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We are losing US Jews, says Israel minister issuing warning of a progressive bloc

NABLUS, WEST BANK - JULY 02: Members of Neturei Karta Haredi Jews holding banners gather during a protest against Jewish settlements in Beita district of Nablus, West Bank on July 02, 2021. ( İssam Rimawi - Anadolu Agency )

With growing numbers of American Jews turning their backs on Israel and progressive movements like Black Lives Matter (BLM) and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign on the ascendency, the country's Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai issued a stark warning over the Zionist state's future.

Shai sounded the alarm over the growing unity of American Jews, who are predominantly liberal, with groups like BLM and BDS in a podcast with the pro-Israel advocacy group the American Jewish Committee.

"The other day, I briefed the cabinet and said: 'If we see more of the radical left and progressive liberal Jews continuing to support BDS and Black Lives Matter, and similar to the Palestinians they relate to Israel as a genocide state or an apartheid state, we may lose America,'" Shai told the American Jewish Committee according to the Haaretz.

"The bridge to the Democratic Party and the Republican Party goes through the American Jewish community, and that's the only bridge I believe in," Shai explained, warning that Israel is in danger of losing bi-partisan support in Washington; a position it has enjoyed for decades.

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Shai explained that he would be successful in his role if he manages to "maintain bipartisan support for Israel" and ensure that whoever sits in the White House "will share Israel's values and interests". He added that this would require investment in the political arena.

It's not clear what prompted Shai to issue this warning now as the growing split between American Jews and Israel is not a new phenomenon. Sometimes referred to as a "messy breakup" the wedge between the two communities is said to be getting wider by the year.

American Jews are by and large liberals who vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic party. Israel however has been in a slow but inevitable decline towards apartheid and other forms of structural racism which liberal's claim to abhor vehemently.

Israel's growing reputation as a pariah state, alongside the fact that it was founded on the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians and its subsequent military occupation – which is far and away the longest in modern history – have made it impossible for American Jews to reconcile their liberal values with support for a state accused of committing crimes against humanity by imposing an apartheid regime on Palestine.

In April, the pre-eminent human rights organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) joined a host of other prominent groups to declare that Israel is committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution.

Prior to HRW's report, Israeli human rights group B'Tselem branded Israel an "apartheid" state that "promotes and perpetuates Jewish supremacy between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River." Echoing the UN's 2017report which concluded that Israel was practising apartheid, B'Tselem dismissed the popular misconception that it is a democracy within the Green (1949 Armistice) Line.

In an article two months ago, two former Israeli ambassadors to South Africa also denounced Israel as an apartheid state by drawing parallels with the system of racial segregation in South Africa which ended in 1994.

It's likely that a recent poll indicating that a quarter of US Jews consider Israel to be an apartheid state promoted Shai to issue the warning. Twenty-five per cent of American Jews agreed with the statement that "Israel is an apartheid state" and 22 per cent agreed that "Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians."

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