A State of Uncertainty

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Beinin concluded his remarks by quoting from Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), a section of the Jewish Oral Law, which states that the world has three pillars: truth, justice, and peace. Channeling the misguided preoccupation with viewing Judaism as a vehicle for “social justice,” Beinin focused on that pillar, stating that a solution to the current conflict should begin with “a full hearing…to the grievances of all parties,” since “exacting full retribution” against those responsible for the conflict—in his view, primarily Israel—cannot be determined by human beings “in any case.” “Enough justice must be established,” he continued, “to enable reconciliation and coexistence.”

Then it was Zipperstein’s turn to speak. Although he was to provide the pro-Israel perspective in the discussion, Zipperstein’s speech consisted primarily of elaborating on the overarching theme that both sides of the conflict are equally at fault and thus deserve equal respite. “No one needs to be a saint to be recognized as deserving a state,” he said, and “no people needs to prove that they are a light unto the nations in order to live in peace.” After sharing several gems of wisdom such as “Israel and Palestine remain, for the foreseeable future, linked at the hipbone, wishing the other would go away,” he summed up his remarks by stating, “Neither side in this dispute can be bludgeoned into making peace.”

An open discussion between the participants followed that included topics ranging from the role of American Jews in the conflict, to the nature of the Jewish state, to the future of the Palestinian people. In brief, Beinin argued that “we [American Jews] have no credibility to speak abstractly” about the conflict in a non-academic arena since American Jews do not experience it firsthand; that Israel is “an undemocratic state” which cannot be a democracy until a “civil war between religious settlers and secular liberals” occurs; and that a Palestinian state, if it came to exist, would probably be “a miserable state with dictatorial tendencies.” At least on the last point, he was close to the truth.

Though it was apparent throughout the event that Beinin labored to keep his rhetoric low-key and more nuanced than usual, his radical views inevitably slipped out. And, as much as he would like to wish otherwise, peppering his speech with biblical quotes did not—and never could—make up for that.

Jonathan Gelbart is a senior at Stanford University majoring in International Relations. He is the president of Students for an Open Society and former world news editor of the Stanford Review, an independent publication. He wrote this article for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.

[Editor’s note: To see Joel Beinin’s profile in Frontpage’s Collaborators series, click here.]

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  • Mark

    ISrael defines racism at its purest level. Backed by American Jewish money from jews who care nothing about the Israeli people, rather their iconic values. It disgusts me as an American to know my tax dollars are going to a racist murderous state. Especially when there is no justification for it except biblical ambitions of a sect with a blind vision.

    • Mark Goldberg

      No….. That no jew or christian can walk in Mecca, defines racism. That no jew or christian shall live in arabia- the last edict of miserable mohammed before he died- is pure racism.That no jew or christian or ANY other kaffir, infidel, can walk in Mecca is pure racism. That Sharia law for everywhere in the world, demands submission of all non muslim religions to muslim hegemony is pure 'racism' and pure bigotry and pure tyranny.

      That anyone can walk in the streets of Israel, can pray at the jewish sections if they so desire without fear of harm or 'submission' is what we call 'human rights' and dignity and decency and that except of course, in Israel, on the Temple Mount, where the muslims disallow any prayer by any non muslim and will have them thrown off if seen uttering any prayer there, that is 'bigotry' that is submission, that is of course….. Islam.

      And you are a bigot and a hater and that as they say…. is that.

      • Ron Grant

        "ISrael defines racism at its purest level."

        "No….. That no jew or christian can walk in Mecca, defines racism."

        Remember that old saying,"Two wrongs don't make a right".
        An arguable case can be made for accusing Israel of racism and a special case of apartheid.I have made it here before.I don't know much about Islam and the policies of Saudi Arabia with respect to other religions and citizenship but I don't think the Saudi's have acted to deny a large part of their population their homeland and birthright.Otherwise,we can address the discriminatory policies of the Saudi's and Arab world generally.Most,like Israel,are far from lily white.Muchiboy

        • Foolster41

          "I don't know much about Islam and the policies of Saudi Arabia with respect to other religions and citizenship"

          This speaks for itself.

        • MixMike

          "An arguable case can be made for accusing Israel of racism and a special case of apartheid.I have made it here before."

