The ‘Optics’ of Dead Jews
Columnist Peter Beinart warned this week that “unless they change course, [US President] Donald Trump and [Israeli Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu are going to get Jews killed.”
Writing in The Forward about Palestinian threats of violence in response to Israel’s authorization of 2,500 new housing units in existing settlements, and discussions in Washington over a possible move of the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Beinart hastily added that, “of course,” neither leader wants Jewish blood to flow.
Nor, he said, was he “trying to detract from the primary moral responsibility of those Palestinians who detonate bombs or shoot guns or stab with knives. Palestinian terrorism is inexcusable. It always has been. It always will be.”
And then he got to the crux of the piece: If Netanyahu ignores the assessments of Israeli security experts — as well as the saber-rattling of a member of the Jordanian government and chief Palestinian “peace” negotiator Saeb Erekat — he will be just as guilty of the terrorism that is sure to ensue as those who perpetrated it.
To give greater weight to his argument, Beinart first presented the positions of those who favor Israeli settlement construction and the relocation of the US Embassy, and then refuted their logic.
One such position was that “Israel should never be cowed by the prospect of Palestinian violence.”
”To do so,” he said, “would be to imply that Israel deserves some of the blame for that violence, which is like blaming a woman who is raped for wearing a short skirt.”
But here is where Beinart returned his own volley with a mighty whack. Unlike rape, he wrote, which “is purely a product of male pathology, Palestinian violence … is a pathological response to a genuine grievance.” Aha.
In other words, Israel really is at fault for getting raped — whether it wears dresses or pants; curtsies or bows; begs or pleads; or fights back. It is to blame for the plight of the Palestinians. In fact, if not for the “violence” of Jewish oppression, they would be teaching their children to sing “Kumbaya” and plant flowers, instead of raising them to become martyrs for Allah.
Yes, according to Beinart, “Snuffing out their hopes of ever tasting the basic freedoms that David Friedman and Jared Kushner take for granted is violence.” Kudos for so deftly killing two Jews — the incoming US ambassador to Israel, and Trump’s son-in-law/adviser — with one stone.
Beinart wrapped up his piece with a proverbial sigh and characteristic self-justification for attacking the state he always professes to love. “We must say so now, before the sight of dead Jews drives us all mad,” he wrote.
That Beinart has this view of the situation is not the least bit surprising. He is known for his affiliation with the leftist organization J Street, whose “hold Israel responsible” stance jibes perfectly with his own.
Far more disturbing is the way in which this position has slipped into the discourse of mainstream US Jewish groups, even those that do not consider Israel to be the real culprit in the war on its legitimacy.
On Wednesday, for example, the American Jewish Committee released a statement calling Israel’s authorization of new housing units in the West Bank “a gamble that [could] further inflame an already difficult situation on the ground.”
According to AJC Chief Executive Officer David Harris, “Optics are important in politics, and the optics of Israel’s announced settlement construction, so shortly after President Trump took office, are not helpful.”
He continued: “Yes, the construction may be in those areas Israel intends to keep in any possible deal with the Palestinians. And yes, the Trump administration may (or may not) end up taking a different approach to this issue than its predecessor. … And while the stark reality is that the biggest hurdle by far to an accord with the Palestinians remains their incitement and intransigence, this announcement, alas, could hand anti-Israel forces a PR victory.”
Unlike Beinart, who believes that Israel is at fault for Palestinian “incitement and intransigence,” Harris is worried about the Jewish state’s image. He seems to think that its already tarnished reputation among antisemites and members of the UN Security Council should be sufficient cause for Netanyahu to keep his head down and not make any more waves.
Though repugnant, the radical lens through which Beinart sees the Arab-Israeli conflict at least steers him to a clear-cut conclusion, albeit false. Simply put, he is on the side of the enemy.
The liberal view, held by the likes of Harris, is not nearly as hateful, but it is more susceptible to manipulation by forces engaged in keeping Israel on the defensive. When a Jewish leader calls on Netanyahu to worry about “optics,” he is participating in that effort, rather than battling it.
The “sight of dead Jews,” as Beinart put it, is precisely what the world is marking Friday. If there is one truism worth reiterating on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, it is that no amount of capitulation or impeccable behavior can fend off genocidal hatred.
Ruthie Blum is the managing editor of The Algemeiner.