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Why Peter Beinart is Wrong

With so much criticism of Israel around, what should we take seriously?

Anyone can write an essay, especially sophisticated, Jewish intellectuals. A recent one from academic writer Peter Beinart in the New York Review of Books has elicited a good deal of Jewish hand-wringing. But there are thousands of essays on Web sites, blogs, news media, public policy institutions, and the like. We simply must choose what to read, analyze, and internalize.

Beinart’s essay in the New York Review of Books agonizes over his fading commitment to Israel and the flagging commitment to Israel among the younger generation of Diaspora Jews. He thinks there needs to be a new form of relationship of Jews to Israel, one that allows for MORE criticism, or we will wind up with only an Orthodox, right-wing, rabidly racist, pro-Israel movement based in Israel itself. The rest of the Jews will simply melt away in disgust at Israeli hypertension, except for the Orthodox of course.1

Some people just want to be convinced that Israel needs severe criticism. Beinart has a book coming out this June with the word “hubris” in the title; ironically he is referring to others.

Summarizing, Beinart writes that the Jewish community needs to take him and the progressives seriously and he issues a warning about the futility of a pro-Israel movement that fails to do so.

But Beinart really has to stretch his assumptions. He paints a rather tedious, shallow and alarming picture of the right in Israel tailored (though not correctly) to his accusations that the right is the greater danger to Israel than the Islamists and their sympathizers such as the Gaza Flotilla. So he counsels that Jews should give in to the Gaza Flotilla and isolate the right. Does it not make more sense to isolate the Islamists and work with the right? If the Netanyahu government is wrong, then the Israeli public will throw them out, and Beinart will have his day, maybe. But that is democracy.

Does it not appear strange that he aligns himself with the same things Hamas wants Israel to do? In fact, the Wall Street Journal just published an article on the agreement between him and White House Press Corps resident anti-Semite Helen Thomas on the matter of the Turkish Flotilla to Gaza. Hamas has given a hearty thumbs up to the “truth” of Helen Thomas’ remarks in a candid interview. (Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal, James Taranto, June 7, 2010)

Let me repeat that: Does it not appear strange that he aligns himself with the same things Hamas and Iran want Israel to do such as ending the blockade and allowing free passage in and out of Gaza under the control of Hamas?

Let me pose a question, not for Beinart, but for American Jews who may feel he has a point about winning Jewish kids to a different Israeli Zionism. Does not social scientific data show that American Jewish kids are declining in identification with Judaism in America? So, why blame Israel for their falling away if Jewish parents and institutions can’t create a solid basis for Judaism itself. It might be that Jewish kids are falling away from Israel largely because of our failure to get kids to identify more closely with Judaism.

So is that the fault of an Israeli establishment that, left and right, takes actions considered part of its own defense? Is that the fault of American pro-Israel groups that truly agree with the Israeli leadership? Does he think American leaders who are pro-Israel are slavish mental invalids? Apparently he does.

Moreover, how can our children accept into their hearts an Israel that progressives such as Beinart, some rabbis, many academics, much of the media and other left-wing institutions paint as decrepit and undeserving? Then they paint Hamas and Fatah as benign. Instead, Beinart blames Israeli policy for the problem.

Beinart asks us to believe that the goal of the blockade of Gaza is not to stop Hamas arming themselves with more sophisticated weaponry, but to squeeze Gazans into overthrowing Hamas; does this not cast aspersions on Israel?2 Is the issue either stopping weapons OR seeking the overthrow of the Hamas regime? No it is not; they are not incongruent beliefs. But they can be conflated so that they seem incongruent and that is what Beinart does. His evidence for the destitution this causes Gazans? The Israeli blockade stops Hamas from bringing in such items as chocolate and cilantro. Some counter-revolutionaries, those Israelis.

The Jewish Progressives (not Jewish Liberals) in this country have a big problem. Many of them, positioning themselves falsely as the only true party of peace, are now in the position of having to defend themselves from their own conflicted feelings over wanting to support Israel, but finding themselves not entirely in alignment with Israeli policy. Even more, they find it hard to disengage from the ideals of the world-wide left, which is becoming more and more rabidly anti-Israel and anti-Jewish, while at the same time avoid denying their commitment to Israeli security.

Tying themselves to the Democratic Party and the Obama Administration is part of this, as Obama and the left wing of the Democratic Party challenge Israel’s very existence on such issues as a divided Jerusalem, the concept of a Jewish State of Israel, signing the United Nations’ Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference document, which only cites Israel – out of some 189 countries – for condemnation and not Iran at all. More recently and pointedly, Obama has not supported Israel publicly against Turkey over the Gaza Flotilla incident.

Such a line of argument is par for critics like Beinart who must defend their own progressive Weltanshauung no matter the intellectual contortions they must accomplish to do it. His falsification of facts, his distortions of his opposition, his ignoring facts and counter arguments makes him the man with hubris.

The American people overwhelmingly support Israel. AIPAC has achieved the ability to influence the government on issues central to Israeli survival. The Jewish press largely supports Israel on almost all issues, including the recent incident regarding the Gaza Flotilla. This has all been achieved because of their solid work of painstakingly presenting believable ideas and facts.

The Jewish progressives, of whom Beinart is one, have not presented believable facts and instead accepted on its face value the lies of those who would seek to destroy Israel and kill the Jews.

As goes the adage, with friends like this, who needs enemies.

1 “One reason is that the leading institutions of American Jewry have refused to foster—indeed, have actively opposed—a Zionism that challenges Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and toward its own Arab citizens. For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.” New York Review of Books, Peter Beinart, The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” June 10, 2010.

2“In reality, the embargo has a broader and more sinister purpose: to impoverish the people of Gaza, and thus turn them against Hamas.” The Daily Beast, “Israel’s Indefensible Behavior, Peter Beinart, June 1, 2010

About Stan Kreis

Stan Kreis
Stan Kreis has degrees in sociology, economics and accounting. Therefore he is wise, literate, financially sound and married to Kathryn Bernheimer (she would never marry anyone without such credentials). Grave marker: "the world was his oyster, unfortunately, he ate it and got stomach cramps."

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