General UK Media

Peter Beinart vs. the American Jewish community

Polemics and analyses which represent nothing more than preconceived anti-Israel conclusions in search of supporting evidence are nothing new at the Guardian Group.  Nonetheless, the absence of empirical evidence in Peter Beinart’s attempt to support his claim, in an essay at ‘The Observer’ (sister paper of the Guardian) on Jan. 12, ‘Jewish Americans may be increasingly disenchanted with Netanyahu. But their priorities lie elsewhere, is still quite striking.

Beinart, the former New Republic editor who recently re-invented himself as a Jew who’s ashamed of Israel’s stubborn refusal to unilaterally declare peace in the ‘new Middle East’, and thus allow his delicate conscience to escape the unbearable social weight of Zionist vigilance against Palestinian intransigence, seemed determined to convince the Guardian coven that he’s in the vanguard of an unstoppable Jewish progressive revolt against Jerusalem.

Characteristically, Beinart spends no time reflecting upon what the terms “right” and “left” denote in the current political context – and seems breezily unconcerned with the messy nuances of Israel’s pragmatic consensus forged by the sobering failures of Oslo, the dangerous results of an illusory land for peace strategic calculus, and Islamism’s regional ascendancy.

To the marginal Beinart-style Jewish left, moral enlightenment means never having to prove your a priori progressive advantages over your more “tribalist” coreligionists.

His posturing begins thus:

“In Israel, public discourse is moving right.

In Jewish America, by contrast, public discourse about Israel is moving left. You can see it in the increasingly harsh criticism of Binyamin Netanyahu‘s government by mainstream Jewish commentators such as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and New Yorker editor David Remnick.

Are many of these liberal, relatively secular Jews, especially in the younger generation, uncomfortable with Israel’s current drift? Yes”

However, the political sensibilities of most American Jews have long since drifted away from the increasingly irrelevant intellectual echo-chamber which Beinart imputes so much significance – most having long ago steered their URL clear of such New York establishment media institutions.

Contrary to Beinart’s fanciful wishes, the Zionist sensibilities of most American Jews have not wavered.

A 2012 poll by Lutz Global, on behalf of CAMERA, found continuing, deep support for Israel and a “strong belief in Israel’s commitment to peace efforts and apprehension about its existential situation.” Survey respondents similarly expressed strong support for Israel’s right to self-defense and fierce opposition to those (such as Beinart) who endorse BDS against the Jewish state – with 71% opposing boycotts against Israel, and 68% opposing a boycott of products made in cities beyond the green line.

 A full 85% agreed that Israel ‘is right to take threats to its existence seriously,’ and that Israel’s concerns are neither “irrational’ nor overstated”.

The Lutz poll also demonstrated that American Jews possess a strong belief that “the Israeli government (84%) and its people (85%) are committed to establishing genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.” Respondents were extremely skeptical of the Palestinian commitment to peace and consider Palestinian incitement against Jews to be a major obstacle to a long-term agreement (77%) – far more so than settlements (12%) or “occupation” (12%).

Beinart then turns to Iran, and writes the following:

“So is Netanyahu free to do whatever he pleases without worrying about the American Jewish response? On the Palestinians, maybe. But on Iran, no. That’s because war with Iran, a war in which the US could easily become engulfed even if we don’t drop the first bomb, is a much higher priority than the Israeli-Palestinian peace process (or lack thereof). It’s a higher priority for Americans, for liberal American Jews, and for America’s president. It’s an issue on which Obama, as evidenced by the Hagel nomination, is not prepared to defer to Aipac. And it’s an issue that could, if America goes to war, mobilise those liberal American Jews who would not mobilise politically on the peace process but did mobilise against the war in Iraq.”

So, is American Jewish opinion at odds with the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews who believe that a nuclear armed Iran would represent an existential threat to their nation?

According to another comprehensive 2012 survey of American Jewish opinion by the AJC the answer is a resounding “no”.  The Iranian nuclear program concerns the vast majority of American Jews: 89 percent are “very” (56 percent) or somewhat (33 percent) concerned about it. Only 11 percent say they are not too concerned or not concerned at all.

Additionally, 64 percent of American Jews surveyed said that, if diplomacy and sanctions fail, “they would support the U.S. taking military action against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.” Also, 75 percent would “support Israel taking such action if diplomacy and sanctions fail.”

Contrary to Beinart’s claims, the research indicates that American Jewish opinion is solidly in alignment with Israeli Jewish opinion on the most important issues regarding peace and security for the Jewish state.

