Beinart says he was silent for years out of deference to friends

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Haaretz has a too-long interview of Peter Beinart on a visit to Israel that reminds us how important his NYRB piece was that attacked the American Jewish leadership for supporting Israel blindly.

Beinart is having a huge effect inside the Jewish community, but the meaning/nonmeaning of this shift is the issue. I’ve excerpted some interesting bits below. A few comments: Beinart is really a Zionist, almost as "gooey-eyed" as David Brooks. Wants his kids to wave the Israeli flag. No wonder he worked for AIPAC in ’08. Note that he has relatives there and was afraid of speaking out because of his friends in the U.S., surely including Marty Peretz and Leon Wieseltier but not limited to them, but to garden-variety parochialists. I.e., on this issue even an independent intellectual is not independent; opinion about Israel is socially-ordained in the Jewish community. Yes, that’s changing.

Finally, note Beinart’s unbelievable complacence about a Palestinian state emerging in a few years. These people are deluding themselves if they think that denying half of a population political representation on an ongoing basis is a recipe for anything but disaster. There’s one state right now, folks, and half the people are oppressed. Haaretz:

At 38, this is Beinart’s fifth visit to Israel, where he also has relatives. “This is the first time I’ve come since I had children, so I think a lot about what it would be like to have my kids come here.” With some emotion, he relates how his 4-year-old son, Ezra, “made an Israeli flag at his preschool and wanted to carry it around with him because he knew I was going to Israel. For an Israeli, that might seem very silly. But in the United States I think it’s important, valuable. And you have to work at it.”..

In Israeli intellectual life, there are very important voices who really are where the Sheikh Jarrah people are, and Americans could support those voices, even if they are politically quite weak. I myself find very valuable the reports of [the human rights organizations] B’Tselem, Gisha and others.”…

If we look at your past writings, you seem to have undergone a transformation in regard to Israel.

“First of all, I had not been writing that much about Israel. Like many people, I was hesitant to write about it too much because I think I was conflicted internally about being very publicly critical of Israel. I was also concerned about how some of my friends would feel about it. There’s also a feeling that our lives are very easy, and that we sit there in America, and our children don’t go into the army. But I think a couple of things happened. For me, I think the rise of [Avigdor] Lieberman was a significant moment. What upset me was that, the minute he emerged and people in America started to hear about him, the reaction from most American Jews was that there’s no problem here: he’s misunderstood. They would always say, ‘He’s for civil marriage’ − as though that had anything to do with his views on the Arabs. I thought it was like the frog in boiling water. At a certain point, you have to have the capacity to be outraged.”…

“I don’t want Israel to foreclose the possibility of a Palestinian state. I can see that you could have an argument about whether it’s realistic to have a Palestinian state in two years or whether it will take five years, or what the Palestinian state would be like. I understand that. But it seems to me, I think the only vision I can see of a better future is a Palestinian state that’s contiguous and, I think, should have a capital in East Jerusalem. And so it seems to me at the very least there’s an obligation to not do things that make that impossible.”

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