Monday, March 19, 2012

Beinart Being Part of the Threat, Not Its Prevention

-{take note that I am constantly updating this
with new material and references}-

Remember the exchange of Tweets between Peter Beinart and myself, when I referred to him as an interrupting noise maker?

Well, he's gone to the favorite playing field for Jews who have problems with themselves and their Judaism, their Zionism and their politics - the New York Times.

In an op-ed, To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements, he suggests adopting the policies of Israel's - not of the communities in Judea and Samaria - most hateful enemies, one that plays into the hands of the anti-Semites and anti-Zionists.

Some of his remarks and my comments:-

...the Israeli government is erasing the “green line” [before 1967, when the Green Line, properly, the 1949 ceasefire lines, existed, it was then being erased by the Arabs who constantly infiltrated, conducting terror operations, first as fedayeen and then, from 1964, as PLO. but more importantly, in doing so, they demonstrated that for them, the 'Palestine' that needed to be 'liberated' was but Israel, and Israel without any "settlements" in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (although Jews did live there during the Mandate period and earlier) was the target for their violence. "settlements" did not exist there, so what was the cause of their violence?  to dismantle "settlements" is in no way connected to the Arab hostility.]

...The Israeli government and the B.D.S. movement are promoting radically different one-state visions, but together, they are sweeping the two-state solution into history’s dustbin. It’s time for a counteroffensive — a campaign to fortify the boundary that keeps alive the hope of a Jewish democratic state alongside a Palestinian one. And that counteroffensive must begin with language. [continuing his error of historical fact, he propounds it by creating an error of logic: that a Jewish democratic state (and we'll ignore what is meant by 'Jewish') can exist alongside a "Palestine", that that "Palestine is not and will not be inimical to the very idea of any Jewish state of any democratic character or in any geographic configuration]

...Jewish hawks often refer to the territory beyond the green line by the biblical names Judea and Samaria, thereby suggesting that it was, and always will be, Jewish land. Almost everyone else, including this paper, calls it the West Bank. But both names mislead. “Judea and Samaria” implies that the most important thing about the land is its biblical lineage; “West Bank” implies that the most important thing about the land is its relationship to the Kingdom of Jordan next door. After all, it was only after Jordan conquered the territory in 1948 that it coined the term “West Bank” to distinguish it from the rest of the kingdom, which falls on the Jordan River’s east bank. Since Jordan no longer controls the land, “West Bank” is an anachronism. It says nothing meaningful about the territory today. [has he been reading me?]

...Instead, we should call the West Bank “nondemocratic Israel.” The phrase suggests that there are today two Israels: a flawed but genuine democracy within the green line and an ethnically-based non democracy beyond it. [that, I will admit is clever.  but many democratic countries maintain extraordinary situations such as the US and Washington, DC or with Puerto Rico which parallel our situation in terms of non-perfect democracy. but the real point is: will Judea and Samaria, if they become the territory of an Arab "Palestine" - and we know no Jews will be permitted to reside therein - be a land of freedom and democracy or will there be there real apartheid, true non-democracy, "improved" terror as well as ongoing oppression of the Arab masses and Beinart and all his liberal and progressive friends not only will have contributed to Israel's decreased security and increased threat to its existence but will be partners in the subjugation of the Arabs they, I presume, wish to merit a good life.  but only with Israel with Judea and Samaria can there be both security for Israel and hope for the Arab residents of those areas]

We [and here comes the nasty] should lobby to exclude settler-produced goods from America’s free-trade deal with Israel. We should push to end Internal Revenue Service policies that allow Americans to make tax-deductible gifts to settler charities. Every time an American newspaper calls Israel a democracy, we should urge it to include the caveat: only within the green line...We should oppose efforts to divest from all Israeli companies with the same intensity with which we support efforts to divest from companies in the settlements: call it Zionist B.D.S.

