Beinart had made the point, which polls and elections support, that the majority of Jews tend to be progressive and liberal in most things, and that the reactionary cast of leaders of American Jewish institutions could not possibly appeal to them—that AIPAC, ADL, and so forth were positively turning off young people on their campuses. Specifically, he argued that the leadership’s brand of “Zionism,” insofar as it had turned on tribalism, Manichaeism, and religious orthodoxy, could not possibly engender a sense of identification with Israel among the very people it most wished to attract.
NOW I STRONGLY supported his notion that there is a misfit between the American Jewish majority and their leadership. And I welcomed the advent of J Street, for all the obvious reasons, and also for quasi-theological reasons that may not be obvious. But is it really true that, if a reactionary leadership is turning young Jews off Israel, a progressive leadership is likely to turn them on? Indeed, if Israel were a social democratic paradise like Denmark, would this bring young Jewish liberals back to Zionism?
Which brings me back—perversely, I admit—to Picasso, say. You look at his early work, at the staged progress of his genius, and you see growing idiosyncrasy and abstraction, of course. But you almost never lose that feeling in your solar plexus that this was an artist who knew how to draw. No matter how abstract the work, you feel that the artist never lost touch with the world from which he was abstracting. What made him a modern artist was his obvious belief that he could take what license he wanted with objects, lines and planes. But what had made him an artist, as it were, before he was a modern, was his mastery of the objects, lines and planes of artists who came before—in the case of this show, Degas.