In Tikkun, Peter Beinart struggles to make Israel both Jewish and democratic without affecting Palestinians:
Lerner: Would it be acceptable in your mind to have a democratic Israel if through demographic changes a majority of Israelis were Palestinians? Or would you say that to preserve its Jewish character it would be permissible to infringe on its democratic character?
Beinart: It would be wrong for Israel to take any coercive measure to reduce its Arab population… We are a long way away from the time when an Israeli state would have an Arab majority, but if Israelis thought that was about to happen, I would oppose any measures (such as expulsion of Arabs) designed to coercively impose a Jewish majority.
But Israel has done this continuously for the past 64 years, both in Israel “proper” and in the occupied territories. Israel’s Jewish majority is solely due to premeditated ethnic cleansing. If Beinart acknowledges it “would” be wrong for Israel to do this (in an imagined future), was it wrong to do it in the past? Is it wrong to do it now? He thinks it’s wrong in the West Bank, but what about Israel’s current routine ethnic cleansing of Bedouin villages within the green line? Beinart calls inside-the-green-line Israel “democratic Israel”; what about ethnic cleansing is democratic? (Because the majority — who is only a majority due to prior ethnic cleansing — voted for it?)
On the right of return of Palestinian refugees that Israel expelled in order to impose a Jewish majority, Beinart says approvingly:
The formula will most likely [be] a relatively small return by original refugees who are now getting relatively elderly now to pre-1967 Israel—perhaps 20,000 or 50,000 or 100,000, but a number that would not seriously threaten Israel’s demographics….
Is Beinart’s opposition to “expulsion of Arabs” lip service?
Or more hopefully, is there a part of Peter Beinart’s moral unconscious that is fighting with his tribal ideology, resulting in the cognitive dissonance we see in this interview?
And when will the morality defeat the tribalism, finally, and lead Peter to support genuine Israeli-Palestinian equality from the river to the sea?
P.S. – Changing the hot seat, which is Rabbi Lerner more concerned with: an act of atonement, or the appearance of one?
Lerner: We at Tikkun have suggested that Israel take in twenty to thirty thousand refugees each year for the next thirty years, because at the expectable growth rate of populations that number would not undermine the demographic balance and yet would appear to be a rather significant act of atonement.
Surely this would be a huge concession on Israel’s part relative to its current stance. But if more than thirty thousand refugees per year want to return to lands that were stolen from them and live in peace with their neighbors, does Israel have the moral or legal right to say no, while continuing to provide an unlimited right of “return” to Jews who live comfortably in the U.S.? What does that have to do with the so-called “complete equality” promised in the Israeli founding documents these two men revere?
Question to Lerner and Beinart: Can you watch this video and not be for the right of return of refugees who wish to live peaceably with their neighbors? Can you walk up to these children and tell them “No you cannot return, but any Jew anywhere in the world can move tomorrow to live on top of the rubble of your grandparents’ destroyed homes?”