May 30, 2010
American Jews and IsraelBy Eileen F. Toplansky
As a nightmare scenario of escalating anti-Semitism plays out, commentators struggle to cope with the indifference of so many Jews to the threat. In the June 10, 2010 New York Review of Books, Peter Beinart pens an article entitled "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment." Peter Beinart is Senior Political Writer at The Daily Beast. He was also The New Republic's managing editor from 1995 to 2007. In the Review of Books he writes that far too many Jewish students on college campuses are "not more vigorously rebutting campus criticism of Israel." Beinart throws down the gauntlet and claims that unless leaders of groups like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations do not change course, more American Jewish youths will simply turn their backs on Israel.
Aye, there's the rub. Instead of discussing the Daily Alerts put out by the aforementioned Conference, which are easily available through the Internet; instead of explaining how Jewish students on college campuses are under attack by racist groups as well as radical university professors; instead of truly reaching out to the beleaguered Jewish student who is searching for ways to combat the blatant anti-Semitism, Mr. Beinart blames organized Jewish American groups as well as Israel herself.
In fact, the problem is that far too many college students are not being taught history without it being politicized. In 1995, David McCullough gave an acceptance speech for the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. His talk, entitled "Why History," centered on the widespread crisis concerning the lack of judicious study of American history. The problem has become far more critical. Our students do not even know the basics of American history, let alone international history.
Few students understand the background of Palestine or Israel. Fewer students have any idea of the incessant jihadist calls for death to Israel, Jews, and Western democracy. Instead, they are becoming more and more conditioned to hearing attractive Muslim female students describe conditions of Palestinians while conveniently ignoring the facts that any credible historian can attest to. The fact that the U.N. continues to keep Palestinians in refugee camps, aka terrorist training camps -- the fact that Israel has, time and again, offered land to its avowed enemies only to have as its rewards rockets shot into Israeli towns -- the fact that alleged peace partners Jordan and Egypt aid and abet terrorists to bring in rockets, mortars, and guns -- why doesn't Beinart expose the shameless neglect on the part of university history departments, newspapers, and liberal media outlets that show a snippet of an event without ever exposing the cause and effect of Israel's reactions?
Groups like CAMERA, MEMRI, HonestReporting, Daniel Pipes, and JIHAD WATCH work assiduously to counter the obvious anti-Semitic chant of most of the world. And yet, how many young people are informed about these sites? How many professors cite these organizations to their young charges? In fact, in too many American universities, the situation has now become toxic for Jewish students. At Rutgers, for example, labor relations students are told that they can apply for jobs in Palestine! At the University of Berkeley, Irvine, students are subjected to guerrilla theatre as reenactments are made of IDF soldiers mowing down Palestinian people! The university presidents do not interfere, citing freedom of expression! And the lone Jewish student walks away appalled and scared. Political correctness informs lectures, and English composition texts display out-of-context essays which neglect to inform the students about the nefarious deeds of CAIR. Pictures are inserted that mislead students. Yet year after year, this is what is foisted upon students with nary a peep from department heads who often are misinformed or uninformed. It is so easy to take the Palestinian perspective because the Palestinians have been rendered the underdog. How many school administrators and political officials publicize and protest this one-sided pandering? Why doesn't Beinart take them to task?
How is it that the world yawns when Israelis are booed at sports events, when singers boycott Israel, when the U.N. appoints the basest of the base to its Human Rights unit? Where is the outcry from the power brokers? Yet Mr. Beinart expects 18-year-olds to shoulder the responsibilities of these daily battles? Middle Eastern Studies programs, once the jewel of genuine multicultural studies, have become the tools of propaganda and distortion by terrorist-leading pundits.
Israel and her defenders are aghast at the daily incitement for the annihilation of Jews. It hearkens back to the days of Nasser, who vowed to push every Jew into the Mediterranean...which hearkens back to the Pharaoh, who did, indeed, drown every Hebrew male child in the Nile. As Emma Lazarus said, "[A] study of Jewish history is all that is necessary to make a patriot of an intelligent Jew," but when history texts are poisoned by the likes of Finkelstein, Khalidi, and Edward Said, are we not asking a herculean task of students? What is the obligation that society owes to its young?
There is a smarmy tone to Beinart when he diminishes the genuine concerns of Benjamin Netanyahu, who sees clear parallels between the Palestinian bid for statehood and Nazism. Yet history speaks to the fact that Hitler had indeed met with the Mufti who had organized Muslim Bosnians to fight alongside the Nazis. When Egypt had the Gaza Strip and Jordan had the West Bank, it is odd that there was never any interest in setting up an independent Palestinian country. But be that as it may, Israel has time and again acceded to Palestinian demands -- in fact, Gaza is now judenfrei -- and still the Palestinians make a mockery of the responsibility that is supposed to come with statehood.
