Perfidious Pete, treacherous Tom – Part I (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By MARTIN SHERMAN 04/12/12)
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There is something frankly silly to me about a Jewish community that
feels so self- confident in how our values apply in Bosnia, the
former Soviet Union and Darfur, but is so timid in talking about how
our values apply in [Israel] the place we care about most. – Peter
Beinart, Temple Beth Am, Los Angeles, June 21, 2010
Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in
Congress this year …was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby
(September 17, 2011)…. The powerful pro- Israel lobby in an election
season can force the administration to defend Israel at the UN, even
when it knows Israel is pursuing policies not in its own interest or
America’s. (13 December, 2011) – Tom Friedman, New York Times
Peter Beinart and Tom Friedman have for all intents and purposes
declared political war on Israel. In their latest New York Times
articles, they have chosen to side unequivocally with the
Palestinians, offered them strategic counsel, and set themselves
firmly against the elected government of the Jewish state. They must
be confronted in accordance with their choice.
It time to take off the kid gloves. It is time to stop condoning
deception and distortion under the guise of freedom of speech. It is
time to call a spade a spade – and behave accordingly.
Defending democracy – down to the last Israeli
Reading the toxic tripe propounded by Beinart and Friedman, one might
be excused for wondering what all the fuss is over Günter Grass’s
recently published anti- Israel “poem”– if that is the correct term
to describe his egregious “What Must Be Said.”
Of course, Grass’s membership in Hitler’s Waffen SS aroused an
understandably strong emotional reaction to his rambling rant,
rebuking Israel for taking Iran’s threat of a new Holocaust
seriously, and (gasp) actually preparing to prevent it – in stark
contrast to the previous one, perpetrated by Grass’s former comrades-
However, unless some of its bile got lost in the English translation,
Grass’s gripe seems relatively benign compared to the venomous
vitriol that Beinart and Friedman regularly hurl at the their kinfolk.
Indeed, this dubious duo have proved time and time again that they
are ever-ready to defend, with unflinching resolve, their professed
liberal credo –down to the last Israeli – insisting incessantly that
this would be best served by bringing millions more into the range of
There is a compelling logic to deal with Beinart and Friedman
together, as a loosely integrated unit. Both are high-profile public
figures, warmly embraced by Jewish liberal circles. Both have access
to the same powerful vehicle for propagating their views which are
essentially similar and resonate strongly with each other. Both have
been proved disastrously wrong but steadfastly refuse to admit error.
In this the first part of the essay, I will focus mainly on Beinart
and defer the analysis of Friedman to next week.
Portraying Jews as Janjaweed?
Consider the introductory except from a public address delivered by
Beinart at the conservative Temple Beth Am, on the fringes of Beverly
Hills in the summer of 2010.
The event was organized by the widely-read Jewish Journal, following
the publication, in the New York Times Review of Books (NYTRB), of
Beinart’s distortive, deceptive and, at times, deceitful
diatribe, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment”– which
perversely catapulted him into celebrity status. In it, Beinart
rebukes the US Jewish establishment for betraying its commitment to
humanistic liberal values, by its allegedly uncritical – almost
Pavlovian – support for Israel, despite what he perceives as blatant
abuses of human rights and democratic values.
In his Beth Am speech, Beinart odiously insinuates that Israeli
actions vis-a-vis the Palestinians are somehow comparable to the
wholesale slaughter in Darfur, the widespread massacres in Bosnia and
the oppressive brutality of the Soviet regime – and warrant a similar
After all, one can only assume that he considered these analogies
pertinent – otherwise why would he allude to them as he did? What a
windfall for the assorted collection of Jew-baiting anti-Semites,
Judeophobic Israel-bashers and other hate-driven villains! One can
almost hear them rubbing their hands in glee.
What greater endorsement could they wish for than Beinart’s
exhortation that his fellow Jews relate to the Jewish-nation state as
if were governed by the genocidal Janjaweed militias in Sudan, or by
the brutish guards in the Siberian gulags, or the murderous
perpetrators of the bloody events in Srebrenica.
Delinquent not dispossessed
In his NYTRB piece, Beinart invokes the following heartrending
incident: “[In] the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, a
Palestinian family named the Ghawis lives on the street outside their
home of 53 years, from which they were evicted to make room for
And in his Beth Am address, he defiantly challenges the audience’s
moral conscience, trenchantly demanding: “Is what is happening in
Sheikh Jarrah ,where Palestinians who were living in their homes for
50 years were forcibly evicted and are now living in the
street, ‘kosher’?” Well, so far, so…deceptive. For a modicum of
research would quickly reveal Beinart’s seemingly principled position
to be a gross distortion of events.
What he fails to convey to his audience is that the Palestinians’
eviction was not an arbitrary act of Israeli callousness. It was not –
as he implies – a heartless politically- motivated initiative to
dispossess hapless, helpless Palestinians. Rather, it was the result
of a ruling by the Supreme Court – usually depicted as a
unimpeachable custodian of liberal values ostensibly so dear to
Beinart’s heart – and the culmination of a legal battle extending
over more than a quarter a century!
It ordered the Palestinians eviction, not because of their “non-
Judaic” ethnic affiliation but because… they refused to pay rent. To
the Jewish owners of the property they were occupying! Delinquent
tenants rather than dispossessed victims? How dull! But portraying
the evicted Palestinians – who somehow had the resources to conduct a
legal battle extending over three decades – as rent delinquents
rather than wretched casualties of a cruel uncaring political regime
lacks the dramatic impact for the emotive plot that Beinart
apparently seeks to weave – even at the expense of an accurate
rendition of events.
