Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Kirchick Kabooms Beinart

Extracts from James Kirchick's review, in Haaretz (!), of Peter Beinart's "The Crisis of Beinart Zionism", entitled:

Peter Beinart's crisis of oversimplifying American Jews

his unsophisticated worldview...Beinart...betrays three unseemly traits that characterize this book and its author: hypocrisy, naivete and myopia.

It is hypocritical of Beinart, who places nearly all of the blame for the lack of a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict on Israel while pretending to see shades of gray, to accuse others of having a “monist” worldview.

It is naive...And it is myopic for Peter Beinart to think that Israelis should be most concerned with making Peter Beinart feel proud.

if establishment leaders are obsessed with victimhood, then Beinart represents the opposite extreme, writing as if we live in a world in which anti-Semitism barely exists. Thus he elides the continuing, core problem of Arab recognition of a Jewish state.

The benefit of the doubt that Beinart extends to a variety of Islamic extremists is one he is peculiarly less willing to offer his fellow Jews.

Adopting the argument of rabid Israel-haters, like Norman Finkelstein, Beinart alleges that Israelis and American Jews use the Holocaust to justify brutality against Palestinians...

an American Jew who went to Yale, was a Rhodes Scholar and edited The New Republic – in short, someone for whom being Jewish was never a professional hindrance nor a cause of discrimination. He will sound complacent, if not recklessly arrogant, to most Israelis, who, unlike Beinart, would have to live with the consequences of his policy prescriptions.

...Beinart ought to have a better sense of history.

Much of Beinart’s book...is so relentlessly one-sided that only those with minimal or no understanding of the conflict will find it to be anything other than propagandistic.

Given his simplistic rendering of the situation, it is not surprising that Beinart contradicts himself early and often...Beinart castigates the premier’s son, Yair Netanyahu, for starting a Facebook group urging a boycott of Arab businesses, while he calls for a boycott of Jewish businesses in the West Bank.

Beinart is right to criticize the troubling rise of some illiberal elements in Israeli politics and discourse. But so obsessed is he with pointing out Jewish sins that he ignores or excuses Arab ones.

Vladimir Jabotinsky’s claim that Islamic civilizations have often stood in opposition to “intellectual curiosity, free investigation, dynamism and a minimum of interference of religion in everyday life” is “openly racist.” Can Beinart point to one Muslim country in the Middle East that comes close to respecting these values?

Beinart writes that “neither the Israeli government nor its supporters in the American Jewish leadership were noted for ‘anguishing over moral questions.’” This is quite a remarkable thing for an American Jewish writer, who has never gone to war or been confronted with the difficult life-and-death conundrums that Israeli leaders continually face, to claim. “The Crisis of Zionism” is littered with such trivializations and pat comparisons between worldly, urbane American Jews and brute, hucksterish Israelis, a trope of liberal American Jewish writing that, like everything else in this book, isn’t new.

...what Beinart is getting at here...is an absurd analogy nonetheless...As for the predicament of Palestinian gays – and what their treatment at the hands of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority portends for a future Palestinian state – Beinart says nothing.

Why did Obama back down from his peacemaking efforts if the vast majority of American Jews continues to support him? Perhaps it is not just an all-powerful Jewish lobby that foiled the president’s plans, but also Palestinian intractability, as the president, who has stopped talking to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, has himself quietly fumed? Beinart ignores such intricacies, as he does anything that complicates his one-dimensional narrative...he is attempting to market himself as the bard of a newly awakened Jewish left.

...“The Crisis of Zionism”...was written by an armchair pundit, a type that Washington breeds and of which Beinart is an exemplary specimen, rather than by a reporter. The book suffers from poor sourcing...hearsay.

...we can conclude one of two things about Beinart: Either he is ignorant...or he knows full well the dangers and ignores them to score yet another cheap point against the omnipotent, right-wing “American Jewish establishment,” all the better to stress his underdog role in the David and Goliath fable he has so ably constructed over the past two years.

Beinart’s understanding of regional politics is next to nonexistent...The rise of Islamist politics in Egypt and its implications barely concern Beinart. The same is true of the increasing regional hegemony of Iran, a country that appears once in the book’s index...

The problems confronting the Jewish state are complex and varied, but readers won’t understand them any better from this slipshod and self-righteous tract.

Oh, and James Kirchick is a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is a contributing editor of The New Republic and World Affairs Journal.


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