Hasbara talking points won’t work here

Posted: May 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: the US and us | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

This letters exchange between ADL’s Abe Foxman and Peter Beinart following Beinart’s much discussed NYRB article on the failure of the American Jewish establishment, is definitely worth reading.

Foxman works along the talking points of Israeli Hasbara: Camp David, Barak and Olmert’s generous offers, Arab rejectionism, etc. (sometimes I feel that I can recite those lines from my sleep, and so can probably Foxman). What I like about Beinart’s answer – as well as on his original article – is his sensitivity to the tones coming out of Israel – and how they sound to the ears young and liberal people (my Italic):

…Palestinian rejectionism cannot explain Avigdor Lieberman’s crusade to humiliate, disenfranchise, and perhaps even eventually expel Arab Israelis, the vast majority of whom want nothing more than to be accepted as equal citizens in the country of their birth… When do American Jewish organizations plan to start forcefully opposing Lieberman and the forces he represents? When he becomes prime minister?

(…)

In the real Israel, as opposed to the imaginary one that American Jewish leaders conjure, there is no consensus on a Palestinian state. There are Israelis who believe that such a state is a demographic and moral necessity. And there are Israelis—like Lieberman, Effi Eitam, and the leaders of Shas—who are doing their best to make a Palestinian state impossible, for instance by ringing East Jerusalem with settlements. American Jewish leaders cannot profess solidarity with the first group while serving as intellectual bodyguards for the second.

After the NYRB published Beinart’s article, he was attacked for supposedly misrepresenting some issues or being inaccurate on a certain topic. While even this criticism is debatable, it simply misses the point: Beinart captured the spirit of the moment in Israel – and the way it reflects on his own community. The usual answer – “it’s the Palestinians’ fault” – simply won’t work here, because he wasn’t talking about the Palestinians, but about what Israel has become.