Larry Weinman

Yes Peter Beinart Anti Zionism is Anti Semitism

I generally stopped reading the writings of Peter Beinart because they are so naïve and poorly informed. But the headline of this article in Haaretz was so outrageous and naïve that I went ahead and read it.

Instead of standing up to those that oppose the very existence of Israel the article is full of apologetics. Opposition to Zionism he argues is not anti-Semitic. On both ideological and practical levels the argument is fundamentally wrong. And to somehow imply that the “anti-Zionism” is a consequence of the occupation or ill-informed Israeli policy is a further distortion.

Given Mr. Beinart’s positon as a leading advocate for major changes in Israeli foreign policy and US foreign policy towards Israel this is particularly unfortunate…to say the least.

Unlike some others I don’t view Beinart and members of Jstreet as enemies of Israel but rather in most cases simply naïve and uninformed but dangerous because of their very naiveté. This means that they become allied, even if indirectly, with groups that are clearly anti-Semitic. Groups and ideas of this type should be actively fought. But by logic, education and challenging the anti-Zionist anti-Semites. And the Jstreeters should not be attacked with labels and slogans but engaged in this way not the same treatment that the anti-Semitic haters deserve.

In the article Beinart writes:

What we are witnessing among some young American Jews is a kind of neo-Bundism, a Jewish identity built not around Zionism but around the values of the activist left. And on campus, these left-wing Jews are making common cause with anti-Zionist Palestinians and with growing numbers of African-American, Latino, LGBT and feminist activists, all of whom see Zionism as incompatible with the egalitarian, anti-discriminatory principles they hold dear.
As a liberal Zionist who opposes BDS and still believes in a democratic Jewish state alongside a democratic Palestinian one, all this worries me a great deal. But branding it anti-Semitism is exactly the wrong way to combat it.

As a proud recent oleh, Israeli and Zionist and a firm opponent of most of Netanyahu’s foreign policy I have no problem clearly stating anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism .The Jerusalem program the official definition of Zionism he World Zionist Congress states

Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, brought about the establishment of the State of Israel, and views a Jewish, Zionist, democratic and secure State of Israel to be the expression of the common responsibility of the Jewish people for its continuity and future.

Therefore to be Anti-Zionist is to declare that the Jewish people, unlike every other people does not have the right to self determination, Being anti Zionist means viewing the creation of the Jewish state, as an “injustice and historic error” that should be reversed . It is anti-Semitism pure and simple.

One would have hoped Mr. Beinart would be far more than “worried” about the trends he describes among young American Jews. Mr. Beinart is self-proclaimed believer in a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian democratic state, calling out Anti Zionism for what it Isanti Semitism it is an imperative to do this at every opportunity…and regardless one’s position on current Israeli policy to aggressively challenge it at every opportunity.

In his article Beinart notes the following:

Omar Barghouti declared late last year at Columbia University: “We’ve got to give credit to Netanyahu. Without him we could not have reached this far.

But Barghouti is not an opponent solely of “settlement” nor does he share Beinart’s 2 state solution and his definition of occupied Palestine stretches from the “river to the sea” it doesn’t stop at the Green Line. Barghouti is gloating that he has succeeded in a giant shell game gaining support for a policy opposed to the existence of Israel by manipulating opponents of the occupation into supporters of BDS. Yet Beinart puts the blame on current Israeli policies with regards to areas over the Green line not Baarghouti’s anti-Semitic denial of the right of Jews to self-determination. And his reaction to this is limited to “worry”.

How much better would it be if Mr. Beinart a self-proclaimed advocates of a two state solution with two democratic states and the young students he describes to ask the Mr. Barghouti and his followers 2 questions. 1. Please draw a map of what you consider to be occupied Palestine? 2. In your envisioned outcome would Jewish citizens have exactly equal rights to all other citizens anywhere in Palestine/Israel?

Should either of the answers not show an acceptance of the Jewish right of self-determination it is anti-Semitic and no change in Israeli policy is going to change that. In fact Mr. Beinart should invite Mr. Barghouti to be interviewed for one of his columns

If Mr. Beinart sees himself as aligned with the left wing political parties in Israel and doesn’t see Anti Zionism as anti-Semitism. He is dead wrong. There is not a single Jewish political party right or left that is anti-Zionist denies the Jewish right to self-determination and advocates the replacement of Israel with some other entity…exactly the views of Mr. Barghouti.

Robert Wistrich the recently deceased scholar of anti-Semitism wrote the following:

“You have the denial, for instance, that there is any relationship between so-called criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, but, in fact, most of what goes by the name of criticism of Israel is feeding on a daily basis the growing demonization of the Jewish state, which in turn spills over, I would say, almost with mathematical inevitability into some form of dislike, hostility, or even loathing of Jews,” he said.

Or as that great advocate for Israel Woody Allen told an Israeli television interviewer when asked about the extreme criticism of Israel around the world. He replied some of it is because some people “just don’t like Jews’ i.e. they are anti-Semites. Certainly an objective person would consider people who go beyond harsh criticism of Israel into anti Zionism to advocating the dismantling of Israel as we now it would fall into the category of anti-Semitic,

Two more notes. In the quotation above Mr. Beinart characterizes the Jewish students as similar to the anti-Zionist Bundists. This is a gross distortion. First off the Jewish identity of the Bundists was tied to the rich Yiddishist Jewish culture not political activism. Secondly in the formative period of Zionism Bundists may have opposed Zionism as the sole vision of the future of Judaism. But their “anti-Zionism” never involved allying with the anti-Zionist Palestinian activists who supported violence against the pre state Yishuv and fought immigration to Palestine even of Jewish holocaust survivors The same goes for any anti Zionism in the American Reform movement….that was a dead issue by the end of World War 2 and the creation of Israel if not before.

On rare occasions Mr. Beinart writes about something other than his critiques of Israeli policy. He notes the problem of widespread lack of Jewish literacy in the American Jewish community and the need for raising the level of Jewish education. As someone who proclaims himself as concerned with the future of Jewish life one would think that he would be deeply troubled that the content of Judaism for young Jews is centered around activist politics… right or left rather than the deep richness of Jewish culture and religion. That’s not Judaism it’s activist politics and not a recipe for a strong future for American Jewry.

About the Author
Larry Weinman is an investment advisor and recent oleh.He is active in organizations and study with groups involved in "hitchadshoot hayahadut" study and activity between dati and lo dati Israelis and in organizing activities by these groups in the United States. He is also active with other political/social change groups. His writings have been published in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal and Washington Jewish Week.
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