Peter Beinart’s “The Crisis of Zionism” is an important new book that rejects the manipulation of Jewish victimhood in the name of Israel’s domination of the Palestinians and asserts that the real issue for Jews today is not the challenge of weakness but the demands of power.
“We are being asked to perpetuate a narrative of victimhood that evades the central Jewish question of our age: the question of how to ethically wield Jewish power,” he writes. That power, for 45 years now, has been exercised over millions of Palestinians who enjoy none of the rights of citizenship and all the humiliations of an occupied people.
Beinart, a prominent liberal journalist, is right to invert the treacherous victimhood trope. This is not 1938 revisited, or even 1967. Israel is strong today, a vibrant economy and the Middle East’s only nuclear-armed state. Its unwavering ally, the United States, is home to a Jewish community that has never been more integrated or influential. Turbulent Arab states are focused on their own reinvention, not Israel; Iran’s principal regional ally, Syria, teeters on the brink.
Threats persist, of course. The annihilationist strain in Palestinian ideology, present since 1948, has not disappeared. Arab anti-Semitism festers, although at least in Tunisia it’s being debated. Hezbollah and Hamas have their rockets and missiles. Iran has a stop-go nuclear program. Terrorists can strike in New Delhi or Tbilisi.
Still, the greatest danger by far to Israel is that it will squander the opportunities of power or overreach militarily (Iran) through excess of victimhood, rather than that any imaginable coalition of its enemies will deliver a crippling blow.