Peter Beinart and the Crisis of American Jewish Liberalism


Peter Beinart

Peter Beinart, former editor of The New Republic, has recently entered the ideological enterprise of delegitimization – convinced that he alone possesses wisdom about how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict which has eluded Israeli leaders for over six decades.

Beinart’s book, The Crisis of Zionism, doesn’t merely argue that Israel should withdrawal from the West Bank but, in criticizing the occupation, evokes the ugly specter of racism and segregation in the pre-Civil Rights American South. 

From his book blurb:

An American Jewish community that sent its sons and daughters to Mississippi when African-Americans were denied equal citizenship merely because they were not white cannot turn away when millions of West Bank Palestinians are denied rights simply because they are not Jews.

You understand that only by giving Palestinians their own country in the West Bank and Gaza Strip can Israel again become a Jewish state that offers the right of citizenship to all the people within its domain.

And you understand that if Israel collapses as a democratic Jewish state, Zionism itself will die.

Of course, like so much of what passes for liberal thought on Israel, Beinart has almost nothing to say on what he expects of the Palestinians in the context of his hopes for peace and co-existence.

Does he expect them to end antisemitic incitement or take steps to reform a political culture which honors terrorism? Does he demand that they build democratic institutions, hold free and fair elections and extend even nominal rights to women, gays and religious minorities?

No, Beinart’s liberal racism can not assign even the most rudimentary moral agency to Palestinians – the quintessential ethnic abstraction.

Further, does Beinart even wonder what the real-life results will be if Israel abides by his advice and withdrawals to 1967  borders, and what will happen if, as in Gaza in 2005 and S. Lebanon in 2000, such withdrawals only embolden the most violent terrorist movements, and make Israelis even more vulnerable to rocket fire and other acts of deadly terrorism?

No, there isn’t a crisis of Zionism.

There’s a crisis of his brand of American Jewish liberalism – “intellectuals’ who have lived in their own mind too long, truly incapable of imagining life outside the safety of their own cognitive bubbles.

Such political sages are not equipped with the moral imagination necessary to empathize with a modern Jewish state under siege, surrounded by hideously antisemitic Islamist terrorist movements who are quite explicit in their malevolent designs.

Do such sensitive souls ever wonder why Palestinian society never seems to produce their own version of Peter Beinart? Why don’t such critics ever demand reciprocal Palestinian self-reflection or empathy for the (Jewish) “other”?

Finally, does Peter Beinart ever wonder what the consequences will be if he’s wrong?

If the policies he advocates lead not to peace but to war, to more bloodshed and greater Jewish suffering, will he say he’s sorry? Will he finally repudiate his naive belief that “they are just like us”?

Of course not.

He will remain far removed from the deadly serious issues of war and peace in the Middle East.

He’ll write another book. He’ll become a fellow at another think tank.

Peter Beinart can opine on issues with the liberating sense of his own impunity to their potential real-world consequences, knowing that he will never, ever have to deal with the dangers paved by his best intentions.

Israelis like me, my friends, my wife and family, however, aren’t so privileged.

(Finally, here’s a powerful Shabbat sermon by Reform rabbi Ammiel Hirsch against Beinart’s call for BDS against Israelis living beyond the green line, from his pulpit at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan.)

25 comments on “Peter Beinart and the Crisis of American Jewish Liberalism

  1. He sums it up perfectly.

    The colonialist elitist arrogance of liberal Jews is astounding.
    If there is any positive side effect of the Obama times is that these little traitors are brought to the surface by the energizing effect Obama has on the radical left which has remained the temple for too many liberal Jews in America.

  2. “There’s a crisis in his brand of American Jewish Liberalism.” You hit the nail on the head.

  3. Even after the string of condemnatory articles Beinart attended the J Street conference seemingly unabashed, where he was hailed as the troubadour of their movement. I’d say it is a fitting commentary on both of them

  4. He doesn’t assault Israel’s legitimacies. He assaults the legitimacy of Israel’s settlement enterprise. He is right to do so. We aren’t all in this together and the sooner the apologists for the non-democratic, racist, messianist Israel that the settlers and their foreign friends get that, the better.

    • Do you remember what happened in Gaza? That when Israel withdrew there began a rocket assault from the Islamist lunatics there which led to Cast Lead (and I’ll bet that you ranted against Israel then for daring to defend herself).

      What assurances can you give Israel, particularly given the rabid Jew-hatred inculcated in its children and broadcast regularly by the PA, which names streets after child murderers, that she would not be similarly attacked from the West Bank if the settlements were dismantled like those in Gaza and Israel withdrew?

      Naivete such as yours kills Zionism.

    • Profoundly ignorant.

