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Peter Beinart Blames Israel For Ukraine’s Plight



Peter Beinart, who has previously announced to the world – which he believes hangs on his every word –that he no longer supports Israel as a “Jewish state,” is at it again, declaring this time that American support for Israel should be withdrawn because it has, just like Russia in Ukraine, “illegally” annexed territory. A report on his self-important bloviating is here: “Did Peter Beinart Just Blame Israel for Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine?,” by Gidon Ben-Zvi, Algemeiner, March 15, 2022:

In an article in The Guardian titled, “The US supports illegal annexations by Israel and Morocco. Why the hypocrisy?,” Peter Beinart draws a parallel between Russia’s incursion into Ukraine and Israel’s defensive actions during the 1967 Six-Day War.

What “illegal annexations” by Israel is Beinart talking about? Israel has formally annexed, among the territories it took possession of In the Six-Day War, only east Jerusalem, in 1980, and the Golan Heights, in 1981. Those annexations were not illegal. The League of Nations in 1922 created the Mandate for Palestine, that would become the Jewish National Home and, in time, a sovereign Jewish state. The territory included in Mandatory Palestine extended from the Jordan River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, and from the Golan Heights in the north to the Red Sea in the south. Israel was only annexing territory – the Golan and east Jerusalem — that had already been assigned to it by the League of Nations.

There is another, independent justification for Israel’s annexation of the Golan: UN Security Council Resolution 242 (Nov. 22, 1967) allows Israel to retain any territory taken “in the recent conflict” that Israel needed in order to have “secure [defensible] and recognized boundaries.” The Golan, from which Syrian artillery had from 1949 to 1967 fired on Israelis working the fields far below, certainly was needed by Israel to prevent a resumption of such attacks, and to prevent a full-scale invasion from the north, as Syria attempted in 1967 and 1973.

In the piece, Beinart suggests that the United States should no longer continue providing the Jewish state with military aid because doing so would “make Ukraine, Taiwan and every other weaker nation bordered by a rapacious neighbor more vulnerable.”

In Beinart’s view, Israel is a “rapacious neighbor” wantonly attacking others, and by providing it with military aid, the U.S. i not only encouraging Jerusalem’s aggression, but also that of Russia against Ukraine, China against Taiwan, and all stronger states that threaten weaker ones.

Beinart frames his argument by quoting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who described Russia’s aggression as an affront to “Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” as well as a “gross violation of international law.”

Beinart proceeds:

Remaking borders by force violates a core principle of international law. Which is why the Biden administration must do more than resist Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. It must stop violating that principle itself.

There is a difference between “remaking borders by force” and winning, and keeping, territory won in a war of self-defense. Israel did not attack Egypt, Syria, and Jordan first In the Six-Day War. That war began when, starting in mid-May, Nasser blockaded the Straits of Tiran, ordered the U.N. to pull its peacekeeping troops from the Sinai, and moved tens of thousands of Egyptian troops to the northern Sinai, ready to invade Israel. How does this compare to the unprovoked attack on Ukraine by Russia?

Israel won its war in June, 1967, against the gang-up of three Arab countries, and with it, took possession of Gaza, the Golan, east Jerusalem, and the Sinai. Eventually, in exchange for a peace treaty, it gave the Sinai back to Egypt; it also withdrew entirely from the Gaza Strip in 2005, leaving the Gazans to rule themselves. That is, it gave up 95% of the territory it had taken in the 1967 war. 

Beinart writes this in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, accusing the Jewish state of disregarding “a core principle of international law” when it annexed the Golan Heights that were “seized from Syria in the 1967 War.”

What Beinart fails to note is that, in stark contrast to Russia’s offensive in Ukraine, Israel, which indeed gained control of parts of the Golan Heights during the Six-Day War, had been attacked by neighboring Arab countries and as such, was forced into fighting for its very survival.

Indeed, regional leaders in the run-up to launching the 1967 war launched by neighboring Arab states against Israel (in a manner similar to Putin’s invasion), repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel. Not only did then Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser impose a blockade of Israeli goods through the Straits of Tiran, itself an act of war, all while ordering a massive military buildup and demanding the removal of UN peacekeeping forces monitoring the shared border, but top Arab officials repeatedly made genocidal statements — such as the following by then Syrian defense minister (and later president) Hafez Assad:

Our forces are now entirely ready not only to repulse any aggression, but to initiate the act ourselves, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland of Palestine. The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united. I believe that the time has come to begin a battle of annihilation.

