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Ron Radosh

The Follies and Illusions of Peter Beinart

March 19th, 2012 - 4:59 pm

First, in the online pages of the Jewish Review of Books, Jordan Chandler Hirsch, in his lengthy review essay “Diaspora Divided,” combs through and destroys every one of Beinart’s principle arguments. His essay is not to be missed, and I urge you to send a link on to all you know, especially those convinced by Beinart. To whet your appetite, here is his conclusion:

Beinart’s proposal for American Zionism is the very mirror image of the simplistic establishment line that he devotes his whole book to tearing down. In his attempt to offer young Jewish elites a Zionism that allows them to skip the “messy, frightening debate over Israel’s future,” he substitutes the old model of one-dimensional support with a new model of one-dimensional criticism. Having fled right-wing simplicity, Beinart loops directly back to its twin on the left. In doing so, he fails to establish the balance that American Jews so desperately need in their approach to Israel. And he alienates Israelis, who know and live a very different reality from the one he presents. That’s why those who embrace The Crisis of Zionism—especially the young, liberal elites for whom it is intended—risk dooming themselves to irrelevancy.

Second, and equally as important as the Hirsch article, is the review by Sol Stern, which Commentary magazine quickly put up on its website so readers could gain more ammunition to challenge Beinart’s analysis. Stern, as PJ Media readers already know, has more understanding of Israel than most people who think they have the answer to Israel’s problems. His vast understanding of Israel’s history and his own years of concern about Israel give Stern the ability to pick up on aspects of Beinart’s argument that others will ignore.

There is no other way to summarize Stern’s argument than to say that he makes a complete fool of Beinart, who should be embarrassed when he reads Stern’s review, and who I think will not easily be able to respond to the case he lays out against his book. Stern shows what Beinart leaves out, either intentionally or because he is actually ignorant about the events he discusses. Anyone reading Stern’s review will be hard-pressed to show the kind of respect for Beinart that David Frum says he still has.

So here is the first part of  Stern’s conclusion:

What’s new in Beinart’s book—his psychohistories of Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu—isn’t serious. What is serious in Beinart’s book—his argument about the dangerous consequences for Israel of continuing its occupation and control of millions of Palestinians on the West Bank—isn’t new. What is tedious in Beinart’s book is its false piety and its unwarranted self-importance.

NYT readers have seen that false piety and Beinart’s self-importance for themselves. So please, pass Stern on in that same e-mail when you send a link to the Hirsch review.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not cite as well the blogs by our friends at Commentary’s Contentions, Omri Ceren and Seth Mandel, who both address different issues raised by Beinart’s op-ed. Mandel rightfully calls Beinart’s article “morally reprehensible,” and calls his cause a “vapid, vainglorious crusade.” And Ceren addresses the lack of reality to Beinart’s call for a would-be limited boycott. He shows how easily it would legitimize the idea and lead to a boycott of Israel itself and anything produced in its confines.

As for Peter Beinart, he probably started out his day thrilled to have supporters in the editors of the New York Times, and a great venue for his new crusade. I suspect, however, that by day’s end, as the critiques of his arguments poured out, he felt very ashamed. At least, I hope he did.

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