Ethnocentrism and journalism (Beinart’s double standard for Israel and Iraq)

I’ll be praising Peter Beinart a lot in days to come. I think he’s bravely broken a taboo inside establishment Jewish life. But something he said at J Street the other night left me very cold.

On Sunday night a questioner asked Beinart about his “journey” through establishment institutions (Yale, the New Republic) to publishing a book that attacks the American Jewish leadership over its stiffnecked policy about Israel. Beinart answered:

I struggled with some of this stuff privately, I didn’t really write about it very much [even as] I wrote about other aspects of foreign policy for a number of years. Because I was conflicted, because I was worried about perhaps the ways it would be received amongst people I care about.

And because I didn’t necessarily feel that I had the right to speak about this, given that I didn’t live in Israel, given that I hadn’t yet given my life to try to understand the issue.

Somewhere along the line a series of things happened…

And Beinart cited the failure of Avigdor Lieberman’s rise to rouse the American Jewish community. So he was stirred to speak out. 

I can relate to Beinart’s silence. I’m not a Zionist, but I have an ethnocentric streak. And I deferred to Zionists in the Jewish community for years and stayed away from the Israel story– out of the feeling that pro-Israel Jews knew better than I did what was good for the Jews. Then the Iraq war ended my vow of silence.

And I could not help thinking about one of those foreign policy issues on which Beinart did not censor himself but offered himself as an expert: Beinart was a leading voice for the Iraq war. He pushed that invasion in The New Republic and wrote a whole book about the virtue of militant engagement, The Good Fight. Beinart endorsed a wholesale project of “spreading freedom in the Muslim world” by force:

Of all the things contemporary liberals can learn from their forbearers half a century ago, perhaps the most important is that national security can be a calling. If the struggles for gay marriage and universal health care lay rightful claim to liberal idealism, so does the struggle to protect the United States by spreading freedom in the Muslim world. It, too, can provide the moral purpose for which a new generation of liberals yearn.

The fact that Beinart had never lived in Iraq and had not devoted years of study to, say, Sunni-Shia divisions or Arab political culture– it didn’t stop Beinart for one second. And of course the invasion of Iraq destroyed an Arab society and caused over 100,000 deaths. Leave alone the huge damage in the U.S. and to so many young people here. 

And when you think about the difference between speaking out boldly on Iraq and stopping himself from a squeak on Israel, the difference is not just ideological (Zionism), it is social and ethnic: Beinart lived and worked in the Jewish community. He identified with other Jews, he didn’t know Muslims. His sense of allegiance to Jews and fellow Zionists stopped him from issuing the mildest criticism of Israel. But when it came to a foreign country that coincidentally was considered the eastern threat to Israel, Beinart was for steel and cordite.

One reason I admire Beinart is he is a reflective man who has done penance for his Iraq mistake. But my point here involves the importance of ethnicity in journalism. The other day the New York Times said that black journalists played a key role in pushing the Trayvon Martin case, because they could relate to the Martins and explain the issues. And we all know that the Trayvon Martin story would have died without their energetic engagement. Bless those journalists; I would have walked on by.

And when people say that Jewishness in the media doesn’t matter, it’s absurd to me. All Jews have had to struggle with the call from their community to support Zionism, every one of us. All of us have had to come to terms with the Jewish ethnocentrism that Beinart was (unconsciously) expressing.

And so I find that I interrogate Jewish reporters on this basis, trying to take their internal temperature on Zionism. Max Frankel of the New York Times– well he later admitted he was fighting for Israel when he was editorial page editor of the New York Times. The late Daniel Schorr was a Zionist and endlessly espoused Israel on air. I wonder about Wolf Blitzer given his AIPAC past, I wonder about Robert Siegel at NPR due to his fondness for Jeffrey Goldberg and Amos Yadlin (and his ability to pronounce Amos in the Hebrew way, something I don’t know how to do). And though I think, giving them the benefit of the doubt, that they are not Zionists, still I wonder about Joe Klein, David Corn, Howard Fineman, and Mark Halperin (whose father is a mucketymuck at J Street); I wonder how ethnocentric they are, and what lien Zionism has on their opinions. Because Jews’ lives are at stake in this conflict and Jewish leaders have said it is Jews’ sacred mission to protect those lives.

I admire the late I.F. Stone for struggling openly with his ethnocentrism and often criticizing Israel, I respect Eric Alterman for being plain about his ethnocentrism.  Just as I intuit based on her self-possession that Jodi Rudoren the new NYT correspondent is not a Zionist, and has come to a thoughtful self-understanding on this point. Just as I knew the moment I met him that Adam Horowitz cares only about human rights, not Jewish human rights– and on that basis I wanted to work with him and learn from him.

These interrogations– I realize they are a form of redbaiting. I’ve spent enough time moderating comments at this site to know that such explorations can give rise to vicious anti-Semitism. But Beinart’s admission upsets me. Zionism and the power of ethnic identification restrained him from saying a word on Israel and I am sure played a role in his support for that awful war.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in American Jewish Community, Israel Lobby, Israel/Palestine, Media, Neocons, US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics

{ 57 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Krauss says:

    I didn’t think I would be writing “in defence of Beinart” but here we go.

