Many books have been written on the Israeli-Palestinian struggle — by reporters, elected officials, diplomats, novelists, poets, human rights workers, Nobel laureates and ordinary citizens. But Peter Beinart’s “The Crisis of Zionism” stands out not least for the avalanche of attention it has received even before publication. It is also unusual because it offers little in the way of personal reporting on the Israelis or the Palestinians themselves. Instead, Beinart’s book is mainly about the response to this searing and seemingly intractable conflict among American Jews, who, though living far from the dusty battlegrounds, are nonetheless regarded as the linchpin by certain people on both ends of the political spectrum.
Beinart frames his book as a passionate polemic on the fatal threat that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank poses to that country’s liberal democratic ideals. The object of his jeremiad is not Israeli rightists or Palestinian terror groups but the American Jewish establishment — presented here as a monolithic cartel of powerful groups and individuals who Beinart tells us have closed their eyes to the disintegration of Israel’s higher ideals while lobbying Congress and the administration for whatever their benighted Middle Eastern brethren desire.