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A Telling Moment in a Debate with Peter Beinart and Steve Rosen

Peter Beinart is the great liberal hope of the less extreme anti-Israel leftists. That is, those who claim to be pro-Israel even as they attack it viciously. I’m referring to the Promised Land and Magnes Zionist type individuals who have come to view Israel through the distorted lens of original and continuing sin.

Beinart is an Israel critic whose views suggest that the best way to get to the magical Israel everybody wants to have, is by weakening its support among “pro-Israel” folks, or at least getting them to temper it so that they don’t, heaven forbid, forget to also mention all of its failings. This, in turn, will lead to a diminution of American and the American public’s support for Israel, thus weakening Israel and forcing it to…come to some sort of agreement and peace with the Arabs. In other words, it’s all Israel’s fault…

Since reading his essay in the NY Review of Books and having read god knows how many pro and anti responses, I remain with my original reaction to his piece, which is that he undermines his own case by focusing primarily on Israel as the culprit in the failure to achieve peace or in watching the country move to the right. In order to get there, he has to ignore a lot of facts, not to mention the enemies of Israel. If it’s alright, I won’t get into details because plenty of others have done it. On our site, Jamie Kirchik was kind enough to reprint his article from elsewhere and it provides some strong points against Beinart’s piece.

On the other hand, the movement of Beinart to the anti-Israel camp (he would not label himself as such, by the way) is of interest to me, in part because he thinks that he sees a similar move among liberal young Jews. In my opinion, his ideas about young Jews and their distancing from Israel are off the mark. The problem has little to do with his complaints about the leadership of the Jewish community, which is somewhat of a ridiculous assertion anyway since the Jewish community is far from a top-down organization (sorry, Walt and Mearsheimer). Sure, there are groups that have political clout, they do not dictate what happens in the homes of Jews, or even for that matter on podiums at synagogues.

No, the problem isn’t that Jewish communal leaders are trying to cover up for Israel by hiding its lesser deeds or its failings. The problem is that there are fewer young Jews who come from families where Judaism is a primary factor in their lives. There are many more children of intermarriage, many more children of highly assimilated families, many more children whose connection is nothing more than knowing they have a Jewish background. In other words, there are far fewer young Jews who are committed in any way to Jewish life or their Jewish heritage. Israel, for them, is a complete unknown. Maybe they will discover it on a Birthright trip, but even that is far from a certainty.

For them, and these are the young Liberal Jews about whom Beinart is writing, Israel is actually a problem. After all, who wants to go to college just to be lumped in with the “war criminals” and their supporters? If you have a choice between diluting that part of your identity and having a good time in school, or publicly identifying or supporting a state that has become anathema on campus, the decision is an easy one to make. I can even understand anger at Israel growing from those circumstances.

It seems to me that Beinart lives in a bubble. He simply has no idea the extent of the forces attacking Israel. On Jewlicious, I and others make an effort to cover the extent and type of Israel bashing that takes place out there in North America and Europe, but it is impossible to keep up. It is simply an ocean of anti-Israel activism and rhetoric. Much of it, by the way, is led by Jews or receives the support of Jews. Groups like Muzzlewatch or Jews Against Israeli Apartheid and their ilk, bloggers like Noam Sheizaf or Richard Silverstein, activists like Naomi Klein and Norman Finkelstein, Jewish academics like Mark LeVine and Tony Judt, Israelis like Shlomo Sand or Neve Gordon, historians like Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe are often in the vanguard of voices attacking Israel. Beinart is the latest to join this team. Except, while they lead, in part because of their knowledge and in part because they are Jewish and therefore convenient shills, the fact that can’t be disputed is that there are multitudes of people who are a part of their “team” and who are fighting the same fight. Except that for them the endgame is the destruction of Israel. I know, I know, they say they love Israel and want it to live securely, but their criticism is so deep and harsh that one wonders why such a state even deserves to exist.

In other words, these folks have decided to join the unholy alliance of the Left and the Islamists who seek to destroy Israel. Sure, Beinart will protest that he loves Israel and wants it to survive and thrive, but there is no question that the people on his side are those who don’t see things that way. For them, Israel is a blot that must be erased. How often these days do you see anti-Israel protesters with signs demanding a two state solution? Never. Rather, the action on the other side is geared toward vilification of Israel from every possible angle. The joke, which is apparently lost on the cadre of well-meaning leftists and their Jewish shills, is that the other side is actually supporting the erasure of the liberal democracy of Israel and its replacement with another country like Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iran et al. Their vision for Israel is a nightmare when compared to the values Beinart and his colleagues hold dear, and yet these are their partners. In crime.

