The first is that he is a “liberal Zionist” which, by some definitions, means he is just as indifferent to Palestinian rights as a rightwing Zionist. He believes in the idea and reality of a Jewish state and is primarily motivated by his sense of urgency about preserving it. He also does not support the right to return to Israel of all the Palestinian refugees (dating back to 1947) and their millions of descendants, viewing full return as a means to ending Israel’s existence. And, worst of all to some on the left, Beinart favors the so-called “two-state solution” which, although repeatedly thwarted primarily by settler-supporting Israeli governments, Beinart sees as the only means to achieve a solution fair to both peoples.
The second source of complaint (fury, actually) emanates from the “pro-Israel” right and its intensity dwarfs the criticism of those who attack from the left. The anti-Zionists primarily view Beinart as misguided and naïve, still a prisoner of the Zionist ideology on which he was raised. The “pro-Israel” right (and that includes virtually the entire “pro-Israel” establishment) views Beinart as evil, as a traitor and, as ridiculous as this sounds, an enemy of the Jewish people. No matter, that his goal is a secure Israel living side by side next to a secure Palestine. No matter that his love for Israel suffuses his entire book or that he is an observant Jew. For the “pro-Israel” right, Beinart is the enemy.
Understanding the right’s feelings about Beinart may be more the job of a psychologist than a pundit because it is so irrational that it cannot be addressed merely by citing facts. It is a mark of how crazy the debate over Israel has become in this country that it exceeds anything that goes on in Israel, which itself has more than its fair share of right-wingers.
For instance, take a look at this video from the top-rated Israeli show Big Brother, a television reality show in which a group of young people move into an apartment and live their lives on camera. These shows are popular worldwide but the brilliant exposition of the evils of the occupation that one character made on the Israeli show last week is unimaginable here. (U.S. reality shows avoid politics like the plague. But this is Israel).