    My main contention is that, as you noted, one part of the reason why the Trayvon Martin case was pushed so hard was because a lot of black (and probably hispanic, too, at least before Zimmerman’s photo became public) journalists felt that this had hit home.

    On the other hand, 90 % or so of all deaths that happen to young black men by other perpetrators are by other black men. There was some kind of former NAACP director who spoke about this. But why was this case so hardly fought? Because it had the stirrings of the oldest of racial conflicts in America: White/black. Since then the case had been complicated by a lot.

    But the fact is, in that moment, when facts were scarce, large sections of the (mostly progressive) media rushed to judgement and attacked Fox for holding back coverage before more facts were known(so now I’m even defending Fox, wow, this keeps getting better).

    In an idealistic scenario, this case would have been followed but the tone which suggested that this was somehow an already set case was a disaster, and it was mostly the case on progressive media(where most black journalists are, except NPR which has almost no black journalists since Juan Williams was fired). So did the black journalists act more out of ethnocentrism rather than professionalism?

    I would be tempted to say yes. Even if Zimmerman is found to be guilty, the due process should be observed.

    What is the larger point made here? That ethnocentrism isn’t necessarily a good thing, regardless of who is doing it, but that it seems weird why you would attack Jewish ethnocentrism but praise black ethnocentrism. One of the points I’m making here is that this is something that is normal. White(as in non-Jewish/non-Hispanic) ethnocentrism in the media isn’t as pronounced, at least among liberals, but it’s probably a subtle factor too. You take an outsized interest in stories which are relevant to your upper middle-class life with mostly white friends and family.

    So the devil’s advocate might counter: all points made are sound but there’s a difference here; scale of impact. Jewish ethnocentrism, because of Israel, and because of our(in my opinion, wonderful) rise to prominence has much more pronounced consequences in terms of bloodshed and war(now let me be precise, I am not saying that ‘Jews are behind the Iraq war!’ I think we were part of the more minor players but the thing to remember is that no matter how large or small part we were of the pro-war movement, either by silence or by tacit support, we have an obligation to clear our consciences regardless, as moral human beings and Jews. This is especially true because we have an outsized impact on the media and the political process. We cannot play victims forever and we have to take ownership of our privilege, which I think Beinart is in some sense saying too.)

    But whatever the role of AIPAC in the run-up to Iraq, still a debated topic, nobody can argue on the case of Iran, which has basically no chance of producing any plausible deniability for the Israel Lobby(or, more precise, the AIPAC part of it) to hide behind; because everyone knows who is beating the drums of war. And AIPAC is still vastly more powerful than J Street is in terms of funding/congressional power etc.

    And these counter-points are well-taken. And I think Beinart’s blind support for Iraq probably inspired him – in part, of course – to write about the ‘ethics of Jewish power’. He recently said on a Shalom TV interview that AIPAC celebrates Jewish power but neglects it’s responsibility.

    That sounds about right. I don’t mind Jews in power; it thrills me. But I agree with Beinart that too often there is an outdated view of the Jew as this powerless, hapless and downtrodden victim. That hasn’t been the case for decades. And the fact that he has started this conversation from the inside means that it will be hard to acuse him of anti-Semitism or other dark motives(although the self-hating Jew is still available).

    And that is a contribution, because as Israel is growing ever more militant, we need critical debate in the Jewish community. And whatever criticisms one might have with Beinart, the fact is that he has changed his positions and we are all better off by it.

    • Mooser says:

      In my opinion, every time we use the phrase “Jewish community” it is an insult and dishonesty to every Jew who ever was forced into a ghetto by decree or fear, or suffered from pogroms or persecution.
      It is one of the most shameless minipulations I have ever been unfortunate enought to witness.
      If Mondoweiss wants to add to the “critical conversation”, the best thing it could do is expose exactly what the “Jewish community” is, and isn’t.
      And knowing just a teensy bit about what it is and isn’t, I think it is a calculated insult to all those who suffer under ZIonism’s yoke to say “Hold on, the “Jewish community” will have a “critical conversation” and if the answer is favorable, come and save you.” How stupid do you think Palestinians are?

      • eGuard says:

        Mooser:I think it is a calculated insult to all those who suffer under ZIonism’s yoke to say “Hold on, the “Jewish community” will have a “critical conversation” and if the answer is favorable, [will] come and save you.”

        Brings me to my question: what did Beinart say about the attack on Gaza 2008-2009? Was he enlightened by then already?