Steve Rosen worked for AIPAC for 23 years until somebody in the US Government decided to falsely accuse him of spying. He was engaged in a debate on NPR with Peter Beinart the other day. Rosen is a very smart man and I have found that time and again I agree with his analysis of situations. Their debate was interesting and troubling. I thought its conclusion was well worth putting up on Jewlicious:

STEVEN ROSEN: The last two weeks, Peter, Israel’s been under assault, and you’ve been on the radio reciting what’s wrong with Israel. The last two weeks were the acid test, the rainy day, a day in which, yes, there are questions about whether Israel handled the boarding of this ship properly. And people who say they’re friends have to be there on a rainy day, not just on a sunny day, not just if Israel does everything perfectly and lives up to your golden, shining Israel on the hill, in your imagination. But on days when Israel’s imperfect, you have to be there. And if you’re not going to be there when the going gets rough, then don’t call yourself a friend.

PETER BEINART: I can be there, if I believe that Israel is badly hurting itself, just like I had the right to be there when I thought the United States was badly hurting itself during much of the Bush/Cheney period. You can say that I’m a utopian to believe that Israel should not be in the business of creating a situation in which 80 percent of the people in Gaza are in food aid, that it’s utopian to believe that Israel can be secure. I don’t believe that’s utopian. If that’s utopian, then the people who created the State of Israel were utopian because that was not the vision that they had of what the Jewish state would be, and I don’t believe that it’s the vision that that we have to settle for today.

STEVEN ROSEN: I don’t hear you talking about Israel facing a security dilemma, the dilemma of 3,000 rockets and the danger that far more potent and more accurate and larger warheads will get there that will threaten Israel’s major cities. I don’t think just filling the airwaves with more criticism of Israel contributes one thing.

By the way, a point that I didn’t make earlier, you talk about people whose voices are silenced. At the typical American university a friend of Israel will find it very difficult to get tenure in the political science department. A friend of Israel is looked at as someone suspect, outside the community of values. And in anyplace where the intellectual elites congregate, friendship toward Israel is not well regarded. I doubt that there are very many staff members at National Public Radio who are standup friends of Israel, because it’s not popular in these environments.

The real imbalance is an unwillingness to hear the pro-Israel voice. That’s the real problem.

PETER BEINART: But, Steve, the problem is you’re defining pro-Israel as only people who won’t be publicly critical. And when you define it that way, yes, you are going to find that pro-Israel voices, as you define them, are very rare on university campuses and other places. But if you define pro-Israel in a more generous way, just as I would define pro-American as people who are very, very upset about certain policies of American governments, then the balance of forces looks very, very different.

I think you are self perpetuating this cycle of victimology/everybody is against us, by not being generous in your interpretation of those people who genuinely do want Israel to exist, indeed, even thrive and prosper as a Jewish state but believe its own policies are harmful in that effort.

By your definition, I also am part of this sea of people who are anti-Israel. That just has no meaning for me, given the, the values with which I was raised, given the connection to Israel that I feel and that I inst- will plan to instill in my children. It – it’s, it’s kind of insulting.

STEVEN ROSEN: Well, we’re going around in circles. I, I don’t see how you, you devote 90 percent of your time to what’s wrong with Israel, you minimize the threat to Israel, you describe Israel’s leaders as, as nearly demonic people, and then at the end of it, you say, I’m a great friend of Israel.

I, I just don’t get it.

27 Comments

  1. Jack

    6/11/2010 at 10:29 am

    Birthright is fine and good, but I wonder if we are making a mistake by not trying to make a Jewish education available to more children.

    If you can get them involved while they are young it is much easier than reaching out to twenty somethings who have had very limited experience with Judaism.

  2. themicah

    6/11/2010 at 11:00 am

    It seems to me that Beinart lives in a bubble. He simply has no idea the extent of the forces attacking Israel.

