Peter Beinart and Seth Rogen Reflect Jewish Disillusionment with Israel – Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Posted By on September 13, 2020

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs,October 2020, pp. 16-17, 28

THE DISILLUSIONMENT with Israel of American Jews, and some Israelis, is becoming increasingly clear. In particular, controversy was stirred by a widely discussed article by Peter Beinart, respected journalist and long-time liberal Zionist, and an interview with writer and actor Seth Rogen.

Peter Beinart, for many years an advocate of a two-state solution, has now changed his mind. He stirred much debate with his article published on July 8 in the New York Times entitled, I No Longer Believe in a Jewish State. This was preceded by a longer article in Jewish Currents, where he is editor-at-large, Yavne: A Jewish Case For Equality in Israel-Palestine.

He writes: For decades I argued for a separation between Israelis and Palestinians. Now, I can imagine a Jewish home in one equal state. I was 22 in 1993 when Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn to officially begin the peace process that many hoped would create a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Ive been arguing for a two-state solution ever since.

Beinart notes that, I knew Israel was wrong to deny Palestinians in the West Bank citizenship, due process, free movement and the right to vote in the country in which they lived. But the dream of a two-state solution that would give Palestinians a country of their own let me hope that I could remain a liberal and a supporter of Jewish statehood at the same time. Events have extinguished that hope.

At the present time, about 640,000 Jewish settlers live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and Beinart argues, Both the Israeli and American governments have divested Palestinian statehood of any real meaning. The Trump administrations peace plan envisions an archipelago of Palestinian towns scattered across as little as 70 percent of the West Bank, under Israeli control. If Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu fulfills his pledge to impose Israeli sovereignty on parts of the West Bank, he will just formalize a decades-old reality. In practice, Israel annexed the West Bank long ago.

In reality, Beinart writes, Israel has all but made its decision: one country that includes millions of Palestinians who lack basic rights. Now liberal Zionists must make our decision, too. Its time to abandon the traditional two-state solution and embrace the goal of equal rights for Jews and Palestinians. Its time to imagine a Jewish home that is not a Jewish state. Equality could come in the form of one state, that includes Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem or it could be a confederation that allows free movement between two deeply integrated countries.

Achieving the goal of equality, Beinart believes, ...would be long and difficult but it is not fanciful. The goal of equality is now more realistic than the goal of separation...Israel is already a binational state. Two peoples, roughly equal in number, live under the ultimate control of one government. And the political science literature is clear: divided societies are most stable and most peaceful when governments represent all their peoples.

Beinart concludes: A Jewish state has become the dominant form of Zionism. But it is not the essence of Zionism. The essence of Zionism is a Jewish home in the land of Israel, a thriving Jewish society in Israel-Palestine can be a Jewish home that is also, equally, a Palestinian home. Builders of that home can bring liberation not just for Palestinians but for us too.

Even in Israel there are voices embracing Beinarts analysis. Some even argued that Beinart does not go far enough. One of these is Jeff Halper, an Israeli anthropologist who leads the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions and is a founder of the One Democratic State Committee.

Writing in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on July 13, he declares that, A single state is the only alternative to what exists today, and what annexation plainly offers for the future: apartheid. The One Democratic State campaign has formulated a political program that calls for a single democracy of equal rights and the homecoming of the refugees and the emergence of a shared civil society.

To the question, Will Israeli Jews buy into it, Halper provides this assessment: Of course not. Why would they? To such a degree do they enjoy the benefits of an apartheid regime that the occupation and Palestinian rights have been reduced to a non-issue. The refusal of most white South Africans to willingly dismantle apartheid resembles that of Israeli Jews. So Palestinians and their few Israeli partners that have the vision of a shared society must take a leaf from the ANC [African National Congress] playbook. Like the ANC, we must create a direct link between the international public, for whom Palestinian rights is a major issue (including among a growing proportion of young Jews), and our one-state movement. In that way, we render Israeli apartheid unsustainable, as the ANC did in South Africa, finally bringing the Israelis into the transition process when they have no choice but to cooperate.

