Thursday, July 09, 2020

Will Beinart's Egyptian-born grandma be turning in her grave?

 Liberal Zionist circles in the US have been reeling from the shock that one of their most eloquent spokesmen, Peter Beinart, now advocates the replacement of Israel with a binational state in Palestine. Perhaps his own grandmother Adèle will be turning in her grave. Her family was expelled from Alexandria, Egypt and lived thereafter in the Congo and South Africa. Beinart seems to have forgotten his own 2014 eulogy to her in the pages of Haaretz:


Peter Beinart: forgot his grandmother's 'tribal' Zionism

My grandmother was neither morbid, nor even particularly nostalgic. When asked about her past, she’d often reply, “Who knows?” and then ask a question she considered more pertinent, like, “Why aren’t you eating your fish?” She didn’t talk much about the communities she had buried, but they spoke through her actions. She cooked vast quantities of bourekas, especially for Shabbat dinners, during which her grandchildren ran wild through the house. She went every week to Cape Town’s tiny Sephardi shul. She argued with her brothers in French. She kept a small book that listed the Jewish families from Rhodes, and the places to which history had dispersed them. On beautiful 75-degree days in Cape Town, she sometimes complained about the chill, which puzzled me until I remembered that she had spent much of her youth on the equator.

In my teenage years, when the anti-apartheid movement became a global force, we began to argue politics. My suggestion that Jews had a particular obligation to combat apartheid annoyed her. She probably felt that my claim that Jews had a special responsibility to black South Africans, or any other group of gentile underdogs, stemmed from my inability to imagine being the underdog myself. For her, it didn’t take much imagination. The lessons she drew from her experience of vulnerability and dislocation were straightforward: Jews should be on the lookout for trouble and should take care of each other since no one else would. She approached peoplehood the same way she approached family: like she was part of a gang.

Those instincts formed the basis of her Zionism, which was more tribal than ideological. She didn’t see Israel as a place to forge an ambitious new social order; she saw it as a place Jews could exhale. If her nightmare for South Africa was that its transition to black rule would resemble Congo’s, her nightmare for Israel was that Arab nationalism would imperil its Jews in the way Arab nationalism had imperiled Alexandria’s. If I questioned these fears, she’d ask me how much time I’d spent living in an Arab country. Our dialogue of the deaf bore a faint resemblance to the dialogue between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama, except that Netanyahu doesn’t interrupt his lectures to inquire if Obama has had enough to eat.

In retrospect, I feel blessed to have had a grandmother whose experiences were so different from my own, and who saw the world in such different ways. Among countless other things, she taught me the danger of drawing any simple connection between a person’s political views and their moral character. On South African politics, my grandmother was the most conservative member of our extended family. Yet she showed more personal kindness to black South Africans than any white South African I have ever known—among other things, paying the school fees of the orphaned daughter of a woman who once worked for her around the house. I often reflected on that as a student in Cambridge, New Haven and Oxford, where I met people with impeccably progressive views who had far more empathy for humanity in the abstract than for the actually existing human beings they happened to know.

  Read article in full

4 comments:

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

So he is like so many nowadays, an educated fool. Cambridge and Oxford of course. On the other hand, there is foundation money for Jews who take his positions.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

Beinart's grandmother was perfectly rational and reasonable when she asked him, after he had doubted the reasonableness of her fears: If I questioned these fears, she’d ask me how much time I’d spent living in an Arab country.
This question should have been expanded to Muslim countries, not just Arab lands. Erdogan's Turkey just gave us a reminded of that. He is converting the ancient Hagia Sophia Church or Cathedral back into a mosque. It was built by Greek-speaking Byzantine Christians in the 5th century, and then converted into a mosque in 1453 when the Ottoman Muslim forces conquered the city of Constantinople. Ataturk made the building a museum in 1934 approx. as part of his campaign to lessen Islamic influence in Turkey. Now, Erdogan, an open supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots like Hamas, is turning it back into a mosque despite the wishes of Greeks --who justifiably see Hagia Sophia [= Holy Wisdom in Greek] somewhat in the way that that Jews see the Temple in Jerusalem (also occupied by Muslims)-- and even the Russian Orthodox Church. Muslims gathered outside to pray as I saw in France24 TV and the comments some made to France24 showed pan-Islamic loyalties and bigotry.

Beinart is too brainwashed to understand how his grandmother might feel trepidation about Jews having to live in that kind of situation, of living in a Muslim state that may call itself "secular" or binational. Apparently his education did not include learning about the Jews' status of dhimmis in Islamic states.

Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

". . .her Zionism, which was more tribal than ideological. She didn’t see Israel as a place to forge an ambitious new social orderץ"

Here he seems to be saying that he is nostalgia for the old Israel before 1977 when Begin's Likud party defeated Labor and similar socialist Zionist parties. The fact is that most Kibbutzim today have divested themselves of much of their previous socialist character. The qibbutsim and other socialist features of the economy were important in Israel at one time but now the qibbutsim and state-owned and Histadrut-owned industries no longer work.
But if he does get a stipend from a foundation like the Ford or one of the Rockefeller funds, then they may want him to express a nostalgia for an "ideological" Israel, a socialist Israel, an Israel that went off on suicidal "peace processes."
As far as the Arabs were and are concerned, it did not matter to them if Israel was socialist and had qibbutsim or not. They wanted to destroy it out of their own Islamic supremacist prejudices.

Anonymous said...

Re Peter Beinart op-ed and Haaretz saying July-14-2020 he doesn't go far enough.

It's a club where whoever screams louder the A. slur, thinks is more special.
Don't be fooled by phrasing it as suggestions. The term "liberal Zionists" has become more and more of an empty title.

What all these "thinkers" won't divulge, is pragmatism. Since it doesn't make bumber-stickers. Or headline grabbing.

There are many Israelis , who are--ready for this cliche?--concerned about life, survival. And don't put much thought or concerned into Zionism as ideology.
This is not to say they deny historic ties to the land.
Do these writers deny legitimate worry of entities (moderate or radical Apartheid Arab Palestine) that incite for, justify even glorify killing of Jews in Israel? Are they totally blind to genocidal Islamic Republic that doesn't even share any border, yet has its bloody hands full at the border and inside Israel?

Want real pragmatic suggestions?
Begin reforming 'Palestinian' education, as a start.