Tuesday, July 10, 2012

512 Paul Krugman acknowledges existence of Jewish lobby; but Philip Weiss accuses him of cowardice

Paul Krugman acknowledges existence of Jewish lobby; but Philip Weiss
accuses him of cowardice

(1) Paul Krugman acknowledges existence of the Jewish lobby: "intense
attack from organized groups"
(2) The Crisis of Zionism, by Peter Beinart
(3) Philip Weiss accuses Krugman of cowardice over his limp attack on
the Lobby
(4) Beinart trying to save liberal Zionism; Jewish "victimhood" cf their
own moral shortcomings

(1) Paul Krugman acknowledges existence of the Jewish lobby: "intense
attack from organized groups"


Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2012 04:52:28 +1000

The Crisis of Zionism

April 24, 2012, 2:54 PM

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/24/the-crisis-of-zionism/

Something I've been meaning to do — and still don't have the time to do
properly — is say something about Peter Beinart's brave book The Crisis
of Zionism.

The truth is that like many liberal American Jews — and most American
Jews are still liberal — I basically avoid thinking about where Israel
is going. It seems obvious from here that the narrow-minded policies of
the current government are basically a gradual, long-run form of
national suicide — and that's bad for Jews everywhere, not to mention
the world. But I have other battles to fight, and to say anything to
that effect is to bring yourself under intense attack from organized
groups that try to make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to
anti-Semitism.

But it's only right to say something on behalf of Beinart, who has
predictably run into that buzzsaw. As I said, a brave man, and he
deserves better.

(2) The Crisis of Zionism, by Peter Beinart

http://www.amazon.com/Crisis-Zionism-Peter-Beinart/dp/0805094121

The Crisis of Zionism [Hardcover]

Peter Beinart (Author)

Publication Date: March 27, 2012 | ISBN-10: 0805094121 | ISBN-13:
978-0805094121 | Edition: First Edition

Israel's next great crisis may come not with the Palestinians or Iran
but with young American Jews

A dramatic shift is taking place in Israel and America. In Israel, the
deepening occupation of the West Bank is putting Israeli democracy at
risk. In the United States, the refusal of major Jewish organizations to
defend democracy in the Jewish state is alienating many young liberal
Jews from Zionism itself. In the next generation, the liberal Zionist
dream—the dream of a state that safeguards the Jewish people and
cherishes democratic ideals—may die.

In The Crisis of Zionism, Peter Beinart lays out in chilling detail the
looming danger to Israeli democracy and the American Jewish
establishment's refusal to confront it. And he offers a fascinating,
groundbreaking portrait of the two leaders at the center of the crisis:
Barack Obama, America's first "Jewish president," a man steeped in the
liberalism he learned from his many Jewish friends and mentors in
Chicago; and Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister who
considers liberalism the Jewish people's special curse. These two men
embody fundamentally different visions not just of American and Israeli
national interests but of the mission of the Jewish people itself.

Beinart concludes with provocative proposals for how the relationship
between American Jews and Israel must change, and with an eloquent and
moving appeal for American Jews to defend the dream of a democratic
Jewish state before it is too late.

(3) Philip Weiss accuses Krugman of cowardice over his limp attack on
the Lobby


http://mondoweiss.net/2012/04/krugman-jumps-into-debate-over-beinart-with-both-pinkies.html

Krugman jumps into debate over Beinart with both pinkies

by Philip Weiss on April 25, 2012 45

It is a measure of Paul Krugman's influence that within an hour or so of
his posting a weak defense of Peter Beinart, yet still a defense, a half
dozen people sent me the link. The guy is huge. Haaretz did a news story
on the Krugman statement. His column is titled "The Conscience of a
Liberal." And this is part of what he says:

{quote}
The truth is that like many liberal American Jews — and most American
Jews are still liberal — I basically avoid thinking about where Israel
is going. It seems obvious from here that the narrow-minded policies of
the current government are basically a gradual, long-run form of
national suicide — and that's bad for Jews everywhere, not to mention
the world. But I have other battles to fight, and to say anything to
that effect is to bring yourself under intense attack from organized
groups that try to make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to
anti-Semitism.
{endquote}

I find this stunning. The guy has a Nobel Prize and a professorship and
a perch at the New York Times, and he is afraid to go near the issue,
one of the most important issues we face today, and when he does go near
it he offers platitudes. Is it true that the end of Israel would be bad
for Jews everywhere? Explain. Is it true that organized groups
intimidate people on this issue? Elaborate. John Mearsheimer says that
tenure is wasted on most professors. This seems further proof of his
theory. Krugman obeys the strictures of Jewish community orthodoxy.

Oh and go to the link but his statement on behalf of Beinart is the
repetition that he's brave. Krugman obeys the boycott issue entirely.
Here's Haaretz, wowed
{http://www.haaretz.com/news/international/paul-krugman-israeli-government-policies-are-a-form-of-national-suicide-1.426387}:

Krugman's unusually harsh critique of Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu's government is sure to elicit howls of protest from Israeli
spokespersons and American Jewish organizations – more so, perhaps, as
they come on the eve of Israel's Independence Day. It is also sure to
further inflame the continuously deteriorating relationship between the
Israeli government and the New York Times, considered by many to be the
most important newspaper in the world.

(4) Beinart trying to save liberal Zionism; Jewish "victimhood" cf their
own moral shortcomings


http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/magazine/is-archliberal-peter-beinart-good-for-the-jews-1.420178

Is archliberal Peter Beinart good for the Jews?

Peter Beinart is on a crusade to save the patrimony of liberal Zionism
in Israel and America. In a wide-ranging interview, the charismatic
author slams the American Jewish establishment and Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu. He also talks about his latest book, which is
already provoking controversy.

By Chemi Shalev

Haaretz, March 22, 2012

NEW YORK CITY – "If Israel does not survive as a Jewish democratic
state, I want to be able to tell my children that I did what little I'm
capable of. I'm a writer, so what I can do is to try to sound an alarm.
I just want to be able to say that to them."

The man speaking is Peter Beinart, the journalist, essayist and author
who became American Jewry's most prominent prophet of doom following the
publication of his 2010 article, "The Failure of the Jewish
Establishment." It is a role that will now be cemented in stone with the
publication of his new book "The Crisis of Zionism," in which he calls
on American Jews "to defend the dream of a democratic Jewish state
before it is too late."

"Part of the problem in the American Jewish community is that people
worry too much about what their aunt Esther and what the right-wing guy
who they sit with at shul are going to say, and not enough about what
their children are going to say," Beinart tells me in an interview at
his office at the City University of New York Graduate School of
Journalism. "You can disagree with my analysis, that's fine. But if you
agree with my analysis of the situation, then that is what you worry
about. You worry about how you're going to explain to the next
generation that we squandered this patrimony."

The patrimony that Beinart is referring to, of course, is that of
liberal Zionism, in both Israel and America. It is the legacy that
Beinart cited in his controversial New York Times article this week
which called for a boycott of settlements and which elicited a firestorm
of condemnation and criticism. Beinart is on a crusade, if you will, to
save the birthright of liberal American Jews, and his two main culprits
– the "enemies" with whom he is doing battle – are the American Jewish
establishment, which blindly follows right-wing Israeli policies, and
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who orchestrates them.

As far as Beinart is concerned, it is Netanyahu who is leading the
Jewish people astray by misinterpreting historical precedents and
misapplying them to the present. It is Netanyahu who has converted the
American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbying organization, and
recruited Christian Evangelicals to support his right-wing anti-liberal
agendas. It is Netanyahu, aided and abetted by these very same American
supporters, who has derailed President Barack Obama's Middle East peace
policies, a move that could go down as a "historical tragedy," Beinart
asserts.

"His arrogance and his intellectual insularity remind me of the worst of
American politics in the Bush era," he says. "This idea that because
he's done some reading about the 1930s and 1940s, nobody understands
history better than him, is intellectually sophomoric, you know? This
constant putting of everything that Netanyahu encounters into the
Holocaust analogy, first the Palestinians and now Iran, is the worst
form of policymaking. His line that no one knows history beyond what he
had for breakfast is [Dick] Cheney-esque, really. And it drives me up
the wall."

