Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Daniel Gordis Puts His Finger On Peter Beinart's Identity Crisis: Why Particularism (Tribalism) Must Precede Universalism

Daniel Gordis locates the root of the problem with Beinart's "critique" of Israel, in his new book, The Crisis of Zionism. 

I've blogged about the discomfort American Jews have with the "tribalism" of Judaism here, referencing another important article by Gordis related to young American Rabbis. Natan Sharansky also added important insights to this conversation several years ago with his book, Defending Identity, which I wrote about here
Gordis' penetrating analysis of how and where Beinart goes off the tracks. Psychologically astute as well. Beinart's critiques of the Jewish State read like an adolescent's naive apprehension of the world in black and white tones. Only perfection will satisfy. 
Never mind the imperfection of the world, not to mention Israel's neighbors. 
david in Seattle

 “But what distinguishes Palestinian terrorism and settler terrorism is the Israeli government’s response.” Really? That’s all that distinguishes Palestinian and Jewish terror? How about the fact that there have been very, very few incidents of Jewish terror, while the Palestinians have turned it into a cottage industry? How about the fact that Israeli society detests the Jews who do this sort of thing, while Palestinian society lionizes them? Why does Beinart not mention those enormous differences? His sort of accusation and absurd misrepresentation is what one would expect from the enemies of Israel, not someone who professes love for the Jewish state. When Beinart and I debated some time ago, I actually left the evening believing that he loved Israel. This book convinced me that I was horribly mistaken.
BUT WHY does he hate Israel so?

A Dose of Nuance: Peter Beinart's mis-identity crisis

Peter Beinart is right. The relationship between American Jews and the Jewish state is indeed in crisis.

Peter Beinart's book
Photo by: Courtesy

Peter Beinart is right. The relationship between American Jews and the Jewish state is indeed in crisis. Beinart and his title are just wrong about what the crisis is. What we face, as his book accidentally demonstrates, is not The Crisis of Zionism, but a crisis of American Judaism.

The Crisis of Zionism is, as countless reviewers have already noted, an Israel-bashing-fest. The second intifada was Israel’s fault: It “erupted because while many Israelis genuinely believed that [Ehud] Barak was trying to end the occupation, Palestinians felt it was closing in on them.” Israel attacks terrorists “nestled amid a stateless and thus largely defenseless Palestinian population,” as if the terrorists’ decision to lodge there were Israel’s fault. Such myopia abounds.

Israel is blamed everywhere in this book, often thoughtlessly. The most obvious example is the one with which the book opens. Beinart watched a video of a young Palestinian boy wailing uncontrollably as Israeli troops arrested his father for “stealing water,” and found himself “staring in mute horror” at his computer screen. He is right, of course, that it is painful to watch a five-year-old weeping as his father is arrested. But Beinart is so anxious to blame Israel that he abandons any investigative savvy. Haaretz, not known for its enthusiastic support of the occupation that so troubles Beinart, reported that Fadel Jaber was actually arrested on suspicion of attacking the police. Border Police sources also suggested that the whole scene of the sobbing five-year-old was staged for the cameras. And everyone admits that Jaber was breaking the law.

Why, though, does Beinart never even wonder if there is an Israeli side to the story, never entertain the possibility that Jaber deserved to be arrested? The mere fact that Israeli actions cause people pain is too much for him to bear.
Here, then, is the rub, and the central question that I kept asking myself as I read the book: Why do Beinart and his ilk expect their Zionist bride to be free of all blemish? And worse, what is the reason for their instinctively blaming the bride they allegedly love, without asking whether anyone else might bear some responsibility for the painful realities they witness?

Why is there not one mention of the extraordinary social organizations in Israel, or the many cultural, literary and other accomplishments of Jews and Arabs in Israeli society? Why does one finish the book with the sense that Beinart, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, actually detests Israel? Why are assaults on Israel described in the cold language of the pathologist, while the scene with Jaber is so emotional? When Beinart mentions Gilad Schalit, this is all he has to say: “Hamas was not innocent in all this: it had abducted an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, and refused to release him until Israel released Palestinians in its jails.” That’s it?! No mention of the fact that Schalit was captured inside Israeli territory? Or that Hamas never once allowed the Red Cross to visit him? Or that Schalit emerged from captivity emaciated? Or that he was held in virtual solitary confinement, with no sunlight, for five hellish years?

Where’s the Jewish soul here? What kind of Jewish observer weeps over young Khaled Jaber but has nothing else to say about Schalit? It’s worse than infuriating; it’s stunningly sad.

Again, the pathologist: Discussing the March 2011 murder of the Fogel family, Beinart first says, “[The terrorists] murdered Ehud and Ruth Fogel and three of their children, Yoav, Elad and Hadas, in their beds. Elad, aged four, was strangled to death. Hadas, aged three months, was decapitated.” Even about the Fogels, he can summon no emotion?

read the rest here


George Jochnowitz said...

People vary--religiously, ethnically, culturally, etc. We humans are closer to our friends, family, and those similar to us than we are to those who are distant and unfamiliar. These differences have led to war; nevertheless, they exist and are part of the human condition.
Beinart is troubled that his own group, Jews, is like other groups, with its own identity and loyalties. This fact, which he calls tribalism, is something that should be given up by everyone, he thinks. He can't call upon Palestinians to sacrifice their idenities, and so he thinks Jews should do so unilaterally. Of course, his own need for Jews to be uniiquely good and give up their tribalism is in itself an example of tribalism.

Anonymous said...

Re Peter Beinart op-ed and Haaretz saying July-14-2020 he doesn't go far enough.

It's a club where whoever screams louder the A. slur, thinks is more special.
Don't be fooled by phrasing it as suggestions. The term "liberal Zionists" has become more and more of an empty title.

What all these "thinkers" won't divulge, is pragmatism. Since it doesn't make bumber-stickers. Or headline grabbing.

There are many Israelis , who are--ready for this cliche?--concerned about life, survival. And don't put much thought or concerned into Zionism as ideology.
This is not to say they deny historic ties to the land.
Do these writers deny legitimate worry of entities (moderate or radical Apartheid Arab Palestine) that incite for, justify even glorify killing of Jews in Israel? Are they totally blind to genocidal Islamic Republic that doesn't even share any border, yet has its bloody hands full at the border and inside Israel?

Want real pragmatic suggestions?
Begin reforming 'Palestinian' education, as a start.