Identity, Israel, Politics

Peter Beinart vs. the AIPAC worldview

Peter Beinart is still on his (incredibly polite but) hard-hitting crusade against the Jewish establishment’s lockstep on Israel. First on the NY Review of Books, then, now NPR with Brooke Gladstone. In this 12-minute clip, he politely brushes aside the “self-perpetuating victimization” of Steven Rosen, a 23-year AIPAC senior staffer, and the charge of being anti-Israel for criticizing the Jewish state. Full transcript at NPR, but worth listening to all 12 minutes.

24 thoughts on “Peter Beinart vs. the AIPAC worldview

  1. Here’s some email that I received from the Rabbi of my congregation when I tried to rebut his claim that the IDF found guns on board the Mavi Marmara (other than the two that were taken off IDF soldiers:
    “I said bullets were found not of the caliber of Israeli weapons. [ed: No, he said guns] It is clear a couple of guns were lifted off commandos. I don’t see what bullets and iron bars have to do with a humanitarian flotilla. Arguments to the contrary are really disingenuous because the real goal of the flotillas and of the Turkish government are obvious. However, your comments previously about this being a “generational” thing and about Israelis seeing Arabs as non-human make me believe that you do not have as your interest objective inquiry, but rather an accusatory agenda bounded by pre-conceived ideas. So I am hard-pressed to see the value of continuing this discussion.”

  2. Your Rabbi seems spot on. He shouldn’t be having this conversation with you, but not because you have preconceived ideas, though you do, but because pro-Israel advocacy is not his job.
    As for Peter Beinart, who the hell is this guy and where the hell did he come from? He was a nobody until he started throwing accusations against the jewish community based on his wideranging lack of of understanding of Israel. Is that how you get ahead in America today? Criticize Jews and Israel?

  3. My main preconceived idea is that Western democracies ought to be based on the notion of equality, and to actively strive to correct injustice rather than fostering it. I’m not sure that’s a bad preconceived idea to have.
    I’m curious about your other comment tho. Do other people’s rabbis not lobby like mine? Israel’s military might is the thing he gets the most excited about.

  4. your rabbi is spreading misinformation he probably believes. I have found no info that says bullets were found. Turkish bulletproof vests, slingshots and rocks, metal rods and the electric saws used to saw them off the deck, knives, night vision goggles/binoculars. I don’t know where he gets that there were bullets. That he doesn’t want to continue the conversation with you, well, in my opinion as a very-soon-to-be rabbi… A rabbi should ALWAYS engage a congregant on any issue as long as the privacy and respect of all individuals is maintained. He should never seek to silence you or end debate. It’s sad to me that he would just because he doesn’t like your opinion. but, well, there’s a pattern in our community when it comes to that…

  5. Israel is neither Western nor democratic! Israel is a 4th-world quasi-democratic quasi-theocracy set up to further the interests of the handful of families that comprise it’s real oligarchy and the needs of global captialism at large. The occupation serves, not as a security measure, or even the attempt of realizing some grandiose but maniacal “Greater Israel”, but to perpetually distract the Jewish citizens of Israel from their oppression by the oligarchy.

  6. A good Rabbi has no business expressing his opinion on anything unrelated to his job description. Jamie, so I suppose you want Israeli Arabs to serve in the Army, then? That’s the only point of structural inequality them and their Jewish peers.

  7. Anonymouse, if you believe that I think you need to spend some more time with Arab Israelis… there is inequality across the board from pay scale/job opportunity to the affiliation with national symbolism. it is a two(or more) tiered system with different standards for different citizens. Or as my friend Habib put it, “Israel is a democratic state for Jews and a Jewish state for Arabs.”

  8. All the issues Justin and KFJ raise are irrelevant to Jaime’s accusations. There are social problems and inequalities in Israeli society, as in all societies, but they do not indicate structural inequality, like apartheid or American segregation laws once were.
    The earning power of black Americans is greatly below that of white Americans. Is that apartheid? Minority immigrant French urban areas receive fewer public services, and of lower quality, than native French areas. Is that a lack of democracy?
    There is no law that says that Arab Israeli villages should receive 1/12th the funding of Jewish villages. There is also no law that stipulates that every villages must receive equal funds. There are rules by which villages are apportioned funds. Maybe Arab Israeli villages without a master plan cannot qualify for certain government funding. Maybe Arab Israeli political parties are simply ineffective in joining governing coalitions that will improve the lot of Arab-Israeli constituents. This is not structural inequality, it is politics, it is bureaucracy, it is normal life in a normal, democratic country. Claiming otherwise is ignorant at best.
    The only structural inequality is that Israeli Arabs are not drafted into the Army, by law, and Jewish Israelis are. Is any of you urging that all Israelis, including Arabs, be drafted together? Let’s remove the last bastion of structural inequality in Israeli society, right?
    And yes, Justin, Arab residents of Jerusalem CAN vote in Israeli municipal elections. They can also file to become Israeli citizens, whenever they wish, but very few do so. If you remember, one of the contenders for Mayor of Jerusalem campaigned heavily in Arab areas, and lost.

