by Shmuley Boteach
June 15, 2015
Peter Beinart has long had an unnatural obsession with me. To be honest, the amount of column space he’s devoted to promoting my name is something for which I should be compensating him.
Last week he unleashed his latest tantrum — this time in the form of a screed against me and Sheldon Adelson for fighting BDS on campus.
Beinart begins by introducing his by now familiar appalling factual inaccuracies that are an affront to both reason and logic. He begins by saying that “everyone who understands the [BDS] Movement knows that its recruits are progressives, and that what tips them toward BDS is despair that there seems no other way to end Israel’s immoral, undemocratic control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
With this Beinart offers the over-roasted farcical chestnut that the growth of BDS is a product of an occupation.
The BDS movement, along with those who ascribe to it, is about one thing: the destruction of Israel.
It’s easy to prove.
BDS has no interest in protesting an occupation. If it did it would be boycotting Apple products, which are made in China, since that country has been occupying Tibet since 1950 (and they haven’t allowed the Dalai Lama to even visit his people since). I personally saw Peter using an IPhone at our Columbia University debate last year, so clearly Peter couldn’t give a damn about occupation either. Likewise, if BDS was motivated by an opposition to occupation none of its adherents would drink Turkish Coffee, since Turkey has been occupying Cyprus since 1974. And no BDS person would drink Stoli vodka in opposition to Russia’s occupation of Crimea.
BDS, moreover, cannot claim to have any interest whatsoever in Palestinian rights. If it did, it would be boycotting Egypt for destroying hundreds of Palestinian homes on the Gaza border last October to stop Hamas from smuggling weapons. Moreover, it would boycott Hamas for executing scores of Palestinians without trial (which Israel has never done, even with a trial), while shooting others through the knees for publicly questioning their legitimacy. The Palestinian Authority would also be boycotted for bringing an end to elections and censoring the press. They might also call for divestment from Lebanon for the actual Apartheid they practice with their Palestinian population, which is legally held back from entering the medical, legal, and banking fields or from participating in any other mainstream industry.
BDS similarly has no interest in protecting Arab life. If it did it would be boycotting Syria for murdering 200,000 Arabs.
BDS has no interest in promoting Arab human rights. If it did it would be divesting from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, Syria, Lebanon, and every other Arab country where Arabs are denied the most basic rights like freedom of press, freedom to protest their government, and the freedom to vote — all of which are guaranteed to Arabs only in Israel.
BDS, rather, trades in anti-Semitism, with its primary objective being the economic destruction of the world’s only Jewish state and the Middle East’s only democracy.
If only Peter had stopped his fraudulence at that.
But he goes on, now slamming groups dedicated to Israel’s future like CUFI and ZOA, and lamenting the fact that they were invited to the anti-BDS conference while J Street and the New Israel Fund were not. With this Beinart is true to type, allying himself with organizations that are among Israel’s greatest critics, while condemning those that are its foremost defenders. But this should not surprise us since Beinart, already a public advocate for the partial-boycott of Israeli products, has removed himself from the pro-Israel community by penning an article right after Prime Minister Netanyahu’s election demanding that Israel be punished. “It means pushing the Obama administration to … punish – yes, punish – the Israeli government… It means making sure that every time Benjamin Netanyahu and the members of his cabinet walk into a Jewish event outside Israel, they see Diaspora Jews protesting outside.
But so petty is Beinart when it comes to Israel, and so obsessed is he with finding faults with any efforts on Israel’s behalf, that he even condemns the actual name of our anti-BDS summit: Campus Maccabees. He complains that ‘Maccabees’ refers to “religious zealots who …demanded that Jews reject any interaction with foreign cultures..”
That’s funny, because I thought the word Maccabee is a universal term connoting a courageous fighter for religious liberty and spiritual freedom. Indeed, even the United States Supreme Court ruled that the menorah — the defining symbol of the Maccabees — can be placed on public property since it’s considered by law to be a universal symbol of liberty, as opposed to representing the Jewish exclusionary racism that Beinart would have you believe.
But not content to trash me as a Rabbi, leading groups who defend Israel, and even the very Maccabees whom we celebrate on Chanukah (which Peter would surely have uprooted from the Jewish Calendar), Beinart reserves his true fire for the world’s foremost Jewish philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, claiming that his anti-BDS conference was really a cynical ploy to “empower himself and his right-wing agenda.” Here is where Beinart goes off the rails, losing it completely and falling into dangerous ‘Protocols of Zion’ territory.
As depicted by Beinart, Adelson is now a Jewish ‘elder,’ intent on political dominion and world domination. In his own words, Sheldon Adelson has “for years now… been moving to dominate Jewish politics, both in Israel and the United States.” Beinart’s uber-cynical revolting attack on Sheldon Adelson is yet another manifestation of Beinart’s campaign to demonize those who disagree with him. This is no surprise, of course, for demonization is the tool chosen by those who have no facts and have already lost the argument.
The truth is that it was very inspirational to see Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, the world’s foremost Jewish philanthropists, sit for two straight days listening to 50 presentations from organizations advocating for Israel to hear their funding needs. And in doing so, they set a model of commitment for us all to emulate.
But if Beinart has the right to draw parallels between our new anti-BDS campaign and what he sees as ancient Jewish corruption among the Hasmoneans — whom he says “helped destroy the Jewish state” — then we have a right to do the same for those critics of Israel in modern times.
Last week’s Torah reading relates the story of the spies Moses sends to scout the Land of Israel. But after seeing the giants who inhabit the land they return with the perfidy that the Children of Israel cannot capture their promised homeland. In their own words: “We were like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and so we appeared to them.” Long ago in ancient Israel a group of Jews consumed by feelings of inferiority and inadequacy projected this self-loathing on to the land. Peter Beinart and his fellow Israel critics should take heed.
I’m not surprised that someone like Sheldon Adelson gets under Peter’s skin. For while Sheldon Adelson represents Jewish pride incarnate and has given inestimable time and resources to his people so that they may prosper, Peter Beinart has earned his name for being among the foremost Jewish critics of the State of Israel.
Shmuley Boteach is founder of The World Values Network, an organization defending Israel in the media, and is the international best-selling author of 30 books, including The Israel Warrior’s Handbook, which is about to be released. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.