Peter Beinart’s Cocoon

October 2, 2013 10:20 am 6 comments

"Open Zion" Editor Peter Beinart. Photo: JStreet.org.

Peter Beinart’s newest screed in The New York Review of Books (“The American Jewish Cocoon,” September 26) offers variations on a familiar theme. It sharply criticizes the American Jewish community, especially “the American Jewish establishment,” for its insularity from legitimate Palestinian grievances against Israel and its distorted perception of Palestinians as “a faceless, frightening, undifferentiated mass.”

At the top of Beinart’s agenda is the necessity of talking to Palestinians. “Our isolation from Palestinians,” Beinart admonishes, “keeps us dumb.” He faults American Jews, especially community leaders, for their lack of empathy.  Encountering Palestinians would combat “American Jewish ignorance” and “American Jewish hatred.” Yet even he concedes: “Virtually every Palestinian I’ve ever met considers Zionism to be colonialist, imperialist, and racist.” What, then, is the point of closer communication?

Beinart’s indictment is a reprise of his previous New York Review critique (June 10, 2010). Then, echoing Palestinians, he castigated Jewish leaders for supporting the Israeli “occupation” of “Palestinian” territories. Expanded into The Crisis of Zionism, and further refined in a New York Times op-ed, he effectively pledged allegiance to the worldwide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which reframes traditional anti-Semitic tropes in the currently fashionable delegitimization of Israel. Advocating a “Zionist B.D.S.” movement, he proposed a boycott on products from “nondemocratic” Israel i.e. Jewish settlements. Even far-left lobby group J Street rejected his proposal.

As if to demonstrate its irrelevance, Beinart’s current New York Review essay coincided with the publication of a Pew Research Center survey revealing a far more ominous development within the American Jewish community than any disinclination to communicate with Palestinians.

The “changing nature” of American Jewish identity reveals a sharply declining religious identification (except among the Orthodox), long the defining attribute of Jewish identity. One in five American Jews has no religious identification. Nearly two-thirds identify as Jewish on the basis of ancestry, ethnicity or culture, not religion. Among them, an equivalent proportion is not raising their children Jewish or partially Jewish. The rate of Jewish intermarriage is approaching 60 percent, above 70 percent among non-Orthodox Jews.

The lack of attachment of American Jews to Israel is equally worrisome. Only one-third of Jews who identify by religion are “very attached”; barely ten percent of non-religious Jews feel bound to Israel. Nearly one-quarter of the former have little or no attachment; more than half the Jews of no religion are completely detached from the Jewish state.

As good liberals (like Beinart), barely one-third of American Jews believe that Israel is making “a sincere effort to establish peace with the Palestinians.” Nearly half believe that settlement construction is harmful to Israel’s security interests. But only twelve percent believe that Palestinian leaders are sincere in seeking peace with Israel.

The “American Jewish Cocoon” that Beinart laments entirely misses the point. Any unwillingness of American Jews to communicate with Palestinians is dwarfed in significance by their exodus from Jewish identity. Embracing the great wide wonderful world of assimilation, the theology of liberalism grows ever stronger as their prevailing faith. More than double the percentage of American Jews who feel attachment to Israel, according to the Pew findings, are concerned with discrimination against gays, lesbians, Muslims and African Americans.

Beinart chastises American Jewish organizations for avoiding encounters with Palestinians. Birthright, for example, does not take its Diaspora participants to Palestinian towns and cities – nor, however, does it cross the “Green Line” to visit Jewish settlements. He complains that Hillel has issued guidelines urging local chapters not to host speakers who “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel,” which sounds like an eminently reasonable policy. Even Beinart concedes that the BDS movement “is based on a dangerous and inaccurate analogy” between Israel and apartheid South Africa.

Beinart complains that the organized American Jewish community is a “closed intellectual space.” But no one seems to inhabit a more tightly closed intellectual space than Peter Beinart.

Jerold S. Auerbach is author of the forthcoming Jewish State/Pariah State: Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy, to be published by Quid Pro Books.

6 Comments

  • David Cutler

    F*** Peter Beinart

  • The only question in my mind is this: Are these leftists fools or deceivers or both? Have they forgotten the decades of terror (ongoing and growing) and war and extremism that is part of the Islamic conquest focused primarily on Israel but also the USA, Europe and the rest of the world? Does Beinart, cocooned in his protected leftist shell, not read or view the media? Does he not care about the fate of the Jewish people and the Western world? Does he see it as an advantage to give “Palestinians” a new country in place of Israel that never existed before, just to satisfy the demands of totalitarian Islam? Does he not see that Islamic countries have done nothing to offer citizenship to their own refugees, opting to make them into jihadists for their sick causes? Does Beinart have something to gain when the Islamists, with help from and legitimized by the Obama administration, are so mainstream that they will dictate to him what he must believe, how his wife and children dress, the respect and funds he gives for Mosques (through taxes) that preach and teach hate; as they degrade his beliefs, values and freedoms and perhaps kills non-believers as they do today in many countries? Does Beinart want a Middle East where Iran has nuclear bombs and all must be terrorized by the mullahs? Has Beinart seen that Arab refugees are very well fed and does he not understand that their lives would be much better were they not under the Islamist fists of their own dictators? Starving people have no time to engage in endless intifada and draw fake pictures in UNRWA propaganda camps. Starving people do not do jihad and force sharia on the world – a pool of oil and an endless line of leftists have empowered evil.