  9. Israel’s flag and national anthem, which democratically reflect the identity of the vast majority of its citizens, do not disadvantage the opportunities offered to Israel’s many citizens. An Israeli Arab, just as an Israeli Jew, could become Israel’s Prime Minister or the head of Google Israel, or even a charity case that plays the violin for change on the street.
    Until someone shows that these three options are not structurally permitted to Israeli Arabs, by force of law, then you have no case against Israel’s vibrant, and representative democracy.

  10. Anonymouse, I can’t tell if you really believe this or not. The structural inequality has been more severe in the past, as expressed by differences between social security payments between Jews and Arabs. But there is more – much more.
    First we have laws that discriminate based upon ethnicity for immigration, citizenship and family unification status. If an Arab woman leaves Israel, gets married and has children, those children are not entitled to citizenship as they would be for a Jewish Israeli.
    Then we have land ownership. Large parts of (formerly state owned land) are under the control of quango’s – quasi governmental NGO’s like the Jewish Agency or the JNF that will not allow Arabs to purchase or sign long term leases.
    Then we have allocation of directorships in state/municipality owned corporations. And representation in the higher echelons of the civil service in the ministries, agencies and so on.
    Then you have discrimination when it comes to teaching and educational rights. There is a special unit in the GSS that must approve certain hirings for teachers, principles, etc., and the criteria are political. As in, teachers can be fired despite not having committed or even been accused of a crime.
    Then you have the number of new Arab neighborhoods, villages, cities and industrial zones established by the government. Lots of Jews, close to zero for Arabs. ‘Close to’ as in the major exception is the construction of reservations in the Negev for Bedouins pushed off their lands. The allocation of funds for education for Arab pupils is far less than for Jewish pupils – and Israel, unlike the US, has a national education system and the schools are controlled by ministry officials as opposed to municipal ones.
    Finally, the idea that Israel has Jewish state symbols reflecting the majority, and therefor it is in accordance with democracy, fails a certain kind of test. The test is: are those the symbols of the state, used also by the Jewish people, or the other way around? If they were truly state symbols representing a state deserving of loyalty, then Israeli citizens could define their nationality as ‘Israeli’. But they cannot. This construction makes it impossible for an Arab to fully embrace her country; the country is saying no. Imagine France telling a migrant that they must forever be ‘of Algerian nationality’ and prohibited from becoming truly ‘French.’
    The issue of Army service is kind of a red herring. After all, many Orthodox Jews and Jewish women fail to serve in the Army as well – but they are not denied the rights and allocations due to Israel’s Jews, because they belong to the correct ethnicity.
    In these ways, Israel proper (not mentioning the OT) is indeed guilty of structural racism.

  11. Jew Guevara, the first half of your comment is completely true and fucked up and terrible. But the second half is logically unsound.
    You say:
    A – State symbols are associated with the Jewish people (of course)
    B – It is impossible for an Arab citizen to fully embrace her country (not necessarily)
    C – Israel’s policy is comparable to France telling an Algerian immigrant that she is inherently Algerian forever and can never be French (not the same thing even)
    I’m glad you picked France because it is a country which famously does not bring North African immigrants into its society based on the principle ‘your culture is equally valid and welcome here and you are the Frenchest of the French the minute you legally acquire citizenship’. You know, veil ban, teaching Moliere and not al-Ghazali in schools, etc. In fact, the US is one of the countries in the world which comes nearest to the imaginary ideal type of a government which relates to its citizens without any particular regard to unifying narrative of shared culture and history, and I’m not sure the effects are all nice and liberal.
    Here is a quote from the Canadian Encyclopedia which I believe should give some perspective:
    “Québec created its own Department for Immigration (now called the Department of Cultural Communities and Immigration) in 1968. Its major concerns have been, first, to recruit as many French-speaking immigrants as possible (or immigrants with a good knowledge of French), and second, to ensure that immigrants who settle in Québec form part of the francophone community.”
    Anglo Quebecers are wealthier than Francophones and have nice lives in a safe and secure democracy with a massive number of rights and freedoms ensured by their government. They often do not feel deeply rooted in Quebec, a situation which is not inherently very bad in my opinion.
    Of course in Israel there is a connection between the cultural narrative exclusion issue and the resources and representation issue but they are not the same thing. In principle people using government to promote the self-determination of what they see as their nation is important, often creating societies of greater social solidarity and mutual support.

