Two years ago, Peter Beinart wrote a piece for the New York Review of Books that had the American Jewish community talking. It was titled “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment”—the heart of which was this: “For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.” Response to it was quite varied (see here and here and here).
That might not be so with Beinart’s latest NYT op-ed calling on Jews to boycott West Bank settlements for the sake of Israel. Rob Eshman, the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Jewish Journal, had this assessment of reactions: “Congrats Peter Beinart for unifying the Left and Right—against your dumb idea”. That’s no small feat.
Rob identifies five reasons why a boycott would backfire on its goal of bringing a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here are numbers four and five:
4. Boycotts reek of stinky history.
Many commentators have raised this point. Even Beinart acknowledged it. Boycotts have long been used as a weapon against Jewish communities. To employ them in the context of Jew versus Jew in some way legitimizes the behavior of those who used them against us all throughout time.
5. Focusing the debate on the boycott wastes better opportunities for progress.
An incendiary op-ed in The New York Times will draw attention and help sell books. Mazel tov. But if your goal is to nudge a century-long dispute toward a peaceful resolution, there are many more thoughtful immediate steps that the American Jewish community can support.
One of them comes from Ami Ayalon, the former head of Shin Bet and former member of Knesset. His initiative, the Blue White Future, is focused on creating an orderly and peaceful re-absorption of settlers into Israel. Ayalon, whom, I met with in LA two months ago, is a tough former Navy commando who travels into the West Bank to meet with settlers and explain why their cooperation with a future settlement is key to the security of the state. If you want to do something good for Israel, at least like Ayalon’s group on Facebook.
Moreover, as Ziad Asali writes, there are numerous steps you can encourage the Americans and Israelis to take to lessen friction and increase the chances of a settlement. None of these involve pitting Jew against Jew. Click here to read them.
So that’s it. If you want to help bring peace to the Middle East, follow the advice of Israelis and Palestinians like Ayalon and Asali.
Or, help Peter Beinart sell books.
Read the rest here.