Richard Beinart and Peter Goldstone – Part II
Into the fray: Neither is Jaber incident – even if accepting Beinart’s view of what happened – fair representation of overall Israeli conduct.
Peter Beinart and Daniel Gordis debate Photo: Matt Sherman/The Current
How could we give permission [for there] to be a state of Islam and a state of
Jews? It [the two-state notion] is a kind of apartheid....For the
Palestinians and the Israelis, I am sure that the one democratic state will be
the only solution
– Badran, Khaled Jaber’s grandfather, April 2012
We need all
[of] Palestine... Israel as a Jewish state is a big lie. It’s a big lie. [Israel
is] a European colonial imprint.... It’s a matter of time.... They will go away
the same way that France went from Algeria and Italy from Libya.
Khaled Jaber’s mother, April 2012.
Readers will, of course, recall that
Khaled Jaber was the five-year-old Palestinian boy filmed sobbing at his
father’s arrest by Israeli police, and who, according to Peter Beinart, provided
much of the impetus for him to write his recent book, The Crisis of
Sauce for the gander
It is, of course, true that the Jaber
family’s rejectionist political perspectives are neither moral exoneration for
any alleged injustices/iniquities in Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, nor
definitive proof of universal or wide-spread sentiments of similar enmity among
the wider Palestinian population.
However, neither is the Jaber incident
– even if one accepts Beinart’s unquestioning and questionable interpretation of
what happened – a fair representation of overall Israeli conduct vis-à-vis the
Palestinians, any more than the brutal beating of Rodney King by the LAPD is a
representative reflection of official US policy vis-à-vis ethnic
But since Beinart did extrapolate from the Khaled Jaber
incident, implying that it is illustrative of the unfair and oppressive burden
imposed on the un-enfranchised Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, he
should neither be surprised, nor in a position to protest, when others
extrapolate from other localized events/expressions to illustrate the imprudence
and implausibility of his views.
Beinart is on record
stating that even if he had known the Jaber family’s political beliefs, it would
not have changed his decision to feature Khaled’s story in the book’s
introduction, saying: “The point I was trying to convey in that story was simply
about a small example of the reality of what it means to live as a population
that doesn’t have citizenship or the equal rights given by full citizenship and
the consequences of that. And that seems to me a reality that is important,
irrespective of the political views of the people who are suffering.”
mentioned earlier, this is not a position that can be dismissed apriori.
However, few will deny that it seems more than a little incongruous that the
very family through which Beinart chose to convey the pressing need for a
two-state arrangement vehemently rejects the admissibility of such an
arrangement –irrespective of Israeli policy.
Actually, it’s worse. For it
turns out that the Jabers are not a typical Palestinian fellah (peasant) family
eking out a meager living from arid lands denied irrigation by iniquitous
As The Jerusalem Post reported, Badran is a professor at one of
Hebron’s two universities – both established in the 1970s under the Israeli
administration of the town – prior to which it had no institutions of higher
He is also designated a “senior member” of the radical Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine which has been involved in some of the
more gruesome terror attacks over the past half century.
An uncanny knack
The Jabers have an uncanny knack for attracting the attention of the
international media. The briefest of Google searches reveals that the incident
Beinart seized on was not the Jaber family’s first brush with Israeli forces
over illicit water use filmed by an international TV network.
months prior to Sky News showing the young Khaled wailing over his father,
Fadel, being arrested, lo-and-behold Al Jazeera also appeared to document a
confrontation with Israel authorities over the Jaber family illegally tapping
into water pipes.
Unsurprisingly, the network broadcast a distorted and
deceptive account of the water realities in the “West Bank.”
Israel of depriving Palestinian farmers of their rightful share of water,
blithely disregarding – as did Beinart – that it is the Palestinian Authority
which is responsible for providing Palestinian consumers with water, but does
not even use all of the quota allotted it.
Although the Israeli forces
did dismantle the illegal connections, no one was arrested for “water-theft,”
and a dapperly dressed Badran vowed to continue to defy the authorities and
First Al Jazeera, then Sky News with the
Jabers within the space of a few months? Of course, this may be sheer
coincidence – but it does make you think. Just maybe there may be something to
the Israeli claim that Fadel Jaber was arrested for disturbing the peace and not
for stealing water.