Throughout Beinart's texts, speeches and interviews, it is clear that
most everything that Netanyahu says or does drives him up the wall.
Netanyahu is the arch villain, the embodiment of everything that has
gone wrong with the Zionism that Beinart swears allegiance to. One of
the reasons for this fixation, Beinart readily admits, is the fact that
Netanyahu is so "American" – that he plays so skillfully in the American
political arena. That he is for many Democrats, as Beinart says, "the
Republican senator from New York." And it is in this context that
Beinart offers what is, for this writer at least, one of the more
incisive insights of his new book, an eye-opener that, admittedly, may
not be accurate but is nonetheless spectacularly original.

'A nasty world'

According to Beinart, Netanyahu's mistrust and dislike for Obama do not
stem from the fact that the president is a Democrat, or a liberal, and
definitely not because he is black, god forbid, or because his middle
name is Hussein.

No, Netanyahu distrusts Obama because Obama reminds him of Jews. And not
just any Jews, but leftist Jews – the Jews that Netanyahu detests, the
kind of Jews that Netanyahu once famously told an Israeli rabbi "have
forgotten what it is to be Jews."

"What really struck me when I read his writings and that of his father
Benzion, and then about the Revisionist tradition, is this belief that
the world is a very nasty place, and the Jews are in danger because they
don't recognize its nastiness. Because they've gotten this crazy idea
that they're supposed to be better than everybody else. And that this is
deep in our history, it's something that has emerged over hundreds and
hundreds of years in the Diaspora – and we've got to get rid of it.
We've got to become like everybody else."

Obama, according to Beinart, is a product of this Jewish worldview that
Netanyahu rejects. He is a "Jewish president," as Beinart relates in his
book, heavily influenced by liberal, leftist tikkun olam Jews – (i.e.,
who believe in repairing the world – ), who "came out of the Civil
Rights Movement and the anti-Vietnam protests" and among whom Obama
lived, worked and thrived as he launched his political career in
Chicago. And Netanyahu, so well versed in the ways of America, knows
full well where Obama is coming from: a quintessentially Jewish place
that "frightens" and "alienates" the Israeli prime minister, Beinart
says. And it is to thwart this Jewish-inspired worldview of Obama's,
especially as it pertains to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that
Netanyahu has enlisted Jewish America's most powerful agent of
influence, AIPAC.

What's wrong with AIPAC?

"There is nothing wrong with the people themselves. Most AIPAC people
are not ideological. They don't see themselves as right wing. They're
mostly moderate Democrats. They just want to do something for Israel.
They want to feel connected to Israel. They go to their synagogue
dinner, they go to the Federation dinner, and they go to the AIPAC
dinner. But I disagree with AIPAC's definition of what it means to be
pro-Israel. Obviously, they have every right to be involved and engaged,
and I feel ambivalent – because there's a part of me, as a Jew, who,
when I look at the AIPAC conference, says: 'Wow, we're good. Who else
could do this?' I feel the same way when I see the list of Nobel Prize
winners.

"But the AIPAC conference is a fantasy of power without responsibility.
The whole AIPAC ethos is about the Jewish experience of power. You're a
dentist in Cleveland. Your dad was a liquor-store owner in the Bronx.
Your grandfather was a peddler in Riga. Your uncles and aunts and
cousins were massacred in the Shoah. Nobody gave a shit about you. You
come to AIPAC, and all the politicians come to tell you how great you
are, and to tell you what you want to hear. For WASPs, it wouldn't be
such a powerful experience. For Jews, especially older Jews, it's a very
powerful experience, especially when you tell people that you're using
this power to save the Jewish people in the way that your parents and
grandparents couldn't in the 1940s.

"But the problem is, it's only a narrative of power and survival. It's
not a narrative of power and ethical responsibility. And that's a point
I try to make in the book: What's missing from the American Jewish
conversation is a recognition that our tradition has something to teach
us about the responsibility of power and the capacity to abuse power,
and we don't see that in the Israel debate."

It is this attempt to eradicate the Jewish imperative for moral
responsibility which, according to Beinart, is also a major reason for
Netanyahu's appeal to the Christian Evangelical right and its support
for Israel, which Beinart describes as "an unmitigated disaster."

