Critics Accuse Essay of Ignoring Israel’s Enemies
Conservatives wonder at Beinart’s omission
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.