Monday, October 21, 2013

Discussion with Peter Beinart, Tuesday, noon, Anderson Academic Commons

Peter Beinart will speak at noon Tuesday in the Anderson Academic Commons. Like Andrew Sullivan, Beinart, a former editor of the New Republic, has repudiated his onetime support of the Iraq aggression. He now refers cleverly to the leaders (and himself) as Icarus who flies to near the sun and whose wings of wax melt, plunging into the sea.


The Critis of Zionism reflects Beinart's reconsideration of a deeply held liberal Zionism, based on refuge for Jews and human rights for all, looking at the government of Israel's horrific policies in the Occupied Territories. He now urges boycotting "Israeli" products produced in the Territories. For any of us, deeply held convictions which are wrong need most to be challenged. The person who does this differentiates himself from a partisan or ideologue, and makes some progress toward the truth.

Beinart has been, unmercifully and stupidly, attacked by those who believe that the children of slaves, the children of those warred against in Europe, should become new Tsars or Pharaohs over Palestinians. Israel, as he warns, is illegally and immorally expanding, making Palestine disappear. But the Palestinians live. Apartheid is neither a future, nor, as Beinart warns repeatedly, an honorable solution. These policies have already made what is decent in Israel largely disappear (its face is Netanyahu and Lieberman on the international stage...).

Beinart warns courageously that time is short for a two state solution.


He has spoken more recently of a Jewish cocoon here. By this, he means something like what I mean in speaking of the Founding Amnesias of Israel about driving out the Palestinians who lived there ("a people without land for a land without people"), the American celebration of freedom while omitting the centrality of bondage and the fight for emancipation even in the revolution for Independence (see my Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War of Independence), the American forgetfulness about the ethnic cleansing of indigenous people across the Continent, and the Chinese Communist amnesia, in the name of forced modernization and economic development, of suppressing the culture and spiritual life of Tibet. These efforts involved settlement of large numbers of people over the bodies of, on the lands of indigenous people or the bringing in chains of others to do the work for Southern American slaveowners...

For Beinart, the cocoon comes from Israelis or American Congresspersons never going to the Occupied Territies (the Birthright trips for young Jews, a mere effort in propaganda, are one of his striking examples). At the conclusion of the article, he speaks of Sara Roy at Harvard, and what is missed in this amnesia about the parallel ethnic cleanings:

"One hundred members of Sara Roy’s extended family were murdered in the Holocaust. Growing up, Roy, now a Harvard researcher, knew little about her father’s experiences in the Chelmno death camp because 'he could not speak about them without breaking down.' It was living among Palestinians, she says, that brought her closer to her parents, not because Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians echoes the Nazi treatment of Jews—it obviously does not—but because for the first time she encountered people utterly terrified of the state that enjoyed life-and-death power over their lives.

By seeing Palestinians—truly seeing them—we glimpse a faded, yellowing photograph of ourselves. We are reminded of the days when we were a stateless people, living at the mercy of others. And by recognizing the way statelessness threatens Palestinian dignity, we ensure that statehood doesn’t rob us of our own."


Beinart points out that Zionists asked young Jews to check their liberalism (or radicalism) at the door of Israel, and they have checked their Zionism instead. Many young people do not fear a renewed holocaust ("Israel, right or wrong," is not an impressive slogan to them), have often befriended Arabs and Palestinians where they go to school, looked into the West Bank and Gaza - see here - and reacted fiercely against Israel's oppression (AIPAC fears that it has lost college campuses, that is, students who have a chance and a determination to seek the truth...).


Beinart is also looking at the growing suffering of the Occupy/Millenial generation (the student-debt, the weak job prospects, the corporations abandoning health care), and a new revolt for decent government policies from below. He thinks rightly that de Blasio in New York is a sign of this.


He also hopes to save Jewishness through the implementation of government-funded Jewish education in American schools which would supplement a liberal education. This is a bold policy, one with perhaps frail chances of success (he fierceness of persecution gave Jewishness a life in exile. With economic security and increasing social and political power, spirituality wanes for many; whether there is a large constituency among Jews for such a policy is not clear.

But of course, bold policies and new thinking are exactly what makes change, what makes The Crisis of Zionism important. The need to salvage something decent from Israel - Anarchists against the Wall represents this in action, and there are a much larger number of ordinary Israelis who are deeply discontent with the ideas of the dominant Right - depends on such thinking...


DU’s Center for Middle East Studies presents

The Crisis of Zionism
A Panel Discussion with


Peter Beinart is Associate Professor of Journalism & Political Science at the City University of New York, editor of The Daily Beast's Open Zion blog & author of The Crisis of Zionism (2013) and The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris (2010).

He will be joined by Alan Gilbert, John Evans Professor at the Korbel School, David Goldfischer, Associate Professor of International Studies at the Korbel School, and Jonathan Sciarcon of DU’s Department of History & Center for Judaic Studies.

Tuesday October 22 @ 12:00 PM
Anderson Academic Commons Event Room
Lunch will be served

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