Israel’s Shalem College and its supporter, the center-right Tikvah Fund, are both creations of billionaire New York financier Zalman Bernstein, a baal teshuva who made aliyah. Along with his new Orthodox way of life, Berstein gave generously in order to spread his nationalist, center-right beliefs in Israel and America.
Anyone who still remembers Bernstein knows that he would not be happy with the recent conduct of Daniel Gordis, the Koret Distinguished Fellow at Shalem College.
Gordis is now engaged in a campaign against the democratically elected right-wing government led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and its judicial reform program, even though both Shalem and Tikvah have long advocated for such reform. In fact, the reform package itself was largely the work of Tikvah board member Moshe Koppel and his scholars at the Kohelet Forum.
For example, Gordis spreads the Israeli opposition’s false claim that Netanyahu does not control his own government. “Note Netanyahu’s expression in the upper photo … he had no desire whatsoever to be in the picture, but he controls absolutely nothing any longer,” Gordis recently wrote.
In another case, Gordis stated: “Note, by the way, that Bibi gave the interview to ‘American TV’—he’s more or less stopped speaking to the Israeli press, as he knows that virtually no one here believes him about anything” (emphasis original).
Gordis has expressed support for the anti-reform protest movement that involves left-wing organizations Brothers in Arms, B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence and the New Israel Fund. He does so despite their violent physical attacks, intimidation, harassment, mass disruption and seditious calls for soldiers to desert their posts. He does so even though the protesters are clearly bent on toppling Israel’s democratically elected government.
Sept. 20 represented a new low. Gordis expressed support for a “60 Minutes” hit job on Israel and agreed with helicopter pilot Shira Eting’s outrageous claim about the Israel Defense Forces: “If you want pilots to be able to fly and shoot bombs and missiles into houses knowing they might be killing children, they must have the strongest confidence in the people making those decisions.”
On X/Twitter, analyst Caroline Glick called out Eting: “This woman is a liar. The IDF never orders or permits bombing children. These Israeli anarchists are perpetrating a blood libel against the Israeli Air Force, the IDF and against the State of Israel.”
Gordis responded: “By virtue of what does someone sitting behind a keyboard—and not in a cockpit—get to say that someone who told the absolute truth is a ‘liar’?”
This was a descent into the nether regions.
What is truly disturbing, however, has been the utter silence of both Shalem and Tikvah in the face of Gordis’s conduct. They have not responded to him, even though they were created in order to counter precisely the kind of poisonous rhetoric Gordis employs. Instead of standing up for their beliefs while one of their own is pouring gasoline on the fire, they have chosen the path of cowardice.
This is remarkable because Shalem, Tikvah and Koppel’s Kohelet have been targets of the very people Gordis is defending. Last year, the Museum of Jewish Heritage‒A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in Lower Manhattan refused to host a Tikvah event because they had invited Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Kohelet’s Jerusalem offices were sacked by far-left thugs who put up barbed wire and threatened employees. (Six of the hooligans were arrested.) That was just the beginning. After months of pressure, Kohelet’s main American donor Arthur Dantchik pulled his funding.
Despite all this, Shalem continues to give Gordis his pulpit, apparently with the support of its allies.
This is especially ironic because Shalem and Tikvah have greatly helped American conservatism contribute to the Israeli public discourse. Yet just when that conservatism could truly influence Israeli politics, it is being silenced by the left without a response.
Groups like Shalem, Tikvah, Kohelet and others drew on thinkers like David Hume, John Locke, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, Milton Friedman, Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz and innumerable others to bring new ideas to the moribund Socialist Israeli dogma. As a result, Israeli scholars backed by Shalem and Tikvah took American conservatism and made it distinctively Israeli and Jewish.
Bur rather than applaud these efforts, Gordis and others like him—who should know better—have joined the left-wing mob that seeks to destroy everything Shalem, Tikvah and their donors have helped to build.
The boards of both Shalem and Tikvah do not seem to realize that they have a choice. They can disassociate themselves from Gordis and his supporters, or they can continue to receive support from American Jewish conservatives. They cannot do both.