Thursday, April 26, 2012

Don Futterman's "Brave" Beinart

Don Futterman has come to the defense of Peter Beinart.  Futterman is program director for Israel of the Moriah Fund, established by Robert and Clarence Efroymson, a private American foundation that works to strengthen civil society in Israel, and supports dozens of NGOs, including Open Zion, Beinart's new blog site.  You can hear him here.  As it happens, he once undertook a contracted job with the Begin Center some 10 years ago to review, analyze and value a pedagogical program we had just initiated, the Junior Knesset, and which I supervised.

He had published in Haaretz on April 6 (sorry for my belatedness), ,an oped, The important message of Peter Beinart.  The short summary is (with my comments in brackets and italicized) -

The Zionist boycott is a proposed wake-up call designed to counter the subliminal campaign to erase the term ‘occupied territories’ from our lexicon.

[I am not sure the grammar there is correct or what the meaning of "Zionist boycott" is.  Is the boycott "Zionist" or is Zionism being boycotted? Is Beinart a Zionist and if so, is that why he is brave?]

In any case, he makes the following points in his article, among many:-

Peter Beinart has been pilloried because of his call in a recent New York Times op-ed and in his newly published book, "The Crisis of Zionism," for a Zionist boycott of West Bank settlements. tackling the concealed heart of our government's strategy: its campaign to erase any distinction between the occupied territories and Israel. Beinart has staked out a brave position, particularly in today's Zionist landscape.

["brave"?  wait, didn't Paul Krugman just now use that term?  here.  is that plagiarism? and as for "concealed", is this a new conspiracy theory?  odd.  i've been reading about this for years. and even Gershom Gorenberg recently wrote, in Open Zion (!), of the "...notion that erasing the Green Line is a recent or accelerating phenomenon. It’s not."  But in any case, he is being pilloried not so much for his opinion as for his lack of rigorous basis for his opinion, his sloppy research, his misrepresenting history and current politica and facts and for that he deserves some pillorying]

...What's left of the left is portrayed as a group of impotent nudniks who won't let go of the old squabbles, or as radical post-Zionists ready to dismantle the state.

[well, that is encouraging.  at least those of the Left have an ability for self-caricature]

As an Israeli citizen, I'm forbidden by law from supporting the Zionist boycott of the West Bank - and in fact, I don't endorse it, although I couldn't equate boycotting settlements with delegitimizing Israel. But the very existence of a law limiting freedom of speech and dissent should trouble American Jews concerned about Israel's democracy at least as much as any challenge to settlement supremacy.

[supremacy is rather a loaded term, is it not?  and as for that law and what's prohibited, Futterman has it wrong. Here: "numerous NGOs have released misleading and false statements about the new law, including the New Israel Fund, which wrongly claimed that the bill 'criminalizes freedom of speech,' and Gush Shalom, which says the law is 'a death sentence for the right to freedom of expression.' The anti-boycott law does not specifically address boycotts of 'settlements;' it is meant to address calls for boycotts anywhere in and against Israel."]

Critics of Beinart's boycott call complain that a Zionist boycott - one focusing exclusively on West Bank settlements while encouraging investment in Israel proper - would be ineffective or exacerbate the divides in Israel or between Israel and Diaspora Jewry.

[i admit it, i'm still trying to figure out what he means by "Zionist boycott".  is it a  boycott practiced primarily by Zionists?  why would Zionists do that?]

Zionist boycott is a proposed wake-up call designed to counter the subliminal campaign to erase the term "occupied territories" from our lexicon...Beinart argues persuasively that Prime Minister Netanyahu, despite his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech endorsing a Palestinian state, has never wavered from his vision of a Palestinian entity as a series of cantons easily controlled by Israel. Beinart's critique extends to the official leadership of American Jewry, documenting how right-wing Likud supporters came to dominate AIPAC, and how that lobby has achieved disproportionate status and celebrity among American Jewish institutions...

