Like the moon, Peter Beinart follows a predictable cycle. You won’t hear about him for months. But the more he’s ignored, the more his rhetoric intensifies. Eventually, even he gets your attention, attacking Israel so outlandishly and ferociously that he drifts again into relevance.
With his latest New York Times screed — “I No Longer Believe in a Jewish State” — he joins Israel’s most committed enemies with his call for an end to the Jewish State.
The article resurrects much of the traditional nonsense of Beinart’s writing in the past: fabricating Israeli crimes, overstating Palestinian desire for peace, trivializing Palestinian terrorism against Jews, and throwing in schmaltzy, cringe-worthy matzo-ball Jew-talk by which he seeks to legitimize his extremist anti-Israel views.
This time Beinart radically rewrites the historical record by claiming Zionism isn’t about having a Jewish State at all, but rather a “Jewish homeland,” whatever that is. The “state part” of Zionism, he argues, was later injected into the movement because of Holocaust trauma (the Jews again condescendingly depicted as the proverbial child-abuser made that way by abuse suffered in his own youth).
When Liberals like Dan Schapiro, Obama’s former ambassador to Israel, dismiss your assertions as “utopian nonsense,” you know you’re an extremist. When you earn praise from arch Israel-hater Linda Sarsour — “Maybe Zionists will listen to one of their own,” she mockingly mused on Twitter — you know you’ve joined the ranks of the anti-Israel fanatics.
The first response to Beinart’s call for an end to Israel is to place it in the context of its source. While many journalists have made an art of trashing Israel, Beinart has made it his career. He is known for little else. Together with other haters like Max Blumenthal and Linda Sarsour, Beinart has cornered an industry catering to those with an insatiable thirst for dirt on Israel. And just as Blumenthal gets his occasional media fix by positioning himself as the Jew who hates Israel, Beinart, pushing the limits of his expressed talents, has decided that this is his Alamo as well.
Jews who attack Israel – especially with the vitriol of Blumenthal and Beinart – always make news.
The limited success of his book the Crisis of Zionism gave Beinart the idea that mixing one’s Jewish identity into cocktails with an anti-Israel twist is a fabulous way to sell an op-ed. Migrating from one Israel-skewering periodical to another, Beinart has emerged as Israel-critics’ mercenary of choice — a perennial Goliath in the Valley of Elah. On the Daily Beast, Beinart hosted Open Zion, which read like an open-source bulletin-board of libels against the Jewish State. He now hops between the Atlantic, the New Republic and the New York Times — each calling him in when their audience begs for the two cents of Israel’s fault-finder-in-chief. These periodicals roll him out whenever a self-proclaimed “Zionist-critic-of-Israel” is called for.
As he hopscotches between publishers, publications, and online forums, always in search of a home, Beinart’s target and arguments never really change — a fact that might explain the shortness of his shelf-life at any given platform. This pony, though, has an uncanny ability to frame entire derbies around his one and only trick.
Beinart’s method is essentially to repackage his aging ideas into casings that are ever more outrageous. As the world mourned the loss of holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel — perhaps the most respected man on earth — Beinart attacked him for his pro-Israel views even as Obama called him “the conscience of the world.” Disturbed by the thought of Jews who defend themselves, Beinart compared the genocidal vizier Haman of the Purim story with the Jews he sought to exterminate.
Now Beinart strips off his Zionist costume entirely, baring his true ideas for all to see. As I’ve long argued, Peter Beinart, like all Israel-haters, doesn’t have a problem with Israel’s policies but with the fact that Israel exists at all. His is an irrational hatred, as I have repeatedly shown in my many public debates against him before audiences of thousands, including at Columbia University and before 1000 English-speaking Israelis in Tel Aviv.
Classical Zionists, Beinart argues, never wanted a state but a homeland. Few lies about Israel’s founding have ever been so blatant. The very title of Theodore Herzl’s bible of modern-Zionism was called “Die Judenstadt,” “The Jewish State.” But such subterfuge is classic Peter Beinart, hoping that his audience is ignorant enough never to call him out on his facts.
That the Jews always had a homeland and a presence therein is also left unsaid. Of course, the Jews’ theoretical “homeland” didn’t offer much in the way of protection and security: on its own, the land Israel’s existence did nothing to mitigate 2,000 years of persecution, pogroms and wholesale slaughter. The founding of the State of Israel, on the other hand, is thank God forcing an end to all three.
When Herzl wrote Die Judenstadt, Jews living in Israel had second-class status and paid a special tax to their Ottoman overlords. Things worsened under the British, with Jews being regularly slaughtered by Arab neighbors enraged by incoming Jewish refugees escaping the jaws of Jew-hatred in Europe. Thus the Jews, fed-up with miserable lives and untimely deaths, organized and began to push for a state and form armies of their own decades before the Holocaust.
Beinart, moreover, argues that the Palestinians’ share of Israel has diminished when the opposite is true. Originally, the League of Nations mandate gave the Jews all of Transjordan. By 1922, their share was reduced to all of modern Israel, from the river to the sea. From there, the UN Partition Plan of 1947 minimized even that to a skinny stretch of coast and a chunk of arid desert. A tactical-disaster, the UN plan gave the Jews an indefensible “homeland” that could easily be dissected and destroyed — a prospect that served as the basis of the Arabs’ genocidal game-plan.
With none to rely on besides their Father in Heaven, the Jews fought back. They wouldn’t be “driven into the sea,” but would lose 2,000 soldiers and more than twice as many civilians. At that cost and far more, the Jews transformed that hellish reality into a robust and modern state that dwarfed its neighbors militarily, organizationally, and morally, too.
Beyond ignoring history, Beinart blinds his readers from other key facts, too: he leaves out Hamas’ stated goal of annihilating world-Jewry “wherever they are found,” or Fatah’s recent unity-pact with them notwithstanding their genocidal goals. He doesn’t speak of Hezbollah’s 150,00 rocket-arsenal or Iran’s confessed ambitions to bring nuclear annihilation upon Israel. When you’re trying to disarm a community of six million Jews threatened from all sides and within, facts like these are better off left out.
As he pushes the boundaries of his revulsion for Israel, Beinart seems to revel in his “last man” status, the only Jew righteous enough to call for evil Israel’s end, while the rest of the Jewish community remain steadfastly devoted to its survival.
Beinart used to come to Friday night Shabbat dinners that I hosted at Oxford when I was the Rabbi and he was a Rhodes scholar. I take no pleasure in witnessing his growing ostracization from Jewish life as he embraces positions that only Israel’s most die-hard enemies espouse. But publishing a column in the New York Times calling for the dissolution of the first Jewish state in 2000 years will win you few friends.
Maimonides in the Mishnah Torah speaks of how deeply the Jewish love for Israel is. “The greatest of the sages would kiss the borders of Israel, kiss its rocks, and role around in its dust.” He roots these feelings in King David’s verse in Psalms: “Behold your servants hold her stones dearly, and cherish her dirt.”
I myself bend down to kiss the land of Israel every time I arrive there. Because there is simply no separating the Jewish connection to Israel and there never will be.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the author of “The Israel Warrior,” “Judaism for Everyone” and “Renewal: The Seven Central Values of the Jewish Faith.” Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.