Interview: Peter Beinart

Beinart: poll is 'depressing'


Jewish American academic Peter Beinart, a long-standing critic of Israeli policy in the West Bank and Gaza, has labelled the election "depressing" and hit out at the "timidity" of the centre-left coalition, Zionist Camp.

Mr Beinart, author of The Crisis of Zionism, in which he controversially advocated boycotting products from settlements, said he was disturbed by the lack of discussion of the Palestinian issue in election debates. "It is a sign of how insulated Israel has become from the problem," he said.

For Mr Beinart, who was in Britain this week on a speaking tour organised by anti-occupation group Yachad UK, including an appearance at Jewish Book Week, the silence on the Palestinian issue is only possible because of the PA's close co-operation over West Bank security, a situation that is unsustainable.

"The PA will collapse and Israel will be forced to reckon with the millions of people that it controls."

Mr Beinart was critical of Zionist Camp, arguing that the grouping had not shown enough courage in setting out exactly what a future Palestinian state would look like. "I understand that there are electoral calculations but to say you support a Palestinian state without supporting a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem is idiotic."

I start from principle that Palestinians will never accept living without free movement Peter Beinart

Mr Beinart accepted, however, that the Israeli military presence in the West Bank is a current necessity, arguing that a withdrawal without a peace deal would be "a recipe for disaster".

He also admitted that there were "legitimate concerns about how you would prevent weapons from coming across the border from Jordan" in a future Palestinian state.

Emphasising the urgent need for a two-state solution, he said: "I start from the principle that the Palestinians will never accept living under military rule and without free movement."

In an article in the New York Times in 2012, Mr Beinart advocated "Zionist BDS" - a boycott of settlement goods combined with renewed support for Israel within the Green Line. Some critics argued that the article fuelled the global BDS movement, which is regarded as a magnet for antisemites.

Today, despite mounting antisemitism and terror attacks on Jews in Europe, where the BDS movement has a very large following, Mr Beinart would not modify his position.

He said: "This is me playing my tiny part in making sure Israel survives.

"We have to have the ability to struggle relentlessly against antisemitism, and also say that what is going on in the West bank is a violation of what I as a Zionist believe in most deeply."

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