"They fit so well with Bibi," he says, "because Bibi wants a Zionism and
a Judaism that kicks to the side any notion of the Jews having a special
ethical mission, and that's what the Christians want as well ... Do you
know why they love Israel? Because they see themselves in a global
struggle against Islam, and they believe that what's great about Israel
is that Israel is taking it to the Muslims. Well, that's not what I love
about Israel."

Rallying cry

Beinart's rallying cry to fight for the Israel he loves, and his harsh
attack on those he views as undermining it, were the backdrop to his
groundbreaking May 2010 article in the prestigious New York Review of
Books, which catapulted him into his current status as the main
ideologue of American Jewish liberals. The article took the American
Jewish world by storm to a degree that surprised Beinart himself. It
lambasted the Jewish establishment for driving away young and liberal
Jews, for failing to stand up for human rights and democracy in Israel
and in the territories, and for betraying the historical values of
liberal American Zionism.

"For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews
to check their liberalism at Zionism's door, and now, to their horror,
they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism
instead. Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral. If the
leaders of groups like AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major
American Jewish Organizations do not change course, they will wake up
one day to find a younger, Orthodox-dominated, Zionist leadership whose
naked hostility to Arabs and Palestinians scares even them, and a mass
of secular American Jews who range from apathetic to appalled. Saving
liberal Zionism in the United States – so that American Jews can help
save liberal Zionism in Israel – is the great American Jewish challenge
of our age."

Beinart's article was well written and well argued, but what turned it
into such a sensation was its impeccable timing. He expressed, often
with polemical hammer blows, what many Jews had been feeling in
mid-2010. His message spread like wildfire in Jewish intelligentsia,
among people who were increasingly dismayed by the undeniable
contradiction between Obama's 2008 election and his liberal agenda,
which they had fervently endorsed, and the values and voices that were
emanating from Israel in the wake of Netanyahu's 2009 election: Avigdor
Lieberman, settler violence, antidemocratic legislation, insularity
abroad and intolerance at home.

Beinart was tapping into the same kind of frustration with the status
quo that had led to the establishment of J Street in 2008. The liberal,
urban, intellectual elites of Jewish America were looking for a voice,
and in Beinart they had found their would-be Jeremiah.

Beinart, almost a quintessential Jewish American intellectual, might not
get very far in the rough-and-tumble atmosphere of political discourse
in Tel Aviv, but in New York and other urban U.S. Jewish centers, he
fits the bill perfectly. He is undoubtedly more charismatic in the eyes
of young American Jews than the heads of the organizations that he so
caustically criticizes. At the recent General Assembly of Jewish
Federations in Denver, I witnessed how swarms of young female listeners
lapped up his words – even those who later found it necessary to say
they reject his message completely.

"Beinart is a classic Washington scholar-journalist-pundit, a Yale and
Oxford graduate who has edited the New Republic, stamped his wonk pass
at the Council on Foreign Relations and now hangs out at the New America
Foundation and the City University of New York." That was how The
Washington Post's Carlos Lozada described him in 2010.

Born in 1971 to immigrant parents from South Africa who made their home
in the elitist intellectual milieu of Harvard and MIT, Beinart was for
many years described by the adjective "wunderkind." He studied at Yale,
was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford, and at the ripe old age of 28 was
appointed editor of Martin Peretz's influential, soft-at-home,
tough-abroad New Republic. Beinart is the author of two books on
American foreign policy, which received mixed reviews.

Turbo-charged version

In 2006 he published "The Good Fight: Why Liberals – and Only Liberals –
Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again," which focused
on the works of American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr a few years before
he became a household name due to his influence on the foreign policy
thinking of President Obama.

In 2010, Beinart wrote "The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American
Hubris," in which he blames American overconfidence and hubris for a
century of foreign policy mishaps, follies and tragedies. It is in this
second book that Beinart recants his own support for the 2003 Iraq war,
leading a reviewer in the Christian Science Monitor to describe the book
as "a history of Beinart's own hubris."

