Friday, March 30, 2012
By Barry Rubin
I can only laugh at the idea of dilettante Peter Beinart and J Street as leader of the anti-Israel (oops, I meant save-Israel-from-itself) movement. After all, imagine people parading as self-defined heroes while peddling ideas that have absolutely nothing to do with reality. But behind the stupid ideas is a very poisonous hidden agenda.
We live in an age of intellectual absurdity in which a book by someone who has no notion of Israeli reality and who is, at best, decades (I’d say three) out of date is treated as if he could possibly be of some relevance. Or an organization that has literally never made a single pro-Israel initiative can claim to be the country's best friend and is uncritically accepted and promoted as such in the mass media.
Contrary to the title of Beinart’s book, there is no crisis of Zionism, certainly not in the way he and similarly thinking American Jews believe. The crisis is simply that Israel has become an actually existing country that is defined by an Israel-Jewish patriotism based on a historical Zionism. In fact, regarding Israel itself, Zionism has been so successful that it simply isn’t needed in the same way as it was in 1947.
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Regarding American Jews, the problem is that of the left-wing and those liberals they have fooled, not Zionism. This “new” approach is based on the debate of the 1970s and 1980s, more specifically the 1974-1992 era.
At that time, there were three points of contention that Beinart and others try to revive in a totally different world:
--Continuation of the occupation endangered Israel’s soul and society through hubris, brutalization, fanatical religiosity, and ambitious nationalism.
--If Israel didn’t make peace and get rid of the territories as fast as possible it would be destroyed by…well, it isn’t exactly clear by whom, since its enemies had failed so continually and were weaker than they’d been in the past. But this meant that Israel had to rush to make peace at any price.
--There was a real opportunity for a stable, just, and lasting peace. Merely offer the Palestinians and Arabs a reasonable settlement—particularly a Palestinian state—and a peace agreement would quickly follow.
This way of thinking has long since been discredited by the experiences of the peace process. First, Israel withdrew from large portions of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, bringing virtually all Palestinians under self-rule. Later, it pulled out of the Gaza Strip completely. There was no more “occupation” as there had been in the 1967-1993 period.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.