Israeli ambassador Michael Oren: Beinart ‘beyond the Israeli mainstream,’ his call to boycott settlements ‘supported only by a marginal and highly radical fringe.’
I reported here yesterday on Peter Beinart’s op-ed in the New York Times, calling the American Jewish community to boycott Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, and for American administration to stop the indirect funding of settlements through tax breaks to settlement products and organizations raising money for the settlements (this is just the most obvious way in which the United States is supporting in practice a policy that it appears to oppose, at least on a rhetorical level).
As expected, there is considerable backlash from the American-Israeli rightwing – aka the Republikud party – and I guess there will be much more in the future, once Beinart’s book, from which this op-ed was taken, is published.
Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington and a former researcher for the conservative Shalem center, posted the following message on his Facebook page:
Peter Beinart’s call (“To Save Israel, Boycott the Settlements,” New York Times, 3.19.12) places him well beyond the Israeli mainstream, the moderate left, and the vast majority of Israelis who care about peace. The call for boycotting all products made by Israeli communities outside of Jerusalem and beyond the 1949 Armistice Lines is supported only by a marginal and highly radical fringe. Beinart’s position, moreover, absolves the Palestinians of any responsibility for the current situation, including their rejection of previous peace offers, their support for terror, and their refusal to negotiate with Israel for the past three years. By reducing the Palestinians to two-dimensional props in an Israeli drama, Beinart deprives them of agency and indeed undermines his own thesis. Without an active Palestinian commitment to a two-state solution–irrespective of boycotts–the peace Beinart seeks cannot be achieved.
At Commentary – a magazine that views Jews as a mindless mass that needs to be shielded from dangerous ideas – Omri Ceren argues that Beinart’s partial boycott would inevitably lead to debate on BDS (the horror!), and finally, to a full boycott:
That’s why calls for so-called “targeted” BDS routinely metastasize into calls for total boycotts of the Jewish State. In Britain efforts to label products from settlements spurred greater efforts for full boycotts. Partisans inclined to hate Israel hijack not just the campaigns but also even the physical forums where partial vs. full BDS gets debated. The consistency with which that dynamic has played out raises questions about whether limited BDS advocates are merely naive.
David Frum accuses Beinart of “punishing Israel to change the Palestinians,” adding the strangest of arguments – that Palestinians are to blame for the settlements (emphasis in the original):
If the Israeli-Palestinian dispute were a dispute over borders, it would have been settled long ago. The dispute never has been about borders, and it is not about borders now. The spread of Jewish settlements in the West Bank is not a cause of Palestinian rejectionism. It is a consequence of Palestinian rejectionism. It’s tiresome to repeat the history. Peter knows it as well as I do. Has there been a moment since 1936 when a majority of Jewish opinion would have rejected a peace based on partition and mutual recognition by a Jewish and Arab state? Has there has been a moment since 1936 when the Palestinian political community would have accepted such a peace?
Trying to portray Beinart as a radical lefty is strange, also since most of the American left rejects Beinart’s liberal Zionism (particularly the Zionism part). Personally, I find the distinction Beinart makes between “good” and “bad” Israel to be highly problematic; I also see terminating the occupation as a goal in and of itself and not a means, as Beinart’s article might suggest. I will elaborate on these issues when I review Beinart’s book, “The Crisis of Zionism.”
Still, Beinart’s article and his book will probably tell us a lot about the potential appeal of liberal Zionism in America today (in Israel it’s a dead horse, at least politically). If Beinart is left standing alone, and successfully labeled as a radical and an outsider, then it will be clear that the Jewish American debate reflects the Israeli one, where neo-conservative and nationalistic elites control the entire field and dictate the rules of political activism. Judging by some responses to Beinart from what was supposed to be his own camp (Goldberg, Ben-Ami), the odds might not be in his favor.