Peter Beinart Says BDSers Hear ‘The Voice of Sinai’
Assuming that this Mondoweiss account of a program at the 92nd St Y is accurate:
At the end of the discussion, [Peter] Beinart challenged the hall filled with 500 mostly older folks (and surely almost all Jews, and paying $40 a head) to include anti-Zionists at the table:
“And the last thing I’ll say and this is the most challenging I think maybe for most people, including for me: Our tent, our Jewish community, our proverbial Seder table, is going to have to include the Jewish kids who are not Zionists, including the Jewish kids who are involved in the BDS movement. Because Jewish kids are overrepresented in the BDS movement. You may find that frightening beyond belief, you may find it terrifying. And I understand why you do, but it’s true.”
Beinart then related an anecdote of a campus meeting of Students for Justice for Palestine where most of the group was Jewish, and continued:
“Every generation hears the voice of Sinai anew. This generation– one way it is hearing it makes us radically uncomfortable. We cannot afford to tell them that they are not welcome in Jewish spaces, because then we alienate them not only from Israel but from being Jews as well. We need to welcome them in, we need to argue with them, we need to challenge them, we need to be challenged by them. We may be entering– I take no pleasure in this, I find it a terrifying reality– We are entering, An era in which there is no longer going to be a Zionist consensus in the U.S. Especially if Israel continues on its current path. We will have to remain a Jewish community in that environment and we will have to be welcoming even to those people on the far left or the far right whose views we find deeply, deeply upsetting.”
Saying that those who are dedicated to destroying the Jewish state are listening to the word of God is beyond obscene..Beinart has lost what little credibility he may have had.
Beyond that, as usual, Beinart is wrong. He claims that by excluding these anti-Israel voices from the Jewish community, we are alienating them from Judaism. He has it exactly backwards – the vast, vast majority of Jews who support BDS are those who have already been estranged from Judaism, and they cynically use their accident of birth to legitimize a fundamentally anti-Jewish position.
Yes, Judaism is Zionist. You cannot meaningfully say “Next Year in Jerusalem” at the “proverbial seder table” while saying that Jews don’t have rights to their capital city.
The seder happens to be a perfect way to illustrate how wrong Beinart is. Here is a part of something called “No time to Celebrate – Jews Remember the Nakba Passover Haggadah Supplement, 5768 / 2008″:
Yes, they have changed “Next year in Jerusalem” to refer to those who want to see Jerusalem to be ethnically cleansed of Jews. Yeah, let’s include them in the “big tent.”
These people don’t care about Judaism except for how to use it as a weapon. Their claim to Judaism, by doing things like hijacking the idea of a Passover seder, is like Hamas pretending to love human rights – a cynical ploy to fool others, but not a true statement of belief. Their “Judaism” – which is really taking concepts like “social justice” and calling it Judaism – is purely political, and their intent in being taken seriously by the Jewish establishment is to destroy Jewish (and mainstream Zionist) institutions from within.
Not to say that there isn’t a problem with young people.. Beinart exaggerates it – there is far more pro-Israel sentiment among college students than he pretends – but there is a problem, and the problem is that too many people don’t raise their kids to feel like they are part of the Jewish people.
The sad fact is that most American Jews know little about Judaism and Israel. The issue needs to be addressed early on, with dynamic education programs that start when the kids are young, with camps and trips and accurate education about Judaism and Zionism.
If the older people listening to Beinart are concerned about their grandkids, they should be putting their money into education for pre-teens and teens as well as into programs that counter the anti-Israel lies on college campuses.
The Haggadah – the real one, that is – has explicit instructions on how to deal with “the wicked son.” We are not told to love him and listen respectfully to his views. On the contrary, we are told to recognize his true intention to weaken us and to publicly shame him for his efforts to hurt his people under the pretense of simply asking innocent questions., Judaism – real Judaism, that is – does not say to have a “big tent” to accept all viewpoints as having equal validity. It tells usto recognize evil and to fight it.
Jews who support BDS certainly are analogous to the wicked son. And Peter Beinart, by praising those who want to pervert Judaism in order to destroy Israel, may very well have crossed the line to that category as well.