And perhaps there just might be something to the
Israeli claim that the poignant scene of the wailing Khaled was less than
Radical, rejectionist, ruthless
The Jabers’ association with
the PFLP is interesting because it shows what inappropriate “icons” they are to
illustrate Beinart’s claims. For both their personal opinions and their
organizational affiliation illuminate aspects of Palestinian society that
underscore the foolhardy futility of Beinart’s political
The PFLP, in which Jaber has a leading role (the PFLP
website describes him as “a leader”) is the second largest faction in the PLO –
after Abbas’s Fatah – and is one of the most radical and rejectionist of all
It “pioneered” armed aircraft hijackings in the ’60s
and ’70s – including the Entebbe episode.
It was involved in some of the
most horrific acts of terror – from the 1972 massacre of almost 30 passengers at
Lod (now Ben-Gurion) Airport in conjunction with the Japanese Red Army to the
brutal 2011 murder of the Fogel family, whose killers were closely associated
with the organization.
The PFLP was also responsible for the
assassination of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi at a Jerusalem hotel in
It opposed the Oslo Accords and any recognition of Israel, recently
winning praise from Hamas for suspending its participation in the PLO’s
The PFLP is not an Islamist organization.
was established by a Palestinian Christian, George Habash, whose animosity
toward Israel pre-dates any “nondemocratic occupation” in Judea, Samaria or
Gaza, going back to the 1950s.
The same is true of one of Habash’s most
notorious lieutenants, Wadie Haddad, who also worked for the KGB and reportedly
dismissed the infamous international terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (Carlos)
from his PFLP team for failing to execute hostages.
Neither the heinous
history of the organization nor the bloodstained biographies of its founders
deterred grandfather Jaber from eulogizing Haddad (and Habash) earlier this year
in a radio broadcast, prominently reported on the PFLP’s website, praising their
myriad acts of murderous international terror as unwavering loyalty to the
Same incident, different portrayals
Why is all this
relevant to the assessment of Beinart’s critique of Israeli policy and its US
supporters? Because it focuses on one on the major defects in Beinart’s
argumentation: His total disregard for the nature of Palestinian society, its
deep-rooted hatred of Israel and the widespread rejection of Jewish sovereignty,
within any borders whatsoever, as a policy- relevant factor.
haste to accept the emotive superficiality of the 55 second video that spurred
him write his book results in a picture of Israel as cruel, discriminatory
oppressor, wreaking suffering on a passive, disenfranchised civilian
However, a little research into the incident, and the figures
it involved, would convey a very different portrait of reality.
show Palestinian society as one of pervasive and abiding enmity toward Israel –
because of what it is, not what it does – that embraces all segments including
non-Muslim secular movements. The Jabers would not be depicted as poor agrarian
peasants, toiling in the parched fields, deprived of adequate water by Israeli
malice, but educated intellectuals actively affiliated with one of the most
extreme terror organizations on the planet and utterly opposed to any
conciliation with a Jewish state.
In the former portrait, all the onus is
on Israel to act to end the conflict; in the latter, Israeli action is
irrelevant for ending the conflict, a portrait in which – as Daniel Gordis
pointed out in his debate with Beinart – there is “nothing Israel can do to end
the conflict – not even land for peace.”
What about Wafa?
If one wanted
to choose an iconic figure to convey the unforgiving realities Israel faces in
its interaction with Palestinian society – and one that vividly illustrates the
harsh veracity of Gordis’s observation – one could do no better than Wafa
Biss is a young Palestinian woman from Gaza, who in 2004 was
admitted to Beersheba’s Soroka University Medical Center with serious burn
injuries. At the hospital, she received emergency – probably life-saving –
treatment. Her parents and her Gaza doctors praised the dedication of the staff
and the quality of the treatment.
She was allowed return for periodic
check-ups to monitor her progress.
Then in the summer of 2005, on one of
these visits, she was caught at a border crossing, trying to smuggle more 10 kg.
of explosives in her clothing. Her plan was to blow herself up in an attack
intended to kill the very doctors who had saved her life, along with as many
patients and bystanders as possible.
Her dispatchers were not Hamas
operatives, but the Fatah affiliated Al-Aksa Brigades.
contrite and pleading after her capture, has since her release in the Schalit
exchange waxed considerably more defiant, urging youngsters to follow her
example of suicide attacks against Israel and further abductions of IDF soldiers
to secure the release of more Palestinian prisoners.
