The Inanities of Peter Beinart: Why He is Wrong about the King Hearings

In his attack on Rep. Peter King’s hearings on radical Islam in America, Peter Beinart comes up with one of the most ridiculous and wrongheaded analogies I have ever come across. First, Beinart writes that King “isn’t holding hearings on domestic terrorism; he’s holding hearings on domestic terrorism by one religious group.” This is wrong, says Beinart, because most American terrorism is not Muslim terrorism.

He points to individual attacks taking place in past years from people like Timothy McVeigh, Theodore Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph and Bruce Edwards Ivins. That does not wash. These were individuals who were either greatly emotionally disturbed, like Jared Lee Loughner, or motivated by crazy ideas they subscribed to which were not shared by others in the particular movements they believed in. Right-wing militias who believe in attacking every agency of the federal government can be dangerous. But they are relatively isolated in certain areas of the country, and easy for the FBI to infiltrate and watch over.

The reason hearings on radical Islam are necessary is because in scores of mosques, imams are preaching jihad as the path to glory, recruiting Americans in the name of Islam to join up with al-Qaeda or other terrorist cells, and motivating individuals to act on their own to commit acts of violence. Major Hasan had given scores of notices that he subscribed to such a doctrine; yet out of a desire not to brand Islam as a religion of terror, every sign Hasan gave was ignored, until it was too late and he went on his shooting spree in 2009.

Next, Beinart offers the analogy to which I refer. He writes:

But even if American Muslims are statistically more likely to commit terrorism than non-Muslims, it is still wrong to define the problem in religious terms. I’m pretty sure that in the 1950s, Jews—given their overrepresentation in the American Communist Party—were overrepresented as Soviet spies.(my emphasis) Italians may have been overrepresented in organized crime. Yet for a member of Congress to define either Soviet subversion or organized crime as the province of a particular religious or ethnic group would still have been wrong.

Does Beinart know how to think before he sets something down and puts it on the internet? Jews, for various reasons, made up a large component of the members of the American Communist Party. But the top Party leaders were men like Earl Browder, a native of Kansas; Gus Hall, a steel worker and typical white ethnic; and William Z. Foster, who made his name in 1919 as a leader of the Great Steel Strike, and came from a syndicalist background.

More important is his claim that Jews were “overrepresented as Soviet spies.” First, that is demonstrably false. Let us look at the list of some of the top Soviet spies uncovered since the Venona release and other material found in the papers of ex-KGB agent Alexander Vassiliev. They include Alger Hiss -- as white, Protestant, and establishment as you can get; the liaison from the White House to the State Department of both FDR and Truman, Duncan Lee; and others including William A.Remington, Noel Field, Frederick Vanderbilt Field, Rudy Baker, Cedric Belfrage, Thomas A. Bisson, Rose Browder, Jane Foster, Kitty Harris, and so forth. I could go on and on with more names, but you get the point.

Beinart was obviously thinking of the Soviet network put together by Julius Rosenberg, made up of his college comrades who were majoring in engineering or the sciences, and who were all Jewish. And there were other Communists who did work for the NKVD or GRU who were Jewish, but their number was not more and possibly less than the people I listed who were not Jews.