(August 10, 2021 / JNS) Peter Beinart, enfant terrible, is not so much a danger to young Jewish minds regarding the content of what he writes and speaks as he is in the methodology he uses to express himself—or rather, the deceitful way in which he weaves his web to tangle up his audience of young Jews who are woefully uneducated, uninformed but nevertheless proud of their hollow cultural and ethical Judaism.
He determinedly set out more than a decade ago to undermine the American Jewish establishment and serve as the prime catalyst for its desired failure, and, as was described, to sound out “an anguished call to save liberal Zionism in the United States.” He bemoaned that Israel “was abandoning any serious attempt to make a deal with the Palestinians just as it was undermining democratic principles by giving greater status and privileges to its Jewish citizens than to its Arab ones.”
He perceived an American Jewish leadership that continues to publicly defend “the Israeli government, any Israeli government, rather than defending Israeli democracy, even when the former menaces the latter”—one that “ignores the interconnectedness of Jewish and non-Jewish dignity.
To do that, Beinart has refined a particularly insidious form of argument. He exploits terms and themes that have been employed by Jew-haters and anti-Zionists, reworking them to be legitimately used by Jewish critics of the Palestinian narrative. As in this assertion—“the same sort of settler fanatics who burn Palestinian olive groves also assassinated an Israeli prime minister”—he throws out generalizations that are simply incorrect, although his audience will miss such false charges.
For example, he promotes the existence of institutionalized anti-Palestinian bigotry in America against the Democratic “Squad”-istas. He suggests that “ ‘anti-Semitism’ offers a glimpse into how this works” and that “treating Jews as inferior didn’t require a special term because it was unremarkable, the normal order of things. That’s roughly the situation for Palestinians today.”
On the issue of the supposed “right of return,” Beinart works in the Jewish concept of teshuvah (or “repentance”), writing “the return of Palestinian refugees—far from necessitating Jewish exile—could be a kind of return for us as well, a return to traditions of memory and justice that the Nakba has evicted from organized Jewish life.” He seeks to place an onus on Jews, adding “the longer the Nakba continues, the deeper this Jewish moral exile becomes.”
He corrupts the history of the conflict, during which thousands of Jews were ethnically cleansed from Jerusalem, Hebron, Gaza and Shechem by quoting Mahmoud Darwish, again using a Jewish-identified term: “Darwish noted another crucial difference between the Jewish and Palestinian dispersions: ‘You created our exile, we didn’t create your exile.’ ” In refusing to accept a territorial compromise in 1937 and 1947, and waging a terror campaign and outright war, the Arabs of the British Mandate, even with Beinart’s assistance, cannot escape their own responsibility for their fate.
He further ignores the conflict’s complexity and fatuously, even incredulously, states “a democratic binational Israel/Palestine would be no more bigoted against Jews than binational Belgium is bigoted against Walloons or binational Canada is bigoted against Quebecers … a binational Israel/Palestine would be far less bigoted than the status quo.” Are the two examples comparable?
In that piece, he also displays extreme views such as “most political theorists insist that national self-determination cannot mean the right to your own state.” How can you argue with such inanities?
Moreover, he negates Israel by blurring the difference between sovereign Israel and the area of the administered territories as here: “Israeli Jews enjoy maximum self-determination—a state that privileges them—in a territory where a roughly equal share of the population is Palestinian. As a result, Jewish self-determination violates Palestinian rights on a massive scale.” Since the population of Jordan is more than 50 percent “Palestinian,” is not the Hashemite regime no less (and more) violating their rights?
The solution he pushes there—“the only way to respect both the Jewish and Palestinian rights to national self-determination is to define that right as autonomy, not sovereignty”—simply punishes Israel for Arab rejectionism since 1937 (or 1923 if one includes their refusal to accept the Legislative Council idea) and grants yet another privilege to the Arabs to refuse a logical resolution of the conflict yet still portray themselves as the injured party.
Consider here how he defends the anti-Semitism of Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.):
… anti-Muslim, anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism has made it difficult for people from those communities to gain a foothold in American politics, especially when they advocate for Palestinian rights. Just look at the hell Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar endure anytime they support Palestinians in any way.
In “any way”? Including ways in which hate and even verbal violence are promoted?
He insists that “Ben & Jerry’s isn’t boycotting Israel as a whole. It’s only boycotting Israeli settlements.” But Jerusalem is part of Israel, and the boycott would affect it.
For Beinart, the responses to the decision by Israeli President Isaac Herzog and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to protest and oppose the boycott “are not merely intellectually and morally bankrupt; they’re strategically stupid.” Worse, “lunatic.”
Most recently, Beinart disclosed in his newsletter that he has:
“spoken privately to [Ben & Jerry’s] executives and encouraged their efforts” on the boycott campaign, adding that “no one has produced any independent evidence that the company is hostile to Jews.”
Beinart teaches one university course, “Opinion Writing,” which is intended to teach writing skills so as “to open minds or change them about local, state, national and international issues.” An example of Beinart changing minds is when he publishes:
nothing is as likely to make American Jews rethink their views on Israel as listening to Palestinians. The basic thrust of establishment American Jewish discourse about Palestinians is dehumanizing … and have absorbed racist stereotypes of Palestinians as violent, primitive, Jew-haters.
The great challenge to those taken in by Beinart is in the question: If you believe that erosion of democracy and moral standing lies at the base of a gradually diminishing support for Israel in the West due to the “occupation,” especially among young Jews, given the lack of democracy in the Palestinian Authority and the immorality of its terror, coupled with its repressive actions against its own populace, why do young Jews support the Palestinian cause? What makes them morally superior to Israel?
Yisrael Medad, an American-born Israeli pundit, comments on political and media issues.
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