Joel Beinin’s Love Letter to the ‘New Protest Generation’

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Host Paul George commented on the “sourness of Israeli politics, the definite move further and further right” before asking Beinin, “How do these young Israelis break out of this—get an alternative viewpoint and put their lives on the line like this?” Beinin chuckled, saying “this is exactly what I’m trying to figure out.” Some of the young people in the rallies have ex-Communist or otherwise leftist parents, he explained. Others are “animal liberationists who’ve become anarchists . . . [who] look at society and say, ‘oh, no, this society is wrong from top to bottom.’” And still others have right-wing parents who “are not on for this kind of thing at all,” he added. Beinin blithely commented that these “right-wing parents” are not very conservative compared to the “neo-fascism of mainstream Israeli politics.”

Before turning to audience questions, the host asked Beinin for his take on the proposed legislation in Israel to modify new citizens’ oath of loyalty to the state. Though individuals who choose to become Israeli citizens today must swear loyalty to Israel as a democratic state, “the new wording will call Israel a democratic and Jewish state,” Beinin proclaimed, prompting audible tongue-clicking from the audience. “The content of what Netanyahu is demanding,” he continued, “is that Palestinians endorse Zionism” even though “the PLO in 1988 recognized Israel.” This last comment was ironic coming from Beinin, as he made sure to emphasize earlier in the program that many Palestinians today feel no loyalty to Fatah, the PLO’s successor organization. Additionally, recognizing Israel in one carefully-worded political statement is a far cry from endorsing Zionism. Beinin capped off his discussion of this issue by claiming that “there are lots of Jews who don’t endorse Israel as their homeland.” To the extent this is true, academics such as Beinin bear some responsibility for helping to cultivate anti-Israel sentiment among Jewish and non-Jewish students alike.

In the question and answer session, Beinin was confronted about his earlier description of Israeli society as neo-fascist. He backed away slightly, saying he “wasn’t ready to go there yet,” before adding, “there certainly are . . . people in very powerful places in Israeli politics and society who I would not hesitate to call neo-fascist . . . and Avigdor Lieberman, the Foreign Minister, is one of them.” He referred again to the “fascist element in Israeli society,” claiming that leftist Israelis’ own use of the term “fascist” legitimizes its use.

Beinin then contended that “mainstream Israeli political culture has a very simple explanation for [anti-Israel sentiment worldwide]: they’re anti-Semites.” As a corollary, he added, “the only thing that means anything [to Israelis] is any diminution of the support of the United States.” In other words, Beinin continued, “the battleground is here. That’s where the cutting edge of the struggle is.” Presumably, by “struggle” he meant the struggle to end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Minutes later, he and the host both encouraged the audience to actively “take on” American financial support for Israel.

As one would expect, Beinin has been energized by what he believes to be the growth of the Israeli anti-Israel movement. He did acknowledge that this movement is “still marginal in Israeli politics” and that the actual demonstrations reached their peak several years ago, but he clearly pined for a leftward swing of the pendulum of Israeli politics and seemed more than willing to give it a hard push. Hopefully, the survival instinct of Israelis is sufficiently strong to prevent that from happening.

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.

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  • jenny

    Learn the truth about Abu Beinin and his jihadist Israel-boycotter friends here:

    • Andrew

      cool site, tried to contact them but my emails get rejected, kinda gay.

  • therealend

    There are those who would "Peace" Israel into oblivion. And anyone else that gets in their way.

  • Reality 101

    Too naive to imagine the reverse, 22 Jewish countries against one tiny Arab country. The ignorance of youth can be absurdly self destructive….

    • Findalis

      If there were 22 Jewish countries against one tiny Arab country there would be peace and prosperity. For the Jews wish for peace. The Arabs only for war and destruction.

  • Al Neuman

    Why was my comment deleted?

  • Al Neuman

    This guy Beinin is a caricature of the departure from reality verging on insanity which has infected the "academics" and Left in this country. Their blind support for terror-loving Islamists, and reflex condemnation of Israel, the region's only democracy and by far most tolerant government, is stunning.
    It's always amazing to me that these "Peace and Justice" types never seem to want any of either for any of the innumerable victims of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, including the many innocent Israelis murdered by the incessant terrorist attacks over the years.
    Thank goodness for the refreshing honest reporting of someone like Jon Gelbart in the face of the monumental dishonesty of the liars like Beinin–Stanford should be ashamed to have someone as biased and bigoted as he on their faculty.

  • Judy Abeles Eliasov

    The security fence is 350 miles long(not finished yet) has UNDER 5% of it in concrete which is mainly around populated urban areas. The rest is barbed wire and intrusion detectors. Of course the concrete parts of the security fence make for better news coverage but give the impression that all 350 miles is same.
    I agree that it is dificult for the Palestinians to live with the inconvenience and insult.
    However, when weighed up against dreadful damage inflicted by the suicide bombers who explod themselves and kill and maim Israeli citizens, I have to choose security over sensibilities.
    One day, when there will be peace between the Palestinians and Israelies, the fence will be removed. Inshalla.

  • aaron_truax

    Bravo to Gelbart for an insightful look into the dementia of the Jewish anti-Israel movement. Sadly, people like Professor Beinin have become mouthpieces for hatred and intolerance while carefully cultivating a pretense to the moral high-ground. Make no mistake – this is the real neo-fascism.

  • gary fouse

    A similar activity is going on at UC Irvine with the Olive Tree Initiative. International Solidarity Movement co-founder George Rishmawi will speak Monday at UCI courtesy of the OTI. The whole OTI program going on within the UCI system nneds a close examination. There is a firestorm going on within the OC Jewish community over this event. I hope Frontpage will look into it.

    Gary Fouse
    adj teacher UCI-Ext