    You could also say that Rosen lives in a bubble and has no idea how to engage the anti-Israel (or more importantly, the ambivalent-about-Israel) world in a way that will persuade them to accept Israel.

    The reason why I found this debate so interesting (aside from the fact that it’s the first debate I’ve heard in ages where the debaters actually engaged each other’s arguments) was that it really highlighted the differences in their worldviews–and I am personally very torn between the two.

    From what I can tell, Rosen thinks most of the world will be against Israel no matter what, and the only thing we can do to help Israel is to stand by her through thick and thin. Beinart, on the other hand, seems to believe there are mainstream moderate Left hearts and minds to be won, and that we effectively drive them into the anti-Israel camp by always taking a hardline apologist position when it comes to Israel (note: I’m not that familiar with Beinart beyond what he said in this debate, but that’s the message I hear in his argument).

    My problem is that I agree with Rosen (and themiddle) that liberals like Beinart can be naive as to the true threat facing Israel and can inadvertently strengthen the anti-Israel position. But at the same time I (and I’m pretty sure themiddle would agree) want very badly to believe that Israel can do better and that decent moderate people can be persuaded to agree that Israel has a right to self-defense even if the results are sometimes unsavory.

    The thing is (and I’ve commented on this before) that we need pro-Israel activists to speak the language of the mainstream moderate Left, and criticism and self-examination are integral parts of that language. If Rosen wants better representation of pro-Israel views in academia, for example, we need people who both fundamentally believe that the Zionist cause is just AND who can explain WHY it is just in terms that the average left-leaning tenure committee member can understand, and in a way that the average liberal-idealistic-minded student (Jewish or not) can internalize as well. And I think the Steven Rosens of the world tend to ignore that.

  3. Wandering Jew

    6/11/2010 at 11:01 am

    I’m going to be completely honest: I’m so tired of hearing about the conflict raised by Peter Beinart’s column on the actual conflict taking place. Conflict. Conflict. Conflict.

    Can we not, for once, discuss or even promote stories out there of those doing compelling things to end the conflict? Like this amazing story I just read at JTA about an Israeli victim of Hamas terror who went back to meet with the family of the bomber. A truly dramatic, amazing tale, and far more compelling that what Peter or Rosen have to say with their over-sized mouths.

    Could we possibly, maybe, pretty-please, have more stories like those analyzed?

  4. Tom Morrissey

    6/11/2010 at 12:27 pm

    Middle, I’m surprised by the harshness of your attack on Beinart, in which you lump him in with the worst of the anti-Israel, W&S crowd. And attacking him for arguments he didn’t make– his piece wasn’t intended to analyze Arab/Muslim behavior– strikes me as a way simply of not engaging him substantively.

    I sympathize with Beinart, in this respect: he wants to create a space in which one can criticize Israeli policy without being seen as anti-Israel. We see it increasingly on this site: to be pro-Israel means to endorse the flotilla raid, the Dubai passport fiasco, the many tactical errors that have been made, especially by the current government. Or, at a minimum, one mutes one’s objections once Goldstone issues a report, or the anti-Zionist left begins barking, or Beinart writes a critical piece– at which time the subject conveniently shifts to the Israel-haters, a far more congenial target even for you, Middle, than the means and ends of current Israeli policy.

    The constant apologetics when Israel screws up, as it surely did in dropping in paratroopers on the flotilla, entrenches the focus on tactics. And when the focus is on tactics, the ends of those who simply wish to perpetuate the status quo– like the current PM and his FM- are served. It’s profoundly conservative in the worst sense: it doesn’t even serve the best interests of the Israeli Right. If Bush had had a similar, defensiveness-at-all-costs mindset, he’d never have replaced Abizaid with Petraeus.

    There has to be a space for a loyal opposition, Middle, and you’d do well to begin contributing to that sort of dialogue. For all his faults, I give Beinart credit for doing so.

  5. themicah

    6/11/2010 at 12:37 pm

    Also, can we PLEASE lose the automated headup.com links from this site? They add nothing and make it really hard to read.

  6. Tom Morrissey

    6/11/2010 at 12:40 pm

    Rosen claims that even criticism of Israel which is “extremely eloquent” and has “intellectual merit” is not “pro-Israel activity” (see below).

    Can one imagine, mutatis mutandis, such a claim being made about US policy toward Iraq or Afghanistan?