      • peeesss says:

        Bienert is what they call a “liberal” Zionist. That’s like saying a good “Nazi”. The basic tenets of Zionism was to take the land of Palestine, 95 % Muslim and Christian, and make it a “Jewish”State. And the only way that could happen was to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from their homeland via massive violence, destruction and burning of 531 villages, and for the past 70 years, occupation,massive arrests, torture, checkpoints and complete control of the economy and the land sea and air over Palestine{Occupied territories} People are beaten, killed , tortured with immunity by Israelis. Palestinians by the hundreds of thousands are arrested, over the years, jailed for years without due process, charges or evidence of any kind. Children are imprisoned and tortured in order to spy on their parents and siblings and friends or to make them collaborators. And much of the treatment of the Palestinians is just because of the Racist tenets and nature of the Zionist creed. Of course none of this could happen without the support, backing of the United Staes who gives Israel complete immunity from International Law. The US is known all over the world as “occupied Israeli territory”. US politicians , almost 100%, pander to the most extreme Israeli{Zionist} leaders to curry favor and the millions of dollars in campaign contributions that the Billionare Zionist Jews hold over them.
        So Bienert now “sees” after 70 years of Israeli occupation, oh I know its politically correct to say 45 years which mitigates the treatment , racism and violence that the Palestinians inside Israel encounters every day, and massive violence against the Palestinians that there is a “crisis” in and for Zionism. Good for him. He doesn’t want to remove this “cancer”. He just wants to make it more appealing to his liberal ethos. His conscience bothers him. So sad. I guess that is still better than the Zionists who spit and laugh at the world when they decry Israel’s inhuman treatment and genocide of the Palestinians.

        • Chu says:

          That is the ugly reality of it peeessss. Beinart shouldn’t be praised at all, but this current reality is so demented, he comes across as a potential useful tool to show the tribalists that it may be ok to drop their racist occupation.

      • seafoid says:

        Mooser

        The “Jewish community” from what I can see comprises

        People who repeat hasbara points at seder
        Anyone who ever went to AIPAC
        All the senior management of Jewish Philly and similar organisations
        Anyone who ever gave money to the JNF
        People who contribute to NGOs that have a Z in the title
        Birthright wrongers
        Jewish sociopaths
        The British board of deputies etc
        whoever wrote the Torah and stood at Masada
        Jews who always did what they were told to do and were a credit to their parents
        Those with common sense
        All those Jews who ever lost their virginity in a log cabin

        It does not appear to include slackers, self hating Jews, awkward Hebrews, left wing Israeli activists, those without power/ambition/drive/an inflated sense of self worth or anyone thinking seriously about where Israel is headed

        the strength of the community will be tested shortly.

    • Keith says:

      KRAUSS- I think that you are missing an essential aspect of the Travon Martin case which is that without the black journalists the case would have disappeared from sight. The fact that most black murder victims are killed by other blacks is irrelevant. The fact that a young unarmed black youth was shot to death by a self-styled vigilante with no investigation performed is indicative of ongoing lethal racism. The ongoing slaughter of blacks and other minorities by police and vigilantes is a national shame. One more reason why I take umbrage at all of the emphasis on “anti-Semitism.” American Jews have never experienced anything comparable to blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, native Americans, and undocumented aliens. Not that they should, but lets keep things in perspective.

      • American Jews have never experienced anything comparable to blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, native Americans, and undocumented aliens.

        perhaps not in this country keith. but there are american jews who are immigrants from other countries who have experienced comparables.

      • Chu says:

        American Jews are the wealthiest group in the country. They have so much more access to protection than African Americans. American Jews have never been exposed to the racial hatred of Blacks, period. Which is why it’s odd to hear the constant charge of antisemitism, when other minority groups in the US have it much much worse.

  2. pabelmont says:

    The whole thing is far simpler than Phil makes it sound.

    We have all heard of “situational ethics”. Well, as Phil points out, the COMMUNITY OF A REPORTER is part of the “situation” that defines his “ethics”.

    “Speak no evil of Israel” appears to have been (anbd still to be) a great part of the “ethics” of an ENORMOUS part of the USA’s press.

    And now for a word from our sponsor: can the black reporters who pushed the Trayvon Martin matter ALSO push Palestine? Or will the (Jewish?) editors stop them? Or (Jewish?) advertisers? Or (Jewish?) CEOs of the news-corporations stop them? (Or, of course, their own good sense of protective self-censorship?)

  3. Citizen says:

    Cogent, smart, and honest article, Phil. Here’s the other side of your coin: Non-Jewish Americans who have studied both domestic and foreign policy of America, and deeply desire that their government do all it can to advance the importance of the individual human here and abroad, also struggle, for example when they are confronted with identity politics and influence. For example, my son is well aware of the killing of the black young man in Florida by a “white” guy named Zimmerman, who later became a “white Hispanic.” But when I asked him about the Mississippi State U white student recently killed on campus & the three “suspects,” who only now are being described as “black,” he had never heard of that recent killing case–should I just ignore media’s manipulation of what they feel we should know? How about when a regular here on Mondweiss listens to Obama and the GOP POTUS contenders (bar Ron Paul) parrot there’s no sky between Israel and USA, and Bibi says we are the same? It’s really annoying when nearly everyone you know and meet has no clue at all about the factual reality regarding those directly impacted by our post 2001 wars–whether Gentile or Jew. Nor do they know the facts of US “special relationship with Israel,” nor its impact to real human beings. And now it seems very much to me only a question of at most a year before we will be at war with Iran.

