Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Tale Of Two Zionisms

What’s been lost in the controversy over Peter Beinart's provocative book, The Crisis of Zionism, is the movement that actually built the country: the Hebrew cultural revolution that aimed to modernize Judaism in the wake of the Haskalah, attracting young pioneers to Palestine, then Israel, while most seeking refuge went to America; the Zionism whose historic foil was rabbinic orthodoxy, not—or not mainly—anti-Semites.

I have just written a lengthy review essay in The Nation that takes up Beinart’s book in this context. Think of it as an appeal to understand what Zionism was about--and the political innovations it may yet open up--from the point of view of Israeli progressives, not just American ones.

It is hard, even for many Israelis, to witness the unfolding occupation, or watch the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu throw its weight around, or hear the ways Netanyahu justifies the Jewish state, and not wonder what Zionism really was—and whether, if he’s the face of it, the world might have been better off without it. It is also hard for many Americans to watch Netanyahu try to force President Obama’s hand on Iran by threatening unilateral action that would destabilize America’s global position—with a brazenness much like Bibi’s pal Eric Cantor when he tried to force Obama’s hand on the debt ceiling—and not wonder if Israel’s present government and its lobby are as extortive of America’s politicians as the banks, another instance of the tail gracelessly wagging the dog.

In such a climate, the apparent conversion of Peter Beinart—formerly the editor of Martin Peretz’s echt-Zionist New Republic, now an opponent of the espoused Zionism of American Jewish organizations—was bound to make the publication of his new book, The Crisis of Zionism, a polarizing event. Ever since it appeared in March, a great many American Jewish leaders and public intellectuals have taken sides. “One positive thing you can say about Peter Beinart’s critics,” J.J. Goldberg wrote in the Forward, “is that none of them has smacked him in the face with a rifle butt.” Even Daniel Gordis, who accused Beinart in the Jerusalem Post of indulging in an “Israel-bashing-fest,” admitted that the discussion “is no longer a conversation about what Beinart wrote.”

Beinart’s shifts in reputation have become so much of the drama surrounding his book, in fact, that many have overlooked what a sharp and ambitious polemic he’s written. Over its several hundred pages, The Crisis of Zionism refutes the following claims: that keeping faith with the victims of anti-Semitism means viewing Jewish political power through the lens of the Holocaust; that Israel’s legal substructure guarantees the state’s democratic character; that holding the West Bank improves Israel’s security; that observers of Jewish festivals necessarily derive humanist ideals from them; that Israel’s occupation cannot become something akin to apartheid; that Israelis have, despite the ongoing conflict, managed to avoid becoming racist; that Palestine’s Fatah leaders are mostly responsible for the breakdown of the Oslo Accords; that Hamas is more committed to Israel’s destruction than to the establishment of a Palestinian state; that settlements have not been the main obstacle to peace; that Netanyahu embodies the mainstream of historic Zionism; that Netanyahu and other leaders of the Likud have held back Palestinian rights more out of pragmatism than strident ideology; that President Obama is skeptical of Israel and unsympathetic to American Jews; that Obama was wrong to press for a freeze on settlements early in his administration; and that Israel’s Islamic neighbors, such as Turkey and Egypt, would be hostile to Israel irrespective of what Israel does with the Palestinians.

The Crisis of Zionism aims even more powerful demurrals at American Jewish groups like the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), all largely responsible for making the roster of claims cited above a catechism for congressional briefings. Though Beinart has much to say about the way Israeli governments have conducted themselves over the years, his true targets are the leaders of these American Jewish organizations. He fiercely rejects their allegations that Jews who publicly criticize Israel’s structure and direction, or the current Israeli government, “delegitimize” the state. He is a respectful, indeed a more or less “observant” Jew. He is content to mine Halacha—Jewish law, disciplined study, liturgy, ritual, music—for its contribution to universalist and open-spirited precepts. But he takes pains to distance himself from communities of the “Modern Orthodox” upon whom these organizations increasingly depend.

All in all, Beinart’s expansive arguments have a circumscribed goal: to discredit the political forces that impede a two-state solution. Beinart’s underlying passion is American liberalism, and so the ideology of the Modern Orthodox constitutes his fattest target. The idea that scriptural wisdom and the strict observance of commandments make a Jew “good” drives him nuts, sort of the way it drove freethinking Jews to shrimp, or indeed to Zionism, in the nineteenth century. But one wisdom received these days has political significance, and it is a measure of how much the meaning of “Zionist” has changed since then. Beinart concedes the creativity of many Jews drawn to Halacha, especially in innovating prayer or expounding critically on the Torah. But the Modern Orthodox are, along with their version of Zionism, self-segregating and a little too attracted to Jewish pathos, which the great historian Salo Baron called the “lachrymose” conception of Jewish history. They are thus temperamentally and ideologically connected to the settlement movement, even willing to join forces with American evangelicals to protect the status quo of occupation. Above all, they have a cavalier regard for liberal civil society in Israel, the very kind of society that has allowed Jews to thrive in America.