    “Well, it is true that when you write an article like Peter’s, which just piles on criticism and barely mentions the threats to Israel – it hardly mentions Hamas, Iran. The world consists, as he tells it, of Israeli sins, which he recites very passionately – he’s extremely eloquent. May there be intellectual merit in point number 7 or point number 11? Probably, here and there, yeah. But you’re not building Zionism, as he says in his article. You’re eroding it.

    Does it mean that you don’t have the right in a democracy to say these things? No. But you don’t have the right to call it pro-Israel activity. That, it is not.”

    This is a bald-faced effort to shame and silence any criticism of Israel.

  7. themiddle

    6/11/2010 at 1:10 pm

    Tom, I’ve written extremely critically of Israel regarding the flotilla attack, Dubai, Lebanon II, Ramat Shlomo and on numerous other occasions. Scroll through the first three pages of the site right now and you will see some of my posts being extremely critical of how Israel is being governed and the mistakes it has made. Go back to my coverage of Lebanon II and read how many strong attacks I made against that war, the manner in which it was conducted, the poor preparations by the IDF, etc.

    The reason that you still perceive me as pro-Israel is that I am also careful to recognize that the reason we don’t have peace with the Arabs is predominantly not Israel’s doing. That having a right wing PM does not mean that peace can’t be made (was Begin some flighty pseudo-rightist?). That screwing up a mission in the ocean does not indicate a brutal army, but rather a failure in other areas.

    In other words, I have never been an advocate of an absolutist line on Israel. When it makes mistakes, it should be called on them. However, when the situation is predicated on the other side’s actions, that has to be incorporated into the discussion.

    That is to say that one can be supportive without throwing out the baby with the bathwater. If you read Beinart and his various responses to his new-found critics, you will see, over and over, that he has taken a fiercely critical position on Israel. For heaven’s sake, Ha’aretz is still operating, the High Court is still ruling, Arab MKs can still stand at the plenum and call Israel a bigoted state, the majority of Poli Sci professors at Tel Aviv University can be and are extremely critical of the state, a co-founder of the BDS movement can get an advanced degree at an Israeli university subsidized by Israeli taxpayers, the IDF still has all forms of processes in place to ensure minimal civilian casualties, and so on.

    Israel is full of flaws, but they have to be measured against 60 years of war in a 100 year old conflict. The Israelis’ position needs to be considered relative to the position of their enemies.

    I don’t think Beinart is being reasonable, and his eloquence is precisely the problem. Being eloquent or being able to frame an argument don’t make you right, they just make you compelling enough to draw attention…and frankly, to be influential.

    I don’t believe Rosen is trying to silence any criticism of Israel. I believe he is saying that it has to be measured. That it has to be reasonable and in context. And ultimately, one has to consider the totality of the criticism because if its impact is to empower those who seek to weaken Israel in order to destroy it, then you have done Israel AND LIBERALISM AND DEMOCRACY a deep disservice.

    Balance, fairness, integrity and understanding when your speed and agility might be so great that you’re about to accidentally score a self goal.

  8. themiddle

    6/11/2010 at 1:11 pm

    TheMicah, I hate the headup links with a passion. I have told ck what I think of them and I guess he’s testing them out still (some sort of beta). I would be much happier if they let me turn them off in each post because they are ruining my hard work.

  9. jd adler

    6/11/2010 at 5:21 pm

    the argument that you cant be a patriot (or supporter) of a nation while being critical at the same time is clearly fallacious and does damage to that nation’s identity as a free state.

    how can you improve as a nation/people if you are not willing to admit to and analyze your errors?

    just because enemies wants to kill us, does not mean we have to live in an Orwellian state. perhaps if governments were more willing to listen to the complaints of their people, it would take less time for reform occur.

  10. barbara

    6/11/2010 at 6:27 pm

    Peter Beinhart, you inspire such passion in us all. I read the NY book review article, i was confused and perturbed, i listened to the NPR article and am still confused. It seems that many critics of Israel politics and behavior (and i have criticized plenty) neglect to remember that all sides should be criticized. The liberal world is quite fast to bellow about disproportionate responses and human dignity being violated on the part of israel. not a word about the arab world misbehavior. Concern is a two way street – concern about human rights should be accorded to all. perhaps the liberal left should remember that israel is a country, here to stay.

