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Beinart Advocates Partial Boycott

Oren slams call; J Street’s Ben-Ami praises analysis, differs on prescription

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I promise that soon this will cease being an all-Peter Beinart blog. But the fact is that in the run-up to the release in one week of his The Crisis of Zionism, he really has been, as they say, driving the conversation, so for now attention must be paid. What I mean to say is, it’s not often that a New York Times op-ed provokes a same-day response from the Israeli ambassador.

In the op-ed, which is adopted (though it doesn’t say so) from the final section of Beinart’s book, Beinart comes out in favor of something he calls, with an obvious sense of paradox, “Zionist B.D.S.”—a boycott of goods made in the settlements combined with renewed support for Israel within the Green Line (as well as East Jerusalem, which after all has been annexed by Israel). He also advocates referring to the West Bank as “nondemocratic Israel.” “If Israel makes the occupation permanent and Zionism ceases to be a democratic project, Israel’s foes will eventually overthrow Zionism itself,” he argues. “We are closer to that day than many American Jews want to admit.”

Ambassador Michael Oren called Beinart’s position “marginal and highly radical.” He added that it “absolves the Palestinians of any responsibility for the current situation, including their rejection of previous peace offers, their support for terror, and their refusal to negotiate with Israel for the past three years. By reducing the Palestinians to two-dimensional props in an Israeli drama, Beinart deprives them of agency and indeed undermines his own thesis.”

One group whom Beinart’s op-ed leaves in a potentially tricky situation is J Street: though the two are not formally affiliated, J Street advertised that Beinart will be signing copies of his book, which can be purchased in advance of its official release, at its conference in Washington, D.C., this weekend. And J Street, unlike other left-of-center Israel groups (such as Americans for Peace Now), does not support the boycott.

In an interview today with Tablet Magazine, J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami said he “absolutely agreed” with Beinart’s diagnosis of the situation. “He’s the troubadour of our movement in laying out this urgency and need for us to sound the alarm,” he said. He also reiterated J Street’s opposition to the boycott: “He thinks that pressure on settlers on an individual basis will get them to rethink their enterprise,” he explained. “I don’t think that’s going to happen. They think the world is against them, and this will only reinforce their belief that they’re right and reestablish their intensity to hold onto the land.”

Ben-Ami cast this disagreement as purely tactical, however, saying, “A boycott in and of itself has no ideological identity … I don’t think that anything he’s saying is in any way questioning the legitimacy of the state of Israel—and in fact he’s proposing these things to support the legitimacy of the state of Israel.”

From the right, David Frum castigates his Daily Beast colleague along lines similar to Oren’s, and adds, in a reference to the first lines of Beinart’s op-ed, “The true pincer squeezing those who think in the way Beinart describes is the pincer that always pinches liberals who join movements led by illiberal radicals: it is the pinch of exploitation by people with clearer-eyed purposes.” From the left, and as if to prove Frum’s point, Richard Silverstein argues that Beinart’s limited boycott doesn’t go far enough, and that Beinart represents “liberal Zionism writing its own requiem.”

I fear, as somebody who considers himself a liberal Zionist but who opposes Beinart’s boycott, that Silverstein is right. From a tactical perspective, I agree with Ben-Ami: limited boycotts (or full ones, for that matter) are likely to have the opposite of their intended effects, unless and until they reach a prevalence under which they are actually choking the Israeli economy—something Beinart by his own admission doesn’t want to see happen (and something that, as Ami Eden points out in a sharp post, is something more likely to happen as a result of a partial boycott).

I also think it’s hypocritical to imply that the settlements can be so neatly separated—economically, politically, morally—from the rest of Israel. I don’t believe Israel is defined by the settlements and I do believe it has taken two to tango lo these nearly 45 years, which is one reason I oppose all boycotts of Israel. However, I can’t imagine ever believing both that the settlements were so bad and also that Israel were so guiltless in their perpetuation that I would support solely boycotting the settlements. Indeed, the one part of Frum’s response I took issue with was his description of the settlements as “a consequence of Palestinian rejectionism.” Enabled by it, sure; a consequence of it, not so much.

Regarding Beinart’s prescription, cui bono? So far as I can see, only those liberal Zionists—not all liberal Zionists—who want an easy salve on their consciences without the full burden, whether of guilt or of principle, of actually abandoning Zionism altogether.

To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements [NYT]
Response from Michael Oren [Israeli Embassy Facebook]
The Beinart Solution [The Daily Beast]
Beinart’s Boycott and Boycotting Beinart [JTA The Telegraph]
Earlier: Beinart Launches Daily Beast Blog
Beinart’s Blog Perches on the Left

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jake says:

I wonder what he thinks about Iraq and Afghanistan and the American occupation of both. Would he boycott America and American companies and goods? Would he call America “non democratic”?

BDS seeks the destruction of Israel, just ask some of its well known Jewish proponents. How anyone can join that with Zionism, the right of the Jews to live free in their ancient homeland, is delusional. The reality of Beinart’s Zionism-BDS is to dehumanize the Jews living in settlements. After you dehumanize someone it becomes no issue to murder them.The outcome of Beinart’s philosophy is to promote further horrors like what happened to the Fogel family. Perhaps Beinart can tell us in what part of the Tanach and Talmud he, an”orthodox” Jew found God’s blessing to foment the murder of your fellow Jews.

