A Critique of Beinart's Essay

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Goldblog reader David Marks writes, in reference to Peter Beinart's essay on the American Jewish left and Israel:

1.  College students are always more to the left than their parents.  It is part of the process of breaking away from their parents and becoming independent thinkers.   Ironically, most college students simply join groupthink that is the opposite of what their parents views. As a college student in the early 90's I saw this same phenomenon with respect to the first Gulf War.  A more instructive study would be to compare the views of college students and the views of those same college students at age 35.
 
2. Beinart states that American Jewish establishment is thinks Palestinians are not "deserving of dignity."  This is a serious charge about the fundamental morality of most Jewish organizations.  What does he base this statement on?  How can one possibly respond to such an accusation if Beinart does not support it.
 
3.  Beinart says that most American Jewish students are against those who think the Palestinians are "incapable of making peace."   While I think the Palestinians are capable of making peace, it is hard to avoid their actions which show the opposite.  For example, today's college students were 8-12 years old when Arafat rejected Israel's peace offers in 2000 and started a bloodbath of Israeli civilian bodies.  Are most aware of this fact?  They also may be unaware that Abbas rejected Olmert's offer of almost all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. They may be unaware that last month a poll showed that 77% of Palestinians could not accept a two state solution.
 
4.  Beinart extensively quotes Yaron Ezrahi for support of his thesis, but fails to mention that Ezrahi is equally as disillusioned with the the utopian views of the left.  He stated "It's a disenchantment with two utopias: with the left-wing utopia of peace and harmony, and with the right-wing utopia of greater Israel by blood and fire."  This balance does not square with Beinart's thesis so he conveniently leaves it out.
 
5.  Beinart cites "new Historians" such as Tom Segev as those who "fearlessly excavated the darker corners of the Zionist past."  Beinart fails to mention that much of the work of the "new Historians" has been debunked.  For example Ephraim Karsh, in his book Fabricating Israeli History, exposes how Benny Morris (the father of the new Historians) edited Ben-Gurion  quotes to say that Israelis needs to expel all Arabs from Israel when the quote actually said that Israelis do not need to expel all Arabs from Israel.  Such fabrications do not serve the goal of peace and are not by any means fearless.  They only serve to demonize one side over the other and obfuscate complex realities.
 
6. As an example of the current government's extremist he quotes Effi Eitam as an example. But Eitam served in 2002 and 2003 when Netanyahu was out of power so how does he reflect on the current government except for his minute roll talking to high school kids?  Netanyahu certainly made an alliance with extremists in order to form a government, but how much power do they actually have.  Didn't Netanyahu institute the first ever partial freeze of settlements?  Does Eitam really have any power whatsoever?  Most importantly, have any of Avigdor Lieberman's abhorrent views actually been enacted?  Does Beinart actually criticize any of Netanyahu's current policies or is he guilty by association?  As he was in 1996, Netanyahu will be voted out of power if the Israeli public believes that the Palestinian leadership is making good faith efforts to achieve a lasting peace and that Netanyahu is an obstacle.
 
7. I could go on.  To me what is more terrifying than the transient power of the Israeli right in Israel, is the deepening belief on the American Jewish middle-left that Israel and mainstream American Jewish organizations are solely to blame for everything, that the Palestinians have no human agency, and have not contributed anything to the current impasse in peace negotiations.  This is all the more disconcerting coming from Beinart, a man whose writing I have deeply admire, and who for years has been a moderating voice on the left.  To see him accept the Walt/Mearsheimer narrative is frightening.  The next thing you know an emboldened Mearsheimer will be creating a list of good Jews and bad Jews; and Walt will start advocating the removal of Jews from foreign policy positions in government.  Sadly, these two things have already happened. 

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/05/a-critique-of-beinarts-essay/56825/