Israel’s Critics Want to Destroy It — Not Improve It
Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland begins his recent Jewish Chronicle op-ed, “What next, if the two state dream is dead?” thusly:
Though annexation itself seems to be up in the air, one of annexation’s expected consequences is already materializing: a crisis of faith among those whose Zionist belief in the legitimacy of a Jewish state depended on there being at least the possibility of an eventual two-state solution, but who now see that prospect vanish before their eyes.
Freedland’s op-ed was addressing a recent 7,000 word piece by Peter Beinart calling for Jews to embrace a one-state, non-Zionist future, published at Jewish Currents — a shorter version of which was published by The New York Times.
You can read CAMERA’s response to Beinart’s call for the end of a Jewish state here, but Freedland’s framing of the crisis is interesting, as it — correctly — casts the (former) Zionism of Beinart and his allies as contingent upon a particular political outcome with the Palestinians. This contingent Zionism suggests that the very legitimacy of Israel is not, as with all other countries, to quote Abba Eban, “axiomatic and unreserved” — but is permanently “suspended in mid-air” awaiting others’ moral approval.
Contingent Zionism negates and erases the fact that Israel is, by any objective measure, a dynamic, successful, and democratic state; and demands, as the condition for political and moral international legitimacy, that it facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state. Conversely, this political calculus appears to conclude that no moral demands should be made of Palestinians for them to be granted the right to statehood and legitimacy.
Whereas Israeli leaders must reject annexation and continually work to keep the two-state solution alive, less they forfeit their very right to exist, nothing whatsoever is asked of Palestinian leaders. They aren’t asked to create, as Zionists leaders did in the decades before 1948, the apparatuses of statehood — healthy proto-state political and civil institutions that would inspire faith that Palestine won’t become a failed state.
They aren’t asked to promote a culture of peace within Palestinian society, nor to eradicate the PA’s violence and antisemitism-promoting culture and terror-incentivizing schemes like “pay for slay” — measures that would inspire Israeli confidence that Palestine wouldn’t become, like Gaza, a terror state.
They aren’t even asked to commit to peace talks with Israel without preconditions — the only conceivable way forward if there’s going to be hope for two states.
As Daniel Gordis tweeted, Beinart doesn’t hold Palestinian leaders even minimally responsible:
@PeterBeinart suggests to @DanielBShapiro all onus should be on Israel. Nothing demanded of the Palestinians. As I note in yesterday’s https://t.co/Cl1HEUrnQk, that’s part of the problem w/ Beinart’s analysis – He writes as if Palestinians have no agency or responsibility. https://t.co/cT5chnI9zp
— Daniel Gordis (@DanielGordis) July 9, 2020
Beinart’s reply is instructive:
“You’re not granting Palestinians agency” is hasbara for “You’re not blaming Palestinians for their own oppression” https://t.co/cv8uXLFmZd
— Peter Beinart (@PeterBeinart) July 9, 2020
The tweet perfectly sums up contingent Zionism: a Manichean view of the conflict in which Palestinians are the oppressed and Israelis are their oppressors: full stop. Erased from this moral binary is not just Palestinian agency in the abstract, but the specific actual history of Arab and Palestinian war, terror, intifadas, rejectionism, and Jew hatred that fueled (and continues to fuel) the conflict, and have made Israelis more skeptical of Palestinian intentions.
While it’s important not to exaggerate Beinart’s influence, especially given that polls continue to bely his prediction of the Jewish community’s waning support for Israel, it’s also undeniable that the radical ideological currents that inform his views are ascendant. Beinart is trying to sell Jews on a kind of cancel culture writ large.
Though Gordis rightly concluded that such an “unfettered quest for self-immolation … cultural fatigue … and willed oblivion-to-consequences” hasn’t tempted Israelis, history has demonstrated that the seductive power of movements that seek nothing less than the fundamental transformation of society, after which “all things will be changed,” should not be underestimated.
Adam Levick is Co-Editor of CAMERA UK, the British division of Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA).