Why the Jewish Left Encourages Hate

By Jonathan S. Tobin


August 4, 2016


The Jewish left has a problem. Their belief that Israel is the obstacle to peace with the Palestinians has transformed itself over the last generation from a coherent political position to an obsession that is disconnected from the reality of the conflict. Many are so frustrated with this failure that they are willing to even excuse anti-Semitic comments as long as they are directed at Jews they don’t like. That is the only way to understand Peter Beinart’s recent column in Haaretz, in which he not only sought to justify the disgusting statement of a congressman that compared West Bank settlers to “termites” and criticizing those mainstream and liberal Jewish groups that spoke out against him.

The incident stemmed from a forum held at the Democratic Convention last week by an anti-Zionist group called the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation at which Representative Hank Johnson spoke. The mere presence of a member of Congress at a forum hosted by a group that promotes the anti-Semitic creed of BDS that seeks to eliminate the Jewish state should have been enough to justify condemnation of Johnson by the entire Jewish community from left to right. But taking his cue from the vicious ideology of his hosts, Johnson went further than just endorsing the group’s positions. As the Washington Free Beacon reported, Johnson described Jews living in communities in the West Bank as “termites.” The insect analogy was, as our Daniella Greenbaum noted last week, straight out of the traditional playbook of classical anti-Semitic hate. The point was not merely to oppose the existence of settlements—a position that some Israelis hold–but to delegitimize the people that live there making them, in effect, fair game for the daily terrorist attacks to which they and other Israelis have been subjected.

The ADL and Jewish leaders like Rabbi David Wolpe responded with condemnation and Johnson eventually apologized for what he conceded was “an offensive analogy.” But Beinart is unhappy with Johnson’s critics because he thinks the “truth” about settlements should override any objections to his vile language. Beinart is convinced that settlements really are functioning like insects eating away at the fabric of Palestinian life and preventing peace. Moreover, he worries that American Jewish sensitivity to anti-Semitic language is serving to suppress condemnation of settlements and settlers. From his point of view, the only way to save Israel from itself is to unleash the kind of virulent attacks that will isolate the Jewish state and force it to withdraw from the West Bank and Jerusalem regardless of whether the Palestinians have demonstrated any desire to live in peace with them. If that means making common cause with those who want to destroy Israel and kill its Jews, so be it.

The problems with Beinart’s position are obvious. Israel has repeatedly offered the Palestinians peace including a state in almost all of the West Bank, Gaza and a share of Jerusalem but each time they turned the offer down. Israel also withdrew from Gaza and set the stage for the creation of a Hamas terrorist state. If despite their lack of enthusiasm for settlements, the overwhelming majority of Israelis are unwilling to repeat that experiment in the West Bank it is because, unlike Beinart, they understand the danger that would pose to their lives.

Most Israelis have come to terms with the fact that the conflict has always been driven by the Palestinian refusal to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. They know that even the “moderate” leader of the Palestinian Authority speaks for the majority of his people when he says all of Israel as “occupied territory” and not just the West Bank, most of which is actually under the thumb of his authoritarian rule. Unlike him, they have learned that Palestinian national identity has been inextricably linked to the century-old war against Zionism. If the Palestinians are willing to sue Britain over the 1917 Balfour Declaration, it’s because their goal is the elimination of the Jewish homeland. The so-called “stabbing intifada” of the last year has been driven by lies about Israel harming the mosques on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and religious hatred, not worries about settlements.

Even more to the point, though settlements aren’t popular, most Israelis are also aware that the notion that they are expanding or would prevent the creation of a Palestinian state is a myth. The territory in which settlements exist has been largely static for the last two decades. Moreover, most of the “growth,” which consists of new buildings in existing settlements, is taking place in those areas that even the Obama administration concedes would remain part of Israel in the event the Palestinians ever decide to make peace. The “wall,” checkpoints and other security measures Johnson and Beinart oppose were built in order to stop a wave of Palestinian terrorism that took more than a thousand Jewish lives a decade ago during the second intifada, not to oppress the Arabs. Dismantling them will cost lives but won’t bring peace.

Yet Beinart and other leftists aren’t interested in any of this. Nor do they take into account the fact that the rising tide of anti-Semitism is being driven by anti-Israel propaganda founded in the very myths about the conflict they are reinforcing. It’s hard for him to accept that his cherished beliefs about achieving peace are rejected by Israelis so he’s not just willing to overturn the verdict of Israeli democracy but also to countenance openly anti-Semitic language so long as it helps to undermine the Netanyahu government. Beinart’s column is a sign of how low the Jewish left is ready to stoop to promote their discredited cause.