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Beinart predicts J Streeters will tackle immigration before thinking critically about Israel

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Peter Beinart's face on a J Street U t-shirt (Photo: Mairav Zonszein via 972 mag)

Peter Beinart’s face on a J Street U t-shirt (Photo: Mairav Zonszein via 972 mag)

A day after Rebecca Steinfeld asked in Haaretz whether liberal Zionists will move left to support democracy or move right for permanent ethnocracy in the wake of the two state solution’s autopsy, Peter Beinart on cue considers — and then totally avoids — the question. Writing about J Street:

Absent some crisis that forces Washington’s hand, the U.S.-led peace process is likely dead for the remainder of the Obama presidency, and perhaps forever. The Israeli-Palestinian struggle is moving out of Washington, to the campuses, church groups, labor unions, pension funds and international courts through which Palestinians will seek to Boycott, Divest from and Sanction the Jewish state. J Street is not built for this new fight….

In the short term, [J Street] may be forced to embrace forms of nonviolent, two-state oriented pressure that it previously rejected as too controversial. Over the longer term, J Street might become the core of a new progressive Jewish movement—especially among the young—that goes beyond Israel to take on domestic issues like immigration, climate change and economic inequality.

So Beinart apparently thinks young J Streeters will arrive at the two-state solution party many years too late and embrace his Zionist BDS prescription, while studiously avoiding the real question on the table. Rather than face facts that Israel is, from the river to the sea, an apartheid ethnocracy, young Jews will in the long run keep their heads buried firmly in the sand and turn their attention to other issues like U.S. immigration? I think not. I have more faith in young progressive Jews than he does.

The shine is going to come off J Street, as its current membership will see how the organization’s advocacy for “peace talks” has helped enable Israel to continue to steal land behind the smokescreen of the peace charade. “We must preserve a Jewish majority state at all costs” is not going to be a winning P.R. formula with young, progressive Jews for very much longer. “Israel has a right to exist” is going to be upended as young Jews learn this means nothing more than “Israel has a right to exist as a racist, discriminatory state where well-off Jews from Brooklyn can move anytime they want into homes on stolen land whilst the indigenous people can never return to their rightfully-owned land.” I believe one person, one vote, one state is going to become the rallying cry of a generation that sees Israeli oppression clearly for what it is, tracing back to 1948 and before the existence of the state.

I believe most of today’s J Streeters will join the coming rainbow coalition that will advocate true equality. In the early 2000s, Students for Justice in Palestine’s slogan was “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” Some progressive Jews were turned off, because it left open the question, what happens to the Jews who immigrated to Palestine and live there now? What does it mean, exactly, for Palestine to be free? I think these sorts of slogans will evolve into more inclusive chants like: “From the river to the sea, we demand equality!”

About Matthew Taylor

Matthew A. Taylor is co-founder of PeacePower magazine, and author of "The Road to Nonviolent Coexistence in Palestine/Israel," a chapter in the book Nonviolent Coexistence.

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26 Responses

  1. Citizen
    May 8, 2014, 10:08 am

    How can Beinart suggest young American Jews will ignore Israel and turn instead to pushing for progressive stance on US immigration issues, especially US illegal immigration issues?

    Isn’t that a tremendous insult to the intelligence and moral/ethical principles of young American Jews? Where does he get off, saying what he said?

    • Krauss
      May 8, 2014, 11:14 am

      How can Beinart suggest young American Jews will ignore Israel and turn instead to pushing for progressive stance

      Beinart is basically exposing himself as a man who has no ideas once the 2SS paradigm is over. So he changes the subject.

      But he will not be forced into taking a universalist stance! He will avoid it until the last minute. And then some. Palestinians must suffer for his Zionism to flourish.

    • pabelmont
      May 8, 2014, 12:07 pm

      Immigration? Now he’s talking!

      Recall that after the war (and before) Jews were clamoring to enter the USA and the USA turned them away. What if, today, seeing the cruelty of that stance 65-years ago, [ ?? and enjoying money from BIG-ZION ??], USA opened the gates to immigration from Israel? Would that help with the I/P problem?

