A recent news item indicates that among the candidates for seats in the World Zionist Congress – founded by Theodor Herzl in 1897 – are Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben Ami.
To tell the truth, when I see the petulant babyface of Peter Beinart, I experience a feeling of nausea. A misozionist and tikkunist*, Beinart was one of the more successful figures at monetizing his brand with his 2010 article “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.” It was followed by a book which expanded on his thesis that established American Jewish organizations were “failing” young liberal Jews because they were not sufficiently sensitive to the “fact” that Israel was viciously oppressing Palestinian Arabs.
Beinart continued to write and speak on this theme, and as often happens, as time passed he became more and more extreme in his anti-Israel expression. Nevertheless, he continues to insist that he is a Zionist. For someone like myself, who believes that the survival of the Jewish people everywhere depends on a strong Jewish state, the hypocrisy of a comfortable American Jew telling Israelis to commit suicide is infuriating.
The mention of hypocrisy immediately brings to mind the organization J Street, which was midwifed in 2007 by a large infusion of cash from groups connected to George Soros (an infusion that J Street lied about until it was exposed). J Street, which also took money from individuals connected to Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia to lobby the US Congress, claims to be “pro-Israel and pro-peace,” but its consistently anti-Israel actions have proven it to be neither. Like Beinart, J Street appeals to American Jewish progressives and liberals, who either don’t see or don’t care that the objects of their support are enemies of the Jewish state.
J Street is led by Jeremy Ben Ami, who is himself a study in hypocrisy (or psychopathology of another sort). His father, Yitzhak Ben Ami, was a member of the etzel, the underground army organization led by Menachem Begin that fought the British and the Arabs to create the state of Israel. He came to America during the Holocaust as part of the “Bergson Group,” in an attempt – scuttled by the liberal Jewish establishment of the time – to mobilize support to rescue the doomed Jews of Europe. Thus, Jeremy is on the opposite side of his father’s struggle.
Beinart and Ben Ami are two of a type that has begun to flourish in recent decades: Jews that make a career for themselves – either for money, academic advancement, fame, or all of the above – by exploiting the fact that they have Jewish parents to give them an aura of authority with which to attack the state of Israel. Although they have no personal stake in the consequences of their advice, they give it with a pretense of great moral weight.
Beinart’s complaint (unfortunately) no longer makes sense. In recent years, many “establishment” Jewish organizations in the US – the ADL, Hillel International, the Federation system, the Union for Reform Judaism, and others have moved farther and farther away from supporting Israel. In some cases the reason is simply practical fund-raising: they would like to be acceptable to a new group of donors who are less pro-Israel than their parents, a consequence of the concentrated anti-Israel indoctrination they have received in American universities. In other cases, like the ADL, the dominant personalities in the organizations have been replaced by political operatives with a leftist (and anti-Israel) orientation.
I think that the Obama Administration also had much to do with this, providing support for J Street as their go-to Jewish group, as well as generating a continuous flow of propaganda against the Netanyahu government. The theme was “we love and support Israel, but Netanyahu is making it a racist theocracy.” Liberal American Jews seem to have been very susceptible to this approach.
The change stood out for me when I reread Beinart’s seminal 2010 article. I don’t think that today he would be able to say that the “American Jewish establishment” univocally supports Israel. Indeed, the truth is closer to the opposite. And the “establishment” has been joined by groups like J Street and If Not Now; even Jewish Voice for Peace is being treated as a legitimate representative of a segment of the Jewish population. None of this is an accident: a great deal of money has been expended by anti-Israel foundations like the Ford Foundation and Soros-connected foundations in order to accomplish this. And Beinart himself has been a tireless soldier in this campaign.
The World Zionist Congress consists of delegates from all over the world, in proportion to the Jewish populations of various countries. An election will be held to select them this January, and American Jews can vote for one of several slates of candidates. One is ironically called “Hatikvah”; its platform is a politically-correct compendium of left-wing causes, and its slate contains Beinart and Ben Ami, as well as the full panoply of American Jewish virtue-signalers and opportunists. For those Liberals/Progressives who can’t quite stomach Beinart or Ben Ami, there is a very slightly less aggressively left-wing platform and slate provided by the Union for Reform Judaism.
With due respect for Herzl, I think that the World Zionist Organization and its Congress have outlived their usefulness now that the Jewish state has been reestablished and is thriving. Israel does not need financial contributions from the diaspora, and it needs advice and political pressure even less. The WZO should dissolve itself and turn over whatever resources it has to the true Zionist entity in the world (just ask the Iranian regime), the State of Israel.
For now, I recommend that American Zionists vote for the Herut Zionists, which – unlike “Hatikvah” and the Reform slate, does espouse true Zionist goals like the ingathering of exiles and the development of all of Eretz Yisrael.
* Misoziony (pronounced mis-OZ-yoni) is the extreme and irrational hatred of the Jewish state. It is antisemitism raised up one level of abstraction, although almost all misozionists are antisemites as well. Tikkunism is the ideology that replaces the traditional mitzvot of Judaism with an imperative to engage in left-wing social action.