...settlements need not constitute the world’s worst human rights abuse in order to be worth boycotting...The relevant question is not “Are there worse offenders?” but rather, “Is there systematic oppression that a boycott might help relieve?”...prominent Israeli writers like David Grossman, Amos Oz and A. B. Yehoshua have refused to visit the settlement of Ariel. [and that effort has collapsed, proving worthless and lessening the influence of the so-called left-wing camp]

...the boycott should not apply to East Jerusalem, which Israel also occupied in 1967, since Palestinians there at least have the ability to gain citizenship, even if they are not granted it by birth... [lot of luck with that with your progressive friends, Peter. they'll wake you up as to what animosity really exists]...If moderate settlers living near the green line resent being lumped in with their more ideologically driven counterparts deep in occupied territory, they should agitate for a two-state solution that would make possible their incorporation into democratic Israel. [ah, so the Arabs must know that even you will not give them the territory they demand and they may 'lose' land even from such an extremist as you]

...As I write this, I cringe...Boycotting other Jews is a painful, unnatural act. But the alternative is worse...Zionism and democracy were not only compatible; the two were inseparable...If Israel makes the occupation permanent and Zionism ceases to be a democratic project, Israel’s foes will eventually overthrow Zionism itself. [ah, but what if a possibility exists that Israel can remain democratic?  just like in 1949, Israel, despite the war, remained democratic and worked out problems.  or perhaps the Arabs will finally come to realize that Israel is their best social, political and economic bet in the area and peace will arrive and recognition of Jewish nationalism and our rights: historical, legal, religious and cultural to the Land of Israel?  and Peter, if you do not believe that, if you permit yourself a pessimism about that, allow me my pessimism about your approach and your wisdom]

...If we want to effectively oppose the forces that threaten Israel from without, we must also oppose the forces that threaten it from within. [Peter, you are closer to being part of the threat, to paraphrase, rather than contributing to its prevention].

How unfortunate, for Beinart and his children (he is the one who brought them in to the story = "I belong to an Orthodox synagogue, send my children to Jewish school and yearn to instill in them the same devotion to the Jewish people that my parents instilled in me") that he is willing not only to adopt a BDS policy but to publicize it from the pages of that not-so-friendly 'newspaper of the record'.


I wrote a letter but it wasn't among those published.

Peter Beinart's anti-Jewish residency rant ("To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements", March 19), seeking to deny Jews the right to live in portions of the historic Jewish homeland is logically flawed. There were no "settlements" in these areas before 1967 and since there were Arab terror attacks between 1948-1967, our homes cannot be a reason for Arab animosity and therefore, our disappearance will not provide a solution to the real problem: Arab refusal to accept any form of Jewish national sovereignty. A state of "Palestine" refuses to have Jews as citizens.

Moreover, his concern for Israel's democratic soul may resonant with those of the progressive/liberal camp but his portrayal of its weakening is flawed and misrepresented. His call for boycott actions can but weaken Israel's standing and undermine its security. Democracy serves no one when it endangers the lives of people and the existence of a state.


Richard Silverstein shows how BDSers really hate Israel:

...[Beinart] comes up with the hopelessly flawed, “nondemocratic Israel.” How do I hate this phrase? Let me count the ways. First, it associates the Territories with Israel, when they are not Israel, but Palestine. Second, the phrase clearly indicates a claim that Israel within the Green Line is democratic. For any reasonably well informed observer of Israeli society, this is false. At best, Israel is democratic for its Israeli Jewish citizens. For its Israeli Palestinians? Not so much.

I’d argue further that Israel isn’t a democracy not just because of its dispossession of its Palestinian citizens (and this includes the Nakba), but because it is a national security state that subsumes many rights reserved, in truly democratic countries, to citizens, under the guise of fighting terror.

...his Buy Israel campaign will actually benefit companies based within Israel proper which do business in the Territories. But he argues that we cannot boycott these companies because if we did, we wouldn’t know where to stop our boycotting activities within Israel. That essentially limits the companies and products you boycott to almost nil. Further, settlers could easily get around his boycott by associating themselves with Israeli companies based within the Green Line.

