Thursday, May 10, 2012

Beinart Is Not Wrong
But the Emphasis is Twisted


Today I heard Peter Beinart and Daniel Gordis interviewed on the CBC radio show "The Current." (You can listen to it yourself here.) The topic was whether or not Israel's illiberal policies are alienating young North American Jews. This may have been an appropriate discussion to have at my synagogue, but the fact that the CBC chose to air this particular topic on its premier national news magazine is odd, to say the least. Here is a comment I submitted to The Current.
I just heard your interview with Peter Beinart and Daniel Gordis on how anti-liberal values will or will not alienate Diaspora Jews from a connection with Israel. As a synagogue going Canadian Jew (and also an Israeli citizen who has served in the Israeli military) I was fascinated by the discussion, but surprised that this, of all things, is the aspect of Israel/Palestine conflict that CBC chose to discuss on air.

Surely, for most Canadians, the crux of the Israel/Palestinian issue is not – and should not be - how Israeli policy will affect Jewish continuity in the Diaspora, but rather how it will or will not bring peace and justice – most specifically how the injustices of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, and the daily suffering it bring to the Palestinians, can be ended.

Peter Beinart correctly pointed out that Israel’s policy in the West Bank are odious and undemocratic. As he alluded to in the on air interview, and states more specifically in his book, Beinart calls the occupied terrifies “undemocratic Israel.” He correctly points out that Israel is a democracy for only half of the people under its control – maintaining a 45 year long military occupation of several million Palestinians: one that privileges Jewish settlers over indigenous Palestinians in dozens of ways, most significantly in granting Jews the vote while denying it to Palestinians in neighbouring villages and neighbourhoods. Yet Beinart’s major problem with this is not that it is simply unjust unfair and the cause of huge suffering to the Palestinians, but rather that such actions will alienate young Jews in North America. Such narcissism is sadly too common in the current Jewish community – which not so long ago was more known for its commitment to universal justice, and progressive values.
Finally I would point out that Beinart says toward the end of the interview – and I am paraphrasing here – that he opposes those that want Israel to become a “secular bi-national state” that loses it’s legally binding Jewish character. But isn’t that exactly the kind of state that Canada claims to be – founded on bi-nationalism, secular (with no privileging of religion), and multi-cultural: where all ethnic religious groups can survive and thrive: develop their cultures and practice their religions together. If it’s good enough for Canada – and, I might point out, most Canadian Jews strongly support this multi-cultural vision of Canada – why isn’t it appropriate for Israel?

On the other hand voicing any criticism of Israel on CBC is so rare that I guess I shouldn't complain. But its just odd that they need the cover of it being a conversation about whats good for the Jews to make the topic kosher for broadcasting.




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