Last month, we read the classic passage from the Haggadah: “In every generation they try to destroy usâ€¦”
It’s a dubious distinction, being hated by so many for so long. Inexplicable as this attitude toward us from non-Jews is to fathom, it’s even more puzzling when it’s our co-religionists often leading the charge, or adding fuel to the fire.
Someone who has been gaining prominence in these efforts is Peter Beinart, the intellectual wunderkind and self-appointed arbiter of all things right and wrong with both American and Israeli Jewry. Although Beinart is only one person, and his influence only goes so far, he is emblematic of the ever-present Jewish fifth column.
At a time when European anti-Semitism is soaring and when U.S.-Israel relations hover near their lowest point in decades, Beinart recently saw fit to pile on by urging the Obama administration to “punish” Israel. Among his suggestions – Support Palestinian bids at the U.N., join the BDS movement on settlement goods, and freeze the assets of certain Israeli officials. He also urged Jews to organize protests whenever Israeli cabinet members speak. The reason for his latest ire – the Israeli public, in democratic elections, voted to keep Netanyahu in power.
At one point during his tirade, Beinart takes a step back to exclaim, “It means loving Israel more than everâ€¦” He may genuinely view his approach as one of tough love, but its employment is reminiscent of a ploy Jimmy Carter regularly used in his Mideast op-eds. He’d open about the paramount importance of guaranteeing Israel’s security, then spend the remaining 95 percent of his piece likening the Jewish state to the devil incarnate.
Beinart’s views stop short of those held by Jews who question Israel’s right to exist, but paradoxically that makes him more dangerous because he’s taken seriously. At a time when traditionally rock-solid bipartisan U.S. support for Israel is developing serious cracks, Beinart is doing his part to widen the fissures. He has become a media darling and the poster child for J Street – which says it all.
So what are his views? In his book, “The Crisis of Zionism,” Beinart writes that the great American Jewish challenge of our age is “saving liberal Zionism in the U.S. – so that American Jews can help save liberal Zionism in Israelâ€¦” Loosely defined, his tactic for keeping young American Jews engaged and in the fold is acknowledging and relentlessly criticizing Israel’s faults.
That wouldn’t top my list, but I’m not an intellectual.
Beinart’s mindset is all too familiar. In an April 9 article in Haaretz, he wrote that it is “sheer fantasy” to think Israel and the Palestinians could reach an agreement without a return to the 1967 boundaries. He adds that these are “the only parameters that could lead to a deal.” It’s understandable that these may be the only parameters the Palestinians would accept, but what about parameters necessary to increase Israel’s comfort level so the process could truly move forward? Why is that never discussed seriously?
When the Oslo Accords began in 1993, a cautious Yitzhak Rabin insisted that any exchange of territory for intangible promises of peace must include a provision calling for Palestinian leaders to cease from engaging in “hostile propaganda” against Jews and Israel. Toning down the rhetoric of hate was a necessary prelude to resolving all other issues. Israel made an attempt to change the status quo when it withdrew from Gaza. It also put the West Bank and potentially parts of Jerusalem into play with far-reaching offers in both 2000 and 2008. What has the Palestinian establishment done to engender a climate of trust during that time? Is it any wonder a poll conducted late last year by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 80 percent of Palestinians support attempts by individual Palestinians to stab or run over Israelis in Jerusalem, with the overwhelming majority also in favor of continued rocket attacks on Jewish civilians?
While constantly taking Israel to task for its control over the territories, why aren’t Beinart and the many outspoken Jews in media who share his views vocal about the need for Palestinian leaders to be held accountable for their poisonous rhetoric and actions? Even those who sympathize with Beinart’s view have pointed out that he just doesn’t seem to grasp Israel’s very real concerns. If he does, he gives them little more than lip service, instead focusing almost exclusively on Palestinian suffering. The cause and effect that lead to that suffering don’t seem to be part of his equation.
Beinart loves to criticize the Jewish establishment for reflexively feeling a need to come to Israel’s rescue with its blind support. Apparently his solution to counter their tired ways and break the logjam in Mideast negotiations is to club Israel into submission with threats meant to isolate and undermine it. If this doesn’t sound very original or fair, that’s because it isn’t. The liberal “Zionist” model that he is forever touting is strikingly familiar to the one long held and increasingly practiced by European leaders, who are decidedly unsympathetic to Israel’s situation.
Making matters worse is Beinart’s timing, given the realities of today’s Middle East.
There have been recent reports of Hamas turning to heavy machinery to rebuild its tunnels and of Iran increasing delivery of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah. With the fortification of these northern and southern borders, is this really the time for Israel to allow a potential third front to open by ceding the West Bank, a mere stone’s throw (or advanced rocket launch) away from Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport?
Even if Palestinian leaders were to honor a deal and try to maintain peace, the current high level of upheaval is unusual even by Mideast standards. ISIS and others are treating the region like the old Risk board game. Imagine the status and PR coup for the first group able to wrest control of the West Bank from the Palestinians to open a new front? Likely, it would be a proxy group for Iran moving in to gain a three-pronged stranglehold. Must Israel set itself up for potential national suicide to please its critics?
Rather than American Jews heeding Peter Beinart’s advice and organizing protests whenever and wherever Israeli cabinet members are invited to talk, it would be far more useful and productive to have our voices heard in protest when he is the one speaking.
At a time when openly hating Israel, and quite often the Jewish people as well, has become fashionable again, unity is our strength. To attempt to force the Jewish State’s hand and at the same time discredit most major advocacy groups – from AIPAC to the Anti-Defamation League – is not a recipe for maintaining support of Israel but for destroying it.