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July 9, 2020 7:46 am

The Increasing Radicalism of Peter Beinart Must Be Confronted

avatar by Petra Marquardt-Bigman


Peter Beinart. Photo: Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons.

Since Peter Beinart has long been a harsh critic of Israel, it is hardly surprising that he has now decided to join the ranks of those who feel that the world would be a better place without its one small majority Jewish state.

Beinart first announced his not entirely new views in a lengthy essay in the far-left magazine Jewish Currents, and The New York Times was happy to publish a shorter version under the title “I No Longer Believe in a Jewish State.”

Beinart’s piece was of course not the first Times op-ed to promote such a view. Among Beinart’s forerunners in the Times was the late Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who told the paper’s readers in 2009 that the best “compromise is one state for all, an ‘Isratine’ that would allow the people in each party to feel that they live in all of the disputed land and they are not deprived of any one part of it.”

Now that Peter Beinart has come to the same conclusion as Qaddafi, Times editor Max Strasser expressed the hope that even if Beinart’s views might at first seem “controversial,” they will “before too long … be mainstream opinion among American Jewish liberals.”

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Former Obama administration official Ben Rhodes was also full of praise and took to Twitter to tell his almost half million followers: “Peter Beinart is brave, thoughtful, and capable of evolving views. Which is why we should read this carefully and remember that most of Peter’s critics are working off talking points that are dishonest and decades old.”

But “dishonest” was actually the first word that came to my mind when I read Beinart’s essay and his Times op-ed — and I was not alone. As the respected scholar Daniel Gordis put it: “Beinart strings together an astonishing array of sleights of hand and misrepresentations that makes ‘Yavne’ [i.e. Beinart’s Jewish Currents piece] little more than a screed that is an insult to the intelligence of his readers. … Beinart is a smart guy; he knows that for his readers to buy his thesis, it is important that they not know very much. Luckily for him, that is a safe bet.”

Among Beinart’s most noteworthy “sleights of hand” is his casual dismissal of the 100 year history of anti-Jewish Palestinian terrorism. Indeed, Beinart arguably justifies terrorism perpetrated by “oppressed groups” when he writes in the Times: “Yes, there are Palestinians who have committed acts of terrorism. But so have the members of many oppressed groups. History shows that when people gain their freedom, violence declines.”

First, it has to be noted that the Palestinians are the world’s only “oppressed group” that has persistently rejected all proposals to have a state of their own. Moreover, it’s not just a few Palestinians “who have committed acts of terrorism.” As I have documented previously, support for Islamist extremism and terrorism is widespread among Palestinians, and it is not restricted only to attacks that target Israeli Jews.

Yet according to Beinart, Israeli Jews should hope that once they give up on their state, Palestinians would feel they have all the “freedom” they ever wanted and violence would “decline.” Beinart is at least honest enough not to promise that violence would stop, and in any case, he could calmly watch from the comfort of his home in the US if this “Isratine” experiment pans out.

Fantasizing about the elimination of the world’s only entirely Jewish state by eventually transforming it into yet another Arab-Muslim majority state in order to please — and hopefully appease — the Palestinians is of course a fairly popular pastime in some “progressive” circles. But while most progressives won’t be eager to acknowledge that they could once count on the support of the late Libyan dictator Qaddafi, Beinart is apparently not particularly picky about the company he keeps.

When he shared on Twitter “some of the writing that has shaped my thinking,” his list included “Ali Abunimah’s book, One Country,” which Beinart praised as “both trenchantly argued and deeply generous in spirit. I wish I could assign it in every Jewish school.”

It apparently doesn’t bother Beinart that — starting during the murderous Al-Aqsa intifada almost two decades ago — Ali Abunimah has been single-mindedly devoted to demonizing Israel. At his Electronic Intifada site, the Jewish state is constantly presented as a monstrous evil that must be eliminated, and that if Islamist terror groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad help to achieve that goal, they should obviously be cheered on.

Needless to say, Abunimah is certain that advocating the elimination of the world’s only Jewish state while whitewashing and promoting Islamist terrorism can never ever be antisemitic, and he thinks he should therefore be entitled to his own truly Orwellian definition of antisemitism. Preposterously enough, Abunimah sees himself as a fighter against antisemitism, because as far as he is concerned, “Zionism is one of the worst forms of antisemitism in existence today” and “supporting Zionism is not atonement for the Holocaust, but its continuation in spirit.”

The fact that Beinart believes that anything Abunimah writes is “deeply generous in spirit” tells us all we need to know about his judgement.

But whether it’s Ali Abunimah or Muammar Qaddafi or Peter Beinart, the people who advocate the elimination of the Jewish state will always insist that their motives are pure and noble. Their cynical disregard for the lives and aspirations of millions of Israeli Jews reveal the hollowness of that claim.

Petra Marquardt-Bigman is a German-Israeli freelance writer and researcher with a PhD in contemporary history.

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