    • Mooser says:

      And what, Citizen, is the comparison between the Zimmerman- Martin case and the “Mississippi State U white student recently killed on campus & the three “suspects,” who only now are being described as “black,”?
      Is the Mississippi case an illustrative test of the “stand your ground” laws in Florida?
      Are you saying three black students in Mississippi saw a hoodied white guy hanging around, and shot him down because they felt threatened, and look like getting away with it, due to the intersection of racial prejudice and absurd laws deifying the use of guns?

      But your point (and it would seem, the point of many of your comments) that America is just one big scheme to unfairly advantage black people, is well taken. Well taken and thrown in the garbage.

    • Daniel Rich says:

      @ Citizen,

      I guess it shows us how much news is being manipulated. A few more days and I’ll be running out of web browsers to use. I hope that caring individuals like yourself keep sharing every tad bit of information they stumble upon in a never-edging attempt to inform others.

    • Chu says:

      There’s an economic and information war that is fought everyday in secrecy to keep the masses in a slumber. After the Wall Street melt-down, the media circus must have been nervous to stop a internal revolt. What should we tell them they must have wondered? The smoke was clear for the average person, and the ugly truth confronted everyone. Israel’s bullshit is a thicker smog that hasn’t revealed itself to the masses, and may never.

  4. RE: “And Beinart cited the failure of Avigdor Lieberman’s rise to rouse the American Jewish community. So he was stirred to speak out.” ~ Weiss

    SEE: Is Lieberman the New Israeli Mainstream? ~ by Mitchell Plitnick, 1/08/11

    (excerpt) In an interview given to Newsweek, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman made the following, quite chilling statement: “I am the mainstream. When I started with my vision, I was really a small minority. Today we’re the third [largest] party in Israel.”

    Lieberman is certainly no stranger to bluster, so it’s easy to dismiss this as more of Yvet’s (as he is called) hubris. But is that really the case? There’s a good deal of evidence to suggest that Lieberman is absolutely right.

    Each piece of that evidence is another massive blow to the teetering ship that is Israeli democracy. The latest was a proposal introduced this past week by Lieberman’s party, Yisrael Beiteinu, to set up a Knesset committee to investigate the funding sources of progressive, and only left-wing, NGOs.

    Israeli journalist and blogger Yossi Gurvitz likened the event to the burning of the Reichstag, implying that this was the point where Israel slipped from democracy to fascism. Gurvitz may be overstating the case (I’d certainly say he is), but he is not exaggerating how anti-democratic this action and this Knesset are. Nor can it be reasonably denied that, whether Gurvitz is right or not today, if Israel continues on its present course, there is no doubt he will be someday and probably not in all that distant a future…

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to mitchellplitnick.com

  5. tombishop says:

    Thank you Philip. In the intense pressure cooker that the global community has become with the internet, these questions of identity politics become vitally important. We must each check our own ethnocentrism in how we interpret events. The primary division in the world is the haves (the 1%) and the have nots (the 99%). It is in the interests of the one percent to encourage us to look at everyone else as “the Other” in relationship to our own group, when actually all human beings have the same hopes, fears, and needs.

    In the case of Trayvon Martin, everyone should be outraged that a teenager could be murdered by a vigilante who projected his own racial stereotypes as an excuse to murder Trayvon. We should also be outraged that many in the media are now trying to destroy Trayvon’s reputation by the same stereotypes that got him murdered. His murder is not only an African-American cause, like equal rights for the Palestinians, it is a human rights cause.

  6. Mooser says:

    “I’ll be praising Peter Beinart a lot in days to come. I think he’s bravely broken a taboo inside establishment Jewish life.”

    And I have no doubt the last taboo will be broken very soon, Phil! In fact, it’ll be on the very day the last Palestinian is driven away or killed. But don’t let that stop you from cheering. You know what really matters.
    Maybe I’m just jealous, cause I know how big your reward for helping to break those taboos will be. Oh, the appreciation the “Jewish establishment” will shower on you. Look forward to it.

    • Philip Weiss says:

      Wow Mooser, you got me again! TKO. Down for the count. But at least I sign my name to what I say. Thats one taboo I broke!

    • Eva Smagacz says:

      Mooser, you said:

      “I have no doubt the last taboo will be broken very soon, Phil! In fact, it’ll be on the very day the last Palestinian is driven away or killed.”

      I also do not believe that Israel will choose to be apartheid or without Jewish majority. Israel is moving towards genocide in a macabre slow motion.

      I pray it will choose ethnic cleansing over mass murder.

      • Mooser says:

        “I pray it will choose ethnic cleansing over mass murder.”

        Problem is, when you are talking about a vulnerable population, it amounts to the same thing. It doesn’t take too much study of the last, oh, century and a half, to see they are two sides of the same coin.

      • Daniel Rich says:

        @ Eva Smagacz

        The Chinese have two cute systems that work perfectly and nobody can be blamed for anything.