      • Boomer
        May 8, 2014, 1:44 pm

        Yes, it could be helpful. What is more, justice demands it. As I said elsewhere on this thread, in today’s world, I don’t think it is desirable as a general rule to allow anyone who wishes to come here to do so, but I do believe that the U.S. owes it to the Palestinians to offer them a new home here. The United States enabled Israel to take their homes and farms, to make some of them second class citizens, and to make more of them stateless refugees. We are guilty, and should make amends to the extent feasible. Giving the Palestinians new homes here is the most feasible way I know to do that.

      • Ecru
        May 9, 2014, 3:54 am

        @ Boomer

        Maybe it would be a better idea if the USA prevented American Jews from emigrating to Israel and stealing those Palestinian people’s lands in the first place and stopped them from giving money to help with that continuing ethnic cleansing.

    • joemowrey
      May 8, 2014, 12:18 pm

      The point isn’t “Where does he get off, saying what he said?” The point is, why are people still listening to Beinart and enabling his tired, self-serving rhetoric? Of course he won’t take any principled stand on anything, not until he knows which way the wind is blowing and how that wind can best serve his own interests.

      It’s long past due time for everyone to ignore this punk and to quit pretending his opinions have any validity.

  2. seafoid
    May 8, 2014, 10:26 am

    “the U.S.-led peace process is likely dead for the remainder of the Obama presidency, and perhaps forever.”

    Israel is like a piece of rotting meat. The rot continues . There is no equilibrium.

    • Kay24
      May 8, 2014, 11:36 am

      You are right. The signs look bad for this parasitic nation. The mere fact that insiders in the Obama administration have accused Israel of being the cause of peace talks breaking down alone, shows there is a huge difference in how things are playing out. It has been accused of being the nation caught spying most on us, and it seems the truth finally coming out systematically, shows Israel’s days of conniving, and pretending to be a victim, is coming to an end. All it will take is for the controlled zionist media, to finally get the courage to report the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

  3. Woody Tanaka
    May 8, 2014, 11:10 am

    “Peter Beinart on cue considers — and then totally avoids — the question.”

    I’m not surprised. I call this “Beinart’s choice” — whether a “Liberal Zionist” so-called, jettisons his liberalism or his Zionism when the two invariably collide — and it’s clear that Beinart will chose to jettison his liberalism. At the same time, he simply doesn’t want to face up to what that means: that his so-called principles are not principles at all.

  4. Krauss
    May 8, 2014, 11:17 am

    By the way, can we all agree that if the NYT is the epitome of institutional “liberal” Zionism then he who personifies it is Peter Beinart? That’s the only Zionist both Abuminah and Blumenthal repeatedly reference when they are talking to progressive audiences.

    And I’d say he’s the one who matters most, at least in the wider culture, which is precisely why his avoidance of the topic matters so much.
    And he keeps trying to slip away, avoiding that choice at all costs.

    • Krauss
      May 8, 2014, 11:24 am

      In the early 2000s, Students for Justice in Palestine’s slogan was “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” Some progressive Jews were turned off, because it left open the question, what happens to the Jews who immigrated to Palestine and live there now? What does it mean, exactly, for Palestine to be free? I think these sorts of slogans will evolve into more inclusive chants like: “From the river to the sea, we demand equality!”

      Matthew, you seem to be buying into the myth that if Palestine is liberated then that means the end Jews in Israel. That’s the same argument whites in South Africa used. If they(the blacks of SA) are liberated, whites have no place in SA!

      In other words, “liberation” becomes a code word for the threat of the end of the racial privileges they enjoyed. And “liberal” Zionists who react this way are not liberal at all. But most of us knew that. So why do you induldge them?

  5. MHughes976
    May 8, 2014, 11:34 am

    Beinart interprets J Street as a support group for the Obama diplomatic initiative which cannot really continue when that initiative has ceased and will therefore leave its members or subgroups to take up – wander randomly off to – whatever other causes may concern them. Looking from England I maybe don’t understand the world of Washington pressure groups too well, but I have a sense that Beinart is right or at least very plausible at this point. There is really a further implication, that neither Obama nor his supporters could work out what they really wanted to achieve, so that it’s not surprising that nothing came of it all.
    Well, did nothing come of it? The reports of a Kerry Proposal seem to have faded away in favour of a vague feeling that there will be another round of peaces processes under another President. I thought at the beginning that there would be at least some public consensus, even if not a formal Proposal, about what the 2ss, inspired by what the NYT is now calling American principles, would look like. It seems that I was wrong, that it’s possible for there to be so much, so very much discussion among rational people with no idea emerging. The most that we seem to have gained is that this time there’s no consensus around talk of a Generous Offer by Israel, only a grumble about both sides being a bit unreasonable. We measure progress in steps that would disgrace the average baby.

