Peter Beinart’s Latest: a Call to Ease Sanctions on Iran
by Ira Stoll
A New York Times op-ed calling for America to roll back economic sanctions on Iran, Syria, and North Korea is by an author who wrote an entire book calling for a boycott of Israel’s West Bank settlements.
The piece leaves the author, Peter Beinart, in the awkward position of opposing sanctions on terror-sponsoring Iran but supporting them on Israelis who live in Hebron or suburbs of Jerusalem.
“America blockades weaker adversaries, choking off their trade with the outside world. It’s the modern equivalent of surrounding a city and trying to starve it into submission,” Beinart writes in his latest article. “Besieging an oppressive regime usually harms not the oppressor but the oppressed…. Ideally, America would stop besieging weaker nations.”
Beinart’s 2012 book The Crisis of Zionism called for economic sanctions against the settlements. Back then, he expressed mild support for the sanctions against Iran and North Korea. He wrote, “Countries like North Korea, Iran, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, and Sudan certainly violate human rights more egregiously than does Israel, but in part for that reason, America does not underwrite their behavior. To the contrary, America imposes sanctions.”
A 2012 Beinart op-ed in the New York Times was headlined, “To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements.” He wrote then, “We should lobby to exclude settler-produced goods from America’s free-trade deal with Israel. We should push to end Internal Revenue Service policies that allow Americans to make tax-deductible gifts to settler charities…. settlements need not constitute the world’s worst human rights abuse in order to be worth boycotting. After all, numerous American cities and organizations boycotted Arizona after it passed a draconian immigration law in 2010.”
Beinart reiterated the boycott call in a 2016 letter in the New York Review of Books headlined, “For an Economic Boycott and Political Nonrecognition of the Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories.” He wrote then, in a letter signed with others, “we call for a targeted boycott of all goods and services from all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories, and any investments that promote the Occupation, until such time as a peace settlement is negotiated between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. We further call upon the US government to exclude settlements from trade benefits accorded to Israeli enterprises, and to strip all such Israeli entities in the West Bank from the tax exemptions that the Internal Revenue Service currently grants to American nonprofit tax-exempt organizations. The objects of our call are all commercial and residential Israeli-sponsored entities located outside the 1949 Green Line.”
Beinart’s latest op-ed doesn’t even attempt to find logical consistency in supporting sanctions against the West Bank Jews but opposing them against the genocidal Iranian terrorists or the North Korean communists. It doesn’t grapple with the Jackson-Vanik trade sanctions that helped to free Soviet Jews, or even with the movement to divest from South Africa during apartheid, an example that Beinart is usually quick to invoke as a parallel to Israel.
I guess it’s possible that Beinart could renounce his support for a boycott of the West Bank, the way he has renounced his support for Zionism.
Times management — either publisher A.G. Sulzberger or opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury, depending on which account one credits — spiked a recent Bret Stephens column. If either Sulzberger or Kingsbury were looking for an opinion column to spike, Beinart’s would have been a fine candidate. If they didn’t want to kill the column entirely, at least they might have wanted to send it back for a revision to explain how it is possible to reconcile supporting a boycott of Israeli settlers but opposing economic sanctions against Iran and North Korea.
Elsewhere in today’s Times is a useful rundown of Iran’s recent terrorism campaign — planned attacks on Emirati embassies in Ethiopia and Sudan, a plot to kill the American ambassador to South Africa, and a thwarted bomb attack in France. Lifting sanctions would reward that activity and provide the Iranians with additional cash to fund it.
Sanctions are no cure-all. When they fail to achieve an objective it is worth reexamining the policy. A good example of that is President Reagan and the Soviet Union. Reagan didn’t repeal the Jackson amendment, but he added a military buildup and diplomatic and other pressure aimed at rolling back and defeating the Soviet Union along the lines recommended by Richard Pipes. A similar effort directed at Iran might bear similar fruit. That’s one column you’re unlikely to read in the New York Times, at least under current management.
Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.