Begging To Differ

Well, it looks like the article by Peter Beinart that I referred to in my last post has generated some pointed responses and heated debate. A lot of the criticism leveled against his argument boils down to accusations that Beinart is:

  1. Alarmist (vis à vis what he views as growing “fascist” – or at least anti-democratic – tendencies through the increased strength of the settler movement and among the parties currently in power in Israel);
  2. Too blind to the fault of the Palestinians in the failure to reach a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict;
  3. Incorrect in his estimation of the level of alienation of young American Jews from Israel;
  4. Defending a type of Zionism and Judaism (the liberal kind) whose death knell has supposedly already been sounded.

A caricature of Peter Beinart

In my opinion, it is definitely worth reading some of these responses to Beinart, as well as a rebuttal by Beinart himself to one of them. The discussion is complex, and the arguments really make you think. They also make me wonder whether there can really be a significant place for moderation and centrism on this issue going forward.

However, from my perspective as a professional who has been around the Jewish education block more than a few times, I do think that Beinart’s characterization of the split between Orthodox young people and more religiously liberal ones is correct. Zionism and love of Israel continues to be a given in Orthodox schools’ curriculum, but liberal Jewish schools and synagogues struggle to teach a Zionism that is not the default national-religious type that comes so naturally in the Orthodox institutions. It is not a coincidence that as of late we have seen large amounts of money and time go in figuring out how “to do Israel education” in the 21st century. I can also vouch for the fact that young Jews today are extremely keyed into the universalistic and ethical aspects of Judaism – to social justice, human rights and tikkun olam. Indeed, that is now a major focus of many Israel travel programs designed for Jewish teens and 20-somethings.

Click here to read Jonathan Chait’s critique of Beinart’s article, published in The New Republic.

Click here to read Beinart’s rebuttal to Chait’s piece, published in The Daily Beast.

Click here to read Jeffrey Goldberg’s interview of/conversation with Beinart in The Atlantic. (It’s in two parts, with more to come.)

Click here to read David P. Goldman’s dismissal of Beinart’s article as an unintended eulogy for liberal Judaism and an ineffective rehash of points already known, published in First Things. I have to say that I was disturbed by Goldman’s lumping together of secular Judaism with all liberal Judaism, as though there is no place for a religious attachment to Israel on the part of practicing and involved non-Orthodox Jews.

And finally, you can click here to read Bradely Burston’s column in Ha’aretz, which is an example of the warnings- from within Israel - against the Israeli “fascism” to which Beinart has referred.

I know – this is a lot of reading. However, I found it wasn’t a slog at all, because it was interesting and important. You may (amazingly), as I did, get through it all without even getting a headache.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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One Response to “Begging To Differ”

  1. Rose Barlow Says:

    Nothing justifies the dehumanization of others – no one today justifies dehumanizing Germans because of the Holocaust – but justification for the dehumanization of, and racism against, Arab Israelis, Palestinians and Arabs in generally is alarming. Whether it occurs inside Israel, or in the USA, it ultimately takes down both sides.

    I am not an apologist for murderous terrorists but they are human. And human Jews can be murderous too. So while Israel has every right to defend herself lets stop painting it as an elevating task. It is not.

    “An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.”
    Mohandas Gandhi

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