Monday, April 23, 2012

Rabbi Gordis shows what's wrong with Peter Beinhart (and J-Street)

J-Street has always struck me as a noble idea (a pro-Israel/pro-peace alternative to the mainstream zionist movement) which is consistently off base in its reality - sometimes dangerously so.
Rabbi Daniel Gordis' harsh critique of Peter Beinhart's (founder of J-Street) new book expresses exactly why that's so. 
It's fine to criticize Israel - it's more than fine, actually. But, when you saying, for example, that the ONLY difference between Palestinian terrorism and Israeli terrorism is the government's response to it, you've probably left the realm of reasonable discourse:
Then, unbelievably, Beinart has this to say: “But what distinguishes Palestinian terrorism and settler terrorism is the Israeli government’s response.” Really? That’s all that distinguishes Palestinian and Jewish terror? How about the fact that there have been very, very few incidents of Jewish terror, while the Palestinians have turned it into a cottage industry? How about the fact that Israeli society detests the Jews who do this sort of thing, while Palestinian society lionizes them? Why does Beinart not mention those enormous differences? His sort of accusation and absurd misrepresentation is what one would expect from the enemies of Israel, not someone who professes love for the Jewish state. 
All Zionists (and everyone else) has the right, maybe even the responsibility to criticize Israel. But, that doesn't mean that all criticism of Israel is fair or right. Anyone who thinks that Israel is perfect is crazy. Anyone who thinks that it's as evil as, say, Hamas (or Syria, or...) isn't really paying attention.


michaelf said...

The problem is that Gordis appears to have substantially mischaracterized what Beinert wrote.

See Beinert's response at:

I don't agree with most of what Beinert proposes, but I think Gordis's critique has attacked a straw-man version of Beinert.

J.J. Goldberg in the Forward agrees:

Rabbi Jason Rosenberg said...

Michael - thanks for posting this. I'd say that Goldberg's article isn't particularly useful here. He mostly accuses Beinhart's critics of being unfair (and unhinged) without ever really explaining how that's so. The fact that they're rather vociferous doesn't mean that they're wrong!

Beinhart's own reply seems more compelling. He directly refutes claims which Gordis made with evidence from his own book. I haven't read the book, so I can't tell if Beinhart is cherry-picking, or if Gordis is being unfairly selective. Have you read it?