• MJAC Staff

End the Jewish State? Let’s try some honesty, first, by Daniel Gordis


Peter Beinart is a prominent Jew that Jew haters love. He is one of their "good Jews." He claims to be a Zionist, but reading his writings, he is an anti-Israel Zionist. Somehow it all works in his head. As with Israel/Jew haters, he depends on his readers' ignorance, willful or otherwise, to accept his positions.

Beinart's recent piece, "Yavne: A Jewish Case for Equity in Israel-Palestine," was answered by Daniel Gordis. The first problem I see with Beinart's piece is the title. Gordis goes deeper though.

“Yavne” is, indeed, heating up the Twittersphere and other social media words, it’s appearance is not, in fact, the introduction of a bold new idea. In almost 8,000 words, Beinart strings together an astonishing array of sleights of hand and misrepresentations that makes “Yavne” little more than a screed that is an insult to the intelligence of his readers. (While Beinart’s NYT Op-Ed today is entitled, “Why I Gave Up on the Two State Solution,” there, too, he says that he can “imagine a Jewish home that is not a Jewish state.” It’s good to know that the sleight of hand is not limited toJewish Currents,where the main article appeared.) Beinart is a smart guy; he knows that for his readers to buy his thesis, it is important that they not know very much. Luckily for him, that is a safe bet.

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Other sleights of hand lie literally everywhere one turns. Just as he states as a matter of obvious fact (when he is mostly wrong) that Zionism is motivated by avoiding annihilation, he is equally dishonest when it comes to defining what Zionism is.
“The essence of Zionism is not a Jewish State in the land of Israel; it is a Jewish home in the land of Israel.” Again, banking on his readers’ ignorance, Beinart adopts Dmitri Shumsky’s read of Herzl’s The Jewish State, without mentioning that Shumsky’s view is far from mainstream, or that Nathan Birnbaum, an associate of Herzl, specifically called for the establishment of a sovereign Jewish state at the First Zionist Congress. When by the late 1930s, Ben-Gurion, Jabotinsky, Begin, Katznelson, Hazaz and others were all certain that they needed a state, it was because they understood that nothing else would keep the Jews in Palestine alive; what they wanted might have been a “home,” but no “home” without a “state” was going to be possible. We could have a “state” — or we could have nothing. Beinart thinks we ought to gamble and see once again if maybe they were wrong; that we might end up with nothing does not seem to concern him.

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I offer, for now, but one last example of the sort of sleight of hand that makes Beinart’s piece so manipulative of his own readership. In Beinart’s world, Palestinians do not have agency. Read the 8,000 words, and you will see fault after fault after fault when it comes to Israel; the Palestinians are almost exclusively the victims here. (Do Beinart’s readers know about the Peel Commission attempt to divide the land in 1937? The Partition Plan of 1947? The Arab Leagues’ “No Peace, No Negotiations, No Recognition” of 1967? They probably don’t, and that suits him just fine.) To read Beinart is to learn that responsibility for today’s mess lies with Israel, not with the people who reside next to us. This infantilization of the Arabs has always struck me as utterly racist (and evokes that horrifying American use of “boy” for African American men), but that is another discussion. For the moment, let’s ignore the racism and just look at the dishonesty.

Nothing Gordis writes will influence Beinart's fans. When it comes to Jews, Israel, and Western Civilization, some people are impervious to facts. It is still important that Gordis wrote this piece though.


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