Saturday, May 24, 2014

Being Liberal and Zionist

Sar Shalom

beinartAs he began his campaign to reconsider what it means to support Israel, Peter Beinart described the problem facing the Jewish community thusly, in asking the next generation to sacrifice its liberalism on the altar of Zionism, the next generation instead is sacrificing Zionism on the altar of liberalism. This raises the question of what does Beinart mean by liberalism, and does he mean the same thing by liberalism in both parts of the proposition. As an extreme case, substituting these definitions of liberalism would convert Beinart's statement to this, the establishment is asking the next generation to sacrifice its notion that the Palestinians are humans on the altar of Zionism and instead the next generation is instead sacrificing Zionism on the altar of accepting every claim the Palestinians make in the course of their narrative.

Herein lies the crux of the Zionist-liberal, that is of the leftists who don't come out and claim to be anti-Israel, platform, they conflate recognition of the Palestinians as humans with acceptance of their narrative and the facts they cite to support it, using the same term to describe both.

Beinart probably would deny that liberalism requires accepting the Palestinian narrative without question. However, his actions demonstrate something else. Two examples demonstrate this. One is Beinart's citation for praise of the Israelis protesting the eviction of the al-Kurd and other families in Sheikh Jarrah for what Beinart calls making another plot available for Jewish settlers. Here, Beinart is clearly accepting the Palestinian narrative that the disputed properties in Sheikh Jarrah belong to the al-Kurd and other Arab families. However, this claim can be independently checked. According to Wikipedia, the issue is one of whether or not the Jewish deed from the late 19th century is valid. Further inquiry would show that since 1967, the Israeli courts recognized that the disputed properties in Sheikh Jarrah are owned by Jews, but held that the Arab residents there would be able to retain their residence by paying rent to the owner. However, in the 00's the residents received word that the Jewish ownership deeds were invalid and stopped paying rent. That led to the court case and ultimately the Israeli Supreme Court ruling that the deeds were valid. When the Supreme Court ruled on the ownership of the properties and the tenants continued to withhold rent, they were evicted.

If Beinart want to make the case that the Israeli courts erred in ruling that the Jewish deeds are valid, any facts supporting that claim would be welcome. The issue is that Beinart does not see that the Jewish deeds have to be recognized. Instead he latches onto his frame that Jews are gobbling up land and the investigation into any issue touching on the matter ends when it comes across the first fact consistent with that frame. The issue is Beinart's accepting the Palestinian narrative, and their factual claims supporting it, even when externally verifiable information can be compared against it.

A second area where Beinart accepts the Palestinian narrative irregardless of externally verifiable data concerns Susiya. The issue that Beinart raises in Susiya is that Israel refuses to give the Palestinians permits and then when the Palestinians build in Susiya without the permits that Israel withholds, Israel tears down the structures. What Beinart misses is that Susiya is in a part of Area C not far from Area A where Israel exercises no control over the Palestinians' right to build. Further, aerial photos from 15 years ago show that there was no historical community where the Palestinians are trying to build now. Instead of trying to satisfy their need for housing, which can be done within Area A, or reestablishing an historical community, which doesn't exist, the Palestinians are trying to establish facts on the ground in order to force a change in the border between Area C and Areas B/C.

By all means, we should not let our support for Israel to cause us to forget that the Palestinians are humans. This means that when there are genuine outrages committed by our side, such as "price-tag" attacks committed by Jews (that is, not actions done by the Arabs to frame the Jews), we must condemn the actions. However, we must also be vigilant in not allowing recognition of the Palestinians' humanity to be conflated with accepting every claim they make. Given their pattern of disingenuousness, both in terms of presenting details that did not happen and of obscuring details that would change a reasonable person's understanding, we should press that Palestinian allegations not be automatically accepted at face value.


  1. Beinart's conundrum is clear. How does he work for antisemites and murderous loons while convincing a large number of liberals, that he doesn't?

    But the silly point is that he worries about convincing people who already agree with him or don't care. Over and over again we're confronted by people who love antisemitic terrorists not in spite of what they do, but because of what they do. Beinart and company are in that camp. So all they're accomplishing is telling one another smugly how smart they are for 'fooling all of us.

    But they're not fooling anyone. They're simply playing to an audience who already hates Jews as much as they do.

  2. As a liberal, a Zionist, and an American Democrat on the Urban Labor Union end of the party, I really don't understand the 'dilemma' allegedly facing people like Beinart.

    I'm assuming he's also a liberal, a Zionist, and a Democrat.

    Whatever sparked his recent 'reconsideration' of what it means to support Israel, I have to admit that it seems inexplicable to me.

    Israel is a tiny democracy under constant racist siege by its much larger neighbors, and has repeatedly begged the Palestinian-Arabs to accept a country of their own, all such offers of which have been met with suicide bombers and being spit in the face.

    Sometimes bad things are done in the name of Israel. Show me one country in the world of which this is not true, though?

    There is no conflict whatsoever between being a classic liberal and supporting Israel. Though as has been noted at this site numerous times, there very well may be a conflict presented to progressives, as distinct from liberals (the two terms are not interchangeable, I'd argue), since the latter group has clearly decided that 'multiculturalism' trumps universal human rights, and that it is not their place to 'judge' certain other cultures, even if those cultures are blatantly, and proudly, racist and sexist and homophobic and etc etc etc...

    Anyway, re: the title of your piece, it's not a hard trick. It comes naturally to me, personally, in fact.

  3. Sar does an excellent job outlining a problem that we've developed in recent years among the Jewish left.

    The dilemma is that, on the one hand, as Sar affirms, Beinart has accepted the Palestinian-Arab "narrative" of near perfect victimhood at the hands of Jewish malice. However, on the other hand he wish to support Israel.

    But if Israel is as immoral as the Arabs tell us it is - as opposed to those human rights Shangrila's like Syria and Egypt - then what Jew in good conscious could support it?

    Ultimately, the work of people like Beinart, as well as Harris-Gershon, serves to undermine the safety and well-being of Jews throughout the world because their writings justify violence against us and provokes hatred for the Jewish state.

    The phrase "useful idiot" immediately leaps to mind, but ultimately, so long as we continue to discuss the conflict in terms invented by our enemies, then we are all useful idiots.

    Every time one of us uses the Jordanian term "West Bank" to mean Judea and Samaria, a useful idiot gets his wings.

  4. The word "Kapo," comes to mind in explanation of the phenomena.

    1. Are you referring to this Stephen Wise ( or someone else with the same name?

  5. Two things. One, the name "Sar Shalom" is a single two-word name as opposed to two separate names. If you want to shorten it, Shalom is the better abbreviation.

    More substantively, it is possible to overstate the case I made. If the items Beinart raises were accurate portrayals of what Israel is doing, then pressing Israel to change them would be a worthwhile endeavor. The issue is accepting the Palestinians' frame of the events without verifying that their frame does not omit any crucial facts.

    The problem with labeling Beinart as a "useful idiot" who serves to "undermined the safety and well-being of Jews" is that he would respond that the truth should be obscured just to protect some group of people. The response we need is that we are the ones who are fighting for the truth, even when it contradicts what longheld beliefs. What we have to do is raise awareness of Pallywood. This does not mean dismissing every Palestinian claim as a lie, rather, it means fisking their claims so that they do not get automatically accepted.

    1. I tend to agree. He's not an idiot. He's an enemy. Irgun or Lehi would have put him down, in that time and place.