On The Atlantic website today, journalist Armin Rosen has posted an important article about Peter Beinart’s “Open Zion,” which appears daily at the Newsweek/Daily Beast website. Beinart has become the poster boy for an individual who swears he is pro-Israel and pro-Zionist, but whose main contribution is regular criticism of Israel for not affirming the kind of liberalism he thinks it should espouse as national policy.
Recently, Beinart allowed an article to appear on his site by one Alex Kane, a writer for the website Mondoweiss, which Rosen writes “often gives the appearance of an anti-Semitic enterprise.” As Rosen writes, “By vilifying and dehumanizing one side of the conflict, the poison of anti-Semitism makes a constructive, forward-looking discourse far more difficult to achieve.”
Rosen manages in a brief article to expose Phil Weiss, a former writer for the paleocon American Conservative and The Nation (which used to sponsor his website) admits to being a conspiracy theorist who believes in the Israel lobby thesis of Walt and Mearsheimer. One of the articles he exposes that appeared on the Weiss site was one by Jack Ross who actually wrote that “it was not the appeasement, but the internationalist hubris and bellicosity of Chamberlain which started World War II.” You get the drift- the Nazis had nothing to do with it, as Rosen says.
The danger that Beinart does by running material like the Kane article, Rosen points out, is that “by carrying a byline from Mondoweiss, incorporates not just Kane but the Mondoweiss reputation and all of its sordid baggage into its larger conversation.” Beinart thus takes a marginalized relatively unknown far left and anti-Semitic website and its contributors and gives it a legitimacy it does not deserve.
Rosen does not raise another point, but I will. It is time for serious pro-Israel contributors like Benny Morris to stop writing for the site, thereby making themselves the equivalent of someone like Alex Kane and Phil Weiss. They should adopt the position that when it comes to anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers, you do not engage them in conversation, as if they have a point worth debating. Rosen ends with this wise piece of advice:
Publishing anti-Semites, or people who work for websites that traffic in anti-Semitic innuendo or conspiracy theories, empowers ideas aimed at obscuring the humanity of one side of an already-violent conflict. Kane’s inclusion actually undermines Open Zion’s confidence that honest intellectual engagement can contribute to the larger cause of understanding and peace. Instead, it reflects a depressing cynicism about the state of public discourse on the Middle East–a cynicism that believers in peace, and believers in the triumph of ideas over paranoia and bigotry, have both a moral and intellectual duty to reject.