Peter Beinart’s latest book has not only angered the Israeli left, but has caused fury amid the right.
Washington, DC – Almost all the criticism of (and controversy about) Peter Beinart’s The Crisis of Zionism comes down to two major complaints:
The first is that he is a “liberal Zionist” which, by some definitions, means he is just as indifferent to Palestinian rights as a right-wing Zionist. For example, he believes in the idea and reality of a Jewish state and is primarily motivated by his sense of urgency about preserving it. He also does not support granting the right to return to Israel to all the Palestinian refugees (dating back to 1947) and their millions of descendants, viewing full return as a means to ending Israel’s existence.
And, worst of all to some on the left, Beinart favours the so-called “two-state solution” which, although repeatedly thwarted primarily by settler-supporting Israeli governments, Beinart sees as the only means to achieve a solution fair to both peoples.
The second source of disapproval (fury, actually) toward Beinart’s book emanates from the “pro-Israel” right – and the intensity of their condemnation dwarfs the criticism of those who attack from the left.
After all, the anti-Zionists primarily view Beinart as misguided and naïve, still a prisoner of the Zionist ideology on which he was raised. But the “pro-Israel” right (and that includes virtually the entire “pro-Israel” organisational establishment) views Beinart as evil, as a traitor and, as ridiculous as this sounds, an enemy of the Jewish people. No matter that his goal is a secure Israel living side by side a secure Palestine and that his love for Israel suffuses his entire book, or that he is an observant Jew; for the “pro-Israel” right, Beinart is the enemy.
Understanding the feelings of the US right about Beinart may be more the job of a psychologist than a pundit, because the sentiment is so irrational that it cannot be addressed by merely citing facts. It is a mark of how crazy the debate over Israel has become in this country that the vitriol exceeds anything that goes on in Israel, which itself has more than its fair share of right-wingers.
For instance, take a look at this video from the top-rated Israeli show “Big Brother”, a television reality show in which a group of young people move into an apartment and live their lives on camera. These shows are popular worldwide, but the brilliant exposition of the evils of the occupation that one character made on the Israeli show last week is unimaginable here (US reality shows avoid politics like the plague. But this is Israel).
There is one other striking thing about this video (besides the fact not even a Jewish community centre would dare show it in the US). It is that the young man making the case against the occupation is the kind of person Zionism was supposed to produce: a proud Israeli afraid of nothing. These are the kind of Israelis we don’t see much of in the United States anymore (in contrast with the period before Israel became obsessed with maintaining the occupation and confronting Iran). You know, the Paul Newman (“Exodus”) kind of Israelis who – although a stereotype – are rooted in reality. The reason we don’t see them is because an Israeli government that is always making the case for the status quo based on fear would be ill-served by proud, unafraid Israelis speaking to Americans.
For instance, take Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, whose mind seems to be in 1938 Europe. In 2006, speaking about Iran, Netanyahu told an audience in Los Angeles: “It’s 1938 and Iran is Germany”. He said that the Iranian president who “denies the Holocaust” is “preparing another Holocaust for the Jewish state”.
Note that Netanyahu’s warning of the imminent danger of an Iranian nuclear weapon was delivered six years ago and that this was far from the first warning from Netanyahu that Iran was on the brink of achieving a nuclear bomb. It was also not the first time he said that the present day was reminiscent of 1938, although he has sometimes invoked 1942 or 1944.
Read the whole story: Aljazeera