A Palestinian family named the Ghawis lives on the street outside their home of
fifty-three years, from which they were evicted to make room for Jewish settlers
– Peter Beinart, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” June 10,
In two recent articles, I made the following statements: “Peter Beinart
[has] for all intents and purposes declared political war on Israel.” Indeed he
And, “There are only two possible explanations for [Beinart’s]
actions: He is either sincere or he is not. If he is sincere, he is merely a
‘useful idiot,’ and he should be treated as such. If he is not, then he is
engaging in activities that are intentionally detrimental to Israel. He is,
therefore, an enemy – and should be treated as such.” Indeed he
Beinart has placed himself in precisely the same category as
another self-professed “dedicated Zionist” – Richard Goldstone. He should be
treated in precisely the same manner – by both the Jewish establishment and
Noble or nefarious?
We don’t know what motivates
Beinart – whether he is merely silly but sincere, or whether he is actually sly
and sinister. We can only infer what drives him from what he does, and what he
says – and perhaps more important, from what he doesn’t.
But in the final
analysis, his intentions are less important than the consequences of his
actions, which are deeply detrimental to Israel, the professed object of his
devotion and affection.
After all, for the vast majority of those who
follow the Middle East conflict, there is little daylight between the charges
Beinart hurls at Israel, Israelis, and the Israeli government and those of the
Jewish state’s most visceral detractors.
If any differences can be
detected, they typically relate more to nuance rather than
Even if he does occasionally level some perfunctory reprimand
at the Palestinians for their “recalcitrant” (read “brutal”/“
bloody”/“barbarous”) behavior – as if reluctantly discharging some distasteful
but obligatory chore –he studiously avoids any policy-relevant conclusions
Israel might conceivably be forced to draw from that behavior.
his unrelenting censure of Israel arises from benign but misguided concern or
from calculated self-seeking malevolence, it is beyond dispute that Beinart has
reaped immense rewards from his Israel-bashing.
The rich rewards of
Indeed, it was Israel-bashing – and Israel-bashing alone – that
catapulted Beinart into instant celebrity.
After all, imagine for a
moment that he had written a brilliant article, whose major theme was Israel’s
cutting-edge achievements in science, technology, medicine, agriculture and
telecommunications, and extolled the central role Israeli ingenuity and
innovation played in saving lives (including Muslim lives), reducing hunger and
improving living standards for millions across the globe. It would clearly be
beyond the realm of plausibility that The New York Review of Books would have
assigned him the 5,000- word slot that it did for his diatribe against Israel
and against the US Jewish establishment for supporting it.
highlighted Israeli humanitarian efforts in far-flung corners of the world or
cataloged the country’s internationally acclaimed cultural accomplishments, it
is more than doubtful that the paper would have afforded him such lavish
Of course Beinart would probably protest, as he does in his
response to Bret Stephens, that “my book is not primarily about Israel, but
about American Jews and the relationship between [them] and
Disingenuous and spurious claim
But of course this claim is as
disingenuous as it is specious.
For this relationship is not one forged
in a vacuum but is dependent on how Israel is viewed by American Jewry, which in
turn is dependent on how it is presented to them.
So if Beinart were
genuinely alarmed by the alleged alienation of young US Jews from the Jewish
state, one might have expected him to act differently. Even if he did not
entirely suppress his misgivings over some of Israel’s policies – he could have
put them on the backburner, while urging his kinfolk to take pride in the many
extraordinary feats of the country that are indeed worthy of pride.
could have made a compelling case for young Jews to rally around Israel for the
way it is dealing with awesome challenges, while pressing for it to address the
defects which in his opinion exist in its policy toward the
But of course Beinart chose a different course. Although he
does pay occasional lip service to Israel’s achievements, this is invariably an
aside followed by a “but.”
Overwhelmingly, it is the alleged blemishes
that are paraded front and center, the negatives that dominate the positives,
the supposed “warts” that comprise the dominant theme of the narrative that
brought Beinart such prominence.
