Peter Beinart, formerly a Zionist, recently decided he had been wrong about supporting a Jewish sovereign state in the land of Israel. In a New York Times op-ed titled “I No Longer Believe in a Jewish State,” Beinart abandons Zionism, calls for dismantling the State of Israel and replacing it with a binational state where he acknowledges that Jews will be a minority.
He nevertheless contends that in such a state Jews will not only “survive but prosper.”
Even Beinart realized that his latest views had “crossed a red line,” acknowledging that questioning Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is “akin to spitting in the face of people I love and betraying institutions that give my life meaning and joy. Besides, Jewish statehood has long been precious to me, too. So I’ve respected certain red lines.”
Beinart’s solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict drew sharp criticism. Advocates for Israel generally acknowledge that his latest proposal amounts to nothing more than the idle musings of an effete West Side intellectual obsessed with being accepted by his progressive peers and that the idea is unrealistic, suicidal, and antisemitic (in picking out the only Jewish State in the world as the only country in the world that should be eliminated).
Nevertheless, Beinart continues to this day to attack the legitimacy of the State of Israel in recent interviews with NPR, Slate, a profile in the New Yorker, his New York Times op-eds, and on his YouTube channel, which has been viewed tens of thousands of times. Beinart’s extreme vision is not fading over time. It is being normalized.
But assume for the sake of argument that Beinart’s fantasy comes to fruition. What if he is wrong? What if the Jews don’t “survive” and “prosper” in a binational state as he imagines? What then?
This would not be the first time Beinart had been wrong. Earlier in his career as an armchair pundit, he was the editor of the neo-con New Republic magazine and supported the Iraq War. Then he decided he had been wrong and opposed the war. In 2004, a New Republic editorial reassessed its support for the Iraq War thus: “We feel regret, but no shame. . . . Our strategic rationale for war has collapsed.”
Beinart wrote countless op-eds apologizing and trying to explain away his initial support of the war. In one such op-ed, he admits that “I was willing to gamble, too — partly, I suppose, because, in the era of the all-volunteer military, I wasn’t gambling with my own life.”
Just as in the Iraq War, Beinart has no skin in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He isn’t “gambling” with his own life or that of his children. So just as Beinart was wrong about Iraq, what if he is equally wrong about his delusional binational state? What if the Jews do not prosper – or even survive?
Of course, the most immediate consequence would be the extermination of six million Jews presently living in Israel, the second Holocaust in less than a century. That would be very bad. But then another Holocaust museum would be built in Washington and there would be many documentaries and tribute concerts with candles. As Dara Horn entitled her new book of essays “People Love Dead Jews.”
But what about Beinart himself? What would happen to him? He would likely write voluminous op-eds explaining his mistake as he did regarding his flawed Iraqi war support. He would insist that “he had no idea that his idea of a democratic binational state would descend into ethnic cleansing and genocide” (ignoring a century of Arab calls for the “annihilation” of the Jewish state, the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries, and the collapse of Lebanon, the only binational state in the Middle East).
He will plead that if only the parties had followed his plan for a democratic binational state all would have been well. He will be a prized speaker on college campuses, a special correspondent for CNN, and a guest columnist in the New York Times. He will be further embraced by his progressive peers and welcomed back for coffee at Zabar’s. His next book will explain how the Israelis undermined and eventually destroyed the binational state leading to their own destruction.
So if Peter Beinart is wrong – again – he likely will rise once again like a phoenix from the ashes of the State of Israel. For Beinart, life will go on. Not so much for the Jews of Israel.