There’s nothing moral about Peter Beinart’s ‘Cancel Israel’ project

It’s been just two weeks since the fairly well-known Israel critic Peter Beinart published his call to do away with the world’s only Jewish state for the sake of the Palestinians. Unsurprisingly, he has gotten a lot of attention, helped by the praise of influential pundits like former Obama administration official Ben Rhodes who told his almost half million Twitter followers: “Peter Beinart is brave, thoughtful, and capable of evolving views. Which is why we should read this carefully and remember that most of Peter’s critics are working off talking points that are dishonest and decades old.”

It’s of course not surprising that the (far-) left would eagerly applaud Beinart’s shoddy effort to present Israel as an intolerable evil that must be eliminated to make the world a better place. But as I’ve already said on Twitter, I was rather disappointed to see that Damir Marusic  and Shadi Hamid – two writers whose work I respect, not least because they usually have little use for far-left flights of fancy – seemed rather uncritical of Beinart when they hosted him on their podcast.  

While both rejected the criticism I made in this thread on Twitter, they have by now also published a discussion of their podcast with Beinart on their newsletter. Instead of writing a VERY long post addressing all the points I disagree with, I will focus on Shadi Hamid’s entry which touches on the question if Beinart can really claim – as he loudly does – that his vision is eminently moral. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of Beinart’s most preposterous claims.

Shadi Hamid writes:

“Going into our conversation with Peter on the podcast, I was a skeptic and even an opponent of one-state. My skepticism has generally been of a more philosophical and moral nature. One injustice—the dispossession of Palestinians at Israel’s founding—can not and should not be undone through another injustice, in this case the ending of a state that, for many of its residents, is all that they have and all that they have known.”

Leaving aside the debate what caused the “injustice” of “the dispossession of Palestinians at Israel’s founding” – which I consider a result of the coordinated attack of several Arab League member states fighting supposedly on behalf of the Palestinians – Shadi Hamid seems to be saying here that Beinart’s call to do away with the world’s only Jewish state cannot be considered a moral cause. I obviously agree with that.

Yet, soon afterwards Shadi Hamid argues:

“On the other hand, drawing on the universalist language of equality, dignity, and justice to argue for a binational state has the advantage of being much more morally compelling than the two-state solution could ever hope to be, at least from a Palestinian perspective. In short, Beinart’s articles have confirmed to me, after considerable hesitation and reluctance, that I can’t in good conscience ask (or want) Palestinians to stick stubbornly to a vision devoid of moral purpose.”

So apparently, the fact that Beinart is “drawing on the universalist language of equality, dignity, and justice” – i.e. the rhetoric he employs – is enough to make his vision “much more morally compelling than the two-state solution could ever hope to be.”

Well, I can’t quite see how a cause that has a goal that is not moral suddenly becomes moral because it’s cleverly packaged in virtue-signaling rhetoric. 

Beinart’s argument is essentially that Israel has to be done away with as a Jewish state because that is the only way to alleviate Palestinian suffering. As it happens, Beinart’s call comes on the 20th anniversary of the Camp David Summit, when a US president and Israel’s government desperately tried for two weeks to cajole the Palestinians into accepting a state of their own on most of the West Bank, Gaza, and in parts of East Jerusalem. Soon afterwards – and while negotiations were still going on – the Palestinians unleashed the murderous Al-Aqsa intifada.

Five years later, Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza; and in 2008, Israel offered the Palestinians once again a state based on even more far-reaching Israeli concessions – but the Palestinian leadership again declined. As Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would tell The Washington Post in 2009, there was no rush because “in the West Bank we have a good reality.… The people are living a normal life.”

Like every anti-Israel activist who campaigns for doing away with the Jewish state for the sake of the Palestinians, Beinart downplays and whitewashes Palestinian terrorism while demonizing Israel as a monstrous evil whose existence inevitably means cruel oppression for the Palestinians. One example from the podcast is Beinart’s preposterous claim that “mass population expulsion … is after all in Israel’s political DNA” (after 42 minute mark).

There’s a term for this kind of demonization: antisemitic anti-Zionism – and the British academic Alan Johnson once provided an excellent definition:

“Antisemitic anti-Zionism bends the meaning of Israel and Zionism out of shape until both become fit receptacles for the tropes, images and ideas of classical antisemitism. In short, that which the demonological Jew once was, demonological Israel now is: uniquely malevolent, full of blood lust, all-controlling, the hidden hand, tricksy, always acting in bad faith, the obstacle to a better, purer, more spiritual world, uniquely deserving of punishment, and so on.”

Ten years ago, Peter Beinart might well have agreed: as he told Jeffrey Goldberg in May 2010:

“There certainly are leftists (and for that matter) rightists who focus so disproportionately on Israel’s failings as to raise questions about their true motives.”

Now, however, Peter Beinart hopes his efforts to mainstream antisemitic anti-Zionism among American leftists will earn him admiration as a moral leader.

5 responses to “There’s nothing moral about Peter Beinart’s ‘Cancel Israel’ project

  1. Elise "Ronan"

    Well Peter has been looking for someone to put him on the golden pedestal for decades. Maybe he finally hit on a formula. Too bad he feels no remorse in sacrificing millions of Jews on the altar of his malignant narcissism.He thinks of himself as some new prophet.

    At a time of heightened worldwide antisemitism, he embraces antisemitic dogma. And of course the leftists thinks he’s great, they can Jew-wash their antisemitism.

    The man is a danger to the well being of the worldwide Jewish community.

  2. This is apt comment on Beinart and his essay. I’ve noticed that Beinart is far more interested in the reactions to his essay from Jewish Americans than he is from Israelis and Palestinians.

  3. It is sobering that there are people who follow these kind of people, that seem so idealist but are actually trying to attract as many people as possible, no matter what, no matter who, for their own benefit.

  4. Pingback: 07/21 Links Pt1: Lyn Julius: The Wisdom of Peter Beinart’s Grandmother; Netherlands admits to paying terrorists who killed 17-year-old Israeli – 24/6 Magazine

  5. Brian Goldfarb

    5 years ago (heavens, doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun!) I joined in the discussion on the Southampton University Conference (eventually cancelled) on the illegitimacy of Israel on the then active EngageOnline website. My stance was that, as a retired academic, the participants in that conference could say what they liked (within the law), where they liked and to whom they liked, BUT whatever else it was, the proposed conference wasn’t an academic conference because it lacked an actual or implicit question in the title. It brooked, by its phrasing (and through the wording of the titles of at least 60% of the papers to be presented), to be a meeting of activists intending to discuss their favour topic: the delegitimisation of Israel. Holding it on academic premises didn’t make it an academic conference.

    I cited a meeting I had been at the previous weekend sponsored by We Believe in Israel which, despite the presence of many current and former academics, presented itself for what it was: a group of activists seeking to learn how to do better what they wished: how to defend the right of Israel to exist.

    Among those present and presenting a paper was Einat Wilf, a former Labor MK and now academic in the US. Her argument was that many (if not most) Palestinians and Arabs refused to recognise that Jews are, collectively, a people, because if they did, they would have to admit that, as a people, Jews have a right to self-determination and, therefore, a land of their own: just what they claimed for Palestinians.

    Peter Beinart would seem to be doing just what many Palestinians do, deny that Jews are a people. If he isn’t, how can he call for a bi-national state that would inevitably result in Jews in what had been Israel becoming Dhimmi? If, that is, they are not expelled or worse.

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