How should Israelis react? With the exception of a few brave Muslim voices, what have the Israelis received from their Arab neighbors but a reign of treachery and death? When Israel built the dividing fence to stop the horrific suicide/homicide bombing of its civilians, it received nothing but intense world condemnation. When Israeli athletes were being murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics, did the other athletes organize a massive boycott and remain adamant that the games would not continue until the Israeli athletes were released? When 95% of the West Bank was offered to Arafat to build this so-called independent Palestinian country, what happened? "Jihad, and jihad, and jihad" came from the lips of the murderer Arafat. This is not wallowing in victimhood; it is the recitation of far too many anti-Jewish events.
Why are the Palestinians the only ones whose plight is pictured on television? What about the survivors of suicide bombs, whose lives have been shattered, whose hopes have been dashed? Pierre Rehov has interviewed and filmed captured failed suicide bombers who are jailed in Israeli prisons; the bombers vow that if given a chance, they would continue to blow up Jews. Some of these suicide bombers were Israelis, born and educated in the country. Is it any wonder that Israeli Jews have a justified suspicion of the Arabs living among them?
Mr. Beinart finds Israelis at fault because they may harbor suspicions that Israeli Arabs publicly mourn on Israeli Independence Day, citing it as their Nakba. How then, Mr. Beinart, does one deal with a fifth column in a country? Caroline Glick documents the perfidy among Israeli Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, as they spy for Hezbollah. One Israeli Arab was a former member of the Knesset! Routinely, Hezbollah flags are flown at Israeli Arab political events and protests. According to Glick, the Israeli government has "failed to adopt any consistent measures" concerning Israeli Arab leaders, who routinely reject the country's right to exist.
The abridged rights that Beinart speaks of do not come close to the outright prejudice, bigotry, and racism that all of Israel's neighbors have towards Jews. And these countries do not engage in verbal discussions about how to be democratic. The amazing thing is that Israel is still concerned about being democratic, that Israel still wants to retain the higher ethical ground. But with anti-Israel world opinion and destructive invective being publicized, how can an American Jewish student counter all this?
And to cite Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as objective groups is quite an irony. Furthermore, how is it in 2005 that Palestinians themselves feared for their lives if the Palestinian Authority were to come to power? Why isn't this making the front pages among the media?
Too many pundits seem to agree with Mr. Beinart, who writes that the "drama of Jewish victimhood ... strikes most of today's young American Jews as farce." Why not ask the student who was recently beaten up by a member of the Muslim Students Association because he was a member of the Jewish fraternity Zeta Beta Tau? Why not ask the female Jewish student who was afraid of asking her professor a question about the Middle East because she had seen him at a rally where he called for the dissolution of the State of Israel? The students do not see victimization of Israel as a farce. They are the latest victims of an insidious hatred that is dominating news outlets, heads of states, and campus posters. They are frightened, not neglectful.
Beinart nonchalantly dismisses the fact that "Israel faces threats from Hezbollah and Hamas" and "is understandably worr[ied] about a nuclear Iran." But, Beinart continues, "the dilemmas that [Israel] faces ... are not the dilemmas of the Warsaw Ghetto. The year 2010 is not, as Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed, 1938." How, then, should it be viewed? Why is an existential threat to be dismissed? If Beinart feels this way, why shouldn't the young American Jew harbor these ideas? I thought history was supposed to warn us? Whose side is he trying to enlighten? In a recent interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, Beinart states that his "spiritual connection to the land of Israel is, in all honesty, weaker. Perhaps that's why I don't feel the sense of potential loss at giving up Hebron ... My love of Israel isn't about the land." Well, now we have it -- Mr. Beinart nonchalantly makes no claim about the land, so therefore, what's the big deal about giving it to the enemy? And he expects Jewish students to engage in passionate defense about Ha-eretz (the land) when it isn't important to him? Whom is he fooling? He and other writers engage in some late-night musings about the "bonds of [Jewish] peoplehood" but hold themselves to a different standard when it comes to Israel's security as a country bounded by secure borders.
When nations swear to exterminate you, what exactly should you do? Beinart waters down the very real concerns that Israelis have. Time and again, they have been lied to by the Arab nations they have negotiated with. They have buried far too many of their young, and yet they are still held to a double standard. No other country in the world is under daily attack in the media, in the courts of law, at the United Nations, and now by the President of the United States. Yet Beinart is implying that Israel is not living up to its "precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew prophets." Frankly, what is amazing is that the Israelis do live up to these precepts, even when surrounded by the most dastardly of enemies both from within and without its borders.
See also: Israel and America's Jews