Peter Beinart has made another foray in his fight against Israel and Zionism. The contributing editor at The Atlantic has written as a supporter of IfNotNow and has helped inspire other radical anti-Zionists. But, of course, he denies what is obvious to all in his thinking and actions.
In remarks he recently delivered in the framework of a Munk Debate, the question of which was “Be it resolved, anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism,” his fellow debater was New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, and since a debate consists of arguments from both sides of an issue, I, at least, can only presume that Beinart thinks anti-Zionism is, at least a bissel, not quite anti-Semitic.
Indeed, in the published version, Beinart asserts that “No, anti-Zionism doesn’t always mean anti-Semitism.” Perhaps indicative of his convoluted presentation, the Munk Debates site highlighted his words that “equating Palestinian politics with bigotry undermines the quest for peace.”
Having followed him since his 2010 essay, in which he promoted the view that the reality of Israel challenged the liberal values of Jewish college students they had imbibed as Americans, such as a belief in open debate, a skepticism about military force and a commitment to human rights, and contradicted them. Beinart, however, did not so much as seek to explain to those students that those values very much existed in Israel yet did not exist in the Arab/Muslim culture that threatened Israel’s existence, and that, despite their innocence, they did not have think that they were required to shed those values when it came to Israel.
Rather, he sought to rip out the heart of Jewish solidarity from these youth and pit them against Israel. Ever since, he has been pirouetting—twisting ideas, terms and concepts so as to confound and discombobulate a younger generation of Jews.
His opening is an excellent example of his sophistic method of argumentation. While he professes that he believes, as a Jew, “in the importance of a state that has a special responsibility to Jews,” he also thinks “there are many examples of people who don’t support that Jewish privilege in Israel who are not anti-Semites.”
Who? The Satmar Chassidim. If that is his benchmark, a group that terms Israel as “Amalek,” blames Zionism for the Holocaust and has spawned the Neturei Karta who visit Iran, Beinart is playing us for the fool—a category too many assume is honorable.
However, in using “privilege” as above and again here: “Zionism is the idea that there should be a state that privileges Jews,” he is positioning Zionism as akin to the “white privilege” charge so many anti-Zionists employ. He is locking Zionists into a straitjacket of false definition, the easier to identify Zionism with his arch-enemy of “occupation.” Observe how he does it in this sentence:
“I do not consider Israel an apartheid state in the way that Africa privileged whites over blacks, which was much more extreme than the way that Israel privileges Jews over non-Jews.”
Israel is not like South Africa (a country his family knows well), yet South Africa was really an extreme example of what Israel is, which is a form of apartheid.
He has stated that the first time he “went to the West Bank, it was a shattering experience. The only thing I could imagine that could be similar for an American would be going to visit the Jim Crow South.”
The “only thing”? Really? Jim Crow laws were those state and local laws employed to enforce racial segregation in the Southern United States. Is racial segregation the reality in Judea and Samaria, the vast majority of which is under Palestinian Authority rule? Who, if not Mahmoud Abbas and cronies, have prevented democratic elections for more than a decade there? Again, Beinart is aggressively seeking to tar Israel and Zionism with charges of guilt that recall, well, anti-Semitic abuses.
And if you equate “Palestinian politics with bigotry,” that is then “very destructive for our appreciation of Palestinian human dignity,” and “it also undermines the quest for peace.” But does anything the Arabs of the area of Mandate Palestine do that does undermine peace or is it only Israel that does that? If Palestinianism is bigoted (and see the Palestine Media Watch site) and, if so, is it then not only self-destructive for Arabs, but also destructive for Jews and Israelis?
In short, what do the Arabs do that Beinart will not explain away? For him, it all can be summed up, again in quite a misleading fashion, as “the real issue is an absolute denial of basic human rights. He knows that is incorrect. The humanitarian work done by Israel in Judea and Samaria, and for Gaza, as well, is outstanding. Health care, education, infrastructure and more are advanced by COGAT, the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories unit that works with international organizations to improve the standard of living for Palestinians.
He knows that if it were not for the terror practiced by Arabs, rather than diplomacy, there would be no problem for him to back. And that terror was practiced from the moment a Jewish farmer turned over a clod of soil on land he had purchased in his historic national homeland in the 19th century.
Arabs who support the idea of an Arab Palestine engage in falsification of history, identity theft and something even worse than bigotry. And a Jew supporting them is no friend of Zionism—no matter how much he claims to be one.
Beinart joyfully engages in bashing Israel and undermining its legitimacy. In the mid-August debate with Rich Lowry referenced above, Beinart throws out “almost $4 billion of U.S. aid used to put children in detention,” as if all of U.S. foreign aid is servicing an unshackled Israel monster-like chasing down innocent under-aged youth. Lowry correctly responds: “You’re the one distracting from the issue.”
Beinart in a nutshell: distracting, misrepresenting, employing false comparisons. Purposefully, intentionally.
Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli journalist and political commentator.