The Spectacle Blog

Beinart’s Blood Libel

By on 9.21.11 | 5:49PM

Peter Beinart has a beef with Israel. As a liberal who wants to remake the Jewish state in his own image -- secular, passive, willing to forfeit property, power, and identity to appease perpetual victims -- Beinart famously called on American "Zionists" to reject Israel so that it would comport with his flaccid version of liberalism:

Fewer American Jewish Zionists are liberal. One reason is that the leading institutions of American Jewry have refused to foster -- indeed, have actively opposed -- a Zionism that challenges Israel's behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and toward its own Arab citizens. For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism's door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.

Beinart maintains that because groups like AIPAC and the Presidents' Conference avoid virtually all public criticism of Israeli actions they have no moral basis to criticize the anti-Israel policies of the United Nations, the UN Human Rights Council or the Durban Conference on Racism. In Beinart's world Israel -- and Zionism -- has become an instrument of oppression. He views the defense of the homeland and the construction of communities on land Israel won in a series of unprovoked wars as racist. You see Beinart really believes that Israel is not a liberal democracy but a proto-fascist state that avoids peace to pursue an expansionist agenda.

This delusion can be maintained by just stitching together the allegations, misstatements, and omissions about Israel to create a new Blood Libel. He invokes Deir Yassin but ignores the War of Independence, the Sinai campaign or the Yom Kippur war, and ignores the long list of peace treaties and diplomatic agreements Israel has entered into, the land it is has given in exchange for peace, the willingness to halt construction of homes in places people want to live. Beinart never explains why a nation that has lost its soul expelled its own citizens from their homes rather than wiping out the people they "occupy" at great expense and loss of life.

Beinart now claims that the reason for the Palestinian effort to get the UN to recognize it as a state is that Israel walked away from a peace agreement in 2009 when Netanyahu became prime minister. His proof is a widely discredited claim that Ehud Olmert had reached a deal with Abbas on Jerusalem, borders, and the so-called "Right of Return" and Netanyahu tore it up.

In fact, in a September 2010 article in Haaretz entitled "Olmert: Abbas Never Responded to My Peace Offer," the former PM notes, "It's time the international community demand an answer from the Palestinians (why they rejected the peace proposal) instead of arguing about a building here and a building there."

In late 2009, the Australian reported that Olmert met with Abbas nearly 35 times to produce a proposal. When he showed Abbas a map, "which embodied all these plans…. It was, from Olmert's point of view, a final offer, not a basis for future negotiation. But Abbas could not commit."

But Beinart insists: "Abbas wanted to continue those negotiations even amidst the Palestinian fury that followed Israel's January 2009 invasion of the Gaza Strip."

These distortions fit Beinart's limpid worldview. They do not reflect the 60-year reality of Israel's existence. Which is also the defect of President Obama's treatment of Israel.

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