... I wondered why Beinart excluded East Jerusalem from the settler population count. It becomes clear later on when he deliberately excludes East Jerusalem from his boycott. Why? Because East Jerusalem Palestinians can become Israeli citizens. First, these Palestinians do not want to be Israeli citizens. They want to be Palestinian citizens. They don’t want to live in a Jewish state. They want to live in a Palestinian state. Israel took that right away from them when it annexed their homes in violation of international law. Now Beinart offers East Jerusalem a free pass from his boycott because of a flimsy fig leaf of so-called democracy.

Further, East Jerusalem is an occupied as the West Bank. Saying it is less occupied is ludicrous. Not to mention it gives one the impression that Beinart does not believe in sharing Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. As far as I’m concerned that’s a fatal political flaw in his proposal.

...If you are truly a “committed Jew” it becomes MORE, not less important to boycott other Jews when their interpretation of “Judaism” is not only an abomination, but endangers the rest of Israel. There should not be any hesitation in doing so. Boycotting them is not a painful or unnatural act. On the contrary, it is an obligatory act as a Jew. Think of Prof. Yeshaiya Lebowitz, also an Orthodox Jew who brought his children up to be devoted to the Jewish people. Yet he didn’t hesitate to call radical settler leaders, “Judeo-Nazis.” Beinart would never do this. Because Beinart pulls his punches. Beinart holds back. That is what makes him and his analysis so disappointing and so ineffectual...

And there's this letter up already (how did that happen?).

And I left a comment here.

And I found this point (k/t=Faniel Gordis) in a review of his new book, that Beinart's main complaint is that Israel is

alienating a concentrated, core group of liberal Jewish elites

those that are unconcerned about the undemocratic societies Israel faces and moreover, there are ethics -

"Israel's physical survival," he writes, "is bound up with its ethical survival." That ethical survival, according to Beinart, will depend on Israel's willingness to accept that its military and economic might have given Jews a new kind of power. And with that power, Beinart writes, comes responsibility: the responsibility to recognize, far more than most supporters of Israel would readily admit, that the Jewish state plays a large part in shaping the threats that it faces.

So, we're back where we started before Zionism: it is our fault that we are hated.

That is so liberal. And the reviewer then goes off the deep end:

Even if one objects to this kind of moralism, one has to acknowledge that Beinart has identified the genuine threat posed by the occupation to Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state. And if it's in Israel's existential interest to stave off that threat by withdrawing from the West Bank, then Beinart is right to say that continued settlement construction and subsidization—particularly in areas that Israel will need to forfeit in a future agreement—does "menace Israel's future" by making it that much more difficult to leave and achieve peace. Israel must embrace some level of responsibility for the continuation of the conflict. But not the lion's share—and that, unfortunately, is what The Crisis of Zionism strongly implies

And now this from a JCPA report:

From the substantive point of view, the BDS campaign feeds on and demonstrates a blatant and deliberate ignorance and denial of the basic issues involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The oft-repeated use of such slogans as "apartheid" and "colonialism" and the like with respect to Israel demonstrates total ignorance of the significance of the terms used, and an acute lack of familiarity with the democratic character of Israel and the actual situation in the area.


This on the book from Sol Stern at Commentary:

all the footnotes in the world can’t disguise the fact that Beinart willfully ignores just about any testimony or source that might undermine his uncomplicated narrative of good liberal Zionism versus bad reactionary Zionism.  That elision is evident in Beinart’s assessment of Stephen Wise, whom Beinart vaunts as the model of what a Jewish leader in America should stand for: belief in the prophetic social-justice traditions of Judaism, a commitment to a sane, peaceful Zionism, and a healthy respect for dissenting opinions...

...But the supreme test for American Zionism would come after the U.S. government officially acknowledged in November 1942 that Hitler was implementing a plan to exterminate European Jewry and that two million Jews had already been murdered. There is no Zionism worthy of its name without the priority of rescuing Jews in mortal danger and distress. Wise failed this test, although you wouldn’t know anything about it from Beinart’s book...Wise was a leader of a dozen Jewish or Zionist organizations at the time. Contrary to Beinart, there was nothing very democratic about how he ran those groups, which is why he was often called the “King of the Jews.”

