American Jewish opinion
Eric Alterman's opinion column, "Their spokesmen are bad for the Jews" (Views, Dec. 22) is bad for objectivity. He uses results from our annual survey to assert that American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal, as he is, and then lambasts several major groups, including the American Jewish Committee, for opposing the prevailing views of their brethren. In doing so, he ignores three things.
First, no one can accuse American Jewry of having a shortage of organizations. "Two Jews, three synagogues," the quip goes. There are agencies reflecting every point of view along the political spectrum. Alterman's frustration is that those reflecting his stance have not achieved the success he believes they deserve. If so, the answer lies within, not outside, as he suggests.
Second, as an ideologue, he makes the same mistake as his mirror images on the right. He refuses to recognize the nuance of those in the center, including the American Jewish Committee. In effect, he declares, either you're with us or against us. But the American Jewish Committee defies such wrong-headed characterization. An agency that opposes waterboarding, supports a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, defends church-state separation, and is in the front ranks on civil rights and social justice issues can hardly be classified as right wing.
Finally, Alterman glosses over the survey data that does not bolster his case. In reality, American Jews are schizophrenic on Arab-Israeli issues. Many would be prepared to see Israel make painful compromises for peace, yet, at the same time, have little confidence in most Arab leaders and their long-term intentions regarding the Jewish state. It's precisely that kind of anguished nuance that is missing from his analysis.
David A. Harris, Executive director, American Jewish Committee, New York