Peter Beinart

There are several points where The New York Times should have amended the gross inaccuracies stated by Peter Beinart about Israel.

By Gidon Ben-Zvi, HonestReporting via The Algemeiner

In an August 26 guest essay for The New York Times, titled “Has the Fight Against Antisemitism Lost Its Way?,” Peter Beinart ignores serious ongoing concerns about the veracity of reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and instead argues that today’s battle against antisemitism has “become a threat to freedom” since many of the American Jewish leaders who are waging it have also condemned the demonization of Israel by these same hate-filled organizations.

To drive home his point, Beinart lumps Israel — the Middle East’s only viable democracy — with some of the world’s worst human rights violators, including China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

But while Beinart is entitled to his bizarre opinions, he’s not entitled to his own facts.

There are several points where The New York Times, as the publisher of the opinion piece, should have amended the gross inaccuracies stated by Beinart about Israel.

According to Beinart, American Jewish attitudes towards Israel, which at one point were more critical of the Jewish state, “…began to change after the 1967 war. Israel’s conquest of the West Bank and Gaza Strip made it master over roughly a million stateless Palestinians.”

In fact, Beinart’s “conquest” was a preemptive war of survival.

In 1967, Arab armies massed on Israel’s borders with the intent to attack and destroy the Jewish state. Egypt had closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping; an act of war.

Only then did Israel launch a successful strike on Egypt, which led to an all-out war with Egypt and Syria. While Israel appealed to Jordan to not join the fighting from the east, Jordan nevertheless attacked, expecting a swift Arab victory.

Another linguistic sleight of hand is Beinart’s description of a parliamentary motion to erase the Jewish character of Israel as an attempt by Palestinian members of the Knesset to obtain “equal citizenship” for their constituents.

Beinart doubles down on his assertion, backing it up with the thoroughly debunked findings of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch: “Most Palestinians exist as second-class citizens in Israel proper or as stateless noncitizens in the territories Israel occupied in 1967 or live beyond Israel’s borders. But under the definition of antisemitism promoted by the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the State Department, Palestinians become antisemites if they call for replacing a state that favors Jews with one that does not discriminate based on ethnicity or religion.”

With regards to Palestinian citizens, Israel is a country where Arab people serve as Supreme Court justices, fighter pilots, Members of Knesset, artists, athletes, and more. Everything that Israelis do, Arab Israelis do also.

That’s because Israel’s Basic Laws and independent judiciary form the basis of a democratic state for all groups, including ethnic minorities.

So, when Palestinians call for “replacing a state,” as Beinart writes, they are in reality advocating for the liquidation of a country whose legislation and court system have combated any manifestation of discrimination — with the goal of guaranteeing equal rights for all.

Indeed, Israel is a country ranked above Italy, Spain, and the United States in a respected global index of democratic values.

And even though Beinart correctly calls attention to the plight of Palestinians who live “beyond Israel’s borders,” he omits the source of their suffering.

Since the signing of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, the vast majority of Palestinians have been governed by either the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank or Hamas — considered a terrorist group by most Western countries — in Gaza. The PA, specifically, was created with the support of the international community, with Palestinian leaders agreeing to adopt partial autonomy while granting Israel security control in some disputed areas.

But instead of choosing freedom, Ramallah is increasingly cracking down on its own people. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been implementing measures that could turn the PA into a dictatorship, according to a new report.

Finally, Peter Beinart depicts the normalization of ties between Israel and Arab governments as evidence that the “…campaign against antisemitism is being deployed to justify not merely the violation of Palestinian human rights…American officials have begun using the struggle against antisemitism to shield those regimes.”

Yet Beinart omits the primary reason for the warming of ties. Israel and its regional partners have strengthened relations in response to Iranian regional threats. In response to Iranian belligerence in both the Persian Gulf and the wider region, Israel has entered into a number of security arrangements with the Gulf states.

Yes, Beinart mentions Iran in his piece — but as nothing more than just another repressive country. However, Iran is not just any country. Its leadership continues to boast about its desire to eradicate Israel’s population of just over 9 million people. Neither does Beinart note Tehran’s connection to Palestinian terrorist groups committed to the Jewish state’s destruction. Even the Islamic Republic’s pursuit of nuclear weapons — especially as it pertains to Israel — is kept out of Beinart’s “guest essay.”

By not editing Peter Beinart’s piece more diligently, The New York Times’ own objectivity and ability to distinguish fact from anti-Israel fictional narratives is called into question.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.