  11. robin rosenbatt

    6/11/2010 at 6:48 pm

    When so called “Jews” criticize Israel publicly we cannot tell the difference between them and the anti-Semites who criticize Israel. There are many historical examples of self-hating Jews that became anti-Semites. This is not new.

    • themiddle

      6/11/2010 at 10:45 pm

      By the way, Robin, that’s a very interesting project you’ve got there.

  12. jd adler

    6/11/2010 at 7:39 pm

    barbara.. true all human rights abuses should be cause for concern.

    robin.. what does, “so called jews” mean? I’m not a jew if I criticize israel? am I not an american if Icriticize the usa?
    .. the george bush school of debate, silence dissent.. if only one voice is heard then I always feel good about myself.

    • themiddle

      6/11/2010 at 10:43 pm

      Your statement applies to some, Robin, but not to Beinart. He hasn’t stated anything anti-Semitic and even his criticism of Israel is not anti-Zionist, even if some aspects of it resemble that of anti-Zionists.

      Criticism of Israel is a valuable enterprise and the power of free speech is important. He should be challenged on his ideas, not asked to shut up because they are disagreeable.

      My point is to say that there is a point at which the criticism becomes so harsh and so unfair that it defeats the purpose, if the purpose is to make a better Israel. And this is especially true when the bias becomes so prevalent that nothing of the many positive aspects of Israel bubbles up.

      In other words, the best place to be is The Middle. 😉

  13. robin rosenbatt

    6/12/2010 at 12:43 am

    If you talk within our community or in Israel then it better, but if you talk to the public you damage yourself, our community and Israel.

    But we can not change who he is, that person must change himself.

    I can not make it any simpler. I hope you understand this. Shabbat shalom,and good night.

    thank you, about the project but its a shame Jews don’t want to help. Mostly non Jews are helping.

    • themiddle

      6/12/2010 at 1:03 am

      If you write a detailed comment about your project, what you’re doing and why, I will publish it (I may make some adjustments) on our blog. Do it when you have a chance and do it in the comments section of this post. We have many readers, and who knows, maybe someone will want to help.

      Shabbat shalom

  14. robin rosenbatt

    6/12/2010 at 1:17 am

    Executive Summary

    Israel Longhorn Project

    Israel and East Africa face a serious environmental and agricultural problem. Beef cattle are failing to thrive in their desert environments. This is a self-sustainable nonprofit project.

    “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life”, that is what we are doing with these cattle. The quote is from (Moses) Maimonides, a Jewish rabbi, physician, and philosopher (1135 – 1204).

    Israel is now raising America’s finest beef cattle, plump, docile European breeds. Adapted to temperate grassy plains, they were put into Israel’s hostile desert environment where there is little or no grass. This resulted in beef cattle with poor disease resistance, genetic diseases and high losses due to predators. It also caused higher feed costs, as these cattle cannot eat the non-native invasive shrubs, or invasive cactus in Israel, high calf losses as high as 30% and low reproduction rates, poor mothering skills and high rate of birth complications. Due to the high losses, more cattle are required on pasture and more pasture is required to compensate for the losses, causing more environmental damage. Israeli beef cattle are in “long term decline in production efficiency.” Dr. Eugene Ungar of Israel’s Agriculture Department.

    A recent massive die of livestock in East Africa resulting from drought, over grazing, poor management of water resources, poor cattle management, wrong type of cattle and disease. In Israel it is an economic problem, in East Africa it is life or death.

    Our Mission: To help Israel and East Africa by introducing a viable breed of beef cattle that can fit and can thrive in their semi-desert environments. That breed would be the Texas Longhorn.

    ¥ First we demonstrate through scientific experiment that these cattle can do better in Israel’s semi-desert environment.
    ¥ Then we teach the ranchers how to work with these cattle.
    ¥ Then we donate cattle to these ranches to help them.

    Longhorns can eat invasive shrubs and cacti, which are overwhelming the Galilee
    Longhorns have higher reproduction rates and very low loss rates
    Longhorns have excellent calving and mothering abilities
    Longhorns can go further and longer with less water
    Longhorns solve the problem of rising feed costs
    Longhorns protect their calves from predators
    Longhorns are highly resistant to diseases

    Texas Longhorn will decrease calve and cattle losses allowing ranchers to use less cattle and less land to raise enough cattle to support themselves and their community.