          Wrong again. All Israeli citizens (including the 1.5 million Arab citizens) are afforded equal rights under the law. Israel provides its minorities with more civil rights than any other Arab/Islamic state. Heck, one of Jerusalem's mayors was gay! Additionally, Israel has special affirmative action programs for its Arab citizens.

          • Ron Grant

            " All Israeli citizens (including the 1.5 million Arab citizens) are afforded equal rights under the law."

            You mean, "All Israeli citizens (excluding the millions of Palestinians denied their birthright and homeland) are afforded equal rights under the law."

            "Israel provides its minorities with more civil rights than any other Arab/Islamic state."

            Our concern here,and the core issue,is not the MINORITY but rather the majority of Palestinians and their treatment,kept outside the borders denied their birthright and homeland.Yet,foreign borne Jews,including Black Ethiopian Jews,are granted "right of return".Talk about adding insult to injury.Address the core issues not some red herring.The ongoing denial of Palestinian rights by Zionists and Jews is unconscionable.Go home to where your grandmothers were borne or else let the Palestinians go home to where theirs were born.Muchiboy

          • MixMike

            "You mean, "All Israeli citizens (excluding the millions of Palestinians denied their birthright and homeland) are afforded equal rights under the law."

            The Palestinians in Gaza have a governing authority, Hamas and the Palestinians in the W. Bank have Fatah. Hamas and Fatah are responsible for providing those Palestinians equal rights. Interestingly enough, Palestinians in Gaza and the W. Banks still have access to Israel's judicial system and are free to petition the Israeli Supreme Court to assert rights etc.

            "Our concern here,and the core issue,is not the MINORITY but rather the majority of Palestinians and their treatment,kept outside the borders denied their birthright and homeland."

            The “Palestinian right of return” is just code for the destruction of the Jewish State through demography. You need to learn your history. First of all, most of the Arabs that lived in Israel were relative newcomers, arriving from Syria, TransJordan, Egypt and other surrounding Arabs states. Why did they come to Israel? Because the Jews had built it up and provided economic opportunities and a higher standard of living!

            The so-called Palestinian refugee problem started in 1948 after roughly 300,000 thousand Arabs willingly left their homes after being prompted by the invading Arab armies. Meanwhile approximately 800,000+ Jews were kicked out of Arab/Islamic countries. It is common and legal under international law and precedent to exchange populations during law. This happened after WWII in Europe and has happened several times recently in the Balkans and parts of Africa (Zaire, Rwanda etc.). Israel offered to repatriate many of the refugees (roughly 100,000) but the Arabs refused. Arabs were never denied their supposed "birthright," they clearly had their chance and blew it.

            Now the Arabs want to repatriate not just the original Arabs that left their homes, but all of their descendants into perpetuity! It is all part of the Palestinian propaganda to ethnically cleanse Jews from Israel.

            "Go home to where your grandmothers were borne or else let the Palestinians go home to where theirs were born."

            You sound like Helen Thomas, perhaps the Jews should go back to Germany and Poland? That worked out real well for them before. The Palestinians are free to go home where their grandmothers were born: Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and other surrounding Arab countries.

    • Makhmud

      Speaking of defining racism, here's a joke for ya, "Mark": Man flies into Riyadh, gets off the plane, goes out of the terminal building to the taxi area, gets into a cab, tells the taxi driver 'Habibi, take me to the Jewish district.'

      GET IT, JERK?

      • Makhmud

        To avoid confusion, my comment is directed to the vile, filthy, antisemitic pig vomit "Mark" who barfed "Israel defines racism at its purest level," and not the Mark Goldberg who was one of his respondents.

    • MixMike

      "ISrael defines racism at its purest level. Backed by American Jewish money from jews who care nothing about the Israeli people, rather their iconic values."

      Actually, I think you define racism at its purest value. Congratulations!

      "It disgusts me as an American to know my tax dollars are going to a racist murderous state."

      Me too! That's why I sent a letter to Obama telling him not to send $400 million dollars to the Palestinians.

      "Especially when there is no justification for it except biblical ambitions of a sect with a blind vision."

