(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Peter Beinart, a celebrated American writer and self-styled lover of Zion, is about to publish a new book that heavily critiques Zionism. The heart of his condemnation is that Israeli governments have permitted themselves to severely violate human rights by using excessive force in pursuit of self-defense; even worse, that they used self defense as an excuse to repress the Palestinian people and deny them statehood.
Beinart first came out with these accusations in 2011 in The New York Review of Books, a publication known for its tireless efforts to make Israel worthy of the approval of Jewish liberals.
Beinart's book repeats the allegation that the American Jewish establishment's failure "to empathize with the plight of the Palestinians" and to press Israel to withdraw from "occupied land" is a prime reason for the growing alienation of young American Jewish students from Israel. .
Most American Jewish students, he gleefully informed us in his essay, were distancing themselves from Israel because "(t)hey have imbibed some of the defining values of American Jewish political culture: a belief in open debate, skepticism about military force, a commitment to human rights."
"Open debate" is laudable. But how can Prof. Beinart, who quotes very extensively from Israelis who harshly condemn Israel, claim that this is what Israel lacks?
More questions about Beinart's veracity arise when his vacuous abstractions are applied to reality. What precisely do Prof. Beinart and his likes mean when they tout their "deep sense of the limits of military force?" That Israel must not react to years of exploding buses and thousands of rockets falling on its cities and killing civilians? That Israel must "show empathy to Palestinian suffering" and ignore the indiscriminate murder of innocent Israelis? How can he falsely accuse Israel of using "excessive force" (how is this term defined, and by whom?) when in fact Israel has been so reticent about using force that it failed to squash or even impede Arab terrorism. This, when a determined effort by the formidable Israeli army could certainly have defeated Arab terrorism as all other terrorist movements were defeated in the past by military response (from the Hashashin to the Red Brigades, The Shining Path, The Bader Meinhof Gang, the 1936 Arab revolt, the Communist revolts in Greece and Malasia and more).
Can Prof. Beinart cite many cases of Israeli military commanders who have not agonized over the proper use of force, often paying with the lives of their soldiers for such agonizing, when terrorists hiding among a civilian population forced them to examine in real circumstances and time "the limits of military force;" not from the safety of one's office, but in life and death situations?
Would it be too much to expect from Prof. Beinart and his moralistic colleagues to spare some of the empathy they exclusively bestow on the Arabs (who happen to be the aggressors in this deadly conflict) for their victims too, even if the victims are guilty, as he claims, of an "obsession with victimhood," allegedly overreacting to the deadly danger posed by crazed Muslim fundamentalism and by a nuclear armed Iran. Does such a putative "obsession," even if it exists, deny their right to be protected from the threat of annihilation by all available means?
Prof. Beinart urges Israelis to recognize "Palestinians as deserving of dignity and capable of peace." Well said. Not a few Israelis have been roundly criticizing Israeli governments, who act stupidly—sometimes even viciously as all governments do—for not treating some Arabs with the dignity they deserve and for helping put the Arabs under the rule of terrorist mafias that prevent them from building a civil society capable of peace. And must the Jewish moral imperative that insists on the primary obligation to protect life, especially the life of innocents, be suspended to assure "the dignity" of Arabs who feel it is undignified not to indiscriminately kill their enemies, especially Jews? Last, why does Beinart so despise Jewish nationalism while forgiving Arab Jingoism that employs terrorism against innocent civilians? Demanding that Israelis treat them with empathy is surely a double moral standard.
Did it ever occur to Beinart that the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, which he fervently advocates, will most certainly result in a great calamity for the Arabs? He himself acknowledges that the Palestinians are ruled by "a group of leaders who stabbed them in the back." Advocating an independent Palestinian state at this time will bolster an Assad-style dictatorship that is the Palestinian Authority. The PA deprives Palestinians not only of their dignity and most basic human rights, but also of any liberty or chance to pursue happiness. And it will only worsen when the West Bank inevitably falls under the rule of Hamas. Palestinian leadership will continue to incite Palestinians with vicious propaganda to wage a war of annihilation against Israel. Once again, just like 1948, Palestinians will become the chief victims of such a war.
Israel's putative "occupation," which, apart from temporary military operations against terrorism, allows Palestinians to carry on independently with their lives, is also the obstacle preventing a violent Hamas takeover of the West Bank. A takeover that will condemn West Bank residents to a miserable life, just like their brethren in Gaza. Prof. Beinart, if you care more for human lives than moral posturing, you may want to factor this in to your moral equations.
The perils posed to Palestinian Arab existence are obviously not Beinart's great concern. What concerns him are abstract "moral principles," "dignity," "national rights" and so on. He advocates their haphazard application - even when the results prove disastrous to Israelis and Palestinians alike. Beinart is so busy preening his moral feathers that he does not bother with trifles such as the mortal danger posed to Palestinians by Islamic fundamentalism and jingoism.
Nowhere is the bleeding heart moral vacuity that informs Beinart's condemnations more evident than in his claim that there exists "frightening long-term trends in Israeli society." He extrapolates these "frightening trends" from a growth in groups like "settlers" or "Russians" (racist inference, anyone?), who, according to polls conducted on these groups, have expressed a desire to "encourage Arabs to leave the country."
If we are to judge a people by its deeds, and not by opinion polls, Israelis are the most tolerant people on earth. Can anyone think of another people that would be exposed to years of terror acts, and yet refrain from taking acts of revenge?
The total disregard with which Beinart treats reality and his sanctimonious obsession with moral abstractions, creates a fundamental obstacle to reconciliation because it protects the enemies of peace while making impossible demands on the victims of terrorism. Only after ridding ourselves of the false prophets of peace like Beinart can the arduous and painful task of building peace begin in earnest.