    We will help Israeli ranches and Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Tanzania ranches.
    Israeli cattle may only need to be crossbreed with Texas Longhorn to fit better into their environment. African ranches may have to use pure breed longhorns due to the hardness of their conditions.

    This nonprofit is self-sustainable, in the fifth or seven year the project will support itself from cattle production. Our nonprofit is registered at Guidestar.org and jgooders.com.

    Participates:

    Erez Cahaner son of Shimon Kahaner Katsha’s Ranch or Havat Yearot Hagilboa
    Naaman Dag of Lachish Ranch
    Chaim Dayan of AMBAL, Association of Israel Beef Cattle Growers
    Dr. Meori Rosen Ph.D. Chief Extension Scientist, Ministry of Agriculture
    Dr. Israel Bruckental Chief Scientist; retired Volcani Institute Rehovot Scientist, Ministry of Agriculture
    Dr. Eugene David Ungar, Bet Dagan, Ministry of Agriculture
    Dr. Israel Brunckental, Valcani Institute, Ministry of Agriculture
    Arieh O’Sullivan: Moshavnic and our Business manager
    Saporta Yaron: Our Non-Profit Accountant
    Oren Gabai: Our is a naturalist and management consultant
    Zwi G. Weinberg Ph.D.: Forage Preservation and by-Products Research Unit, Department of Food Science, The Volcani Center (Meat Scientist)
    Dr. Wolfenson, Faculty of Agriculture, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    Robin Rosenblatt, M.Sc. Animal Scientist

  15. Tori

    6/14/2010 at 8:51 pm

    Barbara is right. These self proclaimed “friends of Israel” keep busy ONLY criticizing Israel. I think the litmus test s/b how often these “friends” criticize the other side or much worse human rights violators compared to how often they criticize Israel. Also, their criticism usually lacks critical context. Roger Cohen is a perfect example.

  16. robin rosenbatt

    6/14/2010 at 9:24 pm

    I would like to know how many of you served in the Israel Army, work on a kibbutz, been a cop in Israel, study in a Israeli University, been in two Israeli wars, worked as a Israeli voting inspector, medic for the Israel scouts. That is only a part of what I have done. Do any of know Israel as well as I do and have you help as much I have. I am not sure morally many of you have the right to criticize Israel. You want to make things better in Israel well go there and do it. It is easy to sit in LA and criticize Israel and maybe even a little cowardly.

  17. Alex

    6/15/2010 at 11:58 am

    I find it deeply offensive that we cannot accept any criticism of Israeli policy. It’s all “anti-Israel.” Beinart is in the anti-Israel camp. He’s a self-hating Jew, one is led to think.

    Instead of seriously engaging his arguments, you have misrepresented them and then used the ensuing straw man argument that Beinart, and cohorts, are against Israel to add to the already gathering atmosphere of rigid ideological conformity.

    Maspik.

    • ck

      6/15/2010 at 12:28 pm

      We have? We’ve done all that?? There is nothing in this post that calls Beinart a self-hating Jew. I think all the post is saying is that Beinart’s analysis and ideas are mistaken and badly thought out. It’s not a straw man argument to point out the logical conclusions of what someone is saying.

    • themiddle

      6/15/2010 at 8:49 pm

      I find it deeply offensive that we accept plenty of criticism of Israel, debate it openly, don’t call an individual self-hating, don’t call him anti-Israel (I said he moved into that camp and would reject that description of himself) and then get somebody like Alex complaining about the things the post didn’t do.

      With all due respect, I engaged a couple of his arguments, but why on earth should I be the 357th Jewish writer to debate him? One of the problems for Beinart, and now for poor little Israel since he has a very public platform these days, is that he threw out a thesis into the world (wasn’t that original, by the way – we like to blame the Jewish leadership for everything that goes wrong with American Jewry and have been doing it for years) and had the entire spectrum of published Jewish editorial writers in the known universe respond, most critically. That’s not to mention every blogger to the right of Hadash. That’s why he’s found himself on the defensive and in a corner. The more others push back, the more cornered and defensive he is. That’s why he’s spouting stuff that makes him sound as if he’s Naomi Klein or Noam Chomsky. Then again, fortunately for him (well, unfortunately, since it just drives him farther and farther from a centrist position), between the far-lefty Jews and non-Jews who are vocal against Israel, he has found sufficient support to give him confidence that he’s on the right path. He should look carefully at who is supporting him because they tend to have visions of justice that tend to undermine Israel.

