Dana on Beinart: ‘undeterred by unavoidable realities’

on 11 Comments
Joseph Dana
Joseph Dana. (Just Vision)

Today for the United Arab Emirites’ The National, Joseph Dana takes on Peter Beinart’s milestone book, The Crisis of Zionism. In his review, Dana chastises the author for omitting the “unavoidable realities” of the occupation. Included, is Beinart’s  “undemocratic Israel” and “democratic Israel” model, where the actions of settlers are considered separate from the Tel Aviv café-scene and its surrounding suburban lifestyle. For Dana who lives in Ramallah, “this is not how the situation looks on the ground.”

Israel’s economy is deeply entrenched beyond the Green Line. Recently, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that Israeli companies could extract natural minerals from the rich land of the West Bank. The main water aquifers which supply thriving Tel Aviv and Haifa are found under the mountain top city settlement of Ariel. The captive economy of Palestine is a central and lucrative focal point for Israeli exports.


And when Beinart addresses ending Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian Territories, Dana finds him failing to articulate a plausible solution. Beinart “borrows rhetoric and tactics of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in order to marginalise it.” Dana then further rebuffs Beinart for using BDS as a last stitch effort to make viable the two-state solution. As Dana shows, the era of negotiated land swaps is over not only because of the amount of settlements now in the West Bank, but because Zionism, as such, is predicated on conquest. “Rigorous critique of Zionism, not Israeli settlements, is the first step towards safeguarding Israel as a haven for Jews while preventing the country from sliding deeper into moral bankruptcy.”

Read Dana’s full review here, and an excerpt below:

Evidently not strong enough for him to emigrate from New York to Jerusalem, Beinart has a deeply emotional relationship with Zionism. His book is a personal chronicle of his development as a Zionist, which began, of all places, in South Africa. He presents raw reflections about his personal process of awareness of Israel’s immoral treatment of Palestinians, but is careful not to denounce them by always providing an Israel caveat.

Beinart’s arguments are not new or even particularly original, let alone based in reporting from Israel. His analysis draws on a variety of books and reports which don’t capture the entire dialogue taking shape in cafes in Tel Aviv, let alone Ramallah, but allow him to present a slightly new analysis of why the two-state solution has failed. Even those he holds responsible for Israel’s present ills – chief among them revisionist Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – are the traditional enemies of American Zionists who start to feel uncomfortable when racism towards Palestinians is clearly articulated, as opposed to quietly carried out.

At its core, The Crisis of Zionism is an ode to liberal Zionism – that confusing ideology which rallies behind the idea Israel can exist as a Jewish and Democratic state – a place where liberalism coexists with tribalism

About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Mondoweiss.net. Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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11 Responses

  1. seafoid
    April 20, 2012, 10:22 am

    “Israel’s economy is deeply entrenched beyond the Green Line. ”

    Shir Hever does a deep dive on this aspect- the political economy of Israel’s occupation


    It’s far more relevant than Beinart’s book

    • Dan Crowther
      April 20, 2012, 10:45 am

      That was a fantastic read seafoid — I have to say, Hever is a real force. I saw a real news interview with him and he was asked if he was a zionist – his answer (paraphrased of course) was: Well, to the extent that I am a jewish israeli, I live here and make my home here, and dont want to leave, sure – I am a zionist.

      I have to say, I dug it. He spoke in the language of reality, which in our world qualifies you as a radical.

      • seafoid
        April 20, 2012, 11:34 am

        Isn’t he really on the ball, Dan?

        The numbers will get Israel in the end.

        I think it’s one of the best books on the conflict and the deep hole Israel is digging for itself.

      • Dan Crowther
        April 20, 2012, 3:14 pm

        yes, Hever really is….

    • Charon
      April 20, 2012, 7:00 pm

      I’ll have to check out the book, sounds interesting from a brief synopsis I read. The WB’s economy is Israel’s economy and relies on imports from Israel. It has no economy of its own because Israel prevents Palestinians from being economically viable. That’s among the many reasons why the status quo is unquestionably Apartheid and Israel is not a democracy at all. And another reason why the 2SS is impossible.

