Last week Peter Beinart and Hussein Ibish, of the American Task Force on Palestine, accepted my invitation to debate me and Bret Stephens, the Pulitzer-Prize winning columnist. Our partner in hosting the forum, the first in the National Campus Debate Series, was CIRCA, the same student group that hosted Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia in 2007. Hillel and other campus organizations have their reservations about the debates, fearing they could enflame passions or even elevate Israel’s critics. But viewers will see that the debate proves that Israel can and must win arguments in the marketplace of idea.
After Peter made his initial presentation, arguing that Israel is occupying the West Bank and imposing a double standard of law for Palestinians and Israelis, necessitating the need for boycotts on all products originating in the West Bank, I asked him if he uses an IPhone. After all, China has occupied Tibet since 1951 and Apple products are assembled in China. Unexpectedly, the audience erupted in applause.
The issue with Peter, I said, is that he has a distorted sense of morality and his own double standards on Israel. In his book, “The Crisis of Zionism,” in which he continually upbraids Israel as a country that discriminates against Arabs even within the green line, he writes of Judaism’s most festive holiday: “the Purim story ends… with the king giving Persia’s Jews license to do to Haman’s people what Haman wanted to do with them — and the Jews slaughtering seventy-five thousand souls.” Of course, he curiously omits that the Jews, according to the book, only did so in self-defense after Haman’s genocidal decree and the Persian people’s attempt “to destroy and slay…their little ones and women.”
Indeed, Beinart believes that Israel’s priority is no longer self-defense but controlling its awesome might. “We are not history’s permanent victims. In a dizzying shift of fortune, many of our greatest challenges today stem not from weakness but from power.”
This is an astonishingly naïve statement that trivializes Hamas’s genocidal intent from the east, Hezbollah’s murderous rockets from its control of southern Lebanon to the north, Syria’s chemical weapons to the northeast, which have already been used in killing some 150,000 Arabs, and the Palestinian Authority to the east, which, according to last Sunday’s New York Times, gives $50k to each terrorist “hero” who is released from Israeli prisons after murdering a Jew. And casting the biggest shadow over Beinart’s bizarre comment is the Iran nuclear threat and supreme leader Khamenei’s repeated promises over countless years “to wipe” the “Zionist dogs” off the earth.
In a column published just days ago Beinart viciously attacked global Jewish humanitarian and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson as a man promoting a culture of hate. As proof, he cited Adelson’s comments from another panel we organized last December where Sheldon said that to show Iran we’re serious about stopping them from getting nukes we should detonate a bomb in an empty desert, hurting not a soul, perhaps only a few scorpions. But in our debate last Monday Beinart distorted Adelson’s remarks and fraudulently claimed that the philanthropist had threatened a genocide against the people of Iran, calculatingly omitting his words that noone should be hurt. It was an appalling misquotation which Bret Stephens rightly called him on immediately.
But while falsely imputing genocidal intent to the world’s foremost funder of Birthright Israel and other landmark Jewish programs, Beinart is much more forgiving when it comes to groups who actually do call for the eradication of the Jews.
The Hamas charter calls for the genocide of Jews wherever they may be found, including outside Israel. “The Day of Judgment will not come until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say, O Muslims… there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” But Beinart is prepared to overlook such calls for global mass murder because, “Hamas has in recent years issued several new documents, which are more compatible with a two-state solution.” This while they continue to fire thousands of deadly rockets at Israeli towns, schools, hospitals, and buses.
Peter is uncomfortable with Israel’s military response: “Israeli jets never bombed Auschwitz and never will. What they have bombed, in recent years, is the Gaza Strip, a fenced-in, hideously overcrowded, desperately poor slum from which terrorist groups sometimes shell Israel.”
And aside from Beinart’s trivialization of the rockets, he does not ask himself how a population in Gaza, which, according to The New York Times “are already the world’s largest per capita recipients of international aid…[T]he United States alone has committed over $4 billion in bilateral assistance to the Palestinians,” are so destitute? It’s because Hamas leaders have spent money designated for hospitals, schools, and roads on bombs, bullets, and rockets to kill Israelis, not to mention lining their own pockets.
Arafat died with assets estimated at $1.3 billion, and now even Mahmoud Abbas, who has not even visited Gaza since Hamas came to power in 2006 – so afraid is he that he’ll never make it out alive – is being accused by Muhammad Rasheed, Arafat’s Chief Financial Advisor, of having stolen $100 million and given his sons Tarik and Yasser monopoly control of all cigarette trade and construction in the Palestinian Authority.
In Beinart’s eyes there is little that racist Israel can do right (the same applies to the “American Jewish establishment” who feel “forever persecuted and licensed by their fears to worry only about themselves.”) Israel is even responsible for emerging Islamist dictators like Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “Turkey only began shunning the Jewish state after Israel’s 2009 war in Gaza, and after Israeli troops killed eight Turkish militants who tried to break Israel’s blockade of the strip in 2010.” Tell that to the people of Turkey who have watched Erdogan crush peaceful protests in Istanbul, engage in the most insidious corruption, and shut off YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to control the media.
Even the “widespread anger” we’re witnessing in Arab countries like Egypt is due, not to the brutal suppression of their rights by Mubarak, Morsi or any other leader who suppresses protest and throws newspaper editors in jail, but to the fact that Palestinians have yet to attain independence “more than thirty years after the Camp David Accords, which called for Israel to grant Palestinians full autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
In his naive effort to have the Palestinians look more enlightened than Israel, Peter is not beyond flat-out invention. Concerning the creation of a Palestinians state in the West Bank he writes, “Palestinian leaders have repeatedly said they would allow” Jews to live there. Apparently Mahmoud Abbas, who said in July of 2013 that no Israeli settlers could remain in a future Palestinian state, never got the memo.
Finally, Peter believes that “a Palestinian state…would be demilitarized and Israel…would enjoy the benefit of an international peacekeeping force in the Jordan Valley.”
Tell that to the 150,000 innocent Arabs who have been slaughtered by Bashar al Assad with the UN Security Council passing not a single resolution in condemnation. Tell that to Rwanda where I will be traveling next week to give the prayer at the national commemoration for the 20th anniversary of the Genocide, occasioned by Kofi Annan and the UN pulling out its peacekeeping troops against the strenuous objections of UN commander Gen. Romeo Dallaire. Tell that to the 10,000 men and boys of Srebrenica who in 1995 were massacred at the UN-declared safe zone. Most of all, tell it to the Jews of the Holocaust who were ultimately rescued by an international force. Only five years and six million Jews too late.