        Option 1) – death by a thousand cuts [keep killing Palestinians and perhaps they'll pack their bags and leave the empty land]

        Option 2) Death by a 134 bites [keep demolishing and uprooting Palestinian houses and olive trees and perhaps they'll pack their bags and leave the empty land]

    • jewishgoyim says:

      I’m not sure I buy Beinart’s change of heart. I mean, Phil points out what this guy has been able to write before the Iraq war. I mean, come on, I know everybody looks at him like the nice and “oh so bright” Jewish boy but come on. If you write this kind of thing during the run up to the Iraq war you’re either an idiot or a sorry propagandist. And if not an idiot, a guy who, if he’s being sincere, will not ever deserve to be called “bright” nor “moral”.

      So I’d say Beinart was a sorry propagandist. Which brings me back to what is becoming my pet peeve on MW comment section: “controlled opposition”. How “out of this world” is it to think that some people in Zionist circles may start thinking: “we’re losing the youth, we’d better do something”. And then they reflect and say: “who do we have who could look credible to young Jews? Hey Peter! We have an assignment for you: you make believe you’ve seen the progressive light on Israel, given your establishment credentials everybody is in awe and you quickly become a figure of the new “zionism criticism which will never push things too far” (oh yes, we’ll even do this “fight to the death” back and forth with Jeffrey Goldberg – it’ll be fun! ;-) ). Then you corral these young idiots into thinking things that are not to detrimental to our goals. They’ll get to their senses growing old anyway!”.

      I mean this guy is so obviously the teacher’s pet in desperate need to please any authority figure he might meet. He clearly threw intellectual integrity out the window before the Iraq war (not giving a dime about countless fatalities) and all of a sudden we are to supposed to believe that he’s become this moral colossus who obeys all of a sudden to a very different set of rules and motivations? A free mind who does not seek validation from the same people anymore, he is now ready to challenge the very establishment that proclaimed him a whizz kid just a few years before to his delight.

      How about Beinart being a one man “J-Street”. All bark and absolutely no teeth?

      • Daniel Rich says:

        @ jewishgoyim,

        An individual can be judged, over time, not based on his/her words, but his/her actions. Beinart has not seen the light, he blew it … out.

  7. Dan Crowther says:

    “One reason I admire Beinart is he is a reflective man who has done penance for his Iraq mistake.”

    You lost me there. To me, the “which side were you on before the invasion of Iraq” question is the most important question in terms of getting at a public figures integrity. He failed. Miserably. But because he has no shame, and no one else seems to care, he still gets an outlet. Unreal. What do you have to do to become an outcast? Is there anything someone “on the inside” as Beinart is can say or do to get disavowed and disregarded? Oh, wait, there is one thing you can say to get disowned: Free Palestine.

    • Philip Weiss says:

      Dan I believe he apologized. Also, this book is in some measure a form of penance.
      While I agree with yr political litmus test — its mine — life is long

      • Dan Crowther says:

        life is long
        ————–
        Well, not for everyone. Not for Iraqi’s and not for my some of my friends.
        Not trying to be a sob sister here, but adovcating aggressive war isnt the same advocating for the red sox to sign carl crawford and then apologizing later because he had a shtty first season, ya know? I know you know, Phil – I’ll leave it alone. (and yes, liberal zionism, the iraq war and baseball all in one post!) :)

      • Keith says:

        PHIL- “Dan I believe he apologized.”

        Overall, I liked the post, however, here I’m with Dan. I am not intimately familiar with Beinart so I wonder what exactly he “apologized” for? Was it for being a public intellectual who misrepresents reality in service to power, who misrepresented the war as other than an immoral imperial depredation, to be opposed by everyone who has a sense of common decency? Or was it because it was a “mistake” which was not in the best interest of empire? Birds of a feather flock together. Careful who you cozy up to.

      • Danaa says:

        Phil, you cut Beinart way too much slack. has he apologized for his own indecency as a human being? has he recognized himself as part barbarian? has he done a thing for a single Iraqi deprived of his family for the benefit of the neocon pipe dream? What does an apology mean? saying you are sorry? that’s what people say when they spilled their milk on the table. What does one say for having supported the spilling of countless lives?

        “So sorry, I was wrong”, says the Beinart, now that the shrieks of pain and loss abated enough to allow him to pull his head out of his sand bottom.

        Beinart only repented because it turned out the little “war”, the little “shock and awe” was perhaps not so good for the Jews. I remain to be convinced that he cares for humans who are not Jews.

        For you Phil, his so-called repentance give a measure of comfort. But that’s because you parse progress in small measures, and hope that big change of hearts is afoot.

        Some of us don’t share this optimism because the essence of Beinart has not changed. He just shifted his position because it reflected poorly on “his people”. Bottomline is – it’s not the palestinian crying kid he felt for. It’s for having caught himself as caring so little for others not-Jewish that their humanity hardly entered his considerations for so many years. What kind of lousy upbringing produces such egocentric, narcissitic blobness?

