The Conversation

Peter Beinart Scapegoats American Jews

Trust Peter Beinart to exploit the Egypt crisis to attack the American Jewish community and pro-Israel groups. Beinart writes at the Daily Beast that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) have "whitewashed last week’s massacre of Muslim Brotherhood supporters by Egypt’s military." The reason? "Israel wants the [Egyptian] military to remain in charge."

The implication is that American Jews bear some moral culpability for the violations of human rights that Egypt's military is perpetrating against Muslim Brotherhood supporters. He even accuses American Jewish groups of "indifference to the welfare of anyone except Jews." Actually, Beinart has an obsession with attacking Jews and Israel in particular, to the exclusion of criticism that might be offered of anyone else.

In criticizing U.S. policy on Egypt as "Obama's Greatest Failure" recently, Beinart noted that the president "never called the coup a coup." Yet he bent over backwards to argue Obama had meant well: "The hallmarks of Obama’s foreign policy are nuance, humility, caution, which is understandable when you follow George W. Bush. So Obama did the apparently prudent thing." Not indifference, just good intentions, you understand.

While making excuses for the supposed leader of the free world, who might have been in a position to do something, Beinart cuts no slack for the American Jewish groups he resents. "AIPAC sometimes talks the language of democracy and human rights. But those aren’t its real concerns," he says. They don't care about those issues the way Obama surely must when he fails to cut off military aid to the new Egyptian regime.

Beinart, who accuses Israel and American Jews of moral "myopia," can't see beyond his own hermeneutically sealed perspective. He explains Israel's support for the Egyptian military as the result of the discomfort of Israeli leaders at "dealing with" Islamist movements, as if it were a personal flaw of Benjamin Netanyahu and his party. (The discomfort of Islamists at dealing with Israeli leaders has nothing to do with it, you see.)

Actually, the reason Israel prefers the Egyptian military is simple: Israel is worried about Hamas and other terror groups taking advantage of Muslim Brotherhood support to destabilize the Sinai and launch terror attacks against Israeli civilians. In other words, Israel cares about Israeli lives. That's a valid human rights concern, and rightfully the top priority of the Israeli government, though Beinart prefers to ignore it.

Ironically, in his zeal to condemn American Jewish groups for downplaying the brutality of the new Egyptian regime, he minimizes human rights abuses by the Muslim Brotherhood. The "reports of church burnings are horrific," he says, as if these are rumors whose truth is not yet confirmed. Does Beinart not care about the welfare of Egyptian Christians? Or does making fellow American Jews upset trump all moral concerns?

Supporting the coup does have a deep moral--and perhaps strategic--price. There's no sense in denying that what happened was a "coup," any more than it makes sense to deny the Armenian genocide--a similarly fraught issue in relations with Turkey. But there is even less sense in scapegoating American Jewish groups while laboring to preserve the lie that Obama's foreign policy is largely a success. Moral myopia, indeed.


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