Peter Beinart’s liberal Zionist fantasy

In a review of Peter Beinart’s The Crisis of Zionism, Mark LeVine writes: Its criticism is far too narrow and timid, while its proffered solution – a focus on settlements and more vigorous support for a two-state solution – is at least a decade out of date. It is almost entirely unrelated to the realities on the ground, which have rendered the creation of a territorially and economically viable Palestinian state a pipe dream.

The problems with Beinart’s argument are almost all apparent in the first few pages of the book; indeed in its first lines. He begins by declaring: “I believe the Jewish people deserve a state dedicated to their protection in their historic homeland, something enjoyed by many peoples who have suffered far less. As a partisan of liberal democracy I believe that a Jewish state must offer equal citizenship to all its inhabitants.”

Putting aside that there are other kinds of political arrangements that could guarantee Jews “protection” in their homeland besides the exclusivist Zionist one, the simple fact is that a Zionist state cannot offer “equal citizenship” to all its citizins, since the whole point of being a Zionist state is that in crucial areas it gives institutionalised preference to Jews, at the inevitable expense of non-Jewish citizens. If it didn’t give preference to Jews then it wouldn’t be a “Jewish” state in any politically meaningful sense; it would just be a democracy.

Indeed, however laudable Beinart’s desire for Israel to behave “in the spirit of [the Rabbinic sage] Hillel” and “not do to others what Jews found hateful when done to them”, it is a century too late. Israel, like every other settler society, could only have been born out of doing things to the country’s indigenous inhabitants that they certainly would not have wanted done to them.

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3 thoughts on “Peter Beinart’s liberal Zionist fantasy

  1. delia ruhe

    All true, of course, but says little about Beinart’s audience–the huge silent majority of American Jews–and whether Beinart’s argument is likely to have an impact on them. It seems to me that American Jews should be concerned about how their children and grandchildren are responding to the IP predicament.

    Not until the rest of America hears from that silent majority will we see members of Congress break ranks with American Likudniks and speak out against Washington’s outrageous military and economic support of the occupation.

  2. rosemerry

    Despite being accepted and prospering in most non-Muslim nations (and in some Muslim ones as well), Jews seem to have forgotten that the Nazis were defeated and that they are citizens with full rights in many lands, contributing to their cultures. Why a special land for Jews now? Why in a land already populated with Palestinians, via the claim to be semitic people? Why a refusal to keep inside generous designated borders acceptable to Muslim nations and groups, even Hezbollah and Hamas (Arab peace Plan 2002)? Israel cannot behave like this and expect nrmal humans to accept it. The USA and its “allies” do not represent the majority of the globe, and this situation is untenable in a peaceful world, which the USI seem determined to avoid.

  3. DE Teodoru

    You see, you see. Here’s all the Zionism 0.5 solution. Zionism 1.0 is really two things:
    (1) ALL JEWS must move to the HOMELAND!
    (2) The borders of the HOMELAND go far, far beyond the West Bank. That’s why so many Arabs seemingly so far away are so worked up about Israeli expansion. WE WOULD HAVE SEEN A LOT MORE EXPANSION WERE IT NOT FOR THE FACT THAT 75% of WORLD JEWRY FEELS JEWISH BUT *NOT* ZIONIST.

    Beinart is and has always been a fraud!

    He should be debating Jews, not 200% Zionists while he’s a 50% Zionist….that’s like walking around with half a body– it’s non-viable, like all soft Zionism because that violates the PRIME TENET of ZIONISM. Both his books are obfuscations and collaborators, not clarifications. Israel– as it told Apartheid South Africa– is RACIST. It considers Judaism a religion, a people, and secretly swore brotherhood to Apartheid South Africa. So much so that they built a nuclear bomb TOGETHER!

    Jews are people of a faith, not a people– that’s a myth!

    Jews are among the best of “US,” they are not a “THEM”!

    Israel is a nation of Israelis, most of whom abandoned the Jewish religion and are secular, the Haredi notwithstanding. That’s why Beinart never debated a Jew independent of Israel. He’s a Jew, NOT an Israeli!

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