Chomsky and the Juicebox Mafia

 Much internet attention has been given to the “Juicebox Mafia”, a group of very young, Jewish, liberal bloggers who have been sharply critical of Israel, especially in the wake of the recent Gaza incursion. The terms Juicebox Mafia was coined and popularized by ideological opponents of the group (Noah Pollack in Commentary, Marty Peretz in the New Republic);  but like the terms “Tory” and “queer”, it’s an insult which fast became  a badge of honor.  The core of the Juicebox Mafia would include Matthew Yglesias, Spencer Ackerman, Ezra Klein and Dana Goldstein.

I myself (without using the phrase “Juicebox Mafia”) tried to contextualize the group by arguing that we’re witnessing the emergence of a post-Zionist moment, with Jews all over the Diaspora increasingly alienated from Israeli nationalism.

Noam Chomsky seems to agree. In Znet he offers his most extended thoughts on Gaza  and notes that Israel is “losing the allegiance of the population of the West, including younger American Jews, who are unlikely to tolerate its persistent shocking crimes for long.”

What’s important to understand is the new wave of criticism of Israel extends across the political spectrum. (Chomsky has of course been criticizing Israel for decades but it’s fair to say that his ideas have a resonance and reach now that they didn’t in the past).

Chomsky is an old-school radical anarchist, and has little in common with the Juicebox Mafia, who can be described (perhaps too broadly but not entirely inaccurately) as liberal technocrats. The radical left and mainstream liberals rarely agree on much, but there are ways in which a common concern with Israel’s aggressive foreign policy is bringing these two groups together. Also joining this alliance is a sprinkling of old fashioned conservatives and foreign policy realist (most famously Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, but also Scott McConnell, the excellent and underrated editor of The American Conservative).

What we have here is perhaps the beginnings of a very unusual popular front. On an ideological level, anarchists, young liberals and realists have very little in common. Yet all three groups believe that the government of Israel needs to be reigned in, lest its policy of grinding down the Palestinians seriously damages both itself and the United States.

Arrayed against these three groups is the permanent consensus of the America, the decades old policy supported by mainstream Democrats and Republicans alike of unwavering support for Israeli policies despite the costs or consequences.

To what extent can the new critics of Israel make their voices heard and alter the direction of America foreign policy? That is perhaps the most interesting foreign policy question of the present moment.

4 thoughts on “Chomsky and the Juicebox Mafia

  1. In which direction do the “new critics of Israel” wish to move American foreign policy: (1) A one state solution: Jewish and Arab (mostly Palestinian) Israelis, Druze etc. and Palestinians? No need for a right of return for Palestinians. (2) A one state solution : Arab Israelis (mostly Palestinian), Druze etc. and Palestinians. No need for a right of return. (3) A two state solution, with an unlimited right of return and/or compensation? (4) A two state solution, with a limited right of return and/or compensation?

    The right of return referred to is for Palestinians only.

    I could go on with an outline of alternatives, including whether a two state solution would allow for the continuation of a “Jewish” state.

    The new critics may differ in their views of what is a “just” result. Unless some consensus is arrived at , it is unlikely that a movement will emerge which can play a useful role.

    Any movement which is heavy on ideology (Got mit uns or whatever) and light on the possibility of practical achievement: leaving each community with the essentials of what they both seek: autonomy,territorial integrity and hope for a normal life, is unlikely to gain much meaningful support.

    My comments also apply to the antagonists. Insistence on principle (as perceived by the parties) at the expense of obtaining a viable settlement will not advance the real interests of either Palestinians or Jewish Israelis.

    From a Palestinian perspective, a two state solution based on the pre-1967 borders, a divided Jerusalem, along with the removal of most settlements, exchange of land, compensation and a limited right of return, may be unappealing. It might appear more attractive if the possibilities could be considered:(1) A real peace dividend based on economic and educational opportunities. (2) Improved mobility. (3) The two communities, engaged in the experience of normalization, become convinced of their common interests and move towards economic and, eventually, political integration using the EU as a model, which would include: (1) Rights of residence. (2) The right to work, attend school, own property and have professional qualifications recognized.

    Realizing the essential elements (although not all) of what you seek, albeit, over time and in a somewhat altered form, may prove to be unacceptable, as it means giving up on a belief system akin to a religion, with the principle being dictated by God. This position can also be held by those not directly involved. – even if they don’t believe in God.

    In labor relations, the parties to a dispute usually recognize that a successful resolution requires practical thinking. Results are imperfect and expressions of satisfaction with respect to them, are usually muted. However, history shows that continuing the battle employing mostly abstract or concrete appeals to justice is the road to nowhere.

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