Beinart's inspiration says Israel a 'colony'

Exclusive: The Jaber family of Hebron says it had no idea Peter Beinart’s ‘The Crisis of Zionism’ was inspired by their story.

Falastin Jaber with photo 370 (photo credit: Hadas Parush)
Falastin Jaber with photo 370
(photo credit: Hadas Parush)
Israel is a European colonialist entity and is destined to disappear, said the Palestinian family that was a major inspiration for American journalist Peter Beinart to write his controversial book The Crisis of Zionism.
In an interview at their family home in downtown Hebron on Saturday, the Jaber family said they had no idea that a video of their son Khaled Jaber was a key inspiration for a book, let alone one that has become a focal point in the discourse on the relationship between Israeli and American Jewish communities. They also did not know that Khaled and his father are mentioned by name on the first page of the book’s introduction.
When asked about the two-state solution, Falastin Jaber, Khaled’s mother, said, “We need all [of] Palestine,” and referred to Israel as part of a “European colonial imprint” on the Middle East. She compared the Jewish state to the French colony in Algeria and the Italian colony in Libya, and said that, like those colonies, Israel too would disappear someday.
“It’s a matter of time,” Falastin said, adding that she believes that this goal will be helped along by “small struggles like those of Khaled.”
While Falastin remained mum on the subject, Khaled’s 65-year-old grandfather Badran said that he did not vote for Hamas in the last Palestinian elections, and that he was a long-time supporter of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Falastin, who did not take her husband’s name, appeared to change the subject, speaking instead about what she referred to in English as “the big lie” of Israel as the Jewish state, pointing out how, in her words, many of the Ethiopian and Russian Israelis are not Jewish and Theodore Herzl himself “was an atheist.”
The Crisis of Zionism author Peter Beinart said his best-selling book was inspired largely by the sight of Fadel Jabari’s five-year-old son Khaled crying out for his father as Israeli border police carted him away during a clash over water rights that took place in the West Bank village of Baka in August 2010.
“I wrote this book because of my grandmother, who was a Zionist, and Khaled Jaber, who could have been my son,” Beinart said in the introduction to the book. “As soon as I watched the video, I wished I had never turned it on.”
Beinart wrote that while for years he had always tried to find explanations for Palestinian suffering, “in recent years, for reasons I can’t explain, I had been lowering my defenses and Khaled’s cries left me staring in mute horror at my computer screen.”
In the video, which was shot by Sky News in August 2010, Khaled can be seen crying and tugging on the back of his father’s shirt as he shouts out “Bidi Baba! Bidi Baba!” (“I want Dad”) as border patrolmen hustle Fadel to a waiting police vehicle. The incident was shot during clashes that took place when Israeli forces came to the village accusing Palestinian farmers of stealing water used for the settlement of Kiryat Arba on the other side of Highway 60.
Badran told The Jerusalem Post that he owns 18 dunams of land at the site of the village, and his family was using a well at the site when the incident took place.
When informed for the first time that her son helped inspire a book that is at the center of the Jewish-American debate on Israel, Falastin, who said she teaches high school students Arabic literature, said that “the Palestinian people have a million Khaleds. There are many more than Khaled, in Gaza during the war, in the Jenin camp, in Qana in south Lebanon.”
Badran, a retired sociology and geography professor at the Palestine Polytechnic University in Hebron, said his daughter and three grandchildren have been living at his house for the past 10 months, after Fadel left the West Bank for an unknown location.
Badran added that after Fadel’s arrest and subsequent three months in prison, he was blacklisted from working within Israel, where he used to drive a truck and sell clothes – mainly in Arab villages. Problems began developing between Fadel and his wife following the arrest, culminating in his decision to leave, Badran said.
Since then, his wife and children have been living with Badran in his house next door to the Hebron city hall.
He also said that his grandson had acted up in school since the incident took place, and that for the first three months after his father’s arrest, Khaled slept in his grandfather’s bed with him each night. Khaled did not seem to be a rambunctious child, sitting quietly on the couch on Saturday with his grandfather and his mom, too shy to talk, even as his grandfather prodded him to tell the reporters present “about the day the Jews came to take your father away.”
The book, and its contention that liberal Jewish support for Israel is waning due to Israeli government policies, has been the focal point of a heated debate in the Jewish world since even before it was released. It has been difficult for those who follow the Jewish blogosphere and English-language Israeli press to turn on their computer in the past month and not find a blog entry or online article either criticizing or lauding the book and its author.
In one of the more scathing reviews, Bret Stephens, the deputy editorial page editor and the foreign affairs columnist of The Wall Street Journal and a former editor-in-chief of the Post, began by questioning Beinart’s comparison of himself to Fadel Jaber and his young son to Khaled.
“You might expect that Beinart would have made the effort to reach out to the Jabers, perhaps even by flying out and meeting them in person. Who is this family in whose name this book is ostensibly written?” he wrote.
Beinart told the Post on Sunday that if he had known of the family’s political beliefs, it would not have changed his decision to feature Khaled’s story in the book’s introduction.
“The point I was trying to convey in that story was simply about a small example of the reality of what it means to live as a population that doesn’t have citizenship or the equal rights given by full citizenship and the consequences of that,” he said. “And that seems to me a reality that is important, irrespective of the political views of the people who are suffering.”
He also pointed out that while he isn’t equating Palestinian terrorism with the incident involving the Jaber family, in his book he wrote in detail about the murder of the Fogel family in Itamar and the 2000 Ramallah lynching to, in his words, show the horror of Palestinian terrorism, and did not inquire about the political beliefs of those victims either.
“It’s a very brief anecdote about me being affected because I’m a father of a son of a similar age,” Beinart said of Khaled’s story.