Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wolpe vs. Beinart

Opinion: Wolpe vs. Beinart | Jewish Journal
Rabbi David Wolpe offers an important corrective to criticism of Israel from the left.  Wolpe writes:
...The parade of self-confident sophistries is confounding. “Denied rights simply because they are not Jews.” Beinart’s phrase elides a torturous history of renunciation, rejection, terror, promises of annihilation and, well, war. It places the entire burden of the conflict on the Israelis, inhabitants of the only state in the world whose existence is constantly questioned and threatened. It turns what has been a painful (and, to be sure, sometimes brutal) occupation of a population, with agonizing options on both sides and blood-strewn sidewalks, into the thinly veiled implication of racist oppression. If you said the reverse, that the Arab nations made war on Israel “just because they were Jews,” you would have a more supportable sentence. 
...Is there no room for honest dissent? I am no fan of the settler movement. I agree that two states is the only just and workable solution. But (and this is where we apparently diverge) I acknowledge I could be wrong about how to get there. We agree that Palestinians have suffered terribly. An end to the current impasse is urgently needed. But Beinart’s certainty about the ends of equality and statehood has frozen into lockstepping the means, and dictating acceptable attitudes. There are thoughtful, kind people who disagree. Many of them, I suspect, do not aspire to raze democracy. This e-mail is an end-zone dance, a strutting lack of humility. 
...Beinart’s e-mail represents what is wrong with the debate: It is smug in its dismissal of Israel’s leadership and grandiose in presenting one view as the sole salvation of that beleaguered nation’s honor. Peter Beinart raises crucial, abiding issues. Then he compares those who take a different view to racist destroyers of democracy. This is not debate. This is not dialogue. This is demagoguery. He is better than this and we must be, too. In Pirkei Avot, Avtalion warns sages to be careful with their words. The warning applies to those who are not sages, as well.
Orthodoxies unfortunately exist on both the right and left.  There are no easy answers to today's dilemmas.  Passionate debate must continue.  Pronouncements must be avoided.

For a reminder of Beinart's contribution to this discussion read a prior post.  There Beinart reminds us that our youth are growing increasingly distant from the State of Israel.

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