Only about 11 percent of American Jews attend synagogue every week and may be inferred to gravitate to Orthodoxy, “modern” or otherwise, but their numbers are growing, as is their alienation from the more amorphous and liberal Jewish majority. Their self-enclosed and rigidly “pro-Israel” (that is, pro-Likud) attitudes are a kind of “demographic problem” in America. “Not long ago, the phrase ‘Orthodox Jew’ conjured an elderly man with a Yiddish accent. Today it conjures a young family pushing a stroller,” Beinart writes. Meanwhile, the major Jewish organizations in question (“Has anyone ever heard of a minor one?” Abba Eban once quipped) have been failing to reflect the values of mainstream American Jews—who, for example, still poll at least two to one in favor of Obama, and even favor a more activist peace process in which the United States might apply pressure on both sides to come to terms.

Read on in The Nation


Shoded Yam said...

"...a little too attracted to Jewish pathos, which the great historian Salo Baron called the “lachrymose” conception of Jewish history"

Try the cynical use of victimhood to further greed and justify the racism that would present itself as "judaism"

Mitchell J. Freedman said...

Professor, outstanding article! You have identified the strains that are now tearing at each other in ways that portend great trouble for the Jewish State. I have been seeing the past several years a strong move away from the two state solution by the Likudniks in the US, though only now are they willing to recognize that is the meaning of their rhetoric against Obama. They hate Obama for endorsing a two state solution and now use the nomenclature of "anti-Israel" which serves to obscure their own extremism.

Potter said...

It was a relief that Beinart took this on so bravely and did it so well; his moral sense, intelligence and ability to articulate comes through. American Jews concerned about Israeli security and the meaning of Judaism should have to answer for their positions.

Me, I have been "driven to shrimp" by just this notion that strict observance makes a good Jew... to put it simply.

BA: I can’t help but feel that the most remarkable achievement of historic Zionism is elided by this very American framing of Zionism’s old debates. Indeed, what’s missing is the very revolution for which many of us came to Israel in our youth. Missing also is a crucial conceptual pivot.

The sorting out of the different strains of Zionism in this article clarifies, or begins to clarify, the differences between Herzl Jabotinsky and Ha'am and Weizmann. This makes me feel I should get back to Weizmann's autobiography, "Trial and Error" too.

Thank you for this article.

Dan Kelso said...

More lies by Bernard.
Like Germans, Palestinians indoctrinated with notion that Jews are not human
Since 2001, there were more than 150 homicide bombing attacks against Israeli civilians and another 500 which were stopped by Israeli troops.
The result was 1557 murder victims and 17,000 maimed Israelis for life.
No less than 84% of the Palestinians supported the Mercaz Harav yeshiva massacre in 08 in Jerusalem.
You can read about this here.

This shows more and more the Palestinians have no humanity.
They slaughter Israeli civilians on buses, shopping centers, disco's, pizzeria's, hotels, holocaust survivors celebrating Passover.
Jews are commonly referred to as pigs and apes by the Pals.
Streets in Gaza and Ramallah are named after homicide bombers who tear life from the defenseless Jews to implement the Arabs murderous plans.

Never forget.
Dolphinarium disco massacre, 2001
Sbarro pizzeria massacre, 2001
Passover suicide bombing, 2002
Matza restaurant massacre, 2002
Jerusalem bus 20 massacre, 2002
Jerusalem bus 2 massacre, 2003
Maxim restaurant suicide bombing, 2003
Jerusalem bus 19 massacre, 2004
Mercaz HaRav school massacre, 2008

Dan Kelso said...

Bernard, you have repeatedly run Israel-bashing pieces, because Israel has the nerve to try to protect its children and other civilians from the Palestinian terrorists who blow up buses, disco’s, shopping centers and otherwise carry out mass atrocities.

The so called “suffering of the Palestinian people”. They chose the path they are on when they launched their terrorist campaign in 2000. They must walk down that path.
3 times in the last 12 years Israel offered the Pals a state, even though no state called Palestine existed in history.
Israel`s hands are clean. All it has done it protect its people from the
Pal murderers who hide in amongst their own civilian population.

Bernard believes the world should support the Pals who build bomb factories inside apartment buildings, or strap bomb belts to retarded and disturbed teens, or make promises of 72 virgins to repressed adolecents, bomb supermarkets, or blow up school children while they are watching a play.