  8. joemowrey says:

    “One reason I admire Beinart is he is a reflective man who has done penance for his Iraq mistake.”

    Sorry, but I can’t buy into the notion that those who supported the war in Iraq deserve admiration for having finally opened their eyes to reality. It would be like praising someone for admitting that the world is indeed round, not flat. You might reward a child for such an admission, but people like Beinart are supposedly intelligent, thinking adults. If he were truly “a reflective man” he would never have supported that illegal and immoral invasion in the first place. There was never any rational justification for our war of aggression against Iraq. It was so obviously based on lies and deceptions, and there were so many cogent and informed voices pointing out that fact, even a child could have seen through the web of propaganda which was spun to initiate such a nightmare.

    Also, the notion that Beinart has “done penance for his Iraq mistake” is more than a little disgusting. Millions of people have either died or suffered immeasurably because of the arrogance of talking heads such as Beinart. Like so many other arm-chair warriors, he is an ideologue who bases his policy positions on his own narrowly defined self-interests. He was willfully ignorant to the point of criminal complicity when it came to Iraq. He is similarly ignorant and ideologically motivated in his policy positions on Palestine.

    An appropriate penance for Beinart might be a few years of unpaid community service in Baghdad, or perhaps Hebron, to help relieve the suffering he promotes through his mindless and very unreflective foreign policy bloviations.

    • Danaa says:

      I agree with joemowrey on the hollowness of Beinart’s repentance.

      What does that mean “to repent”? has he put a sack over himself , covered his head with ashes and broke into lamentations at every square for the 100′s of thousands of dead Iraqis? no, but that would be a good beginning.

      Instead, he says it was a “mistake”. But not because he recognizes his own position as evil (which is what it was). But because his and the neocon’s little war did not go well.

      Beinart is as ethnocentric and tribalist as ever. I look at his smug “repentance”, the utter disingenuousness of his “remorse” and I shiver in the icy winter of his soul. As he bloviated, and Goldberg bleated, the bloated bodies of the dead floated down the rivers, nameless and unaccounted. But see? they were not Jews! mere Arabs, somewhere in the Middle east, far far from the maddening crowds of the jewish-centric halls of power that wrought this barbarism upon them.

      I look at Beinart and his smug, pretend-shy smile, bolstered by years of privilege and endless shoulder patting from his similarly situated ethno-peers, and I feel nauseated. As for admiration, well, rats are admirable too in their survival skills. Don’t they leave the sinking ship first?

      A few years of community service in Hebron is too little. I say, just 1 year community service in Sadr district in Baghdad would perhaps. Not a jew in sight there, and still, somehow they are people. That would be quite an interesting lesson for the beinarts of the world. Might even help unfreeze his soul some.

      • Chu says:

        He smells like a planted double agent that has come to offer his repentance and whe’re supposed to accept it. It’s true, that his neocon war was a complete failure, forcing war cheerleader Beinart to navel gaze for a few years.

        Now that he has a child and he saw Palestinians getting beat down through a you-tube video is hardly convincing evidence.
        He was in his twenties when he shilled for the Iraq Invasion as a democrat; and he had as many facts (or lack thereof) as the rest of us. His smirk spoke volumes when he showed up on the talk shows in 2002. Recal his book title, The Good Fight: Why Liberals—and Only Liberals—Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again. That can’t be forgotten. Accepting any defector should be scrutinized a bit more, even if MJ or any others speak of him in the positive.

  9. American says:

    Well, wonders of wonders, I must be the only non-ethnocentric here, who woulda thought a southern white WASP would be non ethnocentric.
    This hefty guy who looks to weight at least 195-210 chased a black 17 year old kid who was doing nothing but walking while being black in the asshole’s neighborhood. He was armed with a gun and the kid wasn’t and he shot and killed him. Fry his ass.

    • optimax says:

      Zimmerman is not a WASP despite the fact it would better fit the boilerplate of your narrative. I would say it’s ironic who supports lynching now, considering the past. But it’s not ironic since it is a natural law like the reversal of the magnetic poles.

      • American says:

        I know he’s not a WASP, he’s hispanic, I don’t care what he is. He could be Buddhist Albino for all I care. He shot an unarmed kid.

        • optimax says:

          Why did you lie? Stormfront does that all the time. You say WASP, they say Jew. What’s the difference?

          The FBI, Justice and state AG are on the case. What do want, the Hague, or a good old fashioned hanging?

        • tree says:

          Why did you lie? Stormfront does that all the time.

          I suspect you totally misunderstood what American was saying, optimax. He didn’t lie. American was describing HIMSELF as a southern white, NOT Zimmerman. Re-read his comment. I think you owe him an apology.

        • optimax says:

          I apologize to you, American. I misread.

          I’m still against lynching.

  10. seafoid says:

    “One reason I admire Beinart is he is a reflective man who has done penance for his Iraq mistake.”

    I think that’s the height of arrogance. Were the mothers of Fallujah consulted for this forgiveness thing ?

