Like other Mondo contributors, I find Beinart's new book to be brave, important, and blinkered all at once. The biggest problem is Beinart's false, idealized image of pre-1967 Israel as a "flawed, but genuine democracy." This doesn't work because even within the green line Israel has always been a non-democratic apartheid state.
Reference the international law definition of the crime of apartheid:
inhumane acts of a character similar to other crimes against humanity "committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime."
Israel's willful, orchestrated ethnic cleansing of Palestine –– and denial of the right of refugees to return who wish to live peaceably with their neighbors –– negates any legitimate claim Israel had or has to being a "flawed, but genuine democracy." By any civil rights standard, these refugees and their descendants should have been on Israel's voter rolls for the past 64 years.
Martin Buber and Judah Magnes insisted on equality as
the basis for Zionism. Peter Beinart's book,
The Crisis of Zionism, ignores this important history.
Think of it this way... In the 1960s, if Alabama had driven 80% of its black residents out of the state in a pre-planned campaign of violent terror, would Alabama then have had the right to claim to be a "flawed, but genuine democracy" because it granted the remaining 20% the right to vote? Everyone in the free world would have called such a claim precisely what it would have been: white supremacist propaganda.
Israel has from day one been a Pretend Democracy. It's a brilliant slight of hand to deny the vote to people who aren't present on election day because they've been expelled. But the facade's cracks become more visible every day.
The Crisis of Zionism is not a result of the conquest, slow-drip ethnic cleansing, and colonization of the West Bank, which is simply a continuation of what Ben-Gurion and colleagues started in 1948. The Crisis of Zionism is that there is no way to reconcile liberal values with ethnic cleansing, and there is no way to maintain the charade indefinitely in the internet age.
Gideon Levy calls out the spades in his latest column, Nothing Has Changed in Israel Since 1948:
In 1948, new immigrants were brought straight from the ships into abandoned Palestinian homes with pots of food still simmering in the kitchen, and no one asked too many questions. In 2012, the Israeli government is trying to whitewash the theft of Palestinian lands, all the while scorning the law. A single straight line - a single, perpetual mode of conduct - runs from 1948 to 2012: Palestinian property is ownerless, always abandoned property, even when this is demonstrably not the case, and Israeli Jews are free to do whatever they want with it. It was catch-as-catch-can with regard to Palestinian property in 1948, and it's catch-as-catch-can in 2012, in a never-ending game... Now, as then, a crime is a crime.
Beinart elided Martin Buber and Judah Magnes almost entirely from his book. For shame! Buber and Magnes advocated a Zionism based on Equality, which could have worked out just fine. Someday we shall overcome the ethnic cleansing versions of Zionism -- both "liberal" and revisionist -- and rediscover Buber and Magnes' prophetic, just vision.
When the struggle for Equality -- from the River to the Sea -- breaks out, where will Beinart and the "liberal" Zionists stand?