The recent news that Peter Beinart has been hired as a contributing opinion writer to The New York Times was not shocking, but it is an ominous warning sign. This is because Beinart was quite obviously given the job because of an opinion piece he authored several months ago in which he explicitly called for the end of the State of Israel.
Although bathed in the pathos-laden language of modern progressivism, the article made perfectly clear what Beinart, out of naiveté or malice, was advocating. “It’s time to abandon the traditional two-state solution and embrace the goal of equal rights for Jews and Palestinians,” he wrote. “It’s time to imagine a Jewish home that is not a Jewish state.”
The article created something of a stir, for good reason. As an Israeli writer described it to me in Hebrew, here was the most dominant newspaper in America, with massive influence over the public discourse, calling to l’chasel medina — to eliminate a nation. This kind of open racism in such a powerful media outlet was all but unprecedented.
This was strongly indicated by the reaction to the article. It received praise from the usual suspects, of course; the ones who had already declared themselves for elimination. But it was also hailed by Ben Rhodes, a failed novelist who, by some strange osmosis, had become the architect of former President Barack Obama’s foreign policy; which, unfortunately, he ran like a failed novelist. Rhodes called Beinart “brave” and “thoughtful,” and claimed his critics were using “talking points that are dishonest and decades old.”
Along with Rhodes was the Times itself, which heavily marketed the article, giving Beinart an entire podcast episode to reiterate his claims. And, of course, Beinart has now been officially installed as the Times’ god emperor of anti-Zionism.
The whole thing seemed to be something like a trial balloon, an opening salvo, the beginning of an organized campaign. Because things like this simply do not happen in the world of politics and punditry without coordination beforehand. It is highly unlikely that Rhodes and the Times editors reacted spontaneously to one of Beinart’s random musings. It is much more likely that the whole thing was cooked up before Beinart even wrote it.
And there is little if any doubt that there is more to follow. Beinart will eventually write a book extolling the elimination of Israel. It will be hailed by the Times and the numerous independent thinkers who dutifully repeat whatever the Times says. Media outlets will hold rapturous interviews with Beinart and endorse his book. And anti-Zionist activists will seize upon it like a holy relic. And all of this will be, as much as possible, worked out beforehand.
The goal of this campaign is clear: to normalize and mainstream the idea of eliminating a nation. It is to convince a decisive majority of Americans that it would be a good thing, the moral thing, for a nation of eight million people to disappear. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was once called a “warrant for genocide.” Now, a new warrant is being written.
And it is clear that this campaign will push Jews to the forefront. It is no coincidence that Beinart and Rhodes are Jewish, and that they collaborated in firing the first shot. This indicates that the campaign will be directed at Jews as well. It will seek to convince us to abandon Zionism. To persuade us, in other words, that we do not deserve to live.
There is a very good reason for this.
In the 1970s, former Israeli Air Force chief Benny Peled had a remarkable insight. He said in an interview, “Our enemies had to examine the ingredients of our strength, and they of course discovered the thing that we’ve been shouting at full volume: that our strength is our spirit.”
“And they decided to attack that,” he said. “The Jewish people’s strongest weapon.”
The new campaign to eliminate Israel and Zionism is nothing but that: an attempt to shatter the Jewish spirit. And it has to be this way. Because those advocating elimination are not stupid. They know quite well that Israel is strong and getting stronger, and it is doing so very quickly. They cannot eliminate it in the flesh, but they can, or at least they can try, to eliminate it in spirit.
But the ironic thing is that, whatever their fantasies might be, they cannot win. I do not say this out of hubris or chauvinism. It is a matter of historical record. The Jewish spirit, if it can be called that, has withstood assaults far more horrendous than anything Beinart, Rhodes or the Times could come up with. If we have survived what we have already survived, we can certainly survive them.
The ominous question, however, is how much damage they can do in the meantime. If the historical record teaches us anything, unfortunately, it is that the damage could be quite substantial. We should not look away from what is coming, and we should ready ourselves to face it.
Benjamin Kerstein is a columnist and Israel correspondent for The Algemeiner.
Photo: Ajay Suresh/Wikimedia.