Another Israeli who is giving up on a two-state solution is Gershon Baskin, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post. In a 2019 column he wrote: Those of us in Israel who have supported and struggled to bring about a two-state solution are now forced to accept the new reality that Netanyahu will create, and we will have to join the ranks of the people who will fight for democracy and equality in a non-nation, non-ethnic secular state.

Writing in The Nation, Eric Alterman declared: Liberal Zionism is a contradiction in terms. But no one has stirred more controversy than actor-writer Seth Rogen, who declared in a widely heard interview that, Israel makes no sense.

Rogen, who grew up in Canada, went to Jewish schools and Jewish summer camps. His parents met while working on a kibbutz in Israel. On July 27, he appeared on the Marc Maron podcast promoting his new movie, An American Pickle, which looks at Jewish life in the U.S. Maron, who is also Jewish, raised the idea of Jews moving to many places in the world after the Holocaust, and not to Israel. Rogen replied, I think thats a better strategyyou dont keep all your Jews in one basket. I dont understand why they did that. It makes no sense whatsoever. It would be nice to live somewhere that was not part of the Christian apocalyptic prophesymaybe settle somewhere that the Christians dont think you all have to die in order for the apocalypse to happen.

Maron asked, Do you want to live in Israel? Rogen answered, No. Maron responded: Im the same way and were going to piss off a bunch of Jews. For some reason, my mother, whos not religious, her generation, theyre kind of hung up on Israel, and they found some comfort in it. Ive been thereI couldnt imagine living there. Rogen replied, If it is truly for the preservation of Jewish people, it makes no sense, because you dont keep something youre trying to preserve all in one place, especially when that place has proven to be pretty volatile.

Beyond this, said Rogen, I also think that as a Jewish person, I was fed a huge amount of lies about Israel my entire life. You know, they never tell you that, by the way, there were people there. They make it seem like it was just sitting there...the doors open. Literally, they forgot to include the fact to every young Jewish person, basically, oh, by the way, there were people living there. I dont understand it at all. I think for Jewish people especially, who view themselves as analytical and who view themselves as people who ask a lot of questions and really challenge the status quowhat are we doing?

Both Rogen and Maron knew that they would be bitterly attacked by the Jewish establishment. Maron said, I get frightened to talk about it. And were afraid of Jews. Rogen agreed, I know. Im afraid of Jews. I am 100 percent afraid of Jews. But were Jewswe can say whatever we want.

Indeed, both Peter Beinart and Seth Rogen have been subject to bitter attacks. Writing in Newsweek, Alan Dershowitz, a long time Zionist advocate, headlined his article, Beinarts Final Solution: End Israel as Nation-State of the Jewish People. This, of course, was a clear allusion to the Nazi genocide. Eric Mandel, director of the Middle East Political and Information Network wrote, in Washington Jewish Week on Aug. 6, that Rogen had crossed a line and associated him with groups critical of Israel that he described as anti-Semitic. We could fill pages with similar harsh attacks.

The reason the attacks are so bitter is that the Jewish establishment recognizes that voices, such as Beinart and Rogen, speak for more and more American Jews. An article appeared on July 29 in The Forward with the headline, Wake Up, Jewish Establishment: Seth Rogen Speaks for a lot of us Young Jews. The author, Joel Swanson, wrote: Few millennial Jews have the ability to capture the Jewish cultural conversation the way Seth Rogen does. Andhe used that influence to show the Jewish establishment why it cant keep pretending that young Jews who reject Zionism and the State of Israel are relegated to a tiny, insignificant fringe of the community.Seth Rogen is one of the most publicly Jewish celebrities right now, and has made one of the years most anticipated Jewish movies. He cant easily be dismissed as marginal or fringe. Jewish establishment organizations have every reason to be afraid of what Seth Rogens point of view represents.

Beinart and Rogen represent only the tip of the iceberg of the growing disillusionment with Israel and Zionism within the American Jewish community, which is coming to understand how Israel has turned its back on the Jewish moral and ethical tradition. The attacks upon them cannot change this reality.

Allan C. Brownfeld is a syndicated columnist and associate editor of the Lincoln Review, a journal published by the Lincoln Institute for Research and Education, and editor of Issues, the quarterly journal of the American Council for Judaism.

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Peter Beinart and Seth Rogen Reflect Jewish Disillusionment with Israel - Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

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