Thursday, July 9, 2020

Understanding Beinart, Understanding the Collapse of Liberal Zionism - by Jonathan S. Tobin

The retreat of the defeated to Yavne is an image that has nothing to say to Israelis. Rather, it is an apt metaphor for the failures of an American Jewish organized world drenched in ignorance and Jewish illiteracy that is suffering both a demographic implosion and a crisis of faith. The surrender of the self-described leading exponent of liberal Zionism speaks volumes about the failures of American Jewry.

Jonathan S. Tobin..
08 July '20..

There’s a reason why most Israelis find it difficult to listen patiently to lectures from liberal American Jews. For Israelis, their country is a real place filled with real people and perplexing dilemmas that have no easy solutions. But for all too many American Jews, Israel is a dreamland—a place for intellectual tourism where we can project our own insecurities and anxieties on the Jewish state while expressing our moral superiority over the lesser beings who live there and lack our wisdom.

Which brings us to the problem of Peter Beinart.

Beinart, the former editor of The New Republic and columnist for The Atlantic, sought to carve out a place for himself as the leading liberal critic of Israel with his 2012 book The Crisis of Zionism. The book was as spectacularly ignorant as it was arrogant in its refusal to acknowledge the reality of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

The conceit of the work was that Israelis needed to rise above their fears and recognize that a two-state solution was within easy reach. Anything that contradicted his assumptions—like the nature of Palestinian political culture or the continued rejectionism and obsession with the fantasy of Israel’s destruction—was either rationalized or ignored. Too immersed in their unseemly quest for security and profit, Israelis could only overcome the “crisis” of the title by listening to the wisdom of Beinart, a righteous American pilgrim, whose manifest good intentions should have generated respect and deference from his recalcitrant Israeli pupils.

Much to Beinart’s chagrin, rather than take the advice of a leading American public intellectual to heart, Israelis ignored it. In the eight years since then, Israel has endured more violence and political controversy while the Palestinians have continued to reject peace, whether along the lines laid out by President Barack Obama (whose alleged bona fides as a friend of the Jewish people was discussed at length in his book) or the less generous terms offered by President Donald Trump.

(Continue to Full Column)

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