[even if that 'hostile' takeover is true, for arguments sake, when AIPAC was dominated by Labor Party stalwarts, was that okay?  if Moriah Fund supportees take it over, is that okay? is there a value-quotient no-pass barrier here?]

Rather than engage the rest of the Zionist spectrum, critics on the right prefer to belittle a "leftist" straw man of their own creation - a deluded and self-hating Jew who blames only Israel for all that has gone wrong in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is as if by demanding accountability of ourselves and criticizing our own crimes, we are excusing Palestinian atrocities, as if leftists do not lose loved ones to Palestinian terror, or haven't noticed that Hamas controls Gaza...that doesn't mean we must allow our urgent security needs to be twisted to justify land grabs and the daily intimidation of Palestinians. Nor must we ignore construction of outposts, which are illegal even under Israeli law, or provocative settler incursions into Palestinian neighborhoods.

[there is nothing wrong with introspection and self-criticism.  "our crimes", however, is another matter.  there Futterman is going off his own edge of extremism and shrillness, if not stridency. it is the Left that impugns ad personem, which seeks to blame all on the Right with fanaticism, extremism and fundamentalism.  and which assumes no accountability for its failed policies in the past, from Brit Shalom, to Ihud, and other progressive/liberal ideas that have failed.  Amos Oz was extraordinary in his use of language to malign and condemn.  as for 'land grabs', besides delving into the whole question of state lands, the crimes the Arabs are responsible for more than enough negate their demand for a state and surely, the immorality of allowing them a political framework, the essence of my criticism of Beinart as a liberal and progressive, is that he facilitates the establishment of a state that would be infinitely increase the evil and immoral actions of these Arabs, from Fatah to hamas to Islamic Jihad, with Hezbollah assisting in the north to do damage not only to Jews but to continue to repress their own populace.]

Although I doubt a "Zionist boycott" is the right tactic, "The Crisis of Zionism" is a remarkably articulate and compelling statement about what has gone haywire in Israeli politics and at the top of some American Jewish organizational leadership. Refusing to accept the settler map, calling for an honest debate...these are Jewish and Zionist acts of the highest order, the acts of "free people" who have left the slave mentality of bondage behind.

[i like that left-wing finegling: the boycott is wrong but go ahead and defend the guy anyway for promoting it. and the map?  it's either the Hamas map - no Israel whatsover - or our map.  Israel cannot permit the hill region of Judea and Samaria to revert to terrorists.]

All in all, Futterman does not present any truly reasoned coherent position supported by facts and data.  His admiration for 'Beinart The Brave' cannot provide an excuse for the lack of rationality in his article.



And I thought I'd add this information as it a topic that Beinart has exploited, the so-called younger Jewish generation abandoning, or being turned off, Israel:

Social scientists who study contemporary Jewry are engaged in an intense debate over trends in American Jewish attachment to Israel. The dominant view has been that age-related differences reported in surveys indicate intergenerational decline, with successive birth cohorts less emotionally attached to Israel than their predecessors. An alternative view has been that age-related differences reflect stages of the lifecycle, with members of each birth cohort becoming more emotionally attached to Israel as they grow older. Drawing on evidence from four sets of surveys administered to comparable samples at ten-year intervals, the present paper weighs the evidence for the “generational” versus “lifecycle” hypotheses about the nature of changes in attachment. The findings indicate that, across the four sets of surveys, emotional attachment increased between Time 1 (the first survey, administered in the 1990s) and Time 2 (the second survey, administered in the 2000s). The increases were for respondents as a whole as well as most age cohorts. In each of the four surveys sets, the largest increases occurred as respondents transitioned from their 30s to their 40s, i.e., from young adulthood to mature adulthood. Although increasing attachment to Israel throughout the period as a whole complicates the analysis, we conclude that the preponderance of evidence supports the view that emotional attachment to Israel increased over the lifecourse rather than declined across the generations. That said, future trends may be influenced by new dynamics including increased intermarriage, more widespread Israel travel, and a highly fluid political situation.

That's from


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