Regardless of what you think about the conclusions Beinart draws, his topic and his thesis are extremely important. As an author Beinart dissects issues and hammers home his point in the most readable and friendly style. The Crisis of Zionism is masterfully crafted and gracefully written.
Even when my blood boiled over because of a point he had made or when I laughed out loud at his exaggerated prose, I remained enraptured by the story and by Beinart’s writing style. For example, in the world according to Peter Beinart: It’s the Jewish leadership of America were to meet with the President of the United States… only one person in the Oval Office would reflect true Jewish and traditional Zionist values…. and that would be President Barack Obama. Clever, convincing and made the point clearly, but just as certainly an exaggeration of the point he wished to make.
Beinart is not a self-hating Jew; he is a staunchly critical Jew. He is a Jew who wants, through his critique, to return Jewish leadership and the American Jewish community and Israel to its roots, roots founded, Beinart writes, on social justice, freedom, and equality. For that reason he juxtaposes Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the American Jewish leaders against U.S. President Obama.Obama is a champion of the cause of Israel’s left and of the vision of a Palestinian state in the context of a two-state solution, the Palestinian state living side by side with Israel. Beinart sees that as the only just resolution to the conflict.
In contrast to Obama, Beinart sees Prime Minister Netanyahu as doing anything and everything to avoid that same two-state, side by side result. The American leaders who support the Netanyahu point of view are painted with the same broad brush as those who threaten traditional Jewish and Zionist values – the principles upon which Israel was founded.
Peter Beinart’s major strength is also his greatest flaw. His book is marvelously graceful but his argument lacks nuance. There are right-wing traditional Zionists, although they are not to be found in The Crisis of Zionism, and their values were and are evolving. And the Prime Minister, in a revolutionary move, has recognized the right of Palestinians to have a state within the boundaries of the 1967 armistice lines. Beinart also fails to acknowledge or even recognize that Israel has moved from a socialist frame of reference to a free market, moved from left to center to center-right, as have the vast majority of diaspora Zionists.A better book could not have been written, but a second book should attempt to convince those many American Jews who don’t care about Israel to care. Making Israel socialist and more liberal will not budge American Jewry from their apathy.