Climbing to success by dragging Israel down: Peter Beinart

 

Peter Beinart

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.”

Benjamin Netanyahu

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.

Sandra Tamari

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.

Caroline Glick

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.

Stephen Hawking: a brilliant scientist, a flawed man

Stephen Hawking

It was impossible not to be in awe of the British theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who, after leading one of the most remarkable lives of the past century, died on March 14 at age 76. Over the course of his decades-long career, Hawking made a long series of earth-shaking discoveries about the nature of the universe; he developed complex and extraordinarily important theories about singularities, black holes, quantum mechanics, and a number of other perplexing aspects of modern science, and he won a long list of major prizes in his field, plus the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, which was presented to him in 2012 by Barack Obama. 

In addition to doing vital scientific work, Hawking was a first-rate and immensely successful popularizer of scientific ideas, writing books like A Brief History of Time (which stayed on the London Times bestseller list for five years after its publication in 1988 and was ultimately translated into more than 35 languages) and giving talks and lectures around the world in which he did his best to explain his complex insights to members of the general public.

The young Hawking

And he did all of this while suffering from one of the most cruelly debilitating disorders known to man, motor neuron disease (also known as amyotropic lateral sclerosis, ALS, and Lou Gehrig’s disease), which caused him to undergo a very public physical deterioration that ultimately resulted in nearly total paralysis. It is impossible to watch the 2014 feature film about his life, The Theory of Everything, in which the young Hawking was played by actor Eddie Redmayne, without feeling extraordinary empathy for Hawking’s suffering and admiration for his courage and tenacity. Expected to die only a few months – or, at most, a couple of years – after his diagnosis at age 21, he ended up defying all expectations, living longer with ALS than anyone ever had before.

With President Obama

Hawking was, in short, an extraordinarily remarkable man in many ways. To quote from President Obama’s comments at the 2012 medal ceremony: “From his wheelchair, he has led us on a journey to the farthest and strangest reaches of the cosmos. In so doing, he has stirred our imagination and showed us the power of the human spirit.” But there is at least one major blot on his memory. As Judy Siegel-Itzkovich wrote after his death in the Jerusalem Post, he “apparently had a love-hate relationship with Israel – the affection from the 1970s until about a decade ago, and the disaffection more recently.” We will look more closely at this lamentable failing on Thursday.