Peter Beinart, who will be visiting our Manhattan townhouse this coming Tuesday for a discussion and debate with me and Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal, has many people he doesn’t like.
In a debate against me in Tel Aviv last year he compared Sheldon Adelson, the world’s foremost Jewish philanthropist, to the Iranian government terrorist mullahs. In a February 2015 column for Haaretz he referred to Elie Wiesel as a tragic figure who “whitewash[es] Jewish behavior.”
Now he has set his sights on Jared Kushner, writing a column for The Forward
in which he condemns not just Jared, but all of modern orthodoxy for producing him. “How could the Modern Orthodox community, a community that prides itself on instilling in its children Jewish knowledge and ideals, have failed so profoundly? ... Every synagogue where Kushner prayed regularly should ask itself whether it bears some of the blame for having failed to instill in him the obligations of Jewish memory. Even if it is too late to influence Kushner, Modern Orthodox leaders still can work to ensure that they do not produce more like him in the years to come.”
Let’s deal with his question. How indeed could orthodoxy produce someone like Jared? Because of orthodoxy’s power to instill deep Jewish pride in its adherents.
Let’s remember who Jared Kushner is; a young man who dated one of the most famous and wealthiest women in America, Ivanka Trump, insisted she study Judaism and inspired her to have an Orthodox conversion. Together, they publicly observe the Sabbath, putting God’s holy day before business or travel.
Jared is fiercely devoted to, and protective of, the State of Israel and is largely credited with his father-in-law’s tough-as-nails posture toward the Jewish state’s security. While Peter Beinart was joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, calling for boycotts of Jewish produce from the residents of the ancient biblical lands of Judea and Samaria, Jared was working with his father-in-law to stop president Barack Obama from pushing through UN Security Council Resolution 2334 that condemned Israeli houses all while the children of Aleppo were being bombed to dust and ashes.
Indeed, herein lies the crux of Beinart’s hypocrisy. His condemnation of Kushner centers on his support for his father-in-law’s executive order for a temporary ban of refugees. For the record, I happen to agree that even a temporary ban should not be implemented – even to simply introduce new vetting procedures – without the simultaneous creation of safe zones in Syria to protect innocent life.
But Beinart forgets that the Syrian refugee crises did not begin under Trump or Kushner, who have been in office for just two weeks. Rather, it came about through the callous and indifferent foreign policy of Beinart’s hero, Obama, who refused to intervene in Syria, even as the slaughter there turned to genocide. Sunni Muslims, including children in Damascus and Aleppo, were being slaughtered by Shi’ite militias and Bashar Assad’s Alawite government, with the active support of Hezbollah and Iran.
Obama did nothing.
Only after Trump’s executive order did Beinart suddenly spring to life to protect the innocent citizens of Syria whom president Obama and his national security team had abandoned. President Obama also finally found his voice – post-presidency and from the vacation comfort of Palm Springs – against the Trump administration’s immigrant ban. This while Obama didn’t even lift a finger to save the children of Syria after Assad violated Obama’s self-declared red line and gassed Arab children. Where was Beinart’s condemnation of Obama’s violation of his own warning to Assad not to gas innocent Arabs?
The immigrant crisis, which is absolutely tragic, resulted in large part from American inaction and Obama’s retreat in the Middle East and beyond. There might never have been an immigrant crisis if Obama had instituted a no-fly zone, safe zones, or supported moderate Syrian rebels against Assad from the outset.
Countless people called on president Obama to pursue policies that would rescue the innocent people of Syria. But not Peter Beinart. Obama refused to listen, and the result was not only the murder of 500,000 Arab men, women and children, but the displacement of millions of refugees, which is the crisis we now face.
But amid this unprecedented humanitarian failure, there was no column by Beinart asking how Christianity could have produced Barack Obama.
And why? Because Beinart’s moral outrage does not transcend party affiliation. It’s limited to people on the Right and will even include moral giants like Elie Wiesel if they disagree with Beinart on the legitimacy of Jews living near the buried patriarchs of Hebron.
To be sure, America must take in immigrants. We are a nation of immigrants. But rather than condemning the Jewish religion, its synagogues and educational institutions, Beinart should be honest enough to admit that millions of innocent Arabs should have never been forced to flee their homes in the first instance. President Obama, along with Susan Rice, John Kerry and Samantha Power – whose reputation as an anti-genocide advocate has been eviscerated – should have taken action. The West should have stopped Assad from butchering his people at the source. Obama should have led the charge.
Now we have this crisis, and America must accept the refugees it can while still vetting immigrants to make sure American citizens are safe. President Trump is having to address a vast humanitarian crisis created by Obama’s inaction.
I understand President Trump’s need to protect Americans. It’s the primary duty of a president. And I understand his need to revamp the vetting process. But I believe that President Trump could also have announced, as he proclaimed his temporary ban, that it did not apply to those brave souls who worked with American forces in Iraq. He could also have announced it did not apply to those who have already obtained a green card and had been properly vetted. The failure to do so left a few hundred people stranded en route and caused the mass outcry of those legitimately concerned with the undermining of American values.
The president could also have announced at the same time as the ban the establishment of safe zones, primarily in Syria, where people facing brutality could be protected. This way the president could have protected these immigrants at their origin.
Trump seems to have the ear of Vladimir Putin and he could reach out to the Russian president to pressure Assad to create safe areas that are not bombed. Trump could have told Putin that the creation of these safe zones is essential if the two of them are to have a relationship. Even now, Turkey administers some of the safe zones in the area, so we know it’s possible.
I completely agree that the Jewish community should be at the forefront of calling on the president to safeguard the lives of refugees even as he legitimately acts to protect the American people against possible infiltration by terrorist elements by insisting on proper and thorough vetting.
Both political parties must commit themselves to a program of welcoming the persecuted and, even more importantly, protecting them at their source.The author, “America’s rabbi,” whom
The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” has just published
The Israel Warrior: Standing Up for the Jewish State from Campus to Street Corner. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.