Peter Beinart, celebrated American wunderkind, self-styled lover of Zion determined to teach Israel to act wisely, morally.
Beinart meets students at J street conference Photo: J Street
Peter Beinart, the celebrated American wunderkind and self-styled lover of Zion
is determined to teach Israel to act wisely and morally.
So he just
published a book on Zionism, recycling accusations he first made in a 2001 New
York Review of Books essay. The heart of his condemnation of Zionism is that
Israeli governments habitually violated Arab human rights by using excessive
force in pursuit of self-defense; even worse, they used self-defense as an
excuse to repress the Palestinians and deny them statehood.
charges the American Jewish establishment with failure “to empathize with the
plight of the Palestinians” and to press Israel to withdraw from “occupied
land.” It is, he claims, a prime reason for the growing alienation of young
American Jewish students from Israel.
Most American Jewish students, he
gleefully informed us, were distancing themselves from Israel because “they have
imbibed [been indoctrinated, perhaps? DD] some of the defining values of
American Jewish political culture: a belief in open debate, skepticism about
military force, a commitment to human rights.”
Beinart’s hectoring is
often based on such vacuous abstractions. What precisely does he mean, for
example, when he touts his “deep sense of the limits of military force”? That
Israel must not react to years of exploding buses and thousands of rockets
raining on its cities and killing civilians? That Israel must “show empathy to
Palestinian suffering” and ignore the indiscriminate murder of innocent
Israelis? How can Beinart falsely accuse Israel of using “excessive force” (how
defined, and by whom?) when in fact Israel has been so restrained 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
decisive military action (from the Hashashin to the Red Brigades, The Shining
Path, The Bader Meinhof Gang, the 1936 Arab revolt, the Communist revolts in
Greece and Malaysia and more).
Can Prof. Beinart cite more than a few
rare 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 comfort
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) also for their victims, even if the victims are guilty, as
he claims, of an “obsession with victim-hood,” allegedly overreacting to the
deadly danger posed by crazed Muslim fundamentalism and by a nuclear-armed Iran.
Does such a putative “overreaction,” even if it existed, justify dismissing
their fear of being annihilated? In pursuit of the vague moralistic strictures
that make up the Liberal Jewish canon, Beinart seems to believe that Jews should
give up their primary duty to protect life, especially the life of innocents,
that they should forgo the sages’ advice that “he who is about to kill you, rise
early and kill him first.”
WHILE DESPISING assertive Jewish nationalism,
Beinart is most forgiving to extreme Arab jingoism that uses terrorism against
innocent civilians. He would have Israel dedicate itself to the establishment of
a rogue, criminal Palestinian state.
Beinart urges Israelis to recognize
“Palestinian as deserving of dignity and capable of peace.” Well said. Quite a
few Israelis have indeed criticized stupid, sometime vicious acts by Israeli
governments, including the decision by the Israeli governments who followed the
Oslo prescriptions and forced the Palestinian Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza to
submit to the rule of Arafat’s PLO, a body made up of terrorist mafias that
prevented them from building a civil society capable of peace.
even occurs to the self-righteous Beinart that establishing an independent
Palestinian state, which he so fervently pushes, will most certainly result –
when the Palestinians are ruled, as he himself acknowledges by “a group of
leaders who stabbed them in the back” – in a great calamity for the Arabs, in an
Assad-style murderous dictatorship.
The PA already deprives Palestinian
Arabs not only of “their dignity” and most basic human rights (it will become
much worse when the West Bank inevitably falls under the rule of Hamas), but
indeed will deprive them – it already does – of any liberty, of any chance to
pursue happiness. Instead it incites them with vicious Nazi-like propaganda to
wage a war of annihilation against “the sons of pigs and monkeys, the Jews,”
even though Palestinian Arabs will be the chief victims of such a war, as they
were in 1948.
Israel’s putative “occupation,” which in fact permits
Palestinian Arabs to carry on independently with their lives, is the only
bulwark against a violent Hamas takeover of the West Bank that will consign them
to terrible misery.
But why face such a tough dilemmas when one can
indulge in moral posturing? Because what really matters to Beinart are abstract
“moral principles,” “dignity” and “national rights,” no matter how disastrous
their promiscuous application will be to Israelis and Palestinians alike. A true
believer, Beinart is so busy preening his moral feathers that he does not bother
with the mortal danger posed to Palestinians Arabs, no less than to Israelis, by
Muslim fundamentalism and jingoism.
Nowhere is the moral vacuity of
Beinart’s condemnations more evident than in his claim that there exist
“frightening long term trends in Israeli society...” arising “from a growth in
groups like ‘settlers’ or ‘Russians’ [racism, anybody]” who expressed in polls a
desire to “encourage Arabs to leave the country.”
If you are spared the
worry that your children may not return alive when they go out socializing
because they may become victims of Arab terrorism, it is easy to sneer at the
fears behind such attitudes. But judging by the tolerance liberal Americans show
toward pro-Israel voices on campuses one may wonder how long their tolerance to
Arab terrorism would last, if they had to face its daily threats.
are to judge a people by its deeds, and not by opinion polls, Israelis are the
most tolerant people on earth.
Can anyone imagine another people that
would be exposed to years of terror acts, and yet, except for a very few
exceptions, not act in revenge against members of the ethnic group that
perpetrated such atrocities and fully supported them? Despite numerous, repeated
acts of Palestinian terror, Arabs usually roam unmolested in every part of
Israel; this even immediately after terrorist acts in which several delayed
charges were planted to also kill those who come to rescue
Beinart’s total disregard for reality, his sanctimonious
obsession with moral abstractions, is a great obstacle to real reconciliation
because it protects the enemies of peace while making impossible demands on
those who really want it. We must rid ourselves of the moral falsehoods promoted
by the likes of Beinart, a false prophet of peace, in order to start the arduous
task of building true peace.
The writer is the founder and director of
The Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress, an independent economic
policy and education think tank.