      They ignore international law and UN resolutions. They illegally annexed East Jerusalem and Golan Heights. Their settlements spider web throughout the WB. A lot of them get mad when you say ‘occupation’. The only 2SS their leaders desire is a legalized status quo. The Palestinian population areas as Bantustans. When Netanyahu (and Ronald Reagan even) complain about being 10 miles wide, he doesn’t intend on giving up much, if any at all. This has been dragged out for decades. So what I’m saying here is regardless of what is internationally designated as the green line, Israel ignores international law anyways so they can’t hide under what internationals consider to be Israel proper (and say the lame democracy thing) when their border already extends to the Jordan River. That’s the problem

  2. Dan Crowther
    April 20, 2012, 10:23 am

    The nationalist does not go on the principle of simply ganging up with the strongest side. On the contrary, having picked his side, he persuades himself that it is the strongest, and is able to stick to his belief even when the facts are overwhelmingly against him. Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also — since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself — unshakeably certain of being in the right.
    —Orwell, notes on nationalism

  3. aiman
    April 20, 2012, 10:26 am

    “Evidently not strong enough for him to emigrate from New York to Jerusalem, Beinart has a deeply emotional relationship with Zionism.”

    This is the heart of the matter. Brushing aside the liberal gloss, inherently this is no different from the position of an ideologue belonging to another diaspora who defends the ethnocentric status of his homeland. He or she may condemn the mistreatment of a minority group but still believe in the Fairytale and Happy Ending. This does nothing to alleviate the suffering of that minority group. The other argument, perhaps optimistic, is that change is incremental and we should take what we can get. But I think progress is only an illusion, change is indeed incremental but only if you’re driving on the right side of the road.

  4. pabelmont
    April 20, 2012, 12:39 pm

    Beinart is indeed far from some very, very important realities about Israel and especially about the occupation, its purposes and prospects. However, he is spot-on on realities about the power of AIPAC, the reason the Zionist old-timers took over the American charitable and human-rights Jewish organizations, and a few other things.

    His audience, friends, is not us! He is talking to his own choir, the (I dare say he hopes) large number of liberal Zionists who cannot bear to hear Israel criticized for its effects on others (such as Palestinians) but are open to hear that the “democratic” adn “liberal” stuff is disappearing. In short, his book might get a few people to break away from knee-jerk support for Israel into a bit of thinking.

    Might even open them to learning a bit about unpalatable realities.

  5. MHughes976
    April 20, 2012, 2:20 pm

    Beinart does see the problem of treating badly ‘simply because they are not Jews’ – I think we had this simple and pointed phrase quoted from him a few weeks ago. He worries about this in connection with the occupation. But he seems not for one moment to see that corralling the Palestinians into a sub-territory, the classic 2ss which he and many liberal Zionists seem to support, amounts to treating people badly ‘simply because they are not Jews’, only with different means.

  6. Annie Robbins
    April 20, 2012, 2:55 pm

    Dana’s is one of the best critiques of the book i’ve read thus far.

    The Israeli government, which is democratically elected, is responsible for all of the actions of the settlers and the creation of the settlements. Israeli settlements are a by-product of Israeli democracy and not a negation of it. Recent poll data demonstrates that a majority of Israelis support the construction of new settlements and the growing power of the right in the Israeli parliament confirms that. The left-leaning, liberal Israeli, which appears like a Herzlian figure for Beinart, most likely has a son patrolling the streets of Hebron or conducting night raids in Ramallah as part of his military service.

    These unavoidable realities do not deter Beinart. His solution for the manufactured impasse between undemocratic and democratic Israel is a targeted boycott of Israeli settlements. Not only is this impossible in practice, but it conceals a more sinister objective.


    Perhaps the actual crisis of Zionism is the fact that liberal Zionist writers, who deeply care for Israel, are unable or unwilling to accept that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is increasingly being defined as a battle over rights and equality between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea. Palestinians are coalescing around nonviolent boycotts targeting Israel’s system of inequality while Israel is destroying its own democratic foundations in an attempt to protect its ideology of exclusion. Rigorous critique of Zionism, not Israeli settlements, is the first step towards safeguarding Israel as a haven for Jews while preventing the country from sliding deeper into moral bankruptcy.

  7. DICKERSON3870
    April 20, 2012, 4:33 pm

    RE: “His [Beinart’s] book is a personal chronicle of his development as a Zionist, which began, of all places, in South Africa. He presents raw reflections about his personal process of awareness of Israel’s immoral treatment of Palestinians, but . . .” ~ Joseph Dana

    ARGUABLY RELATED (Anyway, it’s a nice film!): Nowhere in Africa (Nirgendwo in Afrika), 2001, R, 141 minutes
    Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, a Jewish couple and their young daughter emigrate from Germany to Kenya to escape the Nazis, and are forced to come to terms with a new life on an unfamiliar continent. Not all members of the family are happy with this drastic change — but going home isn’t an option. Based on Stefanie Zweig’s autobiographical novel, director Caroline Link’s epic drama won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
    Language: German (English subtitles)
    Netflix Availability: Streaming and DVD
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    Nowhere In Africa (Nirgendwo in Afrika) [TRAILER, 02:18] – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7ahTSqaQe

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