Religiously, Peter Beinart is what one may call “conservadox,” an observant Jew who attends a liberal-ish modern Orthodox synagogue but does not routinely cover his head and doesn’t consider himself Orthodox. Some years back, we were both guests at the home of a mutual acquaintance for a Shabbat dinner. And I’ve written a few articles for the blog that he once sponsored at the Daily Beast.
His 2012 book, The Crisis of Zionism, was correct in describing the growing alienation of young American Jews from Israel in the face of its deepening occupation of Palestinian territories in lieu of a negotiated two-state solution. My one note of criticism (in this review) was that he “may understate the extent to which episodes of Palestinian violence (e.g., Hamas and Islamic Jihad attacks during the 1990s, the frightful toll on Israelis of the Second Intifada, and the intermittent rocket and other attacks from Gaza following Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in 2005) have undermined the trust of a majority of Israelis in the utility of peacemaking -– even as Israel’s counter-measures have further alienated many Palestinians from faith in a negotiated peace.”
In his recent NY Times op-ed and in his longer essay in Jewish Currents, Beinart now endorses, in principle, a one-state binational solution. Some critics have pointed out in reaction that few Israelis, including even Palestinian citizens of Israel, and possibly only a minority of Palestinians under occupation, actually support such a resolution.
It’s questionable that most Palestinians even accept the Jewish people as a “nation,” as opposed to a religious group. So Jews with Zionist sympathies, like Beinart, speak of a binational state, while other one-staters support a single “democratic state” with equal citizenship rights in all of historic Palestine — which may relegate Israeli Jews to minority status without national rights.
There is still a lack of understanding among even ostensibly liberal Palestinians about the complexity of Jewish identity and the Jewish claim to national self-determination. On a visit to Ramallah in 2012, with Partners for Progressive Israel . . .
I was one of a majority of our group taken aback by Dr. Hanan Ashrawi’s misunderstanding of what we (and most Israelis and Jews) mean by a “Jewish state.” A progressive Zionist doesn’t support a “Jewish state” that is either theocratic or exclusively Jewish, but rather a country that is always open to Jews seeking refuge from persecution, discrimination or oppression, and that may (at a maximum) also work to preserve & cultivate Jewish cultural expression & heritage (whether in religious or secular form), while not impinging upon the individual civil rights of its non-Jewish citizens.