So there lies the
rub: Dedicated humanitarian aid by Israel is reciprocated with murderous
Palestinian actions against the very people who provided the aid.
while Wafa al-Biss’s conduct may not be a template that all Palestinians
embrace, judging from the enthusiastic reception she received on her return, it
certainly seems to be extremely popular, even in official PA
Reality not ‘stereotypes’
Beinart warns that “depicting
Palestinians as violent and hateful” is criticized by young liberal US Jews “as
stereotypical and unfair, citing their own Muslim friends” hinting perhaps that
they cannot be hoodwinked by duplicitous rightwing propaganda, as they have
their own sources of information regarding the real nature of Muslim
Sadly for Israel, US Jews’ experience with their Muslim friends
has little practical relevance in terms of policy input or political doctrine.
After all, the realities that Israel must contend with to ensure the security of
the state and the safety of its citizens is not generated by populations of
affable, educated Muslims who have chosen to live in an open, democratic
The realities it has to deal with are populations that produce
societies like those in Sudan and Syria, in Algeria and Afghanistan, Iran and
Iraq; that beget organizations such as the Taliban, al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Hamas,
Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade and Islamic Jihad.
One can only hope that Beinart
is not seriously suggesting that the genteel interactions that liberal US Jews
may have with refined, well-mannered followers of the prophet on leafy US
campuses or in elegant suburban salons has any bearing on the policy decisions
Israel has to make vis-à-vis the Palestinians –who embrace the likes of Wafa
al-Biss, or at least eschew any censure of her, her past actions and future
Liberal democracy Sderot-style
It is increasing difficult to
understand precisely to which interpretation of reality Beinart is trying to
tether his political perspectives. Indeed, he has increasingly been compelled to
concede that the Palestinians may be unable to make the compromises necessary to
achieve his two-state vision.
However, that in no way brings him to admit
the probability of error. Instead he makes the extraordinary demand that even if
such a vision is presently unattainable, Israel somehow has an obligation to
preserve the possibility of its eventual implementation, for an indeterminate
period of time during which the Palestinians will presumably, but inexplicably,
morph into more amenable beings.
In the interim, Jewish settlements are
to be left to wither and disintegrate, and Jewish settlers paid to relocate (a
proposal, which when made regarding Jews, is considered “enlightened” and
“liberal” but when made regarding Arabs, suddenly becomes “racist” and
Worse, Beinart has now declared economic war on any Jew
residing east of the 1949 armistice lines with his recent proposal in The New
York Times for a BDS campaign against economic entities operating there – a
proposal that South Africa seems to have seized on.
So what is the
plausible outcome of the reality Beinart aspires to? The renunciation of Jewish
claims to the Jewish homeland and its irrevocable transfer to Muslim control –
which, given the developments of the Arab Spring, greatly increases the
probability that that control will be in the hands of implacable Islamist
So Beinart is actually advocating bringing the realities of
bombarded Sderot to Rothschild Boulevard in central Tel Aviv, and millions more
civilians into the range of weapons being used today against Israel from
territory transferred to Palestinian control. Millions more Israeli civilians
forced – at the will of Judeophobic extremists – to cower in bomb
If this is not his intention, he offers precious little to
explain how this is to be avoided. Or – if it can’t – why millions of
traumatized Israeli children are a price worth paying to assuage the
intellectual discomfort he and his ideological cronies apparently
Is Peres legitimizing BDS?
Beinart’s proposals underscore that he
either has no clue or no scruples when it comes to Israeli realities. Either of
these should be enough to disqualify him as a speaker at the 2012 Israeli
Presidential Conference later this month. For not only does he urge Israel to
adopt an undifferentiated policy toward those who endorse its existence and
those who endorse its eradication, he advocates immunizing the Palestinians in
their quest to destroy Israel – and even facilitating and rewarding their
efforts to do so.
But it is perhaps his proposal to impose economic
boycott (albeit partial) on the nation’s produce that is the most outrageously
Unless the presidential invitation is withdrawn, it is
almost unavoidable that it will be interpreted as presidential endorsement of
anti-Israeli BDS measures.
How else could it be seen? The consequences
will be incalculable.