Israel might be creating some of its own biggest challenges, according to writer Peter Beinhart.
On Tuesday, Penn students gathered in the upstairs lounge of Hillel to listen to a presentation from Beinart, an author and columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. The event focused on the role of the American Jewish community in the future of Israel. It was sponsored by J-Street U Penn as well as the Hillel Israel Sector, Hillel Education, the Reform Jewish Community at Penn, Penn Government and Politics Association, Penn Political Coalition, Wharton Business and Politics Association and the Political Science Department.
Beinart discussed what he believes to be a “silence in the American Jewish community regarding Israeli settlements in the West Bank.”
“American Jewish children today are growing up with unprecedented power and privilege,” he said. “[They are] seeing Israel as a super power in the Middle East.”
Beinart believes that the Jewish diaspora of today has enough influence to encourage or discourage further peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
“Even if I concede everything nasty someone could say about the Palestinians, it is not the Palestinians who are paying Israelis to move into the West Bank,” Beinart said. “By supporting settlement growth, [Israelis] are pushing Palestinians in the direction we don’t want them to go.”
Beinart also thinks settlement growth encourages more Palestinians to support Islamic militant organizations Hezbollah and Hamas.
Despite his criticism of Israel, Beinart explained that Palestinians are also to blame. He condemned Palestinian engagement in “grotesque terrorism” against Israeli citizens.
“Israel’s settlements are only one problem,” Beinhart said. “The other major problem is that Palestinians feel that Israel’s creation is a historic travesty, one they would love to undo.”
Following the presentation, Beinart took questions from the audience in a session moderated by Hillel Rabbi Mike Uram. He fielded questions on topics ranging from the BDS movement to the political divide within the Jewish community and the potential release of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard.
“I think it’s great to bring in a liberal voice. Whether or not you agree with him, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” College senior and JStreet U Penn board member Claire Shimberg said.