In a New York Times op-ed this week (“To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements,” March 18), Peter Beinart says it makes him “cringe” to have to call for a boycott of Israeli goods. “I am a committed Jew,” he writes. “I belong to an Orthodox synagogue, send my children to Jewish school and yearn to instill in them the same devotion to the Jewish people that my parents instilled in me.”
Then he adds, “Boycotting other Jews is a painful, unnatural act. But the alternative is worse.”
Beinart, a professor at the City University of New York, is the author of “The Crisis of Zionism,” a book that has been causing the kind of buzz that publishers love. On the basis of its contents, he has also gotten a new gig with The Daily Beast, as the editor-in-chief of a blog called “Zion Square.”
To sweeten his already plentiful pot of acclaim – awarded him by virtue of his being an American Jew who thinks Israel is headed for an implosion of its own making – Beinart’s recent piece has gone viral. One can just see him counting his book sales instead of sheep, while he lies awake at night busily solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in his megalomaniacal head. There might be a Pulitzer Prize in it for him, after all, or maybe even a Nobel.
To this end, the youngish radical, whose opinion of the U.S. is as low as his view of Israel is dim, had to come up with a formula. This is not as easy as it looks from the outside. It is no small feat to present facts in a distorted way and still sound intelligent enough to be taken seriously. Nor is it so simple to profess support for democracies and simultaneously rip the life-blood out of them with the stroke of a pen.
But Beinart has a great knack for doing all of the above – and his formula is a killer, both literally and figuratively. It goes like this: American Jews should make a distinction between the good Israel and the bad. The good Israel is a democratic society within the Green Line. The bad Israel is “an ethnically based non-democracy beyond it.”
“Having made that rhetorical distinction,” he writes, “American Jews should seek every opportunity to reinforce it. We should lobby to exclude settler-produced goods from America’s free-trade deal with Israel. We should push to end Internal Revenue Service policies that allow Americans to make tax-deductible gifts to settler charities. Every time an American newspaper calls Israel a democracy, we should urge it to include the caveat: only within the Green Line.”
At the same time, he argues, “We should oppose efforts to divest from all Israeli companies with the same intensity with which we support efforts to divest from companies in the settlements: Call it Zionist B.D.S.”
This sort of tough love, Beinart believes, will enable the Palestinians to ease up on their demands and terrorism, all of which are the result of Israel’s intransigence and settlement policies. Beinart clings to a belief which the Palestinians have long ago proven to be false in word and in deed: that the whole conflict in the region is a border dispute. This makes sense, since only Jews (fewer and fewer of us, by the way), hard leftists, and ill-wishers still want that lie to be true or pretend that it is. Hence the endless talk of “solutions” involving territorial compromises by Israel, so the Palestinians can have a state of their own in which to flourish and govern themselves in peace and quiet.
But Muslims don’t have that notion; nor is this the idea – or even the desire – of any Palestinian in power. As an expert on the intricacies of the Jewish state and the Palestinians, Beinart ought to know that by now.
Indeed, it is quite astonishing that a “committed Jew” such as himself makes no mention of Islam.
Ruthie Blum is the author of an upcoming book on the radicalization of the Middle East, to be published by RVP Press.