Peter Beinart penned a rant which denies Jews – based on faulty argumentation and worse, inaccurate facts – the right to live in portions of the historic Jewish homeland. His logic is nonsensical. As there were no “settlements” in Judea, Samaria or Gaza before 1967 (actually, before 1948, Jews had lived in those areas for many centuries until the Arabs engaged in an ethnic cleansing operation all throughtut the Mandate period) but there was Arab terror either first byy the fedayeen and then Fatah. What can only follow is that dismantling our communities and exiling our population can not be a soluition for the problem is not us but Arab animosity. Our disappearance will not provide a solution to the real problem: Arab refusal to accept any form of Jewish national sovereignty and independent power wielding. It’s not geography but existence. A state of “Palestine” refuses to have Jews as citizens (see the Rawabi ad:

His concern for Israel’s democracy
may play to the ideology of the progressives/liberals – and the NYTimes – but presenting Israel as a weakened democracy is simply wrong (reading Ha-Ha-Haaretz can be debilitating on the mind).
And he misrepresents reality or doesn’t know it well enough.

A boycott call can only further weaken Israel’s security (that, indeed, is real). The dead are not served by democracy and all he’ll accomplish is an endangering of the lives of people, most of them Jews, and the existence of a state. Beinart has no right to gamble with that.

Jenny says:

Sobering thoughts from Michael Oren’s Facebook update on Beinart’s piece.

Ambassador Michael Oren
Peter Beinart’s call (“To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements,” New York Times, 3.19.12) places him well beyond the Israeli mainstream, the moderate left, and the vast majority of Israelis who care about peace. The call for boycotting all products made by Israeli communities outside of Jerusalem and beyond the 1949 Armistice Lines is supported only by a marginal and highly radical fringe. Beinart’s position, moreover, absolves the Palestinians of any responsibility for the current situation, including their rejection of previous peace offers, their support for terror, and their refusal to negotiate with Israel for the past three years. By reducing the Palestinians to two-dimensional props in an Israeli drama, Beinart deprives them of agency and indeed undermines his own thesis. Without an active Palestinian commitment to a two-state solution–irrespective of boycotts–the peace Beinart seeks cannot be achieved.

Hershel (Heshy) Ginsburg says:

Save intellectual honesty in journalism!! Boycott the NY Times & Peter Beinart!!


J’elm / Efrata

H/Ramat-Gan/Israel says:

Beinart is a “Zionist” like Julius Streicher was a Zionist. Enough said

From Israel, the opinion of crazy left-wing American Jews like Beinart or Silverstein has no weight. We already do not care about what our own leftists say, so you can imagine what we think about Americans who have no clue about the reality.

The real question is: why do you care ?

Baba Wawa says:

Does Beinart talk to anyone besides people who think like him? The Arabs want Jews dead. They deny Jewish history and title to the land. In that context, should democracy be our first concern? What an idiot.

For Zlota says:

Is Beinart actually trying to push American Jews to the right with the cunning use of revulsion?

Phil N says:

Why are the 1948 cease fire lines so sacred to the Left? When they existed the arabs did not recognize them as permanent. They issued maps showing “Palestine” as a single entity. It wasn’t till after Oslo that some aarabs began to distinguish between the pre 1967 cease fire lines and the current lines. What is their objection to the so called settlements eventually being absorbed into Israel.

I wil abbreviate my response to the article which is naive. For full exposition of why it is naive, which is bending over backward not to say worse, see

and references therein to Sol Stern,. Harshe’s and mandel’s takes.

The word ‘liberal” today is not same as it was once was. The word “liberal” is the Munich mentality which projects good motives to those who are are totally illiberal. How you can trust the “good” palestenians–the the West Bank ones who name streets after someone who murders jewish children in bed.

Same old story: give up Austria; give up Czech. and we will have peace. That was the story of pre WW 2; and churchill was a war monger–then it was a combo of the right and the left preaching this nonsense/

The Tablet is naive and should be ashamed of himself. As for Beinart, he thinks he is new Einstein with a solution. A narcissist.
With friends like these who needs enemries.

Just recently the chief theologian of Saudi Arabia called for the killing of Christians. No headlines in the NY TImes,Tablet; no telephone call from Obama to Christians in the ME.

That says it all why those who call themselves “liberals” are dangerous people because of the influence they have.

Jacob Aaron says:

This is a pretty cowardly response to Beinart. He’s not trying to end the monstrous, dangerous settlements. What’s a more expeditious route to saving Israel? You offer none.

Jacob Aaron says:

*This is a pretty cowardly response to Beinart. He’s not trying to salve his conscience; he’s trying to do his part to end the monstrous, dangerous settlements. What’s a more expeditious route to saving Israel? You offer no suggestions, and only cast aspersions on his motives. Be bolder, grow a pair, and be constructive.

DHMCarver says:

I agree with Jacob Aaron. Most of these commentors should come out and say what they really believe, and either 1) propose a solution to the problems the settlements pose; or 2) admit that they want the West Bank/Judea & Samaria annexed to Israel. If #2, then they should say whether they are they are satisfied that annexation would mean either 1) the end of Israel as a democratic state, or 2) the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Put your cards on the table instead of hiding behind left-bashing, right-wing cant, etc.

Naftali says:

It has become fashionable for so called Liberal Jews to talk about and support boycotting Israel in some manner. When not so long ago, the first step the Nazis took against us was the boycott. Countries like Syria, Saudi Arabia and Ifan boycott us, and their allies among us like Silverstein do the same. There is no longer any shame.

There were many Jews in Germany who looked down on their obviously Jewish brethren, and said ” We are not like those Jews, we are progressive. We are German!” imagine their dismay when they were loaded onto the cattle cars with those Hasidim they despised.

Silverstein, Beinart, etc are those so-called progressives. In fact, some of them come close to Kapo territory in their attacks against Israel. J street is not much better.

Yet, the vast majority of Jews who support Israel are quiet. We should boycott these enemies amongst us. As the son of an Auschwitz survivor and a former combat Sergeant in the IDF, consider me disgusted.


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Beinart Advocates Partial Boycott

Oren slams call; J Street’s Ben-Ami praises analysis, differs on prescription

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