Friday, May 20th | 19 Iyyar 5782

July 20, 2021 12:10 pm

The Crisis of Peter Beinart

avatar by Aidan Segal


Peter Beinart. Photo: Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons.

Since becoming editor-at-large for Jewish Currents, Peter Beinart has been the author of some extremely provocative essays about Israel and Zionism.

In response to his New York Times article, “I No Longer Believe in a Jewish State,” — an abridged version of a piece originally published in Jewish Currents — critics accused Beinart of treachery and Final Solutionism for abandoning the “morally indefensible” concept of Israel.

Following that article, Beinart lent immense credence to his critics by penning several more preposterous anti-Israel essays. In turn, many American Jews have justifiably lamented that Beinart’s Jewishness has provided a shield for antisemites who promote his disastrous ideas, vindicating their role in the nation’s dramatic rise of antisemitism.

Now, in his latest essay published last Friday, “It’s Time to Name Anti-Palestinian Bigotry,” the author of “The Crisis of Zionism” appears to dismiss the horrible reality of current antisemitism as a calculated political maneuver to silence anti-Israel dissent. Giving anti-Palestinianism a formal definition, he argues, would make visible the real hatred pervading the country — which he claims is anti-Palestinianism.

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He specifically notes the halls of Congress, where the far-left clique of Democratic Congresswomen popularly known as the Squad (Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) has been overwhelmingly condemned for essentially conducting an antisemitic propaganda campaign against the Jewish state and Jewish people, invoking historically lethal tropes that have incited violence and harassment against American Jews.

But Beinart disagrees. The way he sees it, it’s the Jewish and pro-Israel representatives who have been guilty of promoting hatred and incitement — due to their condemnation of the Squad. He says that anti-Palestinianism is a hatred so “ubiquitous,” that “almost everyone in Congress would be guilty of it.”

And according to him, anti-Palestinianism is not just present throughout Congress; it’s “commonplace across American society.”

Beinart’s false characterization of discrimination against Palestinians on college campuses, among other venues, is a forgery of the antisemitic reality that’s been going on for years, and that he continues to deny.

On top of that, he displays an incredible amount of cognitive dissonance. First, he likens the development of the word “antisemitism” to “roughly the situation for Palestinians today” because it was “only after Jewish equality gained some political legitimacy that opposing it denoted a specific form of bigotry.” But the political legitimacy of Israel’s national establishment is something he now entirely opposes. Next, he favors a formal definition of anti-Palestinianism in which opposing Palestinian nationhood, which for him is predicated upon the very destruction of Israel, constitutes bigotry against Palestinians. And only paragraphs apart, Beinart will argue in the same vein against a definition of antisemitism that equates itself with anti-Zionism.

He does this because “Palestinians deserve equality,” and “denying them equality … constitutes a form of bigotry.”

But what does Beinart even mean by equality? For one thing, he believes there’s no such evidence the Squad harbors antisemitism; they’re merely expressing their struggle for equality, he says.

But what is he supporting? Is it Tlaib’s idea of equality? Endorsing eliminationist slogans against Israel, and propagating ancient blood libels? What about Omar’s idea of attaining equality? Does he support peddling Jewish dual loyalty, Jewish money, or Israeli global hypnosis propaganda? And what kind of equality would Jews see under Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez’s reckless lie of Israeli apartheid?

Equality only exists within Israel, where Palestinians enjoy full rights of citizenship and participate in the highest levels of government. To oppose Israel as Beinart does is to truly be anti-Palestinian. Appeasing activists and organizations whose ideas have everything to do with slaughtering Jews and nothing to do with easing the suffering of Palestinians caused by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority is the anti-Palestinianism he promotes.

As Daniel Gordis illustrates in his criticism of Beinart, “Israel is, for the Israelis who think about such things, a grand experiment in the cultural, intellectual, historical, linguistic and religious rebirth that can unfold when a people is restored, with sovereignty, to its ancestral homeland.”

It’s a tragedy that Beinart, as a Jew, can’t see that. He chooses to believe the story of Israel’s creation as a Jewish supremacist nightmare. Maybe from New York, Beinart can toy around with pathetic utopian ideas, but Jews who understand the nature of the words “in every generation rise up to destroy us” — and the historical proof of this statement — cannot.

At one point in the article, Beinart fallaciously asks us to imagine how we’d feel if a “foreign government granted full citizenship to its entire gentile population but provided its Jews either second-class citizenship or no citizenship at all.” It wouldn’t be difficult to imagine at all. Our ancestors lived it in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, all throughout the Middle East — and Beinart’s vision would allow it to happen once more, this time in the last place we can truly call home.

Aidan Segal is a student at the University of Pittsburgh and a former CAMERA on Campus fellow.

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