There is going to be alot of talk about Peter Beinart's article on the decline of Zionism among young, secular, liberal Jews. One thing struck me. Beinart wrote that Zionism was declining among young, secular, liberal Jews due to Israeli policies and the failure of American Jewish organization to criticize those policies. By Zionism, I take Beinart to mean the belief in the legitimacy of Israel as a majority Jewish state. I wonder if the actions of Palestinian groups like Hamas causes these same young, secular, liberals to question the legitimacy of Palestinian statehood? Probably not.
I think one way to look at the article is to take the word Jewish out and look how a group of young, secular liberals react to the reality of an American ally under persistent attack and especially the slow delegitimizing and abandonment of that ally. Several familiar tropes come up:
1. The relentless focus on (and distortion of) the worst and least attractive elements of the American ally's society. The article tells you alot about Effi Eitam, but never gets around to mentioning that the current Israeli Prime Minister endorsed a two-state solution (though granted of a problematic kind, though we should keep in mind that the nature of an independent Palestinian state would be a product of negotiation and Netanyahu would not have started with the best offer.)
2. Shifting the focus away from the nature and tactics of the regimes or groups that are attacking the American ally and focusing on the suffering of a group of civilians with the blame for the suffering placed on the American ally. Beinart mentions the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, in an article that is a critique of Israeli policy and Israeli defenders, but does not mention what kind of regime Hamas runs in Gaza and how this contributes to the suffering of Palestinians. This distorts the nature of the crisis and gives no sense of the kind of trade-offs Israel has to make in dealing with a Hamas-run Gaza regime that is formally committed to the destruction of Israel and has targeted Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians. Maybe the particular trade-offs Israel is making are mistaken, but quoting a college professor comparing Israeli political leaders to General Franco, and talking about Palestinian suffering in a decontexualized way, and quoting the sentiments of presently marginal politicians like Avraham Burg (with no mention of how events led to his marginalzation), creates the impression of (without explicitly asserting), an upside down world in which the Israeli government is fascist, the Palestinians are innocent victims, the real security concerns of Israel are absent or afterthoughts and the internal saviors of Israel are politicians that have been rejected by the Israeli public for no good reason that the reader could possibly discern from reading Beinart's article.
Beinart posits saving Zionism among young, secular, liberal Jews, by crafting a kind of Zionism that is much more critical of Israeli policy. By all means, let us have fair, realistic criticism of Israeli governance. But Israel will not be saved by the kind of one-sided criticism on display in Beinart's article or by the strategic deployment of double standards and a propagandistic selection of facts that is merely the preliminary step to abandoning a US ally.