    Beinart and the rest of the cheerleaders smoothed the way for a war that drove 2 million of its citizens into exile, broke a proud nation and killed countless of its people. Countless cos you didn’t count . It was beneath the US cos it was just Brown people. Muslims mostly.

    The formerly bourgeois Iraqi women who were forced to turn to prostitution in places like Amman and Damascus to feed their families can’t do anything with a mea culpa from some clown like Beinart. The only possible even remotely plausible gesture of respect would be to ensure this never happens again. I don’t see Beinart stopping the war machine against Iran.

    Beinart will take the support of the war to his grave. Plus I don’t see how anyone who wanted war can be taken seriously on any matter pertaining to the Middle East.

    • Citizen says:

      Yeah, let them eat yellow cake.

    • seanmcbride says:

      A proper penance for all those neocons who engineered and cheered on the Iraq War would be: 1. to confiscate all their assets to help pay back a minuscule percentage of the several trillion dollars they dumped down the drain in Iraq 2. to bar them from any further participation in the American political process — certainly not a single word more of their inane punditry anywhere in the mainstream media. Just for starters, of course. This doesn’t begin to cover the issue of seeking justice for the war crimes that were committed (and which they egged on) against hundreds of thousands (or millions) of innocent civilians.

  11. Mooser says:

    Well, I better sign out for a while. For some reason I am unable to determine, the system seems to be dropping my comments. Perhaps my dog has chewed through the internet cable.

    Unbelievable! I never thought I would be in the position of agreeing with the hasbaraatchniks about Mondoweiss’ handling of comments. I’m gonna beat hell out of that dog.

    • Mooser says:

      Oh well, that’s how it goes in this business! One day (Jan. 4, 2012, to be exact) they are trying to push you into tete-a-tetes with their “wifies” so they can “domesticate” you, and by the next quarter, direction of my comments having failed (don’t offend Slater!) it’s dropped comments and pointed remarks about not signing my name.
      What can you do? I’ve always heard you should beware the ideas of March.

      Isn’t an intra-community “conversation” wonderful when you can determine who is or isn’t in the community?

    • seafoid says:

      Mine got dropped too, Mooser, but they seem to have been resurrected in the meantime

    • Chu says:

      same here. I thought I was being censored.

  12. seanmcbride says:

    On the subject of ethnocentrism, this is where to bear down to unravel this mess:

    sort US ethnic groups by

    1. ethnocentrism
    2. ethnic nationalism
    3. ethnic xenophobia
    4. ethnic aggression

    in the mainstream media, popular culture, the political process, etc.

    1. ethnocentrism index: the number of times one mentions one’s ethnic identity, issues, problems, conflicts or enemies — otherwise known as the ethnic narcissism index.

    2. ethnic nationalism index: the number of times one mentions one’s ethnic nationalist issues.

    3. ethnic xenophobia index: the number of times one mentions one’s ethnic enemies.

    4. ethnic aggression index: the number of times one attacks others over one’s ethnic issues.

    For instance:

    sort US ethnic groups by number of ethnic nationalist op-ed articles in the New York Times from 2000 through 2011.

    Ethnic groups which are well-integrated into American culture and society mention their respective ethnic nationalist issues barely at all.

    For instance: compare Jeffrey Goldberg and Andrew Sullivan on the scale of ethnic nationalism. Jeffrey Goldberg is obsessed with his ethnic (and ethnic nationalist) issues; Sullivan rarely mentions his ethnic issues — he has a broad range of interests that relate to humanity as a whole.

    If Peter Beinart had his act together he would have never got bogged down in ethnic nationalism — he would instead be a full–fledged and unqualified American.

    • Sean says, On the subject of ethnocentrism ….

      Interesting you would say that, Sean. Here I sit watching a two-hour program (not very entertaining; too much Jew vs. goy stuff ) on PBS about Yiddish theater. Last night I watched a two-hour program (really enjoyed it) on PBS about Jews in baseball. Yesterday on the International Herald Tribune (global edition of the NYT) website I read four articles about Israel (two on the front page and two on the op-ed page) and one theater review of a Neil Simon play under the caption “Three Generations of Loss.” No surprise here: It’s about Jews. And nothing unusual about such an intensive, single-ethnos barrage, either.

      How did our mainstream media become so fixated on the ethnocentric interests of one small ethnic group (according to the CIA, 1.8% of the population)? Is there any other identifiable group in America, regardless of size, that garners so much attention in our national media? For whom is all this concentrated cultural material written or produced? To what avail and for whose benefit?

      • seanmcbride says:

        Thomson Rutherford,

        The point to focus on, it seems to me, is not simply the voluminous and conspicuous expressions of ethnocentrism from this quarter, but the *extremity* of those expressions, which are often ethnic nationalist, messianic, paranoid, xenophobic, aggressive, abusive, violent, threatening, etc. See Pamela Geller at Atlas Shrugs for a leading example of the phenomenon:

        link to atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com

        There are hundreds of others like her in the mainstream media and blogosphere. Most neocons are ethnic militants. Ethnic militancy drove their campaign to go to war against Iraq.

