Peter Beinart’s 2012 book The Crisis of Zionism, which we examined last week, made headlines with its severe anti-Israeli line. But Beinart, as it turned out, was just getting warmed up. In a speech given in 2015 at a Los Angeles synagogue, he accused Israel of encouraging Palestinian violence – essentially suggesting that the Jewish state was asking for it. “Hard as it is to say,” he told his audience, “the Israeli government is reaping what it has sowed.” He even extended his logic to 9/11, describing it as a “response to American foreign policy, a foreign policy of support for Arab dictatorships and Israeli policies which produced tremendous suffering in the Arab world.”
Earlier this month, Beinart made headlines again when he was briefly questioned at Ben-Gurion Airport – an incident that led to apologies by both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Prime Minister Michael Oren. Writing in the Forward, Sandra Tamari, a Palestinian officer at the radical group Adalah Justice Project, expressed outrage at his hour-long detention. “Beinart’s account of his experience,” Tamari wrote,” sparked outrage from many liberal Jewish Americans who wondered why Israel would treat a Jewish supporter like Beinart with suspicion.” It was curious to see Beinart described simply as “a Jewish supporter” when the reality, of course, is somewhat more complicated than that.
Tamari cited Israel’s treatment of Beinart as the latest proof of the intolerance and injustice at the heart of Israel, which, she maintained, “has always been discriminatory, anti-democratic, and illiberal when it comes to Palestinians.” Tamiri welcomed “the anxiety that Israel’s heavy-handedness against Jewish critics” such as Beinart had supposedly catalyzed. At no point in her article, which made numerous accusations against and demands of Israel, did Tamiri criticize any Palestinians for any action whatsoever or call on them to alter any of their philosophies, policies, or practices. But then again, Beinart never makes such criticisms of the Palestinians, either.
Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick took a very different line. Noting Beinart’s support for the BDS movement, his “crass insensitivity towards Israeli Jews in Judea and Samaria,” and his efforts to mainstream “anti-Israel activists who reject Israel’s right to exist,” she recalled a July 2016 stunt by Beinart and other “radical Jewish anti-Israel activists” who staged “a confrontation with the IDF in Hebron.” Entering a closed military zone, they
trampled the land of a Palestinian farmer to film themselves looking brave. The farmer called the army to have them removed. A group of soldiers answered his call and removed Beinart and his comrades. They filmed themselves looking brave as they were being ejected from the land they trespassed on.
Glick observed that fanatical anti-Israeli groups supported by Beinart had not just encouraged criticism of certain Israeli policies at American universities, but had stirred up hatred toward Jewish students who did not share their politics. Beinart, in short, was empowering campaigns that sought “to trample the basic freedoms of Jews who support Israel.”
Owing to Beinart’s anti-Israeli antics, he had been barred – quite properly – from entry into Israel. He knew that he was. But he flew to Israel anyway, with the explicit intention of publicizing Israel’s response, whatever it might be, to his attempt to enter the country. “Israel’s apologies and hand-wringing were out of place,” argued Glick, noting that Beinart “is no mere ‘critic’ of Israel” but rather an activist out to “constrain the freedom of American Jewry and cause lasting harm to the Jewish state.” Indeed.