Peter Beinart vs. the ADL

From the New York Review of Books:

Abraham H. Foxman:

Peter Beinart offers a conveniently impressionistic view of the American Jewish community to frame his critique of Israeli policy trends. He should know better than to fall into the trap of generalizing about the Jewish state without giving proper context for what is going on.

He sees an Israel that is clearly moving to the right, that has less regard for the “other,” no matter who that may be, and that is unwilling to take seriously efforts toward peace. Beinart seems to be suffering from the same problems we have seen in the Obama administration, ignoring what Israel has gone through over the last decade and thereby misreading what Israelis are thinking today.

Israelis, to a large extent, and this is shared by many in the American Jewish community (another of Beinart’s targets), feel frustrated that all their efforts toward changing the dynamic have been met with rejection and/or violence. Most Israelis understand that continuing to sit in the West Bank is not good ScreenHunter_02 May. 29 11.41 for the country. So at Camp David in 2000 they tried a solution of ending the conflict, which included withdrawing from 90 percent of the territories and eliminating the majority of settlements. They got a big no and suicide bombs…

Peter Beinart:

Abraham Foxman’s letter illustrates the problem my essay tries to describe: an American Jewish leadership that publicly defends the Israeli government, any Israeli government, rather than defending Israeli democracy, even when the former menaces the latter.

Obviously, as Foxman suggests, the Palestinians are not blameless. Yasser Arafat deserves history’s scorn for not responding more courageously to the chances for peace at Camp David and the much better ones put forward by Clinton in December 2000. And the election of Hamas was a tragedy, for both Israel and the Palestinians. But to suggest that Palestinian and Arab behavior fully explains the growing authoritarian, even racist, tendencies in Israeli politics is to don a moral blindfold, a blindfold that most young American Jews, to their credit, will not wear.

Firstly, Palestinian rejectionism cannot explain Avigdor Lieberman’s crusade to humiliate, disenfranchise, and perhaps even eventually expel Arab Israelis, the vast majority of whom want nothing more than to be accepted as equal citizens in the country of their birth. Lieberman is not a marginal figure. He was Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff; he heads Israel’s third-largest party; he serves as foreign minister; and when Israel held mock elections in ten high schools last year, he won.

Nor are his views marginal. In 2008, in a poll cited by Yediot Ahronot, 40 percent of Jewish Israelis did not believe that Arab Israelis should be allowed to vote. Among Jewish Israeli high school students surveyed this March, the figure was 56 percent…

More here.