(October 27, 2020 / JNS) Peter Beinart’s latest attack on the Jewish state that he opposes as vehemently as he professes to have its best interest at heart is a work of remarkable sophistry.
In a lengthy op-ed on Monday in the radical-leftist quarterly Jewish Currents, the author of The Crisis of Zionism—recently hired by the equally ill-intentioned New York Times as a “contributing opinion writer”—bashes Israel by denigrating the Muslim-majority countries with which it is forging warm peace treaties.
That the Abraham Accords and Sudan agreement were brokered by U.S. President Donald Trump made them even more treif in the eyes of the kosher-keeping New York Jew, who boasts of attending an Orthodox synagogue and of feeling a “spiritual connection to Jewish people.”
The piece in question—“Israel’s Repressive Diplomacy”—delves into the Israel-United Arab Emirates and Israel-Bahrain deals signed at the White House on Sept. 15, and Sudan’s pledge on Friday to jump on the bandwagon. In it, Beinart attempts to refute the joint assertion by Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that these developments will promote “human dignity and freedom” in the Middle East.
He begins by going after the regime in Abu Dhabi, citing a report in the Middle East Monitor stating that “scores of Emiratis, Palestinians and Jordanians living in the UAE have already been imprisoned “for opposing Abu-Dhabi’s peace deal with Israel.”
One example he gives is that of Emirati poet Dhabiya Khamis, who recounted on social media that she was prevented from boarding a Cairo-bound flight from the Dubai International Airport “probably because of my announced opinion against Zionism and normalization.”
According to Beinart, “Khamis’s experience illustrates a harsh truth: Although Israel’s diplomatic breakthroughs in the Persian Gulf have elicited bipartisan praise in Washington, they rely on—and contribute to—brutal repression.”
To discredit Manama, meanwhile, he points to a Freedom House report saying that Bahrain “was once viewed as a promising model for political reform and democratic transition … [Yet] since violently crushing a popular prodemocracy protest movement in 2011 [during the so-called “Arab Spring”], the Sunni-led monarchy has systematically eliminated a broad range of political rights and civil liberties.”
Beinart says that “Bahrain’s rapprochement with Israel—which has quietly been underway for years—didn’t cause this growing authoritarianism. But it has relied on it.”
But while Israel has merely “benefitted from political repression in Bahrain,” Beinart writes, “it has actively abetted it in the UAE.”
One way it has done this, he claims, is through a devious connection between the government in Jerusalem and the Israeli spyware company NSO Group, which was “alleged to have helped Saudi Arabia track the murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
Beinart describes the 2015 arrest and 10-year jail sentence of Emirati human-rights activist Ahmed Mansoor as “just one example of how Israel has enabled the UAE’s surveillance of its own people.”
As for Sudan, which, as Beinart notes, “is undergoing a fragile transition after three decades of dictatorial rule”: Khartoum’s move towards friendly relations with Israel, he contends, “imperils [its] democracy.”
And here he takes a customary disingenuous leap of logic in order to justify an otherwise indefensible position—one, in this instance, which denies the most positive unfolding of regional events in decades. In his perverse view, Netanyahu and Trump actually need these new peace partners to be more, and not less, repressive.
The reason for this, he argues, is that the majority of Emiratis, Bahrainis and Sudanese, along with the rest of the Muslim-Arab world, are anti-Israel and deeply sympathetic to the “Palestinian cause.” Therefore, the deals being forged require the rulers in Abu Dhabi, Manama and Khartoum to crack down, with the aid of Israeli technology, on any and all opposition.
“It’s no accident that growing normalization has accompanied growing authoritarianism,” he writes. “It’s the logical result of Israeli policy.”
That Beinart has made a career of blaming Israel for everything from Palestinian Authority intransigence to Hamas terrorism is not news. Nor is it surprising that many of his admirers in Israel and abroad are miffed that the Abraham Accords exposed the conventional wisdom about Mideast peace-making as folly.
But it takes a special kind of vicious creativity to concoct a universe in which peace, if forged by or with Israel, is evil. Beinart’s main method is to twist facts to fit his false version of reality. One such revision of history includes the idea of widespread Muslim-Arab support for the Palestinians. The latter would be the first to scoff at the notion that they have received much more than lip service from their Arab League “brethren,” particularly of late.
Nevertheless, Beinart concludes his piece by warning against the danger of additional peace deals with the Jewish state.
“In the coming months, Israel may succeed in normalizing relations with additional Arab states,” he writes. “Over the long run, however, its warming relations with oppressive regimes will likely provoke even greater hostility from the broader Arab public. In the past, Arab citizens mostly resented Israel for oppressing Palestinians. In the future, they may also resent it for helping their own governments to oppress them.”
For someone so concerned about oppressive regimes, Beinart is curiously silent about the suffering of Palestinians at the hands of their own corrupt and despotic leaders in Ramallah and Gaza. Indeed, he has nothing to say about the blatant human-rights abuses committed by Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas and his henchmen against critical journalists, academics, novelists and even average social-media users.
Nor does he bother wasting ink on the absence of free speech or the persecution of gays that are the norm in the P.A. No, if Israel can’t be called out as the culprit, Beinart’s not interested.
He can’t even pause to acknowledge the flurry of preparations being made in the Gulf for Israeli tourists, from kosher-catered airplane food to Jewish-holiday hotel packages. But then, doing so might cast a shadow on the New York Times-approved convictions that pay his bills.
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”
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