      As for the “gathering atmosphere of rigid ideological conformity,” I like the way you speak about the far Left. You did mean the far Left, right?

  18. Jerry Haber

    12/17/2010 at 6:02 am

    I was amused to see that you distinguish between my viewpoint and those of my friends Richard Silverstein, Phil Weiss, Noam Sheizaf, etc. You put me with my friend Peter Beinhard, the pro-Israeli types who only attack Israel.

    Why? I have spent as much time criticizing liberal Zionism as some of the others. I proclaim myself to J Street’s left. I have been backing JVP (and SJP, for that matter). I have declared myself agnostic on the two-state vs. one state issue. And I have mentioned my enthusiastic support of partial divestment and boycott, and I have given reasons why liberal Zionists should give qualified support.

    So what separates me from them — it sure ain’t ideology.

    May I submit that I get points because I am a) frum, b) a pretty nice guy, c) am American living in Israel for over thirty years, d) hang with Zionists. I don’t fit into the “assimilated-leftwing-ignoramus-Jewishly-secular category that most people reserve for folks of my ideological pursuasion.

    But those are points I don’t really deserve (well, I do deserve points for being nice and respect my opponents).

    If Beinart lives in a bubble, I live in a smaller bubble — I can tell you the names of many of the activists fighting against Israeli injustice who come from religious families. And I can tell you what orthodox kids are joining the struggle in the US.

    One final point; both sides are to blame for not concluding a peace agreement, though the asymmetry of power tells you which side is more responsible.

    But it’s not about peace. It’s about justice — and that is where Israel has lost the battle. You don’t see people complaining about the lack of justice for Israelis. You don’t see people complaining about the occupation of Israel. you don’t see people complaining about the lack of Israeli security who know that the lack of Palestinian security is infinitely greater.

    The time will come when concern for justice for the Palestinians will trump concern for Israel’s security.

    And it is not too far away.

  19. Jerry Haber

    12/17/2010 at 6:11 am

    Oops, sorry, I forgot to add e) I’m a Zionist

  20. themiddle

    12/17/2010 at 3:53 pm

    No, you got points because I simply hadn’t read enough of your stuff at the time of this writing to know where you really stand on things. The fact you’re frum doesn’t impress me in the least. Lots of frum people are dishonest or evil. The fact you’re a pretty nice guy doesn’t come through in your writing, so that’s not the reason. As an American living in Israel, you also don’t get any points. There are olim of all types and not all are desirable additions to Israel. I also didn’t realize you hang with Zionists, so that didn’t influence me. As for your Zionism, perhaps that swayed my opinion to differentiate you from the others. Your correction on the similarities between you and the other anti-Israelis has disabused me of any confusion on the matter.

    As for the question of justice, Israel has had justice on its side throughout the conflict. It is tragic that it has had to become a militarized society, and it has led to significant errors on its part, some of them immoral. However, in the broader scheme, it is a just society and a just country that has managed to maintain its democracy and a desire to be ethical despite the enmity of so many of its neighbors – enmity that is existential in nature, not trivial or minor.

    If it’s justice you’re looking for, you will convince the Palestinians that justice means they get to keep 88 percent of Palestine, in the form of Jordan, Judea and Samaria (sans about 4 percent), Gaza and shared control over the Holy Basin. If you think that the other 12% should also be Palestinian, and Jews should once again be prevented from praying, sitting or blowing the shofar at the Kotel, then justice is not what you’re after.

  21. Robin Rosenblatt

    12/17/2010 at 4:13 pm

    The book “Culture and Conflict In the Middle East” by Philip Carl Salzman INSB 978-1-59102-587-0.

    Explains it clearly, it will help all of you to understand the conflict and even those who do it will give them a deeper and wider understanding.

    It shows that current cultural conditions in the Arab Middle East will not support internal development, advancement or peace until there is a major cultural change.

  22. Jerry Haber

    5/5/2011 at 10:05 pm

    Sure glad I didn’t read that book, Robin Rosenblatt.

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