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Critics Accuse Essay of Ignoring Israel’s Enemies

Conservatives wonder at Beinart’s omission

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David Frum.(Wikipedia)

When The Scroll last visited l’affaire Beinart, there were a notable lack of critical right-wing responses to the essay. (Unrelatedly, Tablet Magazine editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse has weighed in.) Now, however, at least two responses—one from David Frum, one from James Kirchick—have supplied the following rebuttal: That Beinart’s New York Review of Books essay understates (or altogether elides) the threats that Israel faces, and therefore is unduly harsh on the Israeli government and its more hawkish American Jewish supporters.

“There is no mention that Palestinians voted Hamas into power in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections,” Tablet Magazine contributor Kirchick argues.

There is similarly no mention of the murderous anti-Semitism spewed in Palestinian schools, television, radio, and newspapers, or the medieval propaganda sponsored by Iran, Saudi Arabia, or even Egypt. And, perhaps most tellingly, there is no mention of the poll, conducted just last month by An-Najah National University in the West Bank, which found that 77 percent of Palestinians oppose a two-state solution.

The foundational error in Beinart’s piece is a grievous misunderstanding for why the Arab-Israeli conflict persists to this day: Arab intransigence.

Beinart responded to this line of argument by claiming, first, that his essay was less concerned with the motives behind the Israeli government’s actions than the far less explicable ones behind the American Jewish establishment; and, second, that “Arab intransigence” (and worse), while far from irrelevant to the conflict, is also not necessarily the main motivating factor. In the West Bank, he says, continued Israeli settlements are at least as responsible for Palestinian anger as Yasser Arafat’s decade-old rejectionism; and in Gaza, the Israelis (and the Americans) blew it by not encouraging a Hamas-Fatah unity government.

Maybe Beinart’s most provocative point comes at the end of his response:

[Various entrants into the debate] are all Jews. In some sense, therefore, Israel’s crimes—unlike those of Hamas or Ahmadinejad—are committed in our name. We have a special obligation to expose and confront them. And we have a special obligation not to use the crimes of Israel’s enemies to excuse behavior that dishonors a Jewish state, and the Jewish ethical tradition that we all consider precious.

That … is going to anger people all over again.

A Kaleidoscopic Community [Foreign Policy]
Peter Beinart Misdiagnoses … Everything [Jewlicious]

Beinart’s Blind Spot
[Foreign Policy]

Why Israel Has To Do Better
[The Daily Beast]

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Shalom Freedman says:

Beinart’s excuse is pathetic. I read his article carefully and the most conspicuous element absent was any real relation to the actual adversaries, their actions , attitudes that Israel has to deal with. Beinart’s article is one long-exercise in slanted misreading and distortion of a situation. I wonder why he did it. But that his conscience will have to deal with.
I would stress that there is no question that there is large section of liberal Jews who tend to believe that it is all Israel’s fault and that if it only made more concessions peace would be on the doorstep. But what Beinart said was in effect that that naive perception is correct.

Marc R says:

Beinart responded, ineffectively I believe, to the argument that he should have mentioned Hamas, etc.
That said, he didn’t address the other serious criticisms of his piece. That is, that he fudged some important facts and, most importantly, that his central thesis (that American Jews are moving away from Israel based on political reasons) is based on a seriously flawed reading of the applicable data.

Jonathan Chait has responded to Beinart’s response, and evidently feels that his views have been misrepresented.

Paul Freedman says:

After the Al Asqa intifada and the effort to compel unilateral Jewish withdrawal through suicide bombing and random terror, compounded by Hezbollah’s aggressive entrenchment in to the north and Hamas’ Salafi theocracy to the south, the overwhelming majority of the Israeli electorate has decided to take a holiday from self-censorious handwringing over the fate of the Palestinians. This is a rational reaction–a refusal to take seriously the character of Palestinian and increasingly Israeli-Arab nationalist sentiment is frivolous.

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Critics Accuse Essay of Ignoring Israel’s Enemies

Conservatives wonder at Beinart’s omission

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