A question of questionable credibility
Beinart’s professed concern is that young liberal Jews will reject
Zionism because of its alleged abandonment of humanistic democratic
values. One can only wonder whether he really believes that Israel
would be more attractive for liberal Jews if it were perceived as a
place where the rule of law was scorned, court rulings flouted, due
process by-passed and legal property rights (of Jews) violated with
impunity because of the ethnic (Palestinian) identity of litigants?
But what makes the biased manner in which Beinart conveyed the Sheikh
Jarrah incident particularly disturbing is that the facts comprising
the wider context of the eviction were readily available for anyone
who felt the slightest obligation to present a fair and balanced
picture of what transpired.
Accordingly, the highly selective and slanted version of the legally-
sanctioned eviction he chose to adopt and the highly disparaging,
damaging and distorted light in which he sought to depict Israel,
must cast grave aspersions on his credibility – and motives.
Of course, the more magnanimous might suggest that it was sloppy
research rather than ill-will that led to the gross misrepresentation
of Israeli conduct. Perhaps – but on July 8, 2010, I emailed Beinart,
inter alia, relaying the legal background dating back to 1982, when
the first rent delinquency claims were filed against the Palestinian
While it might be over optimistic to hope that this would elicit a
retraction, might one not have hoped that a clarification, a
modification, an admission that matters were more complex than
originally expressed, would have been appropriate? To the best of my
knowledge no such measure was ever undertaken – certainly none that
received any publicity worthy of note. So it would seem that Beinart
has no qualms about sticking to his misleading and inflammatory
Israel-bashing account – even when in possession of the facts.
Complicit in crude delegitimization
This penchant for adopting the crude imagery of Israel’s worst
denigrators, for endorsing the most biased and derogatory
interpretation of localized incidents and extrapolating them as if
they were representative of Israel society as a whole, seems to
permeate Beinart’s writing and public appearances. Take for instance
his latest literary effort, The Crisis of Zionism. The book begins
with a poignant anecdote, based on a video sent to him by a friend.
Ostensibly, it shows a Palestinian father, caught attempting to steal
water, being dragged away by Israel forces to the anguished shrieks
of his son.
This is grist for Beinart’s demagogic mill and he seizes on it with
alarming alacrity. He paints an appalling picture of pitiless Israeli
repression. A desperate parent, denied access to water despite
repeated appeals to unresponsive authorities (although one might be
excused for wondering how the video authenticates this allegation),
driven by despair to try and tap illicitly into water pipes conveying
water to nearby Jewish settlements, “boasting swimming pools and
intensive irrigation” whose per capita water consumption is roughly
five times that of the Palestinians.
Setting aside the (studiously unmentioned) fact that the Israeli
authorities dispute the video’s authenticity (Haaretz , 05.08.10),
Beinart’s account of the episode show him to be willingly and
knowingly complicit in the crudest attempts to delegitimize Israel.
Deliberate distortion and disregard
Ever since the 1995 Oslo Agreements II (Annex III, Article 40, Clause
4), Israel no longer bears responsibility for supplying Palestinian
end-consumers with water. It supplies the Palestinian Authority, in
compliance with – indeed considerably in excess of – its agreed Oslo
obligations and it is the Palestinian Water Authority,
municipalities, private producers and Palestinians water companies
that are responsible for the conveyance/distribution of water to
Since the responsibility (officially and in practice) for the water
supply to the Palestinian consumers is fully under the Palestinian
Water Authority, complaints regarding inefficient or insufficient
water supply should be directed at the Palestinian Authority.
As for the much-maligned “settlements,” Israel conveys more water
from inside the pre-1967 Green Line into the West Bank than the total
consumption of the Jewish settlements. There is thus a net conveyance
of water from Israel to the Palestinians that more than compensates
for the “settlers” widely denigrated “swimming pools.”
While it is true that the per capita consumption of the Israeli
population is considerably higher than that of the Palestinian
population, this is principally a result of differences in demand –
rather than in supply – due to the differing lifestyles in the two
Significantly, in the Beduin town of Rahat in the Negev, the per
capita usage is over 40 percent higher than in the muchbesmirched
Kiryat Arba, where each “settler” consumes barely one tenth of the
water that a resident of affluent Savyon does. It would be intriguing
to discover what criterion of “discrimination” Beinart would invoke
to explain these differentials in consumption.
It is, of course, not difficult to find instances of personal
hardship and distress with regard to water in the Palestinian
territories, but this in no way reflects the overall intent or impact
of Israeli policy, which by every criterion imaginable improved the
Palestinian hydrological situation beyond recognition (See my
previous columns “Amnesty’s travesty” and “A study in impotence.”)
Now I know that Beinart is aware of all this information – because I
provided him with it! In an address at the UCLA Hillel (May 3, 2011),
he brought up the precisely same distressing incident of the father’s
arrest and the son’s sobs.
In an oral exchange, which included an invitation to debate me
publicly – that was declined – I apprised him of the hydrological
realities and explained why his account was distorted, deficient and
For the sake of good order, I sent a subsequent email (May 14) to the
UCLA Hillel director and Beinart, containing the pertinent data, and
asking that it be distributed to the attendees at the talk – in the
interests of fair and balanced presentation of the facts.
To the best of my knowledge, it was not. What is certain is that it
had no impact on how Beinart chose to present the incident a year
later – when his book appeared in the stores.
Time for another ‘Goldstone-like’ response?
I began this essay with an appeal to “call a spade a spade” and to
Well, what sort of action would be appropriate for confronting such
baseless and biased besmirchment of Israel perpetrated willfully
by “one of our own”? Perhaps the example of the wide-ranging
ostracization of Richard Goldstone, following his complicity in the
baseless, biased besmirchment of the IDF action in Gaza, may be an
instructive and appropriate template to consider.
More on that next Friday! (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 04/12/12)
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