This clearly undermines the credibility
of his professed aims and the sincerity of his professed sentiments. For it
would be difficult to conceive of anything more counterproductive to an effort
to deal with Jewish alienation than presenting – or misrepresenting – the Jewish
state as a hideous distortion of itself.
Grave question marks
suppose for a moment that Beinart is genuinely perturbed about the issues he
raises in his writing and public appearances. The question that must then be
raised is why he chooses to portray incidents that allegedly raise his concern
in such a misleading – at times, mendacious – manner, without giving the
slightest hint that compelling interpretations of the same events exist which
contradict his version.
Take, for instance, the case mentioned in the
introductory excerpt regarding the eviction of Arab tenants in the east
Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.
In Beinart’s account, one is
given the clear impression that the evictees were the helpless victims of some
callous, arbitrary act perpetrated by a heartless regime, driven by a
discriminatory Judeocentric dogma. Nowhere could the reader get a sense that the
reason for the eviction was the tenants’ refusal to pay rent; that their removal
from the Jewish-owned property was the culmination of a legal battle that
extended over three decades and was backed by a verdict of the Supreme Court, an
institution invariably depicted as a jealous custodian of the liberal-democratic
values Beinart claims are so dear to his heart.
So ask yourself: What is
likely to exacerbate the alienation of young liberal US Jewry more, Beinart’s
partial and partisan misrepresentation of the evictees as blameless victims of
blatant ethnically biased discrimination? Or the alternative fact-based
portrayal of them as rent-delinquents, who had the right of due process, and
were found to be violating the property rights of the Jewish proprietors? See
what I mean about counter-productive? Unless of course you question his true
The Khaled Jaber thing
But even more troubling (and revealing?)
is Beinart’s cheap (or is that cynical?) exploitation of the Khaled Jaber
episode that sets the tone for his new book, The Crisis of
Beinart relates, in highly emotive and self-righteous terms how
a video (55 seconds long) showing a Palestinian man, Fadel Jaber, being arrested
by Israel forces while his sobbing son begs for his release, troubled him
Beinart then proceeds to makes incendiary accusations which are
both wildly distortive and totally unsubstantiated by anything in the video. He
claims that Fadel was arrested for stealing water; while the Israeli authorities
claim he was arrested for disturbing the peace and attacking the law enforcement
officers. Beinart makes no mention of the Israeli version – which might have
been nice, even if for some reason he disbelieved it. You know, in the interest
of fair and balanced coverage – especially given his concern about the
alienation of US Jewry.
Beinart goes on to present Fadel’s unauthorized
tapping into Israeli pipes as an act of desperation “after his family repeatedly
asked Israeli authorities for access to the pipes” which had been denied – but
provides no evidence of such repeated requests or any clue how he came to know
In his response to Bret Stephens’s criticism, Beinart snarls
that Fadel was “unjustly arrested by police from the Jewish state,” leaving the
reader to puzzle over what led him to this far-reaching and unflattering
conclusion – other than his own prejudices.
Water – the dry facts
Beinart fails to convey is that since the conclusion of the Oslo II Agreement
almost two decades ago, the entity responsible for supplying water to
Palestinian consumers, such as the Jabers, is the Palestinian Authority – not
Israel; that since these accords, Israel provides the PA with quantities well in
excess of its Oslo II obligations, and that the amount of water it transfers
from inside pre-1967 lines across the Green Line is more than the entire
consumption of the maligned “settlements” together with their “swimming pools
and intensive irrigation systems” he so resents.
Indeed, for Israel to
supply consumers like the Jabers, it would have to usurp powers given to the PA.
Is that really what Beinart is advocating? Had he wished to, Beinart could have
painted a far different – accurate – picture of Israel’s water policy and the
huge benefits the Palestinians have derived from it.
For whether one
focuses on overall consumption of fresh water; per capita consumption of fresh
water; consumption of fresh water relative to Israelis; accessibility of running
water to households; the area under agricultural cultivation; or the size of the
agricultural product, the conditions for the Palestinians improved dramatically
under Israeli administration.