    • Citizen
      May 8, 2014, 3:53 pm

      @ MHuges976

      There are no “American principles” when it comes to the I-P conflict, except a de facto American principle: Who’s got the money to keep or get X American politician in office? Aipac is your answer.

  6. alan
    May 8, 2014, 11:47 am

    Peter Beinart: “The Israeli-Palestinian struggle is moving out of Washington, to the campuses, church groups, labor unions, pension funds and international courts through which Palestinians will seek to Boycott, Divest from and Sanction the Jewish state.”

    When was the ‘Israeli-Palestinian struggle’ ever in Washington? Where is the Palestinian contingent in Washington and who are they? Is he trying to suggest some kind of equivalence between what the bent politicians have been doing with what ordinary people are up to, what goes on in real life? Gibberish.

    Why does he seem to think that only Palestinians ‘will seek etc.’? (I don’t like the implications of that – let’s hope it was just poor writing). And (because he is implicitly signalling his own intention to ‘go beyond Israel and take on domestic issues’) does he really expect American Jews to now switch off their ethics and morality in respect of the Zionist state? Does he really believe that Israel is not a ‘domestic issue’ in US political life? He’s not making sense, he seems confused, wishful, panicky.

  7. Sycamores
    May 8, 2014, 12:07 pm

    interesting tweet from Peter Beinart: most young American Jews rejects Jstreet

    group most young American Jews have never heard of–and whose values are antithetical to their own–rejects @jstreetdotorg for membership— Peter Beinart (@PeterBeinart) May 1, 2014

    • W.Jones
      May 8, 2014, 12:42 pm

      Can someone please tell me what that is supposed to mean?

      Aren’t JStreet’s positions and criticisms pretty close to Peter Beinart’s? I suppose he might mean that they are too critical, or maybe not critical enough? He wants to boycott the settlements and I don’t know of JStreet doing that.

  8. Boomer
    May 8, 2014, 1:39 pm

    Regarding Beinart, I’ve learned from reading this site that what he says evidently is important, though I have not learned why that is the case. (I also recently learned from this site that he evidently is from South Africa, which seems ironic.)

    Regarding immigration, in today’s world, I don’t think it is desirable or feasible as a general rule to allow anyone who wishes to come here to do so, but I do believe that the U.S. owes it to the Palestinians to offer them a new home here. The United States enabled Israel to take their homes and farms, to make some of them second class citizens, and to make more of them stateless refugees. We are guilty, and should make amends to the extent feasible. So if Beinart is proposing that J-Street should lobby to give Palestinians new homes here in the U.S., I am all for it.

    • MHughes976
      May 8, 2014, 3:19 pm

      Beinart is a very American, not an international, figure, I think – which is honourable enough. He publishes in major American journals. I too would not have heard of him but for reading MW but I’ve come, as a constant reader of MW and admirer of its moral standards, to think of him as the archetypal Liberal Zionist. He’s certainly very articulate. He’s also absolutely clear, from all I’ve read of his statements, than when push comes to shove he’s a Zionist first and a liberal second. To some extent I’ve found that his liberal sentiments, being in the end so secondary for him, are irritating and bring out the worst in me. But I also found his remark that non-Jewish people, or many of them, under Israeli control suffer ‘just because they are not Jewish’ gets, with its allusion to all those who have suffered unjustly ‘just because they were Jewish’, to the heart of the matter.

      • Boomer
        May 8, 2014, 4:24 pm

        Thanks for the info. Evidently I misinterpreted what I read. I see from Wikipedia that his parents are from South Africa, not him. He certainly has an illustrious resume: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Beinart He comes from, and travels in, high circles. But, if I understand you correctly, I shouldn’t expect him to use his influence to help the Palestinian.

