In search to challenge my own views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I decided to read Peter Beinart’s “Crisis of Zionism.” From the onset, I noticed his clear attempt to reframe historical paradigms in order to advocate his main thesis; Zionism is now unable to reconcile its liberal foundations with Israel’s current policies. This argument, though made through logical fallacies and ad hominem attacks, leads to Beinart’s conclusion that products from the West Bank must be boycotted as a protest to Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria. He decides to label this strategy as a form of “Zionist BDS”. Repulsing, yet worth the discussion.
There are several discrepancies in this two-worded tactic to protest Israeli politics. The most important one, is the notion that the liberal Jewish community in America has a responsibility to pressure the Israeli government to withdraw from the West Bank because the founders of the modern Zionist movement would not have envisioned a Jewish nation as the oppressor of another people. He deliberately refuses to address security concerns, Palestinian incitement of terror, and the role of Arab neighbors in prolonging the conflict by refusing to absorb the refugees from a war they had commenced. Indeed, Zionism is a liberal movement, but I doubt Theodor Hertzel would reprimand Prime Minister Netanyahu for refusing to endorse policies which would risk Israel’s security needs. As difficult as it may be to accept, Israel has done more for the Palestinian people than any of their Arab “brethren”.
The second inconsistency with Beinart’s attempt to reconcile Zionism as a liberal movement to the need for a boycott of goods from the West Bank is that the strategy will only deteriorate the Palestinian economy. By launching a campaign to boycott these products, Beinart is endorsing the same policy that left hundreds of Palestinians out of work after Soda Stream relocated west of the Green Line. Interestingly enough, the proposed strategy would negatively impact the lives of Palestinians more than it would actually have a meaningful effect on Israel’s growing economy. The BDS movement never sought out to promote Palestinian autonomy, it sought to ostracize Israel from the international community and seeks her demise. Therefore Zionism, as a liberal movement, could not possibly reconcile with a strategy that would implicate causing more economic hardships for a population oppressed by their own leadership. Jews in America, conservative or liberal, should have no difficulty understanding that BDS is nothing more than a means to demonize Israel and prolong the conflict by avoiding dialogue.
Lastly, Beinart’s strategy sends a disturbing and dangerous message to the liberal community in the United States. This message relates the urgency to disconnect from Israel’s policies in the West Bank because it inherently endangers Israel’s desire to remain a vibrant democracy. It is astounding how Peter refuses to discuss the need for Israel to remain in the West Bank and the true obstacles to peace. Yes, the West Bank is not a democracy. It is a territory which Israel was forced to occupy after an existential war was launched by the regional Arab powers, which they have since then, used Palestinian suffering as a bargaining chip against the Jewish state. Over fifty years have passed, and Israel has given up resources and lives to encourage the Palestinian leadership to abandon terror and come to the negotiating table. Israel cannot, after the Gaza disengagement in 2005, afford to experiment again with a full withdrawal from the West Bank in the hopes that Mahmoud Abbas stops funding terror. No other country in the world would be subjected to this dangerous “leap of faith”, Israel should not be either.
Beinart’s views, unfortunately, resemble a growing threat within the liberal Jewish community in the US. The constant presumption that Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank is a precondition for peace is not only absurd but reflects the ease in which history has been distorted. One in the United States can be quickly labeled a Likudnik for pointing out the fact that from 1948-1967, when there was no occupation, there was no desire to establish a Palestinian state. I’ve been even categorized as a war mogul for simply demanding that the Palestinian Authority seizes the funding of terror and its anti-Semitic preaching. It is a lack of historical framework that relates Beinart to Jews in the US who believe that the end of occupation will bring an end to hostilities. Israel’s democratic character is not a risk, what is at risk is the safety of her citizens. As long as the Palestinian leadership remains committed to terror and indifferent to the peace process, Israel should remain present in the West Bank. Beinart’s “Zionist BDS” is an irresponsible proposal to prolong Palestinian and Israeli suffering by ignoring the realities of the conflict’s security concerns.