Beinart’s boycotts and bullying the Jewish State

It’s never easy to accept losing a contest and seeing one’s hopes dashed, especially when these affect the future of the country we love so much. Democracy demands that we do with as much grace as we can muster. This idea is apparently lost on Peter Beinart whose most recent article pits Jew against Jew in a bitter call to American Jewry to punish Israel for an election result that did not meet his approval.

Attempting to explain this outrageous call, Beinart tells us that when it came to the peace process, Jewish leaders always preached patience. They promised that when Palestinian terror faded, Israeli benevolence would blossom and a just peace would come. This year, according to Beinart, the conditions were right; everything was in place; Israel’s first election with no threat of terror or violence, but those pesky Israelis broke faith and elected a right wing government. For this, there must be consequences.

Beinart has excellent knowledge and understanding of our region, but in this case, his memory has lapsed. Elections held without threat and violence? Really? Wasn’t it just a few months ago that we dived into air-raid shelters, as thousands of Hamas missiles rained down on us from Gaza? How about the missiles from Hezbollah in the north? Or the terror tunnels running under this country? Has the kidnap of the three Israeli youths last summer faded into ancient history? How about the murder of men at prayer in the Har Nof Synagogue, the stabbing of the passengers on the Tel Aviv bus, and the people run over by cars on the streets of Jerusalem.

I did not vote for Mr. Netanyahu’s government, it’s not my way. But to suggest that as tranquility prevailed in the land, Israelis spitefully rushed to elect rightwing pugnacious parties is absurd and insulting.

This is just the beginning.

As Beinart laments the failure of the Israelis to play to his script, he declares that Diaspora Jews must pressure and punish Israel. Offering his own long inventory of possible sanctions against the Jewish State, he then adds: ‘It means pushing the Obama administration to present its own peace plan and to punish, yes punish the Israeli government for rejecting it’.

Beinart does not tell us what sort of punishments he has in mind. We can only guess. Is it an end to generous support for the Iron Dome system, so that missiles fired from Gaza will now be able to kill our family and friends living in Beersheba, Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?

Perhaps it’s economic sanctions which will bring Israel’s economy to its knees, driving yet more Jewish and Palestinian children beneath the poverty line.

Apart from the patronizing nature of this anti-democratic approach, Beinart’s call to American Jews to crush Israel into submission breaks two fundamental rules. The first is the Biblical principle that Jews have mutual responsibilities of care and compassion for one another. The second, taught to me by academic and activist Dr Alick Isaacs, is that you don’t solve one Human Rights problem, by creating another – destroying the Jews of Israel is not a worthy strategy for helping Palestinians.

Beinart protests that he is a committed Jew and a passionate Zionist. I have no doubt that this is true. But his outrageous proposals, merely multiply hatred, divide the Jewish people and add to their suffering.
So here are some alternative responses that he somehow overlooked. They don’t hurt anyone and they don’t impinge on Israeli democracy.

Instead of lashing out against Israel, perhaps Mr. Beinart and his friends could use their immense writing and rhetorical skills to promote the support for Israel and the mitzvah of aliya across America.
If a sufficient number of liberal American Jews who care deeply about Israel make their homes here, the Jewish State will become culturally more western, economically more stable, and physically more secure. When the next election comes, and it’s unlikely to be far off, they will be eligible to elect whatever type of government they want. If they are not yet able to make the move, perhaps he could encourage them to give greater support to one of the many wonderful Zionist organizations promoting coexistence and democratic values in Israel.

Peter Beinart notes that his grandparent’s generation of Diaspora Jews will be remembered for having helped build the Jewish State; he fears that his own generation will be remembered for having helped destroy it. Precisely, Mr. Beinart.

About the Author
Rabbi Gideon Sylvester is the British United Synagogue's rabbi in Israel. Prior to making aliya, he was rabbi of Radlett United Synagogue, Britain's fastest growing Modern Orthodox synagogue. Rabbi Gideon served as Senior Rabbinic Educator in Israel for T'ruah – The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights and has worked as an adviser at the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel. He directed the Beit Midrash for Human Rights at the Hillel House of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is studying for a doctorate at Bar Ilan University. Gideon writes in a personal capacity and tweets at @GideonDSylveste