The Beinart Brief

It has taken me a while to actually sit down and read “The Crisis Of Zionism,” even as I have waded through a mountain of reviews and more than enough praise and criticism to know that the book along with Peter Beinart’s earlier article in the New York Review of Books; “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” have become a fulcrum for change by the American Jewish Community to address its relationship to the Settlements and its responsibility for social justice, the future of American Judaism and Middle East Peace.  It is not easy to parse Beinart’s arguments because they are woven together to make a case for action that is largely indisputable. When you look at the conflict in Israel/Palestine it is obvious that progress has not been made in a long time. It is obvious that too many negative forces are working independently to allow the United States, the Quartet or the United Nations to impose order or condition negotiations to move the peace process forward. Whether from the right or through Mr. Beinart’s own lens from the left it is compelling to consider the investment in and failure of Oslo, the lack of belief that peace is now possible by both peoples and both leaders and the outcome of permitting it all to move along like the Titanic until the inevitable iceberg sinks two states and the peace process forever. America is now far away and sitting uneasily in the catbird seat playing chess with the Israeli government as its Administration moves beyond its early involvement to a safer position of political brinksmanship on peace even as it continues to lead on the issue of sanctions against Iran.  At his best Beinart drags the American Jewish Community before a mirror and asks it to look plainly at itself, consider its accomplishments, its goals and its challenges and take the actions that he deems necessary to secure its future and to help secure the future of Israel.  As a liberal Jewish pundit he identifies shortcomings of ADL, AJC, the Council of Presidents and most of all AIPAC in living up to their responsibility to speak for Israel on terms that lead young America Jews into the fray to be empowered by the beauty of their religion and the responsibility to uphold the rights of all women and men by supporting the end of a culture of occupation and the rise of an independent Palestinian State.  While Beinart has defined the problem using history and the wisdom of the left, he does not provide a viable pathway for major American Jewish organizations, the White House or the State of Israel to rebuild humpty dumpty with enough sealing wax and spit to put peace fundamentally back into the lexicon of the Levant.  It is not enough to throw in a reservation every chapter or so concerning Palestinian cooperation let alone leadership on peacemaking. It takes two peoples and their leaders to make peace and overcome the enormous lack of trust, fear and hatred that marks this histrionic family feud.  Most importantly, it will take positive measures in place of an international program of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions; BDS, and other unilateral actions to draw the parties together and rekindle a belief in peace, the will to act and the courage for both sides to make the concessions necessary to learn to live as neighbors with both freedom and security as their rewards.


The words here represent the beliefs of the author and should not be construed as the policy of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace.

About the Author
Larry Snider is President of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace, an NGO based in Philadelphia that brings the faiths together to learn about and from each other and to build a new constituency for Middle East Peace.