Beinart’s false image of Zionism and American Jewry (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By ISI LEIBLER 02/21/12)
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In June 2011, Peter Beinart, a former editor of the staunchly pro-
Israel New Republic, published a controversial essay in the left-wing
New York Review of Books headlined: “The failure of the American
Jewish Establishment.” The article was a scathing condemnation of
Israeli policies which he alleged were undermining democracy and
violating human rights. He accused American Jewish leaders of
slavishly toeing “extreme right-wing Israeli positions” and “refusing
to defend democracy in the Jewish state.”
Beinart’s essay transformed him overnight into a darling of the left-
liberal establishment and media, which abhor the Netanyahu
government. He was feted as a courageous Jewish writer willing to
stand up and castigate both Israeli and American Jewish leaders.
Presumably overwhelmed by the adoration showered upon him, Beinart
has now expanded his essay into a book based on the standard
stereotypes and fallacies shared by most hostile far-left
and “liberal” critics of Israel. Titled The Crisis of Zionism, it is
scheduled for release next month.
Beinart is convinced that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is
the “great Jewish question of the age” and his central call is for
American Jews to join the choir condemning Israel. He informs us that
he loves Israel and would teach his children to love it. Yet in the
same breath he unequivocally condemns the Jewish “apartheid” state
for breaching human rights, depriving Palestinians of dignity, and
describes Israel’s settlement policy as a futile effort to retain
occupation in a post-colonial age. He accuses the Israeli government
of denying human rights to Palestinians “simply because they are not
Jews,” comparing their treatment to that of African Americans before
segregation was banned.
Netanyahu is portrayed as the devil incarnate, who opposes peace,
regards liberalism as the special curse of the Jewish people,
inherited from his father a view of Arabs as “semi-barbaric” and
exploits Jewish victimization and the Holocaust as cynical propaganda
In an effort to depict him as a rightwing extremist directing Israel
towards fascism, Beinart shamelessly quotes outdated views of the
prime minister, even when they represent the antithesis of the
current policies he is implementing.
The Jewish state is far from perfect and we are entitled to have
differing views on specific areas of Israeli policy. But to insist
that the settlement issue, which relates to only a minute proportion
of the disputed territories, is the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict
is simply parroting primitive Arab propaganda. Besides, Beinart fails
to point out that both prime minister Ehud Barak and prime minister
Ehud Olmert offered in excess of 95 percent of the disputed
territories to the Palestinians, with both Arafat and Abbas rejecting
the offer without even making a counter-proposal. And when Sharon
unilaterally withdrew from Gaza these territories were used to launch
missiles to terrorize Israeli civilians.
The most demagogic aspect of Beinart’s distorted approach to Israel
is his repeated depictions of Israel as a country consistently
abusing human rights and undermining democracy. Yet despite facing
existential threats from the day of its birth and harboring a
substantial minority of Arabs whose radical extremists, including
Knesset Members, ally themselves with terrorists and our genocidal
enemies, the Jewish state remains one of the most vibrant democracies
in the world – an especially stark contrast to the tyrannical Islamic
states surrounding it.
Israel provides universal suffrage, social services without
discrimination to all its citizens, a free press and extends freedom
of expression beyond what many other stable democracies tolerate.
To describe such a nation as verging on fascism is preposterous. We
are entitled to become enraged when bleeding-heart liberals like
Beinart, basking in their New York or London salons, depict us in
such a despicably distorted manner.
Beinart regards Barack Obama as “America’s first Jewish president...
a man steeped in liberalism absorbed from Jewish friends in Chicago.”
He relates to the influence on Obama of the late Rabbi Arnold Jacob
Wolf, who in 1973 became founder and chair of Breira, a far-left
forerunner of J Street which was dissolved in 1977. Perhaps, to some
extent, that identifies the source of the president’s loathing of the
The bulk of Beinart’s book concentrates on denouncing American Jewish
leaders for collaborating with the “immoral” Israeli enterprise by
refusing to condemn abuses. He asserts that it is impossible to
remain a liberal while supporting the policies of right-wing Israeli
governments. ADL head Abe Foxman is castigated for allegedly
stating “Israeli democracy should decide, American Jews should
Beinart expresses contempt for AIPAC, giving as examples of its
supposed bias its “unfair” and “obsessive” attitudes toward Human
Rights Watch, an organization publicly repudiated by its founder due
to its frenetically biased hostility toward Israel.
The greatest flaw in Beinart’s thesis is the constant repetition of
the lie that “the mass of American Jews are to the left of
organizations that speak in their name and almost always oppose US
pressure on Israeli leaders and blame the Palestinians almost
exclusively for the lack of Middle East Peace.”
The reality is that American Jews may be liberal and traditionally
inclined to vote for the Democratic Party, but at the grassroots
level, in recent months they displayed far greater agitation than
their leaders against President Obama’s biased diplomacy against
Beinart’s mantra, chanted repeatedly by the left-liberal media, is
also that despite evidence to the contrary, other than the Orthodox,
American Jewish youngsters have become alienated from Israel.
It may be true that most American Jews, including youngsters, are
painfully ignorant of the history of Zionism and that their knowledge
about the Jewish state remains pitiful even though Birthright and
other sponsored programs bringing young Americans to Israel are
improving the situation.
But despite this, even discounting the Orthodox, opinion polls taken
in recent years demonstrate that far from being alienated from
Israel, American Jews are instinctively more hawkish than Israelis.
One need only examine the annual American Jewish Committee opinion
polls and the important recent Mitchell survey undertaken by the
American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise and The Israel Project. They
reveal that 89 percent of American Jewish youngsters strongly support
Israel, endorse decisions adopted by the democratically elected
government of Israel and oppose the public criticism of Israel which
Beinart advocates. In fact, the vast majority consider Israel to be
the spiritual center of the Jewish people and regard Israel as a
crucial component of their Jewish identity.
The reality is that “liberals” who feel alienated from Israel are
running against the grain of grassroots American Jews. They may get
more media attention, but they represent a small albeit highly vocal
minority. This is exemplified by the marginal impact of the primarily
Soros-funded J Street.
Beinart “modestly” proclaims that he is upholding “the honor of the
Jewish people in our time.” His book is hailed by former Meretz
leader and current chair of the New Israel Fund as “the outstanding
Zionist statement of the 21st century” and received fulsome praise
before its release by anti- Israel New York Times columnist Roger
Cohen and the newly appointed Jerusalem correspondent of the Times,
Jodi Rudoren, who described it as “terrific.”
Not surprisingly, J Street embraces Beinart and will be launching his
book at their forthcoming national conference.
Reality on the ground and the flawed premises upon which Beinart
bases his thesis will not detract from the praise he will receive
from the left-liberal media whose hostility against Israel has
regrettably become endemic.
His book, like that of Walt and Mearsheimer, the maligners of the
Israel lobby, will be another addition to the growing number of
volumes demonizing the Jewish state.
Fortunately, despite the misguided efforts of some Jewish leaders to
invite into the “big tent” those canvassing foreign governments to
pressure the Jewish state, the impact of people like Beinart on the
Jewish community as a whole has been marginal. (© 1995-2011, The
Jerusalem Post 02/21/12)
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