Beinart's born-again ardor, his zeal of a convert, is one of the
motivations critics ascribed to his hard-hitting New York Review of
Books article. It is probably just one of a series of broadsides that
Beinart will have to confront with the publication of "The Crisis of
Zionism" by Times Books, the publishing arm of The New York Times. It
is, in many ways, a turbo-charged version of his original article.

It includes a detailed and utterly unflattering account of the relations
between Netanyahu and Obama over the past three years, as told to
Beinart by sources close to the latter who are clearly no great fans of
the former. It expands and expounds on Beinart's original indictment of
antidemocratic Israeli attitudes toward Palestinians. It laments the
Israeli betrayal of the liberal values that Beinart believes Israel was
founded on and, consequently, its growing distance from American Jews.
It lambasts the perpetuation and fostering of the Jewish sense of
"victimhood" by Netanyahu and others of his ilk, which serves to absolve
Jews of any need to come to terms with their own moral shortcomings. It
is, at once, a condemnation of the Jewish establishment and a call to
arms for liberal Jewry. It is, or may come to be, the "Little Red Book"
of left-leaning American Jewish intellectuals, the "Liberal Manifesto"
of sophisticated Jews who insist on clinging to their old-style Zionism,
even if it no longer exists.

The book is, I tell Beinart, like a compendium of all the leftist
opinion articles that have been written and that will be written on
these subjects for years to come. His critics will say that the work is
more indicative of Beinart's own clueless liberalism than it is of
misguided Israeli policies – a shining example of how leftists have lost
their way. His facts and statistics are not borne out by the research
and the polls, they will claim. He doesn't live in Israel, of course,
doesn't send his children to the army and shouldn't be criticizing
Israel in the first place. He is arming Israel's worst enemies with some
of their best lines. And sometimes it seems that he just doesn't get it:
"Beinart ignores what Israel has gone through over the last decade and
thereby misreads what Israelis are thinking today" – as ADL chairman Abe
Foxman said.

Indeed, for an Israeli reader, even one who is sympathetic to Beinart,
there are some glaring gaps in his book, made all the more striking by
the fact that these were widely pointed out to him in many reviews and
critiques of his 2010 article.

It often seems like you just don't feel the pain, that you don't grasp
the impact of the trauma of the suicide bombings and the second intifada
on the Israeli psyche and public opinion.

"I'm sorry. If that doesn't come through, then it's a failure of the
book. I didn't live it, but I totally understand it. This randomness of
the violence, the sense that the whole of Israel was a battlefield. If
you say that this pushed Israeli politics significantly to the right, I
think that's incontestably right. But people go from that descriptive
reality to a normative claim: that therefore, the interpretation of the
second intifada, that became dominant on the Israeli right and among
most American Jews, is correct.

"9/11 had an incredibly traumatic impact on Americans. Nobody can
understand American foreign policy in the ensuing years without
understanding the trauma. But that doesn't mean it justifies the way
that American leaders, and to some degree even American public opinion,
responded to 9/11. It may be more understandable, emotionally, but it
doesn't mean it was wise."

But it also seems you don't give enough weight to Iran. And the Arab
Spring. And to a whole host of similar events.

"That may be true, but I don't think any of these events are good
reasons to create a one-state solution in the West Bank. The point I'm
trying to get at is that these things become manipulated by people who
have no interest in the creation of something along the lines of the
Clinton parameters. And it seems to me that we can't play that game
forever. Because then you get what you most fear, which is from the
river to the sea, you know? And when I listen to American Jewish leaders
or, frankly, when I listen to Netanyahu, I don't feel a kind of
recognition that this is not some distant potential, that there could be
a triggering mechanism, a Palestinian intifada of some sort, which
washes away the Palestinian Authority. And we could be there, a week
from Tuesday. Sometimes I think we're like in the old Road Runner
cartoon where he goes off the cliff but [doesn't fall because] he hasn't
looked down, you know?"

Nonetheless, you seem to pay lip service to the effects of the violence
and to the rejectionism of the Palestinians and of Hamas and of Iran.
You go through the motions on what is, after all, 99 percent of the
story as far as the Israeli public is concerned. Often it seems that for
you, Israel is at fault for everything.

