Peter Beinart vs. Rich Lowry on Miftah: "Palestinians Don't Have To Be Saints In Order To Have Basic Human Rights"


Fireworks flew Monday afternoon on CNN when "The Atlantic" editor Peter Beinart debated "National Review" editor Rich Lowry about Miftah, the Palestinian organization whose alleged anti-Semitic writings were cited by the government of Israel to block their ability to host Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib for a tour of the West Bank.

PETER BEINART, THE ATLANTIC: Palestinians don't have to be saints in order to have the basic rights we all take for granted. Miftah made an anti-Semitic statement they apologized for, and the point is when you go there -- I say this as an American Jew, my children go to Jewish day school and Judaism is the center of my life -- the first time I went to the West Bank it was a shattering experience. The only thing I could imagine that could be similar for an American would be going to visit the Jim Crow South.

When you see people living under the control of the state with no rights and they can not become citizens or vote for the control of the state that controls their lives, they do not have free movement, the need a pass to move from city to city, and they live under a military legal system. The consequences are more brutal than we could imagine sitting here.

So do I agree with Miftah? Of course not. I had a close friend killed in a suicide bombing, but you could have made the same argument if you went to visit SNCC and said they were connected with communists and made anti-white statements, but what Ilhan Omar said is the most important point, people need to go and see for themselves. I've never seen anyone seen for themselves and not be transformed by the experience.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN: That I think is true and apolitical. It is worth going to the West Bank to see for yourself. You get a real sense of the situation on the ground.

Rich Lowry, on the subject of Miftah, the other side of that is that there has been a congressional trip that was led by Miftah before and the Israeli government let it happen. I know it was before the law was passed... but they allowed it to happen before and now they are not, and claiming it is because of the organization.

RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, obviously the proximate cause here was the Trump tweet which highlighted this and made it a major issue, but there is a law that allows Israel to ban foreigners who support the BDS movement to isolate and delegitimize Israel. It is not applied against members of Congress before, but it has as been applied against French and E.U. politicians, but these are strong supporters of the BDS movement. They are not honest brokers. We wouldn't afford a white nationalist organization the leeway that Peter is giving this organization. "Oh, they are not saints." This is an anti-semitic group that supported terrorism and blowing up innocent civilians and children, and no matter what you think of the dispute between Palestinians and Israel, that is an illegitimate tactic that no one should associate with.

BEINART: Hanan Ashrawi is known as a nonviolent activist and a critic of the Palestinian Authority and one of the most important Palestinian feminists. There are many Palestinians who believe they have the right to use violence because of the daily violent oppression they feel. I disagree with them. I believe in only nonviolent protest, but the point is every time any Palestinian leader or any Palestinian organization tries to expose what happens, this is exactly what happens. People try to discredit them because they don't want to talk about the real issue and the real issue is an absolute denial of basic human rights.

LOWRY: What does that have to do with supporting terrorism? No one has any problem with harshly criticizing Israel, that's fine, but you don't support blowing up innocent people. That is a bottom line --


LOWRY: Something we should all agree on.

BEINART: The purpose hind focusing on this is distracting attention from the reality on the ground which is funded by American tax dollars. Our tax dollars blow up the homes of people who cannot get permits to build because they are non-citizens under military law.

LOWRY: Is this your standard for a white nationalist organization--

BEINART: With all due respect, you have not been there and seen this on the ground. I know Hanan Ashrawi, she's not even close to a white nationalist and seeking freedom for her people.

LOWRY: So why does the organization publish things supporting terrorism?

BEINART: Rich, I disagree with violent resistance --

LOWRY: So why do they?

BEINART: Because a lot of Palestinians believe because they are subject to daily violence of a system which denies them basic human rights, they have the right to respond violently. I disagree with them --

LOWRY: By killing innocent people.

BEINART: But an if African-American who supported violence against the United States under slavery or Jim Crow, that did not excuse their denial after basic rights because I disagree with the tactic they were using to resist it.

LOWRY: Again, it is fine to harshly criticize Israel and the occupation. I don't think anyone should be associated with the group that supports terrorism. And this is in black and white. They publish this stuff. No one is forcing them to pub this stuff.

BEINART: Hanan Ashrawi has devoted her life as a nonviolent activist to opposing oppression which none of us -- does not accord with the values that any of us believe in as Americans.

LOWRY: So she doesn't control her own organization and what it published.

BEINART: Rich, try spending time focusing on the fact that almost $4 billion of U.S. aid used to put children in detention.

LOWRY: You're the one distracting from the issue.

BEINART: This is the issue. You're distracting from the issue because National Review --

LOWRY: You're shouting --

BEINART: And just as you defended Apartheid, and just how you defended segregation, you now defend Israel's oppression of Palestinian basic rights. It is a tradition for you guys.

LOWRY: If an organization supports terrorism they should be beyond the pale.

BEINART: And when Palestinians protest nonviolently you discredit them as well.

LOWRY: You say that in some sense that justifies terrorism? Because they're not getting what they want nonviolently?

BEINART: Of course, it doesn't justify terrorism. I've said, again and again, I disagree with terrorism, but what I'm saying is you're trying to distract from the real issue, and the real issue is the American complicit of denial of basic Palestinian human rights... Please go there yourself.

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