas that were meant to be safe for civilians, and for the government to cut off aid to Gaza. They noted rising levels of disease, hunger, and death in the besieged enclave.

The group said that it would call on the Biden administration to “change course” and wield U.S. capital over Israel if Netanyahu “fails to modify the nature of the military campaign”.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Some progressive and liberal Jews across the world have condemned Israel’s bombardment of Gaza from an explicitly Jewish perspective, with many joining pro-Palestinian marches to express solidarity with Gazans. In the U.S., left-of-center Jewish political leaders have been among the leading voices criticizing the Israeli government. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was quick to criticize Israel’s bombardment of Gaza by accusing Israel’s military of violating international laws and conducting war crimes. Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.) cited the Holocaust: The “same history also drives so many of us to fight for the protection of Palestinian lives.” “Israel claims Jews as its national asset, and it weaponizes us, as Jews — [and] seeks to do that to Jews worldwide,” one Danish-based Jewish musician told Al Jazeera, adding that such a claim by Israel makes Jews around the world “human shields of the state.”

Support for Israel among Jewish Americans varies significantly across generations, manifesting an “acute, painful moment for many Jewish American families,” one Columbia University student told the New York Times. While the majority of all American Jews support U.S. President Joe Biden’s strong backing of Israel, the support is less so among Jews 35 and younger, with 53% supporting Biden’s intervention compared to 82% for Jews 36 and above, according to data from the Jewish Electorate Institute. Younger American Jews — who lean Democratic — have little or no memory of “an underdog Israel” surrounded by aggressive foes and instead only know the country as a regional military power with hostile policies against Palestinians under Netanyahu, the pollster told the Times. The Jewish left is also vocal and longstanding, and often in sync with the Israeli left. A 2021 survey from the same group found that a quarter of American Jewish voters believed “Israel is an apartheid state.” That dissent is playing out inside Jewish American organizations, with more than 500 staffers at 140 organizations — often younger employees — signing an open letter on Thursday calling for a ceasefire.

Argentine Jews — the largest Jewish community in South America — are conflicted about President-elect Javier Milei’s hardline embrace of Judaism and Israel. On one hand, many Argentine Jews decried Milei’s attempt of politicizing “Judaism, its texts, and its symbols” for his own electoral gain, Spanish newspaper El País explains. On the other hand, some of Milei’s earliest supporters were prominent Jewish leaders who have rallied behind Milei’s promise to strengthenArgentina’s ties with Israel. “The propaganda that is weaponized against Israel and the Jews – which for all intents and purposes is the same – cannot in any way stop Israel’s right to defend itself,” wrote a former member of Milei’s party during an online debate about whether Argentines should be more critical of Israel’s actions in Gaza.

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