      The ME today rests on the internationally binding agreements after WW1 at San Remo April 1920.
      In it the Jewish people were invested with sovereignty for the whole of biblical Palestine from “Dan to Beersheba”.
      In 1922, 77% of the area designated for Jews was lopped off illegally by the British government, to create Trans Jordan, to give Abdullah his reward for helping the British in WW1 and to act as a bulwark against French influence.
      The Mandate for Palestine document of 1922, ratified by all 51 members of the League, allocated the 23% remaining Palestine exclusively to RE-CREATE the Jewish national home. If you read the document it makes it crystal clear that the “existing non-Jewish communities” were to have their civil and religious rights guaranteed, but not to have political rights. (No mention of “Palestinians”, because, of course, the Jews were the Palestinians).
      The Arabs were granted sovereignty in 4 other mandates, but NOT in Palestine.
      Their sovereignty extends to a land mass twice the size of the USA, Israel’s to an area the size of New Jersey.
      This internationally binding legal document was reinforced by 2 others….the Franco British Boundary Commission of 1920 and the Anglo American agreement of 1924 which enshrined the Mandate for Palestine document into American law.
      These documents remain international law to the present day, and, by force of estoppel and the Principle of Acquired Rights, have never been superseded.
      As if that were not enough, rulings by distinguished jurists, like Steven Schwebel and Eugene Rostow, after 1967, ruled in favour of Israeli sovereignty on the “West Bank” and Gaza, because, in addition to the above, these were lands previously taken illegally. In the case of the WB, Abdullah annexed it illegally in 1950 against all previous assurances that he would not, in a move recognised only by Pakistan and Great Britain.
      What you describe as “settlements” are an intrinsic part of the Jewish homeland, recognised in international law, and no different from the rest of Israel.
      That you and others parrot lies based on ignorance and malevolence, which have become the prevailing orthodoxy, is a problem you should address, by expanding your knowledge, rather than writing vacuous, ignorant comments.

      • “In it the Jewish people were invested with sovereignty for the whole of biblical Palestine from “Dan to Beersheba”.”

        No, they were not. The partition as accepted by the UN is what gave birth the to state of Israel. It granted Jewish majority areas to the state of Israel and Arab majority areas to what is was going to be the Arab state of Palestine. The Negev was given to Israel, even though most of it is to the south of Beersheba.

        “What you describe as “settlements” are an intrinsic part of the Jewish homeland, recognised in international law, and no different from the rest of Israel.”

        No they are not. They may be in land that has historic meaning to the Jewish people (although Samaria and Judea were hostile entities very often. But what matters is the present, not historical claims (or else, you’d think that Armenia should be larger).

        Settlements were not in the original plan. Israel did not started building them until some years after the 1967 war. Israel still sees them as negotiable and it hasn’t annexed the WB (otherwise it would’ve granted all WB Arabs Israeli citizenship).

        Opposing the settlement enterprise is perfectly in tune with being a Zionist, and in that sense, Mr Beinart is right.

        • Again, profoundly ignorant. UN does not have the authority to create or destroy states.
          In fact, Article 80 of the UN charter guaranteed the Mandate for Palestine document on the dissolution of the League of Nations, and the partition vote of 1947 was an act which went against its own charter.

          The proof is that Israel behind the Green Line is larger than that accorded by the UN in 1947, and yet no one calls the expanded territory “occupied”, except the Arabs, for whom the whole area is occupied.
          If you are right, then who owns the WB, given that there was no ownership there that was recognised since the Ottoman Empire?
          And please don’t say the Palestinians, because there has never been a sovereign Arab Palestinian state in history.

          You are hopelessly confused.
          Why don’t you educate yourself and read the works of Howard Grief and Jacques Gauthier for a start. Both are international lawyers who have spent more than 2 decades studying the subject, and are recognised world authorities.

          Israel SHOULD have annexed Judea and Samaria etc in 1967, but was prevailed upon not to, in the pursuit of an illusory peace.

          Why don’t you read the text of San Remo and the Mandate for Palestine document….they are crystal clear in their intentions?

          Just for the record, it was the high contracting powers of WW1 that shaped the ME as it is today, not the UN. They had the authority to do it.
          Deny that, and you deny the legitimacy of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan etc.
          You can’t have it both ways.

          • “Israel SHOULD have annexed Judea and Samaria etc in 1967, but was prevailed upon not to, in the pursuit of an illusory peace.”

            I didn’t say they shouldn’t have or mustn’t have. I said they haven’t. I think Israel should either

            a) annex the WB and declare all if its inhabitants citizens or
            b) recognize the state of Palestine in the WB and leave area C and give the state of Palestine control over their border with Jordan.

