Remember the RP’s highly critical take on Peter Beinart’s The Crisis of Zionism? Apparently, the RP is not alone…on either side of the issue.
Here’s a brilliant piece by New York‘s Jason Zengerle on Beinart and the controversy surrounding his book:
“I’m really not a radical.”
It is late April, a month after his new book about American Jews, Israel, and their tangled, often tortured relationship has hit the shelves, and Peter Beinart is on the defensive. He’s sitting in his office at the City University of New York. Although he’s now worked at CUNY for two years, the small, windowless cube—more befitting a research assistant than a tenured journalism and political-science professor—is filled with unpacked cardboard boxes and little else. But more square footage, or a view, or some family photographs would do little to lift the sense of siege that pervades the room. “I’m trying to live as a critic of Israel’s policies, from a moral perspective, inside the Jewish community,” Beinart says, “and inside the fairly mainstream Jewish community, which is where I feel most at home.”
Now that home has become something of a war zone. At his shul—“It’s an Orthodox synagogue on the Upper West Side,” he says, “but it’s probably better not to mention its name”—he is suddenly a controversial congregant. At the Jewish day school where he sends his young children, other parents now look at him askance. Even members of Beinart’s own family are furious at him. And yet it’s the impact his book has had on his professional home—namely the community of center-left American Jewish writer-intellectuals where Beinart has spent his career—that has been most painful.
From the moment it was published, The Crisis of Zionism has dominated the American Jewish political discourse. The book argues that Israeli policies—chief among them the occupation of Palestinian lands—threaten the democratic character of Israel and the Zionist project in general, and that it’s the responsibility of American Jews to help change those policies. Marc Tracy, who edits the Scroll, the blog of the Jewish online magazine Tablet, says, “There was definitely a period where the Scroll might as well have been renamed ‘the Peter Beinart Blog.’ Everything was about him.” Politically conservative Jews attacked the book—not unpredictably. “Why does [Beinart] hate Israel so?” Daniel Gordis asked in his review for the Jerusalem Post, before answering: “Beinart’s problem isn’t really with Israel. It’s with Judaism.” The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens, writing for Tablet, branded The Crisis of Zionism “an act of moral solipsism.” But withering reviews have come from Beinart’s ideological allies on the Jewish center-left as well. Writing in The New York Times Book Review, Jonathan Rosen—a mild-mannered Jewish public intellectual whose most recent book was a meditation on bird-watching—savaged Beinart for his “Manichaean simplicities” and for “employ[ing] several formulations favored by anti-Semites.” Tablet editor Alana Newhouse panned the book in the Washington Post for introducing “its own repressive litmus test, this one to determine who can be considered both a liberal American and a Zionist.”
Click here to read the rest of the piece.