Beinart’s bomb

Peter Beinart, celebrated American wunderkind, self-styled lover of Zion determined to teach Israel to act wisely, morally.

Peter Beinart meets students at J Street conference 370 (photo credit: J Street)
Peter Beinart meets students at J Street conference 370
(photo credit: 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.
Beinart 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.
It never 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.
If we 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 victims.
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.