      Right, thousands of years of history with archeological evidence to support it doesn't serve as justification for a Jewish state. Nor does the fact that Israel was built on vacant, legally purchased, tenant-free land.

    • Susan Barker

      Your perception is illogical, Mark.
      Israel is a tiny bit of land .. the Arab world is immense.
      The Arabs countries have repeatedly attacked the tiny Jewish
      state, and have created a situation which paints themselves as the victims, when Israel has given up even more of its terriroty each year. Hamas is dedicadted to the destruction of Israel. Israel has to fight back. When Israel fights back it is called 'oppressive.'
      your comments are indicative of someone who has
      no understanding of the scope of the problem. Israel should
      be left in peace.
      If the US had not fought back in WW2, it would not exist today.
      Please, read and learn your history.

      SBL

  • Ron Grant

    "t is sad to notice that most peoples are simply not well informed…
    Morality and politics."

    It may even be better and deeper then this,Robert.The Israel/Palestine debate is a moral and political minefield with decent and knowledgeable individuals arguing for both sides of a seemingly intractable problem.The nature of politics and morality makes for no easy resolution here. You have an opinion and so do I and they are very different.Maybe,just maybe,they can each get most of what they need and something less of what they desire.The one thing that is clear is that both sides can't get everything they desire.Historical injustices need to be acknowledged.Present day realities need to be considered.Above all,a just peace must ensure that both peoples and/or states are not disadvantaged but share in the common good of the region.For starters,this means acceptance of a contiguous,viable Palestine with E. Jerusalem as it's capital.Muchiboy

    • Stern

      Of course, Ron Grant, you realize that a "contiguous" Palestine means a non-contiguous Israel? (Unless, of course, like the Palestinians themselves, you can see no way of reconciling the West Bank with Gaza?)

      • Ron Grant

        "Of course, Ron Grant, you realize that a "contiguous" Palestine means a non-contiguous Israel?"

        You'd be surprised what a good man can do with a straight edge ….acknowledgements to Euclid. Muchiboy

      • Ron Grant

        "Of course, Ron Grant, you realize that a "contiguous" Palestine means a non-contiguous Israel?"

        Stern,if it were my choice there would be one state with both peoples.There is a precedent here.One planet with hundreds of cultures,languages,races,species,etc.If they i.e.us/we/humanity can do it so can the Palestinians and Israelis.
        Again,assuming a two state solution,I don't think one state e.g.Israel should suffer a disadvantage compared to the other e.g.Palestine vis a vis contiguity ,viability,resources,etc.Imagination,compromise, magnanimity,good will, guaranties and a straight edge can achieve wonders.Muchiboy

        • MixMike

          After Israel pulled out of Gaza there were plans to build a highway to connect the W. Bank and Gaza. Unfortunately, Hamas hurled thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians so the plan hasn't gotten off the ground.

    • MixMike

      "For starters,this means acceptance of a contiguous,viable Palestine with E. Jerusalem "

      A contiguous Palestine is just a code word for divide and conquer. Gaza and the W. Bank can be viable on their own. The W. Bank is getting their, Gaza has a major setback because Hamas care more about terror and killing Jews than building any sort of infrastructure.

      E. Jerusalem does not need to be part of the Palestinians capital. For thousands of years Jerusalem has been the most important and central city in Judaism. Jerusalem has always had a Jewish majority population. Jerusalem is a part of Israel, not "Palestine." Would you ever think of dividing Vatican city or Mecca?

  • Marty

    In the end, there will probably be a palestinian state, but its existence will resolve nothing. palestine will simply become the 23rd dysfunctional and corrupt arab state. it will continue to make unreasonable territorial demands on Israel and support terrorism. A palestinian state will do little for the palestinians except continue to teach each new generation them to hate Jews and ask them to die killing Israelis. That is all the islamic world knows how to do and that is all it has been doing for 1400 years.

  • Ray in Seattle

    Marty, You are right. A Palestinian state is just a more convenient tightening of the noose – a logical next step on the path to "wipe Israel off the map". A runinciation of that goal and sincere apologies for having held it and teaching their children to believe in it – should be the very first step toward reconciliation by the Arab side. Then, and only then, will any peace be possible. Without it, Israel is walking down to path to its own destruction – that path paved with the same wishful thinking that led to 60 million dead in WWII.

