Updated: Aug 4, 2020
Comedian and actor Seth Rogen and [pseudo] intellectual Peter Beinart have each recently come out recently with beliefs that Israel as a Jewish state should not exist. It's fascinating to me how no other country in the world seems to provoke the attention and ire of people. Are there other op-eds in the New York Times promoting the idea that Pakistan should not exist or a celebrity on a radio show saying that you know, I think the idea of Azerbaijan has run its course? Wouldn't it be safer for Azeris if they were spread out around the world? Of course not. Israel is the only country that people openly question its right to exist and Jews are the only people whose right to self-determination in their homeland is deemed an offense. And sometimes that even comes from Jews themselves, well-meaning and otherwise.
The Beinart one, of course, is much more impactful than Rogen's (perhaps sad attempt at humor), even if Rogen's may have reached a bigger audience. While it seems intellectual, it fails to note a trajectory among the Palestinian Arabs over the past 70+ years, while it mentions Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki, it ignores his 300+ polls of information that say unequivocally what Palestinians actually want and finally, nowhere in the 8000+ words does it actually lay any blame for the current situation at the Palestinians' feet as if all of this occurred in a vacuum and they were innocent bystanders. It also completely ignores the history of Jewish - and any other minority's - experiences in the Middle East under majority Arab Islamic rule with its sole focus on the Holocaust, as if the history of 50% of Israel's Jewish population in Israel doesn't exist. It makes ridiculous comparisons which are devoid of reality. It completely ignores real Israeli concerns while it seeks to justify Palestinian actions (but not Israeli ones). Finally, it ignores the actual failures of multi-ethnic states all around the world, especially in the Middle East. And truly, the list goes on and on... Rogen's meanwhile is not an intellectual treatise but rather just ignorant of history - as opposed to Beinart's willful manipulation of information.
One thing Rogen did get right, however, was the need to expose Jewish children - when they are old enough to understand some complexity and after a love of Israel has been instilled in them (I'd say 16+) - to some of the challenges and unpleasant things in Israel's history (no country is perfect). Too often I've seen people like him who felt they were lied to because a carefully constructed narrative about Israel being perfect or always right was fed to them, only to fall like a house of cards when they learned this wasn't the case (usually in university). That doesn't mean that Israel isn't generally good and shouldn't exist but some nuance is important. Fairy tales aren't real and nobody believes them when they are older. The problem of course is that most Jewish children don't get a Jewish education where they can even have real conversations about these topics before someone engages with them about it on campus and they don't have the means to address them or the ability to constructively filter what they are being exposed to. As I always say on my tours - I hope people go home with a deeper love of Israel but that doesn't mean that one needs to like everything about it. No Israeli likes everything about Israel - welcome to the club; we understand that we are both on one hand, a miracle and an incredible story of hope and resilience and on the other hand a real country with real challenges and issues and room for improvement.
Below you can read some incredibly honest and poignant responses to both of them, from people from across the political spectrum. Either way it looks like they both need to come on a trip to Israel with a tour guide of Israel and pronto :).
Rogen (his comments are highlighted in the articles - they were part of an hour-long interview)
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