And while it is true that per capita
consumption of water by Israelis is much higher than that of Palestinians, he
could have explained – correctly – that this is principally a result of
differences in demand, rather than supply, due to differences in lifestyles.
After all, similar – indeed greater – consumption differentials prevail between
various socioeconomic groups within the Jewish population without anyone
suggesting this reflects ethnic bias.
The facts are incontrovertible.
Whereas in 1967 only 10 percent of the “West Bank” Arab population was connected
to a running water system, the figure today stands at 95%.
Palestinian agricultural performance improved dramatically, even though water
allocations were not increased. (In recent years Israeli farmers have had their
freshwater allocations slashed by 50% and more.) This was facilitated by the
introduction of advanced irrigation and cultivation methods, resulting in an
increase of the area cultivated by about 160% and of the agricultural product by
Attenuating or amplifying alienation
Clearly then, Israel’s water
policy could have been presented as a telling illustration of the deeply
humanitarian impulses of Israeli society, even toward a hostile alien population
whose deeds and declarations repeatedly affirm their rejection of the Jewish
state. Beinart could have seized on the hydrological facts to underscore the
tolerance and extraordinary goodwill Israel has displayed toward an implacable
adversary. (Interestingly, the Jaber family is on record as rejecting any
compromise or acceptance of Jewish statehood, which might have made an
illuminating – albeit discordant – footnote in Beinart’s book).
he chose to embrace the most derogatory, defamatory and distortive depictions of
Israel’s water policy and endorse the deceptive and deceitful hydro-narratives
propagated by the likes of Omar Barghouti, a leader of the Boycott, Divestment
and Sanctions movement. Way to go, Peter! Again, we might speculate as to what
is likely to attenuate the alienation of liberal US Jewry and what is likely to
amplify it: The false portrayal – on the basis of dubious anecdotal evidence –
of Israel’s water policy as discriminatory deprivation? Or the factual
presentation of the extraordinary enhancement it has irrefutably brought to
living conditions for the vast majority of Palestinians? Well, we know what
Beinart seems to think.
These are but two examples in which he elected to
adopt a pejorative presentation of Israel/Israeli actions when compelling
countervailing alternatives could have been espoused with greater plausibility.
His work is replete with additional instances, but to deal adequately with them
I would have to write a book of my own.
Despising the demos
The more one
delves into Beinart’s pronouncements, the more dubious his Zionist credentials
For although he tries to suggest that his disapproval is focused
mainly on “this Israeli [i.e. Netanyahu-Liberman ] government,” a perusal of his
works suggests otherwise.
Indeed, as the following excerpt from his New
York Review of Books essay indicates, he has a deep distaste for much – if not
most – of the sectors comprising the Israeli population: “Israeli governments
come and go, but the Netanyahu coalition is the product of frightening,
long-term trends in Israeli society: an ultra-Orthodox population that is
increasing dramatically, a settler movement that is growing more radical and
more entrenched in the Israeli bureaucracy and army, and a Russian immigrant
He quotes a plethora of opinion surveys, expressing dismay at
the findings which reflect views of varied segments of Israeli society – from
the Russians to the religious, from school kids to settlers. Indeed, he seems to
reserve his most severe censure for Israel’s youth, bewailing that “Attitudes
are worst among Israel’s young.”
So while Beinart claims he values
Israel’s democracy, it seems he deeply detests the Israeli demos – or most of
Presidential faux pas
It was recently announced that Beinart has been
invited to speak at the 2012 Israeli Presidential Conference later this
This is a scandalous blunder of breathtaking
Indeed, it is difficult to think of anything less
appropriate. It is a slap in the face for the large swathes of the Israeli
public for which he has expressed such deep and undisguised distaste. It is an
unconscionable insult to millions for whom Beinart has demonstrated his
Think of it: Would anyone dream of inviting Richard
Goldstone to such an event? If not, neither should Beinart be invited. He is
more hypocritical, more detrimental and more