"No, I don't think that's fair. In my own narrative of what I think
happened through the Oslo Process and going through the second intifada,
you will find again and again references to Palestinian culpability. I
made a point of describing the grisly details of the Itamar massacre,
precisely because I wanted to put on paper what the Palestinian
terrorists did. But people are used to hearing a narrative in which
there's never much recognition of the fact that there is culpability on
both sides. I genuinely believe there is very serious culpability on
both sides for the failure of Oslo, for what happened at Camp David and
for what happened in the Gaza disengagement."

You sound very disappointed with Obama. You thought he would carry
through with his peace agenda, but then he capitulated.

"I was disappointed at the way he handled the settlements fight, and
then I was probably even more disappointed at his reaction in the wake
of his '67 lines-plus-swaps speech. And now I'm disappointed that he
acts as if the settlements issue basically doesn't exist and that he is
willing to essentially live within a purely Iran framework, which is
what Bibi wanted from the very beginning. I'm disappointed in Obama, but
I'm more disappointed in us, because you can't expect Obama to care more
about the survival of Israel as a Jewish democratic state than we
American Jews do. We American Jews played a huge role in making the
political price for Obama doing what he believed in too high. So he
said, 'Do you expect me to lay down in front of the train tracks, when
you are determined to go on a path that could destroy Israel as a Jewish
democratic state?'"

Fundamental problem

Maybe you have misplaced expectations. This is what American Jews are.

"I think there are many American Jews –I don't know if it's most – who
have responded to what they saw during the first intifada, the Lebanon
war and, in even larger numbers, since the Netanyahu/Lieberman
government emerged. And what they see is a government that's not
genuinely committed to a two-state solution, and is pursuing an agenda
that undermines liberal democracy at home. I think American Jews are
concerned about these questions of the legislative agenda in the Knesset
and the questions of free speech and the issues with the Haredim. Even
the American Jewish Committee and ADL have spoken out about it. I think
you see it in the American Jewish intellectual conversation. Look at The
New York Times, which is the house newspaper of the American Jewish
community. Look at their columnists.

"It's hard to quantify, but I think if you did an honest poll of the
AIPAC agenda versus the J Street agenda with American Jews, you would
have a roughly 50/50 split, which I think you would find was quite
generational. And that among non-Orthodox American Jews under the age of
40, you would find that the J Street agenda was more popular – (with the
J Street agenda being active government intervention to try to bring
about a two-state solution. – )"

But I can make the counterargument that if you take American Jews who
are actively interested in Israel, you will find that 90 percent will
agree with the Israeli government stance that Iran is a threat and the
Palestinians don't want peace.

"Barack Obama won more than 75 percent of the Jewish vote. So you have
to reckon with the fact that despite the statements from Jewish leaders
who voiced suspicion of Obama, the vast majority still voted for him.
And I would be willing to bet what little money I have in the bank that
Barack Obama will win 70 percent of the Jewish vote in November. A lot
of those Jews are not voting on Israel, of course. But they're not
totally uninterested in Israel. Which is to say, if they genuinely
believed that Barack Obama was a threat ... then he wouldn't be able to
get that number. I think people who are actually involved in
Israel-related organizations, who are on the right, are not a
representative sampling of American Jews, and this is a fundamental
problem you have more broadly in American politics. I mean, the Cuban
lobby does not represent most Cubans, but it represents the Cubans who
care the most. That's probably true for gun owners, too.

"I think one question that American Jews who are on the left have to
face is how much they care about this compared to everything else.
People say, 'Yes, and what about global warming?' That's part of the
reason I don't come at this from a purely universalistic perspective.
You say to people: You have to be involved in this struggle because it's
the struggle of your people, it's your honor. The future of Judaism is
going to be impacted by this, you can't run away from it."

It doesn't seem like multitudes of Jews are flocking to your point of
view, J Street notwithstanding. Do you think some are afraid to speak
their minds?

"If you live in the Jewish organizational world, then it's harder to be
a public critic of Israel. If you live in the world of electoral
politics, it's harder. If you live in the Orthodox community, it's
certainly harder. Other than that, I don't think it's very hard. It just
depends on how close you are to this part of the American Jewish
community. If you're just some left-leaning Jewish person living among
other left-leaning people, then it's not hard. I don't want to suggest
that I think people on the left who criticize Israel are persecuted. But
there are some environments in which it's difficult."