Not surprisingly given the outcome of the recent US election, the same AJC poll showing broad support among American Jews for Israel also demonstrates that the overwhelming majority also back President Obama, which would indicate that such Jews don’t see their Zionism as in any way inconsistent with their liberal political orientation.

Beinart, in one passage in his Observer piece, cites data allegedly indicating that “only” 58 percent of younger American Jews even could identify who Binyamin Netanyahu is.

However, based on the polling data, I think it’s fair to ask how many younger American Jews have any idea who exactly Peter Beinart is.

19 replies »

  1. The other point for Beinart is this: American Jews are Americans. They don’t live in Israel and thus don’t grasp the threats to Israeli security that Israelis have to deal with day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year.

    • Many american Jews like any other world Jewry have dual nationality and either have families in or partialy live in Israel.
      I believe Adam is an American Jew?
      The fact that he migrated to Israel does not void his American heritege.

      • I think so.
        This is my point. The fact that my grand parents left Poland in the early 30’s for Palestine does not void their Polish citizenship unless they wish it to be the case.
        for example my brother in law’s family came from Morroco and Tunisia and do not wish to see themselves as such nationals any more.
        Saying that, they still call themselves Tunisian and Morrocan for cultural reasons.

        National identity is a very personal thing, and who can understand it better than us Jews.

        • When an American Jew decides to leave the US behind and move to Israel permanently, he remains a full-fledged American citizen, of course. However he should restrain from criticizing American citizens who have chosen to remain in America and help their country thrive. It’s called decency.

          • Dear Nat, I truly hope you are familiar of the freedom of speech notion. Didn’t yours tudy that in school?

          • Unfortunately, one doesn’t see it in Hamastan nor in your fakestinian state, eh? Care to elaborate on this curious situation?

          • Dear SerJew, pleae show some respect to the state of Palestine, the same respect that we expect people to show to the state of Israel.

            Let me remind you that there is a clear majority among the Israeli public that supports a Palestinian state existing side by side with a Jewish one, in line with the Road Map for Peace which states that Israel must support and accept the emergence of a reformed Palestinian government and end Israeli settlements of the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

            • You know Nat, it would be really nice if the ‘one staters’ suggested to the Palestinians that if they want support inside Israel for a unified secular state, it might be a good idea to start legislating in the Palestinian ‘parliament’ at this very point in time, some truly liberal legislation of the type that 80% of Israel’s population enjoys and are part and parcel of the liberal democratic environment which I am sure you make use of all the time.

              You know what I mean. The small things like freedom of the press, equality for women. And gays. Independent judicial system. These things that would make a future single secular state have true meaning and not the under-the-covers plan-B. (to return the whole of Palestine to submission to Allah.) And his one true prophet.

    • Nat, you seem very sure of yourself.
      Were you also for Israeli withdraw from the Golan heights a few years back?
      Care to explain to the druze and Allawites villages in and around the golan what they’ll be facing over the past year had this “peace agreement” took place?

      • The Druze of the Golan have been cutt off from their relatives in Syria since 1967, Itsik. They want to be reunited with their families. Imagine how you would feel if Egypt had invaded and occupied the Negev in 1967, and prevented Israelis living in BeerSheva from being reunited with their families in Tel Aviv or Haifa.

        • Nat, Since I’m from that part of Israel I believe i have more Golan Druze then you have (though i may be wrong).
          Not all of them long to go back or be reunited.
          Some of them do go back on a regular basis and even have been approved to study there (the only citizens who are approved to travel to an enemy state).
          Currently the most hostile village in the Rama towards Israeli citizenship (Majdal) has a very live debate about the fear of what’s to come.
          The Alawite village of Rajar is most certainly happier being in Israel at this moment in time as are my Kibbutz residents who feel more secure knowing no stray bullet or stray mortar shell will fly their way.

          This was my point.

  2. I’m not entirely worried what the latter day self appointed Chaim Rumkowsky’s of the world think. Typically it’s something along the lines of “Let me be in charge of all the Jews and hopefully the Nazis will eat us last.”

  3. Why should an American Jew be ashamed of the actions of Israel? Shameful as they are he should really voice his ‘Shame’ in connection with the 3 billion tax dollars Americans fork out every year so that Israel can continue with its campaign of murder and mayhem in Palestine!


    • Now, snotty, why aren’t you upset with the billions of dollars the US waste on islamic paradises such as Afghanistan, Egypt and Pakistan, whose only return is anti-american hatred and terrorism? Your focus on Israel is kinda weird, isn’t it. A kind of crazy obsession. An idée fixe, as the French would say.