Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League has responded to Peter Beinart’s New York Review of Books essay in the NYRB—a classy move, doing it in the same venue.
In his essay, Beinart cites the ADL as one of the prime American Jewish groups that, in its all-but-unquestioning support for Israel, has enabled Israel’s least liberal elements and forced many liberal American Jews—particularly younger ones—to abandon their Zionism. But, echoing critics like David Frum, Foxman argues that Beinart fails to understand Israel’s actions and policies in the proper context: Namely, decades of Palestinian rejectionism and terrorism. Most Israelis and American Jews, according to Foxman,
understand that continuing to sit in the West Bank is not good for the country. So at Camp David in 2000 they tried a solution of ending the conflict, which included withdrawing from 90 percent of the territories and eliminating the majority of settlements. They got a big no and suicide bombs.
In 2005, they withdrew unilaterally from Gaza with the intent to do likewise in the West Bank because they saw no partner for peace. They got Hamas and rockets against their civilians. In 2008, with a different Palestinian interlocutor, they went back to a full and better offer for a Palestinian state and got nothing again. So after all that, is it surprising that the public in the last election said, nothing works, let’s hold on until there’s real change on the other side?
What Beinart diagnoses as chronic Israeli illiberalism is actually, Foxman adds, “a justified cynicism about the willingness of the other side to end the conflict and a confusion about what real options Israel has regarding its dilemma of how to withdraw and still have security.”
In his response, Beinart, while acknowledging that the Palestinians are “not blameless,” argues that Palestinian actions cannot fully explain the most revanchist elements of Israel’s society and indeed government. Hinting at something he said in his interview with The Scroll, he concludes, “the ADL too often ignores the interconnectedness of Jewish and non-Jewish dignity. After all, the same sort of settler fanatics who burn Palestinian olive groves also assassinated an Israeli prime minister.”