The Entangling Alliance


Dana Goldstein defends The Crisis Of Zionism:

I am grateful for this book. Younger American Jewish writers like myself, Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein, Spencer Ackerman and Kiera Feldman have been writing for six years about our increasing alarm regarding the Israeli occupation, only to be derided as the "juice box mafia" by our elders. Beinart is a lot harder to belittle. He is the former editor of The New Republic—a magazine not exactly known for progressive foreign policy positions—and an observant Jew who once supported the Iraq war. He has demonstrated an admirable ability to rethink his opinions in the face of evidence, and as a member of Generation X, he serves as an ideal interlocutor between younger Jews and our Baby Boomer parents, many of whom continue to see Israel through the rose-colored glasses of their own youth, when the Jewish state was far less established and more threatened by its neighbors than it is today.

Another young American Jewish writer, Jordan Hirsch, is more receptive to Beinart's core argument than the older writers of Tablet and the WaPo but nevertheless knocks the book:

[Beinart presents] a specific narrative that will appeal most to the young, liberal Jews who naturally find it easier to associate with the Judaism of humanitarianism than with the Israel of occupation. [But this] proposal for American Zionism is the very mirror image of the simplistic establishment line that he devotes his whole book to tearing down. In his attempt to offer young Jewish elites a Zionism that allows them to skip the "messy, frightening debate over Israel's future," he substitutes the old model of one-dimensional support with a new model of one-dimensional criticism. Having fled right-wing simplicity, Beinart loops directly back to its twin on the left. In doing so, he fails to establish the balance that American Jews so desperately need in their approach to Israel. And he alienates Israelis, who know and live a very different reality from the one he presents. That's why those who embrace The Crisis of Zionism – especially the young, liberal elites for whom it is intended – risk dooming themselves to irrelevancy.

Why cannot Peter's book be seen for what it plainly is: an attempt to rebalance and shift the debate so that the peril of both Israel's long-term occupation of another people is more baldly laid bare? Of course such a book will ruffle feathers, and alienate some in Israel. But everyone in Israel?

My fear is simply this: that younger, more liberal American Jews will continue to drift away from interest in an increasingly indefensible Greater Israel (as they should); that the older generation has enough money and clout and paranoia to prevent any external pressure being brought on Israel to halt its assisted suicide in the foreseeable future; and that the Greater Israel lobby certainly has enough clout, when added to its total embrace by the GOP and its evangelical base, to defend all Israel's future wars and periodic "lawn-mowing" of regional rivals.

I'm not Jewish so I do not feel Peter's pain on this. But as a permanent resident of America, concerned primarily with this country's defense and interests, I do feel anger that US foreign policy as a whole pivots on this now "unbreakable" entanglement. My position vis-a-vis Israel at this point is best reflected by Jefferson's famous definition of a truly American foreign policy: "peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none."

We are not so much entangled with Israel, but fused with it. And this is a function of empire, a form of global governance the original Americans fought a revolution to end.

(Photo: An Israeli settler prays by the window of an occupied Palestinian house after dozens of Jewish settlers took over the Palestinian property overnight, claiming they have legal ownership, in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron on March 29, 2012. By Menahem Kahana/ AFP/Getty Images.)