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The War in Gaza and the Emerging Rift in American Jewish Life

By Peter Beinart and Max Strasser

Produced by Jillian Weinberger

In this interview with the Times Opinion editor Max Strasser, the journalist Peter Beinart explores what he calls the twin pillars of American Jewish life: Zionism and liberalism. Beinart argues that the two are fundamentally in conflict with each other, a longstanding tension that has become even more fraught since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel retaliated in Gaza. In this conversation, Beinart makes the case for liberalism over Zionism and calls on the American Jewish community to see that “Palestinian equality doesn’t need to be a threat to Jewish safety.”

Below is a lightly edited transcript of the conversation.

“The Opinions” is a collection of audio essays from Times Opinion. To listen to this piece, click the play button below.

The War in Gaza and the Emerging Rift in American Jewish Life

A conversation on whether liberalism and Zionism can continue to coexist for American Jews.

Open this article in the New York Times Audio app on iOS.

Max Strasser: Peter, hi.

Peter Beinart: Hi.

Max Strasser: Your recent guest essay starts with the idea that there are two pillars of American Jewish life: liberalism and Zionism — progressive politics and support for Israel. Let’s start with the first one.

Tell me about where American Jews have tended to fall politically, at least until now. And in what ways have liberalism and Zionism been really integral to American Jewish identity?

Peter Beinart: Since American Jews came to the United States in large numbers in the early 20th century, they have identified on the left politically. Some of them came with socialist or communist backgrounds from Eastern Europe, and they merged that — certainly under Franklin Roosevelt — into American liberalism.

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