From Hillel to the classroom, the progressive vision dominates. Whatever problems exist in the Middle East are Israel’s fault, be it Arafat’s looting of the Palestinian treasury or the surge of West Bank honor killings. If the Israel Defense Forces have one of the lowest rates of rape among the world’s militaries, then it is because the inherent racism of Israelis prevents them from raping Arab women.
If you are a Jewish student on an American campus, you are repeatedly and inexorably made to feel alienated from Zionism, if not Judaism, by other Jews. Beinart ignores this. Instead he parades a conspiracy theory of omnipotent Zionists stifling his vision for a progressive Zionism on campus. In reality, what stifles Zionism is the anti-Zionist progressives that control the campus narrative and play an increasingly prominent role in Jewish communal organizations.
And that narrative is, of course, detached from reason. What would come of the actual implementation of Beinart’s desires? To whom does one give the West Bank? Fatah’s leader Mahmoud Abbas is in the sixth year of a four-year term and has no legitimacy. He does not represent Hamas, whom the Palestinians have elected. His Fatah party can barely win a student election at Birzeit University, in his own backyard.
Does one give the West Bank to Hamas, whose charter calls for the eradication of Jews?
Gaza was Israel’s major test case of yielding completely to the Palestinians. Giving land for peace produced a deluge of Katyusha rockets and Grad missiles, which was responded to with a bloody incursion. Why would yielding the West Bank to the Palestinians produce a different result?
Israel is a society under siege. As such, it must balance freedom with order and concerns for democracy with concerns for security. To compare democracy in Israel with some idealistic — utopian — vision is an exercise in the absurd. Israel faces hostile countries on its borders and a large Arab population whose leaders increasingly express allegiance to those who would destroy the Jewish state. If you want to understand Israel, perhaps it would be best not to compare Israel to some democratic ideal, as Beinart does, but to America before and after September 11, 2001. Before the Patriot Act and after the Patriot Act. Or Britain before and after a series of pub bombings led to the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
Beinart’s essay resonates with progressive and even liberal Jews because his is the kind of departure from political reality that so characterizes the fictional world progressives and liberals have created. His self-indulgent, leftist rant neither understands the nature of Jewish communal organizations nor the existential threat Israelis face everyday.