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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/17/20

Liberal Zionism begins the journey towards a one-state solution

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Peter Beinart, an influential liberal commentator on Israel and Zionism, poked a very large stick into a hornets' nest this month by admitting he had finally abandoned his long-cherished commitment to a two-state solution.

Variously described as the "pope of liberal Zionism" and a "bellwether for the American Jewish community", Beinart broke ranks in two essays. Writing in the New York Times and in Jewish Currents magazine, he embraced the idea of equality for all - Israelis and Palestinians.

Beinart concluded: "The painful truth is that the project to which liberal Zionists like myself have devoted ourselves for decades - a state for Palestinians separated from a state for Jews - has failed. " It is time for liberal Zionists to abandon the goal of Jewish-Palestinian separation and embrace the goal of Jewish-Palestinian equality."

Similarly, the Times article was headlined: "I no longer believe in a Jewish state." Beinart's main point - that a commitment to Israel is now entirely incompatible with a commitment to equality for the region's inhabitants - is a potential hammer blow to the delusions of liberal Jews in the United States.

Long journey

His declaration is the apparent culmination of a long intellectual and emotional journey Beinart has conducted in the public eye - a journey many American liberal Jews have taken with him.

Once the darling of the war-mongering liberal establishment in Washington, he supported the illegal attack on Iraq in 2003. Three years later, he wrote a largely unrepentant book titled The Good Fight: Why Liberals - and Only Liberals - Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again.

There is no heavyweight publication in the US that has not hosted his thoughts. Foreign Policy magazine ranked him in the top 100 global thinkers in 2012.

But his infatuation with Israel and Zionism has been souring for years. A decade ago, he published a seminal essay on how young American Jews were increasingly alienated from their main leadership organisations, which he criticised for worshipping at the altar of Israel even as Israeli governments lurched ever further rightwards. His argument later formed the basis of a book, The Crisis of Zionism.

The tensions he articulated finally exploded into physical confrontation in 2018, when he was detained at Israel's main airport and nearly denied entry based on his political views.

Beinart has not only written caustically about the occupation - a fairly comfortable deflection for most liberal Zionists - but has also increasingly turned his attention to Israel's behaviour towards its large Palestinian minority, one in five of the population.

Recognition of the structural racism towards these 1.8 million Palestinian citizens, a group whose identity is usually glossed over as "Israeli Arabs", was a clear sign that he had begun poking into the dark recesses of Zionism, areas from which most of his colleagues shied away.

Disappointment and distrust

Beinart's two essays have been greeted with hesitancy by some of those who might be considered natural allies.

Understandably, some Palestinians find reason to distrust Beinart's continuing description of himself as a Zionist, even if now a cultural rather than political one. They also resent a continuing western colonial mentality that very belatedly takes an interest in equality for Palestinians only because a prominent liberal Jew adopts the cause.

Beinart's language is problematic for many Palestinians too. Not least, he frames the issue as between Palestinians and Jews, implying that Jews everywhere still have a colonial claim on the historic lands of Palestine, rather than those who live there today as Israelis.

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)
 

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