  12. What I’ve written about Israeli citizenship is not only self evident, it’s accepted as both true and necessary by the majority there, both people and politicians.
    This is why the Israeli right returns to the subject of withdrawing Arab citizenship ‘unless’ they behave. Because it is constructed as less valid that Jewish citizenship.
    Arabs are considered disloyal if they advocate a state in which they are officially equal by every single measure, as this would mean the end of Jewish privilege (Zionism.)

  13. “Québec created its own Department for Immigration (now called the Department of Cultural Communities and Immigration) in 1968. Its major concerns have been, first, to recruit as many French-speaking immigrants as possible (or immigrants with a good knowledge of French), and second, to ensure that immigrants who settle in Québec form part of the francophone community.”
    Sorry for the digression, but I’m just wondering if there is a significant Francophone African population in Quebec. Certainly, that is the logical fulfillment of a policy that looks at language ONLY as a favored criteria.

  14. “There are social problems and inequalities in Israeli society, as in all societies, but they do not indicate structural inequality, like apartheid or American segregation laws once were.”
    *sigh*… Social inequality is often CLOSELY linked with structural inequality. Many times, the structures are hidden, like lending/credit policies.

  15. Who is Peter Beinart? Former Senior Editor of The New Republic.
    Anonymouse, your distinction between social and structural inequality doesn’t make any sense. Social structures (at least in the sociological sense) are not only produced via de jure legislation, but are the result of the aggregate of social practices.

  16. The bottom line is that there is no serious regime of equal protection in Israel. It fails this basic test of liberal democracy. It may be an illiberal democracy, but given the intertwining of liberalism and democracy, I’m not sure that position is morally enable, or even sensible. Israel is a Jewish state, if that means anything it means that the state of Israel privileges Jews. If Israel privileges Jews in no way whatsoever it would not be a Jewish state. Sorry Anonymouse, you cannot have your Jewish-democratic cake and eat it too.

    1. Chorus of Apes writes:
      Israel is a Jewish state, if that means anything it means that the state of Israel privileges Jews.
      But there’s privilege and there’s privilege, and it’s not all the same thing. There’s the privilege that Jews would have just from being in the majority even if all other barriers for non-Jews were removed, and then there’s the privilege that Jews would have if, say, only Jews had the right to vote. The reality of Israel is somewhere in between these.

  17. “What I’ve written about Israeli citizenship is not only self evident, it’s accepted as both true and necessary by the majority there, both people and politicians.”
    I’m sorry you apparently didn’t have the energy to actually engage with my argument.

  18. Ruth, here is Aluf Ben quoting from Netanyau recently in Haaretz:
    In a speech to the Knesset two weeks ago, Netanyahu reiterated this demand, saying that in his view, there is no such thing as an “Israeli people.” “The first thing [in negotiations] is Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people,” he said. “When we are talking about a solution of two states for two peoples, one of these peoples is the Jewish people. It is not some Israeli people, it is the Jewish people.”
    Ergo, there is no Israeli nation for Palestinian Israelis to join as equal citizens. There is only the Jewish nation, with a Jewish state, and the minorities forever on the outside. And the Israeli state is the framework for this unequal division.
    One of the many arguments in support of this arrangement is affirmative action. The idea being that since Jews suffer from historic persecution, Israel is the remedy, where ethnic preference is legally and morally justified.
    It’s just one of the arguments. There’s lots more.

    1. If Netanyahu really sees it that way, then by his own logic, he has a responsibility to non-Israeli members of the Jewish people, and shouldn’t tell us to buzz off.

  19. I would never argue that most Israeli Jewish politicians are not racist. I am arguing that it is not inherently impossible for an Israeli Arab to feel loyalty to the State of Israel while it is a Jewish state. Both because I know many who do, albeit in a critical way, and because those two things are not philosophically incompatible, which is how you presented them. That’s why the Quebec example is instructive – it presents the same philosophical principle in a massively different social, economic, political and military context.
    Of course Netanyahu’s premiership and the current abysmal state of coexistence reflect certain tendencies which are also a part of a more liberal Zionism (as well as a lot of other factors including the stances and choices of Arabs throughout the region over the years) and I want to take responsibility for those things, not pretend I am unconnected. But I will never accept that his policies define Zionism.

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