  9. ToivoS
    May 8, 2014, 1:50 pm

    Beinhardt is obviously talking about himself when he is saying progressive Jews will move on to other issues and presumably away from Israel’s problems. That was my impression when he abandoned Open Zion. At some level he faced the dilemma inherent in liberal Zionism. Just how does one reconcile the contradiction between liberalism and Zionism? It is just not possible to embrace both. Without taking the next step, it leaves one in an impossible position. He therefore decided to move on to other issues, though he has yet to define what those might be for himself.

  10. sydnestel
    May 8, 2014, 4:17 pm

    Matthew – ” I think these sorts of slogans will evolve into more inclusive chants like: “From the river to the sea, we demand equality!””

    You think, or you hope?

    And, even if SJP adopted this, don’t you think that Palestinian institutions would have to do so too? As its stands now, most Palestinian institutions – including most that back BDS – support a 2SS.

  11. Nevada Ned
    May 8, 2014, 6:20 pm

    Beinart has been celebrated as well as criticized in the pages of MW. He first became a somewhat important pundit when he championed the US attack on Iraq in the pages of The New Republic. This is not a sign that he a genius. [NOTE to the humor-impaired: this is sarcastic!]

    Later he criticized Israel in his book The Crisis of Zionism. This made him famous, at least in Jewish circles and on Mondoweiss. Norman Finkelstein covered some of the same ground (increasing disillusionment with Israel among US Jewry) from a more radical perspective.

    So, really, why treat Beinart as if he were a genius?

    The most recent Jewish writer to have an epiphany is John Judis, also a New Republic writer, who authored a book critical of the early Israel. Judis had written for TNR for many years, but was never nearly so critical of Israel when Marty Peretz owned The New Republic. (Does ownership of the media make a difference? Yes, indeed.) Another pundit with a good sense of timing…

  12. Clif Brown
    May 9, 2014, 1:24 am

    In the picture you provide, the PRO-this and PRO-that buttons are catchy, but note that they do not include PRO-equality

  13. yonah fredman
    May 9, 2014, 2:13 am

    The occupation is almost 47 years old and the current state of the peace process I would call only 5 years old, since Netanyahu’s election in 2009. Although the peace process began with Madrid, that was merely the overture and it indeed began with the handshake in ’93. Other milestones: assassination of Rabin, election of Netanyahu, election of Barak, failed Camp David summit, the 2nd intifada, the death of Arafat, the electoral victory of Hamas, the Olmert-Abbas negotiations and now the Netanyahu phase. It is not primarily the failure of John Kerry, but moreso the rightward trend of Israel’s electorate- where the chances of a Barak or an Olmert (no matter how reviled here at MW) are much lesser than they were in ’99 and 2006. Netanyahu’s first term in the 90’s gave Israel a chance to digest their Likud prime minister negotiating and reaching some agreements with Arafat. But Netanyahu circa 2009 has no psychological barriers he can break with small scale agreements or the mere fact of meetings. What is needed now is progress, which we should not expect. And even worse than Netanyahu is what comes after Netanyahu: someone even further to the right. That is the main cause for pessimism rather than merely the failure of this Kerry effort. The pessimism is accurate (unfortunately), based on the reality of Israeli politics.

    The expectation of J Street to turn into JVP is silliness. The expectation of young J Streeters to react immediately to John Kerry’s failure and accept the end of the 2 state solution is also silliness. If Derfner gives the peace process another 10 years, how can one expect J Street to chuck it out and turn to Ali Abunimah and Max Blumenthal instead of Beinart. Long range political movement of Jewish youth is a valid question raised here, but certainly one month after Kerry’s failure is too soon to expect any answers from J Street.

    And as Beinart said J street was designed to act as a blocker for the Obama presidency, that was its intent, the very reason for its invention. This type of letdown is something that takes years to adjust to. It doesn’t have years. Events do not stop and Benny Ganz is worried about a spark, so the status quo is not very stable. But the expectation that the organization of J Street will pivot to become another JVP is silly. The progressive youth will be forced by non J Street voices to come up with answers to the occupation and other discomfiting facts about Israel. But J Street, which according to Beinart was a logical venue for those who are uncomfortable with the BDS noisemakers, now has created a social network of those who are comfortable with their Jewishness and wish to express themselves politically. The BDS route does not suddenly become logical or desirable to a certain mindset of politics among those who are involved but not radical by nature. BDS is radical by its nature and there are many who are not radical like that and that is what Beinart is talking about.

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