  • The big lie. It was invented by the Nazis. It is used blatantly by the bds, and other overtly anti-Semitic movements.

    There is a big lie in the US as well. George Orwell wrote very convincingly of using language to manipulate meaning. Nowhere is this more apparent than the shameful application of the word liberal to people who are as liberal as Hitler. Those who use double standards cannot be liberal. Those who are closed to people are not liberal. Those who are blatantly bigoted are not liberal. Liberal means tolerant, flexible, understanding,welcoming of diversity. A liberal will give people the benefit of the doubt, ALL PEOPLE not just ‘protected’ minorities. A liberal wants government to smooth out the roughness of a capitalist society. A liberal wants for people to strive for the best, and to be given the best opportunity possible. A liberal wants minimal amounts of laws effecting peoples’ rights to express themselves, comport themselves, and be themselves. Dictionaries are not rare or difficult to access. The definitions of liberal are available to all who wish to explore their meanings.

    The politically-coerced censorship crowd is as liberal as Hitler, with a somewhat different focus on some issues. In today’s world, they are aggressively, enthusiastically, determinadly anti-Semitic. The combination of 2,000 years of vicious Western anti-Semitism is combined with a misplaced outlook (excuse?) of looking after the downtrodden. But these ‘people’ go way beyond a concern for a people in misery. They project the big lie far and wide, and nothing will shake their devotion. There is nothing liberal about such people. They do not care about anything other than their bigoted ideas. In point of fact, these ‘people’ would throw the Palestinians under the bus in a heartbeat if Jews simply ceased to exist.

    Countering the big lie with another big lie is no answer. There are those of us out here who ARE liberal. We can be criticized, and certainly expect to be. But we are NOT to be confused with the fascistic cohort of the politically-coerced censorship. THEY ARE NOT LIBERAL.

  • We don’t like you, don’t want to hear your worthless opinions and prefer you get real and just admit you wish you weren’t a Jew.

  • Edward Alexander

    Congratulations to Auerbach for this scintillating piece on the pretentions of Beinart, the chief claimant to the presidency of “Zionists Against Israel.”

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    Removing Jesus’ Jewish Identity From Artwork

    In a strong statement that challenges the historic divide between Christianity and Judaism, Pope Francis recently proclaimed, “Inside every Christian is a Jew.” But if you look at Renaissance artworks that depict Jesus, you will not find any evidence of a Jew inside the Christianized Jesus — even though the Gospels in the New Testament tell us that Jesus was Jewish to the core. Getting that point across to the public is a daunting task, as I learned in interviews I [...]

    Read more →
  • Music Personalities Recycling His Roots

    Recycling His Roots

    JNS.org – Having started his career playing on his family’s pots and pans, Jewish musician Billy Jonas has maintained this homemade performance ethic while spreading his messages of simple living and environmentalism to a shared home throughout the world. After beginning in the kitchen, Jonas soon moved to the music room, where he picked up the piano, guitar, and trombone. These days, the multi-talented multi-instrumentalist plays on with pretty much anything he can find, including cans, bottles buckets, and other recycled-object [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    Jewish Renewal Movement Founder’s Insights Form a New Guide for Senior Living

    JNS.org – Sara Davidson’s The December Project is a new book that should be read by all senior citizens, and by those who hope to live a long life, for it raises a question that most of us have not been taught how to answer: What should we do in that final stage of our lives? Many of us continue working past the traditional retirement age of 65, not because we need the money and not because we find the [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish History Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    Why the Holocaust Occurred in Germany, and Why So Few Resisted (REVIEW)

    It’s hard to make a new contribution to the field of Holocaust studies,  but German historian Götz Aly accomplishes just that in Why the Germans, Why the Jews? His premise is that the origins of the Holocaust were rooted in the specific anti-Semitism found in Germany in the decades and centuries before World War II. Aly (who is not Jewish) seeks to prove his theory by studying only pre-Holocaust history, and tracing how the German people’s envy and hatred of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    Looking at Anti-Israel Celebrities and Their Brands

    JNS.org – During the current conflict in Gaza a number of celebrities have voiced their opinions in support of either the Israeli or Palestinian positions. But others—be it during Operation Protective Edge or at other times—have gone further than simply supporting the Palestinians by actively supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, making false accusations about the Jewish state, ignoring Israel’s position on the conflict, or justifying the actions of the terrorist group Hamas. Many of these [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    Israeli UFC Fighter Returns to Jewish State to Rejoin IDF

    JNS.org – Days after winning his Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) featherweight bout against Steven Siler on July 26, Israeli-born mixed martial arts competitor Noad Lahat boarded a plane for his native country, choosing to temporarily exit UFC’s octagonal cage to rejoin the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) as a paratrooper for its operation against Hamas in Gaza. Except he didn’t actually consider it a choice. “When [our] home is in danger, there is no other way for us [but to serve [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.