Yossi Beilin's intellectual ghetto

"Behold" says the Bible: "I set before you this day a blessing and a curse. A blessing if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God "and a curse if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy, 11, 26-27). While this warning is plain and straightforward, the Bible is obviously aware of the fact that pious people are not immune from suffering and that many renegades enjoy the good life. Hence the philosophical torments of Job, which end up with the idea that it is not for man to decide the rewards of his deeds.

Yossi Beilin will take none of that nuance - not to mention humility. Either you follow the policy of Yossi Beilin and you''re blessed, or you do not follow the policy of Yossi Beilin and you''re cursed. If reality happens to consistently suggest otherwise, all you have to do is to question with scorn the intelligence of people who challenge you. No need to debase yourself to a Job-like introspection.
Beilin recently published an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post called "The New Ghetto." The narrative goes like this:  Herzl and his peers wanted to assimilate in Europe but Europe didn''t let them. They thus figured that only a predominantly Jewish country would let them be. That country, whose main purpose is to be indiscriminately open to Jewish immigration, is a foreign implant which owes its legitimacy to the acceptance of the Arab states. Israel gained such acceptance with the peace agreement with Egypt and with the Oslo Agreements. But, today, Israel is ruled by nut cases - hence the curse of international isolation. For blessing to replace curse, all Israel needs to do is repent by walking again on the road to Oslo.
Beilin''s "reading" of Herzl is completely erroneous - indeed, one wonders if Beilin ever read Herzl to begin with. As shown by Georges Weisz in his masterly book Herzl:A Re-Reading, most people who talk about Herzl never bothered to read what he actually wrote, or consciously travesty his thoughts.
For Herzl, Zionism did not constitute an alternative to Judaism - on the contrary. Herzl wrote in his diary that "what defines us as a people is our faith" (June 9, 1895) and that "God would not have preserved our people for so long if we didn''t have a special task for humanity" (June 14, 1895). At the third Zionist Congress, Herzl said that Russian Jews are "the best Zionists because they keep tradition." In the Jewish State, Herzl wrote that "our antique faith is the only thing that preserves our unity."
Nor did Herzl think that the Jewish state needed the approval or blessing of its neighbors to be intrinsically legitimate. In his opening speech to the second Zionist Congress on August 28, 1898, Herzl declared that "If there ever was a legal claim over a piece of land, obviously people who believe in the Holy Writings must recognize the rights of the Jews." On April 26, 1896, Herzl wrote in his diary that "God willing, we shall return to our historical homeland."
Either Beilin is truly ignorant of Herzl''s writings, or he purposely puts words in Herzl''s mouth in order to justify his own worldview - a worldview according to which the Jews are entitled to establish a foreign implant in the Middle East only as long as the true owners of the land (the Arabs) agree to it. And they will only agree to it if Israel accepts their refusal to agree to it.
In his semi-autobiographical book Touching Peace, Beilin explains that the Yom Kippur War turned his worldview upside down. He lost his faith, simultaneously, in Israel''s leadership and in God Himself - ironically indeed, given the agnosticism of Israel''s founding fathers. He came to the conclusion that Israel had been deluding itself with the macho and bunker mentality of Mapai''s old guard, and that the real obstacle to peace was not the Arabs'' rejection of Israel''s right to exist, but rather the stubbornness and territorial greed of Israel itself.
Beilin started promoting his ideas within the Labor Party shortly after the Yom Kippur War, and his achievements were impressive. Within two decades, he brought about the Oslo Agreements. This was indeed a Copernican revolution. What was considered "extremist" and "heretical" in 1973 became "mainstream" and "moderate" in 1993. Beilin managed to change the landscape of Israeli politics, but he failed to bring about the peace he was longing for. No wonder: his basic assumption was flat wrong.
The same way that Beilin revolted against Golda Meir, many people from my generation revolted against Beilin himself. Not that I consider myself a proletarian doing to the bourgeois what the bourgeois did to the aristocrat (Beilin is too much of an aristocrat in order for Marx''s theory to apply here). Beilin used to trust that Israel''s leaders knew what they were doing, until the Yom Kippur War made him realize that he had been misled. Me too. I originally trusted that Beilin knew what he was doing and even sympathized with his logical reasoning, until reality blew up in my face in the fall of 2000.
The reason why Beilin continues to defy reality is that he neither wants to abandon his Zionism nor his atheism.  If Israel cannot gain legitimacy, acceptance and peace by returning the pre-1967 configuration, then you either have to abandon the Zionist idea or look for legitimacy elsewhere. Avraham Burg chose the first option, and Effi Eitam the second. By recognizing that, for the Arabs, the true "original sin" is not 1967 but 1948, the anti-Zionist left has at least the merit of being intellectually honest. Contrary to Beilin, the anti-Zionist left does not lie to itself.
Israel will not be accepted by begging acceptance, but by being faithful to itself. This is what Herzl understood, and this is what Beilin refuses to see. This faithfulness needs not be religious. It only means, as Herzl wrote in his diary (August 21, 1895), that "Ultimately, we have to be Jews."