    • Ron Grant

      "to "wipe Israel off the map". A runinciation of that goal and sincere apologies for having held it and teaching their children to believe in it – should be the very first step toward reconciliation by the Arab side. Then, and only then, will any peace be possible."

      The problem with this approach is it's one sidedness and the Jewish/Zionist reluctance or refusal to acknowledge its own wrongs and faults towards the Palestinians.Sure,blame the other side for their wrongs but be honest enough to recognize your own.Chances are there is enough blame to go around.Muchiboy

      • Ray in Seattle

        One sidedness? As far as I know Israel has never once attacked any Arabs or Palestinians except in self-defense. That's since the state of Israel was created 60 some years ago. OTOH Arabs and/or Palestinians have never once been forced to attack Israel in self defense. Every one of their thousands of attacks – from individual "suiciders" to massed ,multi-state armies – has been unprovoked aggression. Yeah, that's one sided. One side are unremitting a**holes out to kill and destroy another peaceful state. The other acts only in self-defense and reluctantly. You have a strange view of one-sidedness – for someone who supposedly believes that peace is better than war..

      • MixMike

        "The problem with this approach is it's one sidedness and the Jewish/Zionist reluctance or refusal to acknowledge its own wrongs and faults towards the Palestinians.Sure,blame the other side for their wrongs but be honest enough to recognize your own.Chances are there is enough blame to go around."

        The real problem is that people who think like you feel that there are two and equal sides to every story. Quite simply, that is not always necessarily the case. There are some people(s) in this world that are driven by xenophobia and hate and can be clearly identified as the aggressors and instigators of conflict. No where is this more pronounced than with the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel has constantly tried to make peace with the Arabs since its inception, whereas the Arabs only make war and promote hate.

  • USMCSniper

    It is high time we gave instructions to Ron Grant, as he doesn't grasp that there is no moral equivalency of Israel with the so-called Palestinians. The Palestinians are a proxy terrorist Islamic subculture that straps munitions on their own women and children and sends them out on homicide-suicide missions to murder other innocent women and children in restuarants, supermarkets, on school buses, etc.,. and have forfeited their rights to even exist. The Arab Muslim states will never take them in as citizens nor will they ever allow a two state solution with the Palestinian's having a state because they are more useful as proxy terrorists.

    • Stephen D.

      Snipper my friend, don't forget that Jimmy Carter watched over the elections in Palestine and said they were fair. The Palestinians ( Trans-Jordanians really) FREELY ELECTED Hamas as their representative government. Now they have to suffer the consequences. Ron Grant knows they were offered 97% of their demands in the past and refused. To this day they refuse to remove from their chartered goal of destroying Israel. But we should blame both sides equally?!? The entire Muslim world wants for the destruction of Israel. I, though pragmatic, see each day more evidence of a unsatiated evil that only a Holy and Terrible G-D can stop. Selah

  • Ron Grant

    Congrats to USA for todays victory against Algeria in the World Cup in South Africa.They like England will advance out of their group.Good luck.God Bless America.Muchiboy

  • davidka

    A leftist anti-Israel type like Beinin needed to be opposed by a straight-talking, pro-Israel speaker, not a tepid apologetic jerk. Shame on the Jewish organization involved in this farce. Presenting a 101% dyed-in-the-wool Israel hater and a neutral wimp as a "debate" is ridiculous.

  • Shalom Freedman

    There was a pro- Palestinian anti- Jewish Jew and a wishy- washy liberal Jew debating. To my mind the debate was loaded from the outset.
    No one took the position that Israel is right in its struggle with the Arabs, and they are wrong. No one took the position that Palestinians' only contribution to mankind has been Terrorism. No one took the position that Israel is a democratic state which is subject to world- wide prejudice and scapegoating- in part thanks to the successful work of the Palestinian Arabs. No, this was a lefty debate in which the moderate lefty too instead of defending Israel was apologizing for it.

  • solemnman

    These Pollyanna profs believe that Israel should be -what they consider to be a perfect model for the rest of the world -a light unto the nations.That is a syndrome among Jews who fear that the hatred,, generated by Israel's stubborn refusal to become complicate in its own demise ,will find it's way to them.