The routine mass-murders and crimes committed by the Palestinians only decreased significantly when Israel goes in Judea and Samaria and started destroying the houses of suicide bombers and of terrorists operatives, and killing the terrorist leaders.
Proving that these are effective steps.
One only needs to ask, which side blows up buses full of children and which side targets ringleaders and masterminds?

Dan Kelso said...

Bernard believes you can make peace with Arabs who want to anihilate you.
Even with Barak and Olmert trying go give away Israel and its Capital, that wasn't good enough for the greedy Arabs.
Why, this should answer that question.

Just google any of these stories.

World forgot Israel’s 9/11
Op-ed: Italian journalist says world should be ashamed for forgetting Israeli terror victims
Giulio Meotti Published: 09.08.11

Female Palestinian terrorist does not regret murder of 15 civilians at Sbarro pizza shop that she planned.
Oct 23, 2011

Ahlam Tamimi was happy to learn that 8 Israeli children were murdered at the Sbarros terrorist attack in 2001 instead of the 3 children she thought originally.
Read her interview. Again i ask Josef Avesar, do the Palestinians have a conscience?

PA Religious Official Publicly Calls for Genocide of Jews
PA’s principal religious leader presents the killing of Jews by Muslims as a religious Islamic goal.
Elad Benari

Hamas celebrates 10th anniversary of Netanya Passover massacre
March 27, 2012

Maybe I missed it, but I don’t recall seeing any Arabs protesting against this attack, or writing anguished op-eds about how a fellow Muslim could have done such a thing. No Arab groups popped up on college campuses calling for solidarity with Jews against terror. There were no UN resolutions condemning the massacre.
But there was a PA-sponsored soccer tournament in Tulkarem named after the suicide bomber.

73% of Palestinians Believe Jews Should Be Killed Wherever They Hide
Jim Hoft
July 16, 2011,

Abbas honors terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, killer of 37
This week Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas once again honored the memory of the terrorist Dalal Mughrabi – this time by sponsoring a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of her birth. Mughrabi led the worst terror attack in Israel’s history in 1978, when she and other terrorists hijacked a bus and killed 37 civilians. Present at the ceremony were Palestinian dignitaries and a children’s marching band. Earlier this year, Abbas sponsored a computer center named after Mughrabi.
The PA further glorified Mughrabi on the date of her birth when the Governor of Ramallah announced the naming of the “Dalal Mughrabi Square”.

Abbas honors mastermind of Munich Olympics massacre
Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
July 6, 2010

PA TV honors Sbarro pizza shop terrorists
Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
Sept. 4, 2011
PA TV host sends “best wishes” to “our glorious” prisoner who transported suicide bomber to attack that killed 15, including 7 children.
These are the sadists that the left supports.

Hamas Advisor: Israel Must Disappear
Kana'an 'Obeid, an advisor to Hamas, calls on the movement to disconnect itself from the PLO and declare that Israel must disappear.
Elad Benari

Here's what Obeid said.
"Hamas must declare that it was formed to eliminate the state of Israel, and that Israel is an entity that must disappear,” he continued. “[Hamas] should declare that its political, military, and social plan is the liberation of all the land by means of resistance, and that the West bears the burden of [responsibility for] this aberrant entity [Israel]. This plan is Hamas' gateway to the Arab and Islamic world. We must present this to the West, so that it decides to stop backing Israel and realizes that it has made a mistake and must rectify it.

Dan Kelso said...

How does Bernard support these racist Palestinian settler murderers?

PA continues to teach denial of Israel's existence
Oct 5, 2010
Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
Last week, PA TV rebroadcast an educational documentary that has been broadcast numerous times since 2007. The documentary describes the Israeli cities of Haifa, Acre, Ashkelon, Jaffa and the Sea of Galilee as Palestinian.

PA Historian & Official Deny Israel's History in Land of Israel
An Arab PA historian and a senior PLO official have denied that the Jewish nation has any historical connection to the Land of Israel.
Yoni Kempinski

PA TV: Western Wall area to be turned into Arab housing neighborhood.
Palestinian Authority TV:
Western Wall area to be turned into Arab housing neighborhood -Jewish presence in Jerusalem will be erased from history.
Aug. 17, 2011

Hamas MP: A Palestinian Who Kills One Jew Will Be Rewarded As If He Killed 30 Million

Hamas Cleric Calls for Extermination of Jews
Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
April 19, 2009

The PA is poisoning its children against Israel
Karni Eldad/

Hamas celebrates anniversary of Haifa restaurant bombing
April 01, 2012

Hamas newspaper Palestine Times has a featured article celebrating the ten year anniversary of the bombing of the Arab-owned Matza restaurant in Haifa, that killed 16 Israeli civilians. The article includes photos of the bomber as well as of the devastation to the restaurant, whose roof collapsed from the force of the explosion.