        Might they succeed in stirring up significant antisemitism in the United States, Europe and all around the world? Does the sun rise in the east?

        Why are some people much more ethnocentric than others? That is an interesting question. Is there a genetic factor in play as well as cultural factors?

        Are some American ethnic groups more ethnocentric than others? If so, why is this the case? How can we measure and analyze the role of ethnocentrism, ethnic nationalism and ethnic militancy in American and global politics in scientific and precise ways?

      • seanmcbride says:

        I would like to express my thanks to some of the people who have made me acutely aware of the role of strident ethnocentrism and ethnic nationalism in American politics:

        1. Abraham Foxman 2. Alan Dershowitz 3. Ari Fleischer 4. Benjamin Netanyahu 5. Brad Sherman 6. Bret Stephens 7. Caroline Glick 8. Charles Krauthammer 9. Chuck Schumer 10. Dan Senor 11. Daniel Pipes 12. David Frum 13. David Horowitz 14. David Makovsky 15. Debbie Schlussel 16. Dennis Prager 17. Dennis Ross 18. Dick Morris 19. Douglas Feith 20. Ed Koch 21. Elliott Abrams 22. Gary Ackerman 23. Haim Saban 24. Howard Berman 25. Irving Kristol 26. Jamie Kirchick 27. Jeffrey Goldberg 28. Jennifer Rubin 29. Joe Lieberman 30. John Podhoretz 31. Jonah Goldberg 32. Joshua Muravchik 33. Lanny Davis 34. Lee Smith 35. Leon Wieseltier 36. Malcolm Hoenlein 37. Martin Peretz 38. Max Boot 39. Meyrav Wurmser 40. Michael Ledeen 41. Michael Medved 42. Mona Charen 43. Mort Zuckerman 44. Norman Podhoretz 45. Pamela Geller 46. Rachel Abrams 47. Reuel Marc Gerecht 48. Richard Perle 49. Steve Emerson 50. William Kristol

        Thanks to one and all, and I apologize to anyone I left out who deserves to make the list.

        This is my main question: why are these folks so much more obsessively ethnocentric than I am and than the vast majority of Americans? Why? Is there any possibility that they could dial down their ethnocentrism to a reasonable level — one in sync with most Americans? Or is that simply impossible for them?

        • seanmcbride says:

          To qualify the above comment: most Jews I know are *not* ethnocentric in an abrasive, confrontational and abusive way. To the degree that they are ethnocentric, they are ethnocentric in a positive manner — they share the positive values in Jewish culture in a low-key and friendly style. I dig that. Sharing the wealth. I appreciate that same behavior from all other ethnic groups — this is what we’ve got that you might like — what do you have that we might like? Not ethnic homogenization, but ethnic mingling and sharing. Respect.

        • American says:

          “Or is that simply impossible for them?”

          Looking at the ones on your list I’d say there is zero chance of them reforming. They are deep, deep into their cultism.

  13. Mooser says:

    “I wonder how ethnocentric they are, and what lien Zionism has on their opinions.”

    Do you find that an acceptable substitute for asking yourself those questions? You know, I bet you do.

  14. Nice spotting the double standard, Phil. I guess Beinarts argument that he thought he had no business in talking about that foreign country, is self-delusion. His real issue was that he didn’t want to hurt friends and family.

  15. Pixel says:

    Here’s an interesting interview with Beinart by Rabbi Mark S. Golub on SholomTV. .

  16. aiman says:

    “One reason I admire Beinart is he is a reflective man who has done penance for his Iraq mistake.”

    This only shows us that there is no cost or reprisal for writers, operating within the state apparatus, when it comes to pushing the state to war. There are some on the left who even dignify “this difference of opinion” without realising that supporting a war is not an opinion, it is tantamount to supporting a crime. To do penance Beinart would have to undergo tortuous self-reflection coupled with actions, including paying for damages and summoning the full depth of his humanity. Personally I don’t like to read writers whose work does not allow for expressions of empathy and feeling which is crucial in understanding the world. Political journalism severely lacks this in general , it’s all about “interests”. Beinart has only shown flashes of this feeling and empathy, here’s hoping he comes around to the full blaze with allegiance to humanity. We all operate within tribes but tribal partisanship is different. Muhammad explained this: He is not of us who proclaims the cause of tribal partisanship, and he is not of us who fights in the cause of tribal partisanship, and he is not of us who dies in the cause of tribal partisanship. When asked to explain what he meant by tribal partisanship, Muhammad answered, It means helping your own people in an unjust cause. Muslims, Jews, Christians and all human beings can learn from this I believe.

  17. KeithS says:

    This was so eloquent, Phil, that I was reminded of the line about the Grateful Dead: “Not the best at what they do, but the only ones who do what they do.”

    That certainly applies to you and Mondoweiss.

  18. aiman says:

    Marc LeVine on Beinart and liberal Zionism: link to aljazeera.com

    Excellent stuff.