Don't you think one of the reasons your article resonated is that people
were surprised that anyone dared to say the things you did? Is open
discussion of Israel in the American media being stifled?

"I want people, non-Jewish Americans, to have opinions about this like
they have opinions about anything else. They may be wrong, they may be
stupid, they may be ignorant. Let them have their opinions. And don't
call them anti-Semites unless they have a history of animus toward the
Jewish people.

"The problem is that we have a Jewish organizational world whose
business model is anti-Semitism, and there's not enough of it in the
United States. So they have to keep looking for it in the Israel debate,
when what's going on is not anti-Semitism. And it upsets me a great deal
that American Jewish leaders never have to pay the price. Nobody ever
loses their job for getting up on the wrong side of the bed one morning,
reading an op-ed they don't like, and then saying that that person is an
anti-Semite. And you should lose your job for that. There should be
consequences for that. The pain of being called an anti-Semite in this
post-Holocaust world, when you're not, is just agonizing to watch,
frankly."

You won't be called an anti-Semite; you'll be called a self-hating Jew.

"Whatever. What is a self-hating Jew? All Jews are self-loving and
self-hating. It's one of the stupidest things I've ever heard. I love
Jews more than anything in the world, and Jews drive me crazy. But I
actually think I'm lucky, because I think the debate is opening. I think
a lot about what it was like for Rabbi Arnold Jacob Wolf, who had a
great influence on Obama, when he founded Breira [an organization
devoted to recognition of the Palestinian right to self-determination in
the mid-'70s, which was fiercely subdued by the establishment]. I'm
operating [at] a time when the space is widening; perhaps I'm trying to
widen it a bit more than some people would like.

"I think American public discussion is really shifting and I don't think
Netanyahu understands. I feel like there's a lot of hubris in the way he
goes to AIPAC and he goes to Congress, and he thinks he has some vision
of what the real America is like – of those God-fearing Christians out
there. I don't think he understands that this is more and more
precarious. The sands could shift quickly."

Do you get hate mail? Are people nasty to you?

"I get some. I've gotten some disturbing calls on my cell phone, but
they've stopped. One has to keep this in perspective. I mean, there are
journalists around the world who face real consequences, you know –
Someone sends me a mean e-mail, I send them a mean e-mail back, or I
just delete it. The truth is that when you respond in a human way to
people, I find that they melt. I think a lot of these people are lonely.
They just want some response."

Beinart is to be the featured speaker at this weekend's J Street
conference in Washington. He has recently launched a blog for
liberal-Jewish opinion writers, called Zion Square, on the popular
Internet website The Daily Beast.

What started out as an article has, it seems, taken over much of his
professional life. It is a position that will place him in the
crosshairs of many right-wing critics, but it has also made him the
darling of left-wing circles. And in New York, far more than in Tel
Aviv, that is as comfortable an environment as one could wish for.

One of the criticisms against you is that you represent this detached
American Jewish liberal whose main need is to be appreciated by his own
leftist liberal milieu, and who isn't connected anymore to the
mainstream of where Jews are going.

"My Jewish identity, my sense of connection to being Jewish, is not
because I'm on the left. I drag my kids to shul every week, I read the
parchment with my son every week, and I send my kids to Jewish school. J
Street is hosting a panel on how to talk to your children about Israel.
And what I'm going to say, very explicitly, is that I think the most
important thing to do with Jewish kids is to instill in them a love of,
a commitment to and a fascination with Judaism and the Jewish state. To
do all of that first.

"I'm going to pass on a Jewish identity that is defined by disliking
Bibi Netanyahu. My hope is that I can pass on a Jewish identity that is
rooted in having beautiful memories of Purim. People can say whatever
they want about me, but if you want to look 20 or 30 years down the road
and see who succeeded with their kids – I'm willing to put that effort
up against somebody who thinks that the way they're going to instill
Jewish identity in their kid is by taking them to the AIPAC conference."

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