For weeks we waited for Bret Stephens of the New York Times to address Israeli plans to annex the West Bank beginning July 1. Silence. Even as countless American supporters of Israel came out against the plans out of a sense of political urgency, Stephens had nothing to say. He was a lot like AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee, leading rightwing pro-Israel Jewish groups that in a defining moment of Israel’s existence couldn’t say a word for or against, and as a result have lost respect and power in the official community.
Now Stephens has ended his silence. Why? Because of a unique threat: liberal Zionist Peter Beinart’s call for one democratic state between the river and the sea. In Stephens’s mind, this is a greater challenge to Israel’s future than the plans to annex the West Bank and formalize apartheid. Because Peter Beinart is undermining western support for the Jewish state. Even though Bret Stephens says Beinart’s plan is “feckless” and was last espoused by Muammar Qaddafi, and would reopen “rivers of blood” – still Stephens needs to take on the damaging idea in an opinion piece titled, The Siren Song of One State, lest it get any traction in feeble Western minds.
It is partly Peter Beinart’s fault that annexation was even on the table, Stephens, the former editor of the Jerusalem Post, explains. The only reason that Benjamin Netanyahu wanted to go forward with annexation is that he saw the process of “delegitimization” of the Jewish state proceeding apace in the west, now with Beinart’s support.
Netanyahu saw Israel losing the ideas war and wanted to “take what it can get while it can get it,” Stephens writes. “The more Israeli is ostracized because it’s a Jewish state, the the less amenable it will be to make concessions of any sort.”
This is delusory. The fact that many on the American left have stopped believing in a Jewish state — that makes Israel expand? Israel has been expanding through every kind of political weather for 72 years. Israel just wants more land for Jewish settlements, with no Palestinians on that land.
Palestinians and their human and civil rights have nothing to do with the matter, in Stephens’s view. No, Israeli policy is determined by how much Israel is loved and respected in the west. And now that Israel is being “ostracized,” it must grab more land. Ostracized? Huh? The U.S. gives nearly $4 billion a year to this country, never questions how the aid is used, and Congress has said that any move to boycott or sanction Israel is anti-Semitic and Nancy Pelosi says the Capitol will crumble and fall before the Democratic Party stops loving Israel. What planet does Stephens live on?
A very fearful one. Stephens predicts that the views of a “significant segment of American Jewish opinion are soon to harden into a moralizing anti-Zionism.” We wish this were the case, but again — what reality is Stephens reporting on? Beinart is a declared Zionist. 95 percent of American Jews support Israel, Jewish advocates tell us repeatedly. Anti-Zionists are marginalized, and labelled anti-Semites.
It is amazing what sacrifices of mental powers an intellectual will make to try to foster support for Israel. But that’s not the worst. Stephens closes with an observation about American life that is completely unbelievable.
It used to be that Israelis depended on a secure and thriving American Jewry to help stand up their fragile state. Today it is American Jewry that is fragile, threatened by dwindling cultural influence, stagnant demographic trends, increasing alienation from the Democratic Party and abiding discomfort with the G.O.P., and rising anti-Semitism — sometimes masked as anti-Zionism — from across the political spectrum.
Should American Jews start looking for the exits — just as every other Diaspora community in history has done, and continues to do — they will be grateful to find a Jewish state that resisted the siren song of “one state.”
Again, where is Stephens reporting from? The Democratic Party just cashiered any reference to occupation in its platform, surely out of deference to pro-Israel donors. Twenty-seven state governments are trying to crack down on BDS, again in compliance to Israel lobby efforts. Jews are secure in the U.S., and aiding Israel as we speak, with only mild mainstream demurrals.
Physical threats? No doubt orthodox Jews in Brooklyn feel more insecure today than they did a few years ago, and Jews across the country feel more trepidation about going into Jewish spaces than they did before the rise of white nationalism in the Trump era. But Muslims and black people have also been victims of such violence, more than Jews; and Jews retain a strong presence in the American establishment, from the Supreme Court to the Senate to the media and other leading industries.
Who is looking for the exits? This is pure fantasy. As Seth Rogen said in his famous podcast, why would Jews ever want to gather in Israel, where they are even more vulnerable, in some large measure because the Palestinian population is persecuted. Stephens himself chose to move here from Israel, as hundreds of thousands of other Israelis are choosing to do. If life is so fragile for Jews, you’d think he’d move back.
Clearly Stephens and other pro-Israel flacks care more about the propaganda war than they do about what Israel is actually doing. Stephens has to raise the idea of another Holocaust or pogroms because someone has dared to breathe the words one democratic state, or tried to bring Palestinians into the U.S. discussion. For the same reason Israel supporters have gone ballistic over Seth Rogen saying the idea of a Jewish state is ridiculous and antiquated and makes no sense.
The battleground is the American discourse, and pro-Israeli ideologues are getting their feelings hurt because they are losing the argument. Their crazed claims are revealing. Whenever anyone brings up Palestinian human rights, they desperately try and change the subject.
Thanks to Dan Walsh.