Who were the “rapacious neighbors” in 1967? Not Israel, which for the second time was forced to fight, as it had in 1948, for its very survival. Egypt and Syria were the aggressors; little Jordan joined in, King Hussein having been inveigled by Nasser into attacking Israel. It was a big mistake: Jordan lost east Jerusalem, including the Old City, as well as all of the West Bank.

Moreover, Beinart blithely ignores the fact that Syria remains in the throes of a decade-plus-long war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, and that the country is run by a murderous dictator. Beinart also discounts the strategic importance of the area as it relates to Israel’s security, even as Iranian-backed fighters are trying to remilitarize the region so that they may one day exterminate Israel.

Syria is run by a murderous dictator who is the closest ally of Iran. Iran’s leaders have constantly pledged to “annihilate” the Jewish state. That is the reason for Iran’s nuclear program, and for its ballistic missile program. And recently, Iran-backed Hezbollah fighters, armed with Iranian weapons, have been trying to establish bases just to the north of the Golan, still under Syrian control. The Golan plateau, which with an average altitude of 1,000 meters looms over the Syrian plain beneath, is essential to the defense of Israel’s north. All Israeli military men are convinced of that. So were the American officers who were sent to Israel by President Johnson in 1967 to report back on which territories Israel would have to keep to ensure its security. But Field Marshall Peter Beinart, that master of military strategy, doesn’t agree. Whom should we trust?

Prior to the 1967 war, the Syrian army plagued northern Israel by frequently launching artillery attacks against Israelis. In the preceding 17 years, approximately 370 Israelis were hit by Syrian fire, resulting in 121 deaths. In the first three months of 1967 alone, Damascus and its allies caused over 270 border “incidents.”

Despite the obvious security ramifications, the Israeli government after the war still proposed returning the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for peace. In response, the Arab League — at the time comprising Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, and Sudan — issued a proclamation known as the Khartoum Resolution, or, more informally, the Three Nos: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it….”

Perhaps sensing that his Russia-Israel comparison is unfounded, Beinart then compares Israel’s 1981 application of sovereignty over the Golan Heights to Morocco’s annexation of the Western Sahara — which Rabat invaded in 1975 after the withdrawal from the region of its Spanish colonial rulers.

Beinart wants us to believe that Morocco’s seizure and annexation of the Western Sahara, a sparsely populated area that posed no threat to Rabat, is akin to Israel keeping, in a war of self-defense, territory — the Golan — that had been used by Syria for only one purpose: to rain fire down on Israeli civilians.

For good measure, Beinart invokes the thoroughly debunked Israel “apartheid” libel:

Even as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International allege that it [Israel] is practicing apartheid… the Biden administration has also boosted arms sales to Morocco even though the US-based democracy watchdog Freedom House reports that people in Western Sahara enjoy fewer freedoms than people in China or Iran….

We might as well, tedious as it has become, yet again rebut the absurd charge that Israel practices apartheid, Here goes. Israeli Arabs serve in the Knesset, sit on the Supreme Court, are sent abroad as Israeli ambassadors. The chairman of Israel’s largest bank, Bank Leumi, is an Arab. Jews and Arabs in Israel work in the same offices and factories, are doctors and nurses in the same hospitals, treating both Arab and Jewish patients. Jews and Arabs play on the same sports teams – an Arab is the captain of Israel’s national soccer team — and in the same orchestras. Jews and Arabs start businesses together – everything from restaurants to high-tech start-ups. But Peter Beinart refuses to recognize any of that, as he asserts, as If it were a universally-accepted truth, “even as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International allege that it [Israel] is practicing apartheid” – and then he segues into a non sequitur about American aid to Morocco.

Let’s see. Because Israel annexed the Golan, which it had won in a war of self-defense – as international law permits — in order to better protect itself against another invasion attempt from the north, that means that China will be encouraged to attack Taiwan. I’ve tried to make sense out of this but have failed. Peter Beinart connects, I’m afraid, a handful of non-existent dots.