5/17/2010

The Beinart Article

I saw the Beinart article that everyone is abuzz about early this morning as I was scouring the web for articles with potential for JID. I didn't get a chance to really read it until much later in the day. My "blink" reaction is to loathe the article. Now I just have to figure out why.
To be sure, it is very well written and thought provoking. And for the most part I believe that his large brush strokes are pretty good. There is definitely a split between Zionist and universalist/non-Zionist (hard to say which it is; human nature tends to confuse pluralism and apathy) young Jews, and the first group tends to be more religiously committed.
And yet, I think he way oversimplifies on so many levels, and is simply off on many others.
  • Take, for example, this line: "Saving liberal Zionism in the United States—so that American Jews can help save liberal Zionism in Israel—is the great American Jewish challenge of our age." This is a great example of the American hubris that he apparently wrote an entire book in criticism of. Whatever the reasons for the fall of liberal Zionism in America, they are very different from the reasons for the decline of liberal Zionism in Israel. It smacks of "we know what's better for the Israelis than Israelis do." The sad reality is that the average American Jew - right or left - is terribly ignorant of the entire issue.
  • It's really disturbing how he lumps all of Orthodoxy into one camp - even shoehorning Shas and UTJ in there. 
  • It's funny how he describes the Orthodox as being uncritical of Israel, when it was in fact the Orthodox who have been amongst the fiercest critics of Israel's and Zionism's secularism. I'm not talking about Neturei Karta here; it's standard Haredi rhetoric, and not only. The fact that they're not criticizing what YOU'RE criticizing does not make them uncritical.
  • He quotes a stat that only 25% of American Orthodox Jews are in favor of a two-state solution. I'd wager that it was a lot less a generation ago, just as it was a lot less amongst the general Jewish population a generation ago. So "not moving toward the center as fast as everyone else" is the same as "moving to the right?"
  • The assumption that being on the right wing presumes "naked hostility toward Arabs" and then backing it up with disingenuous or irrelevant facts - failing to note, for example, that Netanyahu openly advocated a 2-state solution less than a year ago while noting that 20 years ago he sang a different tune. Is it impossible that some people went right because of beliefs other than "naked hostility?"
  • If I were to point to a common denominator, it's that he misreads the Israeli political scene, erroneously assuming that it is similar to American Jewish opinion, and especially when it comes to the different demographics within Orthodox Judaism.
I'm still stuck between "blink" and "think" - I feel like I haven't figured out my main reason for disliking the article.
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