This is a story of Peter Beinart''s "Paradox of Perniciousness".
Peter Beinart, another in a too long a line of Jewish critics of Zionism, highlights a new form of the traditional unease with Zion. The more love he and his comrades seemingly profess, the more hate is generated against Israel but he adds a unique paradox to the question of why does Israel attract the viciousness of liberalism which is: why do liberals provide cover for the most pernicious anti-Jewish actions?
It is undeniable - and actually, rather an old story - that Jews, and foremost Jews, have opposed the idea of Zionism or have been it most dogged critics. They have lobbied against, demeaned and disparaged the ethos of the Jews as a people, with characteristics of a national grouping, granted the natural right to return to their homeland, to develop it and assert political sovereignty in all its forms, including the right to bear arms and wield power, military, economically and diplomatically. Their ‘inside’ pressure has been the most enduring from Ahad Ha’am and Yitzhak Epstein to Brit Shalom to Ichud, paralleling that from the ‘outside’, of, on the one extreme, the ultra-Orthodox denial of Chasidic Admorim and Aguda Rabbis based on their theological interpretations and, on the other, outright denials from Bundists to Reform to the progressive pack such as Jews for Peace and Justice (whose Haggadah suggests that Jews, at their seder, add an olive as a symbolic solidarity expression with Palestinians that Jews become “allies to Palestinian liberation struggles.”) and out-and-out weirdos like Richard Silverstein and Mondoweiss as well as Richard Cohen (Israel as a “mistake”) and Tony Judt (“bad” Israel need be “replaced”).
Judt provided us already in 2003 with at least a semblance of an insight into the more dark recesses of this opposition when he wrote,
“non-Israeli Jews feel themselves once again exposed to criticism and vulnerable to attack for things they didn’t do. But this time it is a Jewish state, not a Christian one, which is holding them hostage for its own actions.”
In 2006, Alvin Rosenfeld, in his “''Progressive'' Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism”, argued that it is
…ultra-leftists who find a territory-based Jewish existence to be antithetical to their own self-referential definitions of Judaism…so-called “progressive” Jewish anti-Zionists…receive the lion’s share of the attention. These leftist Jewish critics challenge not just Israel’s policies, but “its legitimacy and right to an ongoing future.”
And now, Edward Alexander’s new book asks
Should liberals or "progressives" themselves be exempt from criticism when they "criticize" Israel (and its supporters) in a manner that draws heavily upon the centuries-old canards of anti-Semitism, flagrant and blatant calumnies, licentious equations, and the premise that the world''s only Jewish state is also the only state in the world guilty by its very existence.
On to the scene comes Peter Beinart and provides us, finally, with a conceptual understanding of what I would now term “The Peter Paradox”: why is the liberal criticism of Israel''s policies the most vicious, the most spiteful, the most irrationally convoluted?
And the answer, I would offer, is that they approach Israel and what it means with an emotional response because they realize two major conclusions: Israel, as the Zionist project, has been consistently victorious – over its Jewish critics, those among the nations that betrayed their obligations and commitments and in the face of the most horrific terror campaigns humans have witnessed. This has generated increased non-Jewish anti-Semitism which threatens their status, their income, their personal health. They, who have in many instances reached pinnacles of cultural, literary, educational and economic success are being subjected to real or imagined pressures.
But it is not only them. Some of the more persistent and deplorable pro-Palestinianism acts can be found in countries thought of as in the forefront of humanist philosophy as in Scandinavia countries (where violence is regularly practiced against Jews causing some cities to begin emptying out of its Jewish population). In an U.S. Senate race, one Democrat contender in Connecticut , Lee Whitnum, announced she considered one of her opponents “a whore here who sells his soul to AIPAC” and proposed that the U.S. prosecute American settlers who “go to Israel and maim or kill in the Promised Land.” She said this “would solve anti-American sentiments worldwide. This is the number one reason why people hate this country.” She has gone one worse than Beinart’s call to recall tax-exempt status of contributions to Jewish social welfare projects in Judea and Samaria communities.
Beinart is generating hate in his illogical arguments in his book (very many critics have pointed out his lack of facts, data and his twisting of the historical record). He avoids the true statistics and trends as regards demographics and ignores political realities in other countries which could serve as examples how a non-citizen population can live a life which is not irregular. He is permitting anti-Semites, as has happened with Shlomo Sand’s book and Arthur Koestler’s book four decades ago, to arm themselves with the most potent weapon an anti-Semite can possess: the Jew who “agrees” with him. There is perniciousness in his campaign. But the real paradox is that while his argumentation is based on humanism and liberalism and that he assures us he is attempting to save Israel’s democracy, what he is facilitating is yet another Islamist non-democratic despotic regime to come into existence which not only will continue the 90-year old terror war against Jews per se, but will allow the further degradation and oppression of local Arabs who will not gain true independence, freedom, civil liberties or human rights.
Not only will Israel suffer but so will the Arabs and all because Beinart is a liberal. Therein lies the paradox. Not only will Jews is Israel suffer more terror, more death, more suffering all the name of problems that can and need be addressed and solved without the measures Beinart proposes and in contradistinction to the real facts, not only does he assist anti-Jewish sentiment and fly in the face of Jewish history but his main achievement, if gained, as regards the Arab side of the equation, will be to create a very illiberal and undemocratic regime.
That is Peter’s pernicious paradox.