            Final borders with Israel could be negotiated later. Whether the settlements remain in Israel in exchange for land or become part of the new Palestinian state is another discussion. But Beinart point still stands. In the present situation you have a population that has no rights as citizens in part of that land. That population is growing fast, putting the Jewish majority at risk. The settlements are a problem to the solution of the conflict, even if not the only one.

            You could discuss whether Beinart has a better solution or not, but here he’s being presented as almost an appeaser and a traitor. He’s not.

          • “The proof is that Israel behind the Green Line is larger than that accorded by the UN in 1947, and yet no one calls the expanded territory “occupied”

            True, but the 1949 line is not a definitive border, but an armistice land, pending on final status negotiations. It has become, however, a de facto border, recognized by most states and even, to some extent, by Israel itself, as they don’t apply Israeli jurisdiction to the most of the east of the green line (except in the settlements). If Israel thought that the border is the Jordan River, they would’ve annexed the WB.

  5. American liberal Jews don’t have the monopoly on such lunacy. Similar madness happens in the UK with JfJfP in its vanguard.

  6. Well, Adam, actually you’re proving his point. You’re advocating apartheid in the WB, i.e. keeping a population without full political rights. You have to give them a state or declare them citizens of the state that controls the land in which they live.

    And you’re distorting his words. He’s not deligitimazing the state of Israel, but asking for more positive engagement with it. Many Israelis are for the two state solution. He isn’t saying anything that wouldn’t be supported by Ben Gurion (a member of a Marxist party, ehem, ehem). You only talk derogatorily about them and use “liberal” as insult.

    What Palestinians do with their state is their problem. If they attack Israel, Israel will be in their right to pummel them.

    • There are already 2 Palestinian states carved out of the territory exclusively reserved for the Jewish homeland….Jordan and Gaza.

      Indeed, when Britain illegally gave the East Bank to Abdullah, he wanted to call it Palestine, but Great Britain refused.
      Todays poulation of Jordan is more than 75% Palestinian.

  7. Delegitimizing the settlement enterprise is not the same as delegitimizing Israel. That the two are so intertwined in the mind of the Israeli right is just a symptom of a dissonance caused by the fact that there simply isn’t a single effective defense of the settlement enterprise.

    The entry above is a classic. The only counter argument to Beinart’s criticism is Palestinian rejectionism? That’s a very poor one, as you would expect the settlements to stand on their own merit. But they can’t, so you resort to a diversion. Beinart is not some rabid anti-Zionist who wishes to destroy Israel and replace it with a Palestinian state, and there is a huge spectrum of opinion between the two extremes, something this post would like us to forget

    Even Israel’s biggest advocates, people such as Dershowitz, don’t even bother defending the settlements, because the settlements are undefensible. They will be the end of us. You would do best to listen to what Beinart says.

    • Please don’t make me laugh….Dershowitz….Israel’s best advocate? I think not!.

      He expressed amazement when he was vilified by Pal activists and he wrote in his recent book…”Don’t they know I’m for the 2 state solution and giving up the settlements?

      Israel is Dershowitz’s vehicle for self promotion, rather than the other way round.

      You’d do better to read Martin Sherman’s piece in the J.Post 2 weeks back
      “Disputing Dershowitz” Support for a 2 state solution has sown the seeds for the international delegitimisation of Israel”.
      It was spot on.

  8. Just watched the clip by Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch. A couple of things. He mentions that assimilation is a bad thing and American Jews need to be saved. From who? Are we all that bad? Really?

    He goes onto talk about the 1967 war. ‘The Arabs launched a war of extermination in 1967 & lost’ then goes onto say, those 67 borders were indefensible which is why Israel launched a pre-emptive strike. Sounds like Israel was doing the launching bit.

    I think at some point the penny drops and he realises what he has just said, a moment of clarity. Goes to show, if you say the same thing over and over you begin to believe it’s true.

    • Mostly Gormless.

      I think that you will find that Egypt’s closing of the Tiran Straits, and Nasser’s threats of extermination against Israel, constituted a cassus belli.

  9. Good for you Adam–calling out hypocritical way Leftist self-hating Jews so critical of Israel and destructive. You’re right about Beinart’s racism–his complete dissociation with all the Islamic terrorism and violence indeed reflects his total abdication of morality and reality, in favor of some twisted politically correct dishonesty so fashionable in Beinart’s liberal circles.

    Sad to say but true that Beinart is clearly a self-hating Jew, as i believe are most of the anti-Israel leftists at “J Street”. When you look at the way these people criticize democratic human rights respecting Israel and theeir near total ignoring of jihadist murderous terrorism, it tells you everything you need to know about how distorted and bigoted their hypocritical agenda obviously is.

Comments are closed.