Still, he might have risen to the occasion and used his position to press the administration to change its position on rescue. But the Zionist leader was encumbered by his close personal relationship with the president...One group in America, the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe, took up the challenge and mounted a public lobbying campaign to pressure the administration to change its policy on rescue. The new organization was led by a small cadre of young Jews who had originally come to the United States from Palestine to work with Vladimir Jabotinsky. (The revisionist leader died in New York in 1940.) Also known as the Bergson Group, after its leader, Peter Bergson, it was successful in pushing the administration to finally create the War Refugee Board, which did manage to save thousands of Jews, mainly in Hungary in the last months of the war. But that was no thanks to Rabbi Wise. Instead of working together with Bergson to put maximum pressure on the administration to change its policy, Wise turned on the dissidents, trying to undermine their organization and block their influence.

There is not a word about this unsavory chapter in American Jewish history in Beinart’s book, only unrestrained praise for Wise’s democratic Zionism.

and this:

What is wrong with Beinart’s book is contained within its title, The Crisis of Zionism. Zionism itself is not in crisis. The liberal Zionism Beinart espouses is, because Beinart and others like him have decided to condition their belief in a Jewish national homeland on its pursuit of policies that make them feel good. They prefer an Israel of social-democratic fantasy—an Israel that need not take account of the behavior of its Palestinian interlocutors, that need not take account of the safety and security of its own population, and an Israel that need not take account of the views and wishes of its own electorate—to the real thing.


A list of critiques from ChallahHuAkbar.

Add Josh Hasten.

Beinart attacked by an Arab.

Rob Eshman.

Seth Mandel.

Omri Ceren.

Ruthie Blum

Daniel Gordis.

Leo Rennert has something positive to point out ("Beinart is amenable to Israeli retention of major settlements").

Daniel Freeman.

A newer reaction by me, and another

Assaf Romiwowsky.

Barry Rubin.

And by the way, all of Beinart is old hat. From May 2011:-

The unspoken implication...was that Beinart had strayed from the fold of centrist Jewish thinkers...Beinart has aligned himself with Israel bashers, or so Halevi seemed to be implying...the problem isn't that his former co-worker openly criticizes Israel, but that he neglects on-the-ground realities, including existential concerns, that profoundly affect the Jewish state.

...Beinart, in contrast, tends to focus on what he calls "nondemocraticIsrael," the occupied territories in Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and Golan Heights. The decades-long occupation by Israel, Beinart maintains, has frayed the country's moral fabric and is contributing to the disintegration of its democracy. "It is very important for us to understand that while Israel is a democracy ... it is not a democracy outside of the Green Line," he told the audience. In those areas, he maintained, Israel seems to be morphing into an "apartheid state,"...Jews, Beinart explained, must make a concerted attempt to understand the Palestinian psyche.

...Urging Beinart to "choose your allies very carefully," Halevi lambasted his opponent for signing a missive last year that urged the U.S. not to veto a United Nations resolution censuring Israel. Signatories included several longtime Israel bashers.

Anti-Zionist approach.


Martin Sherman following the Beinart-Gordis debate.


Anonymous said...

"but only with Israel with Judea and Samaria can there be both security for Israel and hope for the Arab residents of those areas"

Hypocrisy is the greatest luxury

Anonymous said...

Beinart makes four arguments here, and everyone of them is wrong. One is a minor linguistic one. He correctly notes that West Bank is an anachronistic term, a holdover from the 19 year Jordanian occupation of the territory. He then calls Judea and Samaria biblical names that relate solely to its biblical lineage, erasing the more than two millennia after the closing of the Bible when everyone, including the UN, called the territory Judea and Samaria. it’s rather pathetic that Beinart can’t say the reason: the overwhelming consideration regarding the name is to delegitimize potential Jewish/Israeli claims to the land. And Beinart can’t say that, because he shares that agenda.
Second, he says that what Judea and Samaria/West Bank really is is “nondemocratic Israel.” This is remarkable statement for someone who has lived nearly his entire adult after the Oslo Accords. Since 1994, the territory has been jointly ruled by the PLO and by Israel. There is a functioning Palestinian Authority on the territory that has a US-trained military and what it claims is sufficient infrastructure for a functioning independent state. It has a legislature, a President, a budget, taxes, courts, and the ability to print passports and execute Palestinians who sell land to Jews. The PA is not an independent state, but it is not nothing either. The richest irony is that Beinart insists that it is a human rights violation and the centerpiece of the “nondemocracy” of the shared area for Israel to respect the rights of Jews to acquire property in the area and reside there if they want to. There are many arguments that can be made about settlements, but one cannot sincerely argue that it the principles of human rights that require Israel to bow to Palestinian demands to render the area Jew-free. ...

