Peter Beinart has written a new book, The Crisis of Zionism. In it he attempts to tear apart the relationship of admiration, support and defense that has existed between Israel and American Jewry for over a century. According to his ideological worldview, there is a “deep chasm” between the Jewish social justice tradition, as he understands it, and the American Jewish Establishment when it comes to Israel. That community sent its children to the American South to help the blacks and balances that with the assertion that “millions of West Bank Palestinians are denied rights simply because they are not Jews.” He pits Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against President Barack Obama as one who rejects the tradition revered by Obama. He warns against the dying of a dream of a democratic Jewish state while American Jews watch. Coincidentally, the book will be released at this year''s J Street National Conference.
For Beinart, “only by giving Palestinians their own country in the West Bank and Gaza Strip can Israel again become a Jewish state that offers the right of citizenship to all the people within its domain.” He portrays himself, his agenda and his polices as upholding the ”honor of the Jewish people in our time.”
Beinart, of course, does not only write books but pens op-eds and recently tried to deny Iran’s threat to Israel, trying to parallel the situation America went through with the Iraq war and the no weapons of mass destruction, although he leaves himself an escape route by adding “The point is not that an Iranian nuclear weapon poses no threat to Israel”. What bothers him is that there seem to be security experts who deny Iran’s threat but that no one is listening to them, that there is “a struggle between people who think practically and people who think ideologically, between people trying to soberly assess a given adversary”.
I am not sure who is scaring Beinart more, Netanyahu or US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta who declared last week that if Iran does not change course, the US is "prepared to respond if we have to", reiterating that all U.S. options are on the table, implying the possibility of using military force.
Beinart, to my mind, is a reborn version of the coercive utopian, so ably described and criticized in the 1984 book by Rael Jean Isaac and her husband Eric. He broke into public consciousness at the debate conducted on April 29th with Yossi Klein Halevi which followed the publishing of his New York Review of Books piece in May 2010. In that essay he posited that mainstream American Jewish organizations hew to a liberal vision of Zionism but willingly support a near-fascist Israel where democracy is crumbling. His target is American Jewish youth who are the real victims of that establishment having been under-educated to the history of Zionism and its conflict with the Arabs of Eretz-Israel.
Beinart is a Pied Piper who himself is ideological. His hooking up with J Street is most natural. Unfortunately, he is playing a tune that is detached from the reality of the Middle East as it is from what genuine Jewish nationalism is. Beinart’s claims of loyalty to Israel notwithstanding, he fealty, I am convinced, is to his liberal and American identity foremost. In the end, his music is quite off-key.
It is reported that a harsher IAEA report on Iran nuclear program is expected next month and apparently includes new details about efforts by Tehran to develop nuclear warheads for ground-to-ground missiles. Stay tuned and on-key.