Following the murderous terrorist attack on Kibbutz Metzer in 2002, the PLO cold-bloodedly stated on its official website, "We will continue to strike in any place, targeting their children as well." Five innocent Israelis, including a mother and her two little boys, were butchered in that attack, all of them, Fatah said, "Zionist colonizers" killed in a "qualitative operation in the settlement of Metzer."

Here's how the official Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Hayat al-Jadida headlined its coverage: "Five Israelis killed in an attack on the settlement Metzer." The report continued, "A Palestinian infiltrated the settlement Metzer and opened fire on the settlers." It is not well known that the Palestinian press frequently refers to towns in Israel, such as Holon and Kiryat Shmona, as "settlements." Besides implying that all of Israel is an illegitimate colonial outpost, such references clearly are brought to justify the killings and distinguish them from terrorism.

Dan Kelso said...

After the Tel Aviv massacre on January 12th 2003, where 2 Palestinian homicide bombers massacred 23 Israeli civilians. The PLO web site posted a statement -- celebrating the attacks:
"With faith in the calling of holy jihad," it said, "two suicide attackers . . . succeeded this evening to infiltrate the Zionist roadblocks and to enter the heart of . . . Tel Aviv and carried out two consecutive suicide attacks... These suicide attacks caused a large number of fatalities and casualties in the center of the Zionist occupation of our land. We swear before our people that additional suicide operations will occur."
That is a view with which much of Arab opinion concurs., for example, datelined its story on the Tel Aviv attack "Palestine-Israel," and reported that the bombings had killed "23 Israeli settlers."

One day after the Ramallah lynching of two Israelis, Ahmad Abu Halabiya, a member of the PA-appointed Fatwa Council, called on listeners to find and butcher Jews “no matter where they are, in any country. Fight them, wherever you are. Wherever you meet them, kill them.”

Manly Palestinian Arab hero who murdered little old Jewish ladies at Passover massacre.

Fogel Baby-Stabber ‘Proud of What I Did’
Hakim Awad and Amjad Awad happy about Fogel massacre.

Hamas Foreign Minister “Zahar:”After we defeat the Zionists we will persecute them… we will persecute them to eternity”
May 14, 08

Sheikh Muhammed Siyam, a Hamas military leader.
“I’ve been told to restrict or restrain what I say. . . . I hope no one is recording me or taking any pictures, as none are allowed . . . because I’m going to speak the truth to you,” Siyam reportedly said at the conference. “It’s simple. Finish off the Israelis. Kill them all! Exterminate them! No peace ever! Do not bother to talk politics.”

Full destruction of Israel is “the only red line” 8/25/11
A cartoon in the official PA daily newspaper Al Hayat al Jadida:
As PMW writes:
The Palestinian Authority is telling its people that peace with Israel is not a goal. Instead, the PA says that all of Israel is “Palestine,” and that no compromise is acceptable because this principle is “the only red line.” This message was expressed by the regular cartoonist, Muhammad Sabaaneh, in the official PA daily.
Nothing gets printed in Al Hayat al Jadida if it is not approved by the PLO and its subsidiary the Palestinian Authority. And the PLO logo has a very similar map:

One week after the Dolphinarium bombing on June 1, 2001 in Tel Aviv in which 21 people, mainly young girls, were killed, PA television carried the sermon of Sheik Ibrahim Al-Madhi. He said: “Blessings to whoever waged Jihad for the sake of Allah; blessings to whoever raided for the sake of Allah; blessings to whoever put a belt of explosives on his body or on his sons’ and plunged into the midst of the Jews, crying ‘Allahu Akbar…’

Ahmed Qurei says Israel has no history in Jerusalem. Jewish Temples never existed, and Israel has been working to “invent” a Jewish connection to Jerusalem

Dr. Muhammad Ibrahim Madi, a Palestinian Authority religious leader: “We will blow them up in Hadera, we will blow them up in Tel-Aviv”
“We will blow them up in Hadera, we will blow them up in Tel-Aviv and in Netanya… We will fight against them and rule over them until the Jew will hide behind the trees and stones and the tree and stone will say: ‘Moslem! Servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, kill him’. We will enter Jerusalem as conquerors, and Jaffa as conquerors, and Haifa as conquerors and Ashkelon as conquerors….”
[Preacher Dr. Muhammad Ibrahim Madi, PATV, 3 August 2001