  • Ron Grant

    "You sound like Helen Thomas, perhaps the Jews should go back to Germany and Poland? That worked out real well for them before. The Palestinians are free to go home where their grandmothers were born: Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and other surrounding Arab countries."

    Jews had a long presence in Europe,Germany and Poland included.Certainly the Nazis did both the Jews and Europeans, not to mention humanity,a disservice by their antisemitism.The benefits of a resurgent Jewish community in Europe especially Germany should be obvious to anyone given the history of Jewish contributions to the arts and sciences.
    Sure,there is a certain cruelty and insensitiveness in suggesting Jews return from sanctuary to countries e.g.Poland,Germany that figured so prominently in the Holocaust.But Jews have as much a right to live and prosper there as anyone.They are as German or Polish as any native born and should not be intimidated to claim their birthrights or homelands.
    Countless numbers of Arab families with long roots in Palestine were displaced by similar numbers of European Jews.That you ignore the plight,injustices and historical origins of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians demonstrates both the ignorance and arrogance of your position. .Muchiboy

    • MixMike

      "Countless numbers of Arab families with long roots in Palestine were displaced by similar numbers of European Jews."

      Approximately 300,000 Arabs were displaced in 1948 when Israel declared independence. However these Arabs weren't displaced by European Jews but by their own Arab bretheren. The original partition of the area gave the Jews a country in Jewish majority areas only. The Jews accepted this but the Arabs refused. Subsequently, when Israel declared independence it begged its Arab citizens to stay and live peacefully as citizens of Israel. Of course most of the Arabs willingly left at the prompting of the invading Arab armies to clear a path to "push the Jews into the sea." After Israel won the war of Independence it sought to begin repatriating the Arab citizens (there were plans to repatriate approximately 100,000 Arabs back into Israel), but the Arabs again refused any compromise or peace with the Jewish state.

      The ones that displaced the Arabs were other Arabs, and they did so for political gain in their war to destroy Israel. That you callously ignore these crucial facts demonstrates both your ignorance and the arrogance of your position.

  • John WV

    Jews have always been persecuted. Israel continuously provides evidence of the causal Jewish behavior. Did German Jews acquire wealth and disproportionate political control as they have in the United States? Did they then collectively act to the detriment of other Germans and thereby precipitate the Holocaust? America’s multiple and continuing mid east wars have all been successfully promoted by AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents, and other Israeli agencies. All have benefited Israel at our expense. American Jews were central to, and grossly enriched by, the Wall Street obscenity. Israel is a Jewish state, a racist apartheid state, by, of, and for the chosen people. It feigns and exploits alliance but an ally it will never be.

    • MixMike

      "Did German Jews acquire wealth and disproportionate political control as they have in the United States? Did they then collectively act to the detriment of other Germans and thereby precipitate the Holocaust?"

      Wow, talk about blaming the victims… I forgot that it was a crime for Jews to be successful in business and politics.

      "America’s multiple and continuing mid east wars have all been successfully promoted by AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents, and other Israeli agencies."

      I suppose it doesn't matter that Ariel Sharon personally advised George Bush against invading Iraq?

      "American Jews were central to, and grossly enriched by, the Wall Street obscenity."

      To be fair, just one Jew, Bernie Madoff, was "grossly enriched" by the Wall Street debacles.

  • David Zukkermann

    Israel=fashist state. The only terrorist country in the world beside Somalia.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/garyfouse garyfouse

    "According to Beinin, these organizations routinely “attempt to ban [anti-Israel academics] from speaking [on college campuses] and attack them politically when they come up for tenure.” Using alarmist rhetoric, he claimed this behavior is tantamount to “a McCarthyite campaign of exclusion.”

    Is Beinen serious? Virtually every speaker and symposium on university campuses is anti-Israel. Maybe Beinen should have been at UC-Irvine on Feb 8, 2010 when the Israeli ambassador was continually disrupted by the Muslim Student Union. At the multitude of anti-Israel events, anyone who dares speak up for Israel is jeered and hooted.

    This guy sounds like he's been smoking his socks.

    Gary Fouse
    adj teacher
    UC-Irvine Ext