Anonymous said...


Third, Beinart claims an imminent threat to Israel’s democracy and the belief that “Zionism [may] cease[] to be a democratic project” because of the “occupation,” by which I presume that he means the Israeli military governance part of the shared rule in the JS/WB territory. it is rather silly to argue that Israel’s democracy is at risk because the Israeli part of the shared rule in the JS/WB territory is military. Israel could replace its share of the governance with civilian rather than military governance and it would not significantly alter anything about Israeli democracy.
Which brings us fourthly, and lastly, to the central policy argument of the piece—one that is utterly belied by history: that the way to end the situation in which the JS/WB territory is “nondemocratic” is to boycott and sanction Israel. In fact, Israel has foolishly attempted to follow the prescription of Beinart’s colleagues in the J Street parallel universe for more than a decade and reach a peace deal with the PLO in which nearly all of the JS/WB territory would become Jew-free and the core of a new state of Palestine. The PLO has responded in 2000, 2001 and 2008 by spurning the Israeli offers. If Beinart is serious in believing the best solution to the failure to spin off the JS/WB territory into a state of Palestine is boycotts, divestments and sanctions, he should be sponsoring a BDS movement against the PLO and PA. Beinart is correct that the other way to end a situation is for Israel to fully apply its laws and sovereignty to the JS/WB territory the way it did in Jordanian-occupied Jerusalem (aka “East Jerusalem”). It’s fairly clear that any moves by Israel in this direction would be strongly opposed by the EU countries as well as the Obama Administration, Islamic countries and others. If Beinart is sincere in wanting this solution, and believes BDS is the best way to get there, he should be sponsoring a BDS movement against the EU countries, Obama Administration and others. No amount of sanctions against Israel, however directed, can get the PLO to say yes to Israeli peace offers or get the EU countries and Obama Administration to acknowledge that Israel has a right to sovereignty in the JS/WB territory.

Anonymous said...

In his attempt to offer young Jewish elites a Zionism that allows them to skip the "messy, frightening debate over Israel's future," he substitutes the old model of one-dimensional support with a new model of one-dimensional criticism. Having fled right-wing simplicity, Beinart loops directly back to its twin on the left. In doing so, he fails to establish the balance that American Jews so desperately need in their approach to Israel. And he alienates Israelis, who know and live a very different reality from the one he presents. That's why those who embrace The Crisis of Zionism—especially the young, liberal elites for whom it is intended—risk dooming themselves to irrelevancy.

NormanF said...

Some Jews are still not comfortable with the idea of Jewish power - not with its exercise against Arabs but rather on behalf of the Jews themselves.

They want a Zionism that is purged of political and moral dilemmas. They want to shrink Israel so they don't have to face the real world. If Israel got rid of every single Arab, it would still have to deal with the unpleasant fact they hate the Jews and Israel without their - that is the Arabs - ever having met a single Jew.

That won't change no matter what Israel might do to make the Peter Beinarts of the world more comfortable with it. He can ignore certain realities from the safety of New York. Israelis can ill afford to casually dismiss them.

Israel doesn't face a crisis. But some Jews do face a crisis when the Middle East hasn't turned out like they thought it would. And like it or not - ignoring the Arab half of the question is not going to make Israel want to help Beinart find out if the Arabs are prepared to accept Israel within the so-called "Green Line." There is no indication they are ever going to help him answer that question in the affirmative - at least not in our lifetime.