The evolution of Peter Beinart

on 28 Comments

May, 2010 to Jeffrey Goldberg (emphasis added in both quotes):

I’m not asking Israel to be Utopian. I’m not asking it to allow Palestinians who were forced out (or fled) in 1948 to return to their homes. I’m not even asking it to allow full, equal citizenship to Arab Israelis, since that would require Israel no longer being a Jewish state. I’m actually pretty willing to compromise my liberalism for Israel’s security and for its status as a Jewish state.

March, 2012 on the Daily Beast:

Zion Square’s mission is to launch a conversation not just about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not just about the specter of war with Iran, not just about the relationship between Israel and diaspora Jews, not just about Jewish theology and culture, but about the struggle to confront the ethical responsibilities of a world in which Jewish fortunes have radically changed. My own deeply held belief is that that struggle should be guided by the principles of Israel’s declaration of independence, which envisions a Jewish state that ensures “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” I believe that such a state can only be achieved through a new commitment to full citizenship for those Palestinians who live within the green line, and through the creation of a Palestinian state beyond it.

A work in progress. How long before Beinart reconsiders his thoughts on the right of return? Or the idea of a Jewish state all together?

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28 Responses

  1. Scott
    March 13, 2012, 1:01 pm

    I think his evolution is substantial, most of all in that he seems to have clear sense of fairness–often absent in other two state advocates. Not sure he will go the extra step on ROR– I’m not sure I would either, if I were emotionally any kind of Zionist. But if a two state solution is achievable–a big if, of course, but still more achievable than any other kind of solution–it would be such a quantum leap forward in justice for all Palestinians. Of course the two state horse may be out of the barn– and if that becomes obvious, not sure what happens to Beinart.
    But his passion and polemical skill are a huge net plus I think for most of us.

    • Krauss
      March 13, 2012, 3:39 pm

      There’s a great interview with Max Blumenthal which really gets down in detail and even if you follow the issue closely you can still learn quite a bit.

      See here:

      Now how does this fit with Beinart and Adam’s open suggestion of right of return etc?
      In my mind, the right of return is a dead issue because it’s so transparant. There is a legitimate talking point on behalf of those who are against it in that there are plenty of world examples of refugees who have to adapt to new circumstances, plus you had the ethnic cleansing of Jews on a mass scale from Arab lands when Israel was founded. My point isn’t a moral case; merely historical case.

      And it’s also a very, as I’ve just said, transparent attempt to essentially end Israel as a Jewish state.

      Max Blumenthal’s focus isn’t on these issues but rather on full rights within Israel. In the interview he goes into depth but still manages to keep a bird’s view on issues of land, and connecting the Jewish National Fund. The point, with the long litany of anti-democratic laws, is that Arabs inside Israel aren’t merely ‘second class citizens’, they are essentially without basic rights to purchase property wherever they want.

      There are now laws in place which allows Jewish communities to reject Arab homebuyers on basis of ‘social cohesion’.

      This is Jim Crow. And I think this is the most potent weapon to use against the Occupation instead of getting tangled up in arcane discussions of historic precendents of rights of return and the inevitable counter-narrative of Jews were expelled too. It isn’t a clear winner like this one. And besides, if this narrative of equal rights win, then RoR becomes an automatic choice.

      • pabelmont
        March 13, 2012, 5:57 pm

        I don’t know anything about modern history of forced permanent exile.

        But Israel may be different in that [1] it was an invasion, not a civil war; [2] the Jewish exiles were so — if at all — due to anti-colonial feeling by Arabs (i.e., due to Israel’s fighting an unnecessary war-of-choice in the first place) and due also to Zionist black-flag ops to get the Jews expelled from Arab countries. There were Jews in Lebanon and Iran and Morocco long after 1948, so the Arab anti-Jewish feeling was much exaggerated. And there was an explicit UNGA-194 soon after UNGA-181 which was considered Israel’s “birth-certificate” by those who wanted something more than “from the barrel of a gun”, and UNGA-181 explicitly did NOT call for ethnic cleansing (or for WAR).

        So the history of other “cleanings” may not be entirely pertinent. Furthermore, since Israel has been so thoroughly recalcitrant, it6 is clear there will be NO peace unless it is imposed from outside. We may need to wait a while more for that IMPOSITION to occur, but when it does, it will likely be overwhelming and UNGA-194 will be recalled with approval at that time — if ever it come.

      • seafoid
        March 13, 2012, 6:12 pm

        Thoughtful as ever, Krauss.

        Property rights for Palestinians within the Green line have the capacity to short circuit the Zionist brain and turn even the most confident Ziobot to a gibbering wreck.

        The history of what they did has been suppressed for all these years because it is toxic to Zionism. They can try to shield it with the gay pride parade in Jerusalem but the rays go right through it and into the DNA of Zionism.

        The kibbutz mentioned after 4 minutes in the second video shows the problem- they can’t face it. they know their history is soiled by the ethnic cleansing of 1948 and they can’t deal with it.

  2. Kathleen
    March 13, 2012, 1:06 pm

    “A work in progress.” indeed

  3. gingershot
    March 13, 2012, 1:42 pm

    There is a phenomena that I have noticed happening amongst progressive Jews involved in this fight of ideas who seem to just wake up one day and realize on a very personal basis that they themselves have become a threat to Zionism – it seems to be a kind of guilt or ‘buyer’s remorse’ when they realize that they themselves are becoming a threat to Zionism and they are perhaps losing more than they ever realized they had signed up for

    Examples I am thinking of include Goldstone with his ‘I was just kidding’ attempt to sabotage and even recant his report), Finklestein with his recent emotionally charged attack on BDS, and even just today with Bradley Burston’s article in today’s Haaretz. It is as if they were basking in a kind of intellectual dream of being such noble independents and freethinkers but then an emotional realization dawns upon them of what they are losing and what they have already done and that just really shakes them to the core.

    I think for them it’s kind of a psychological loss that they don’t find themselves equipped to deal with other than returning closer to the fold, ‘mothers’, tribe, safety, etc

    I don’t think this happens in a vacuum but rather is a result of the ostracization and intense pressure and guilt unleashed upon them by the tribe and their family members still members of the tribe in good Zionist standing (they must get the hate-mail treatment by AIPAC, etc by the ton) – but they seem to really have personal and emotional backlash to their previous work rather than going the final 9 yards and just ‘getting over Zionism’.

    That last hump of leaving it behind for good and burning all the bridges seems to be quite a challenge – but isn’t it always?

    Here’s to hoping that Beinart catches the Glenn Greenwald, Mondoweiss, Silverstein–fever and just breaks free of the tyranny of socialized prison of Zionism for good. There is nothing good about Zionist Apartheid – nothing…

    It’s a big deal and and I think a real personal catharsis for people making this transcendence – probably quite a bit bigger than coming out as gay in 2012 America, loss of a family member, etc.

    It’s a shaking of their whole reality when they realize that it’s not just a game anymore and the Israel as we know it is over and they have had a hand in it, even if accepting that is actually experienced as a traumatic shock to them

    • Dan Crowther
      March 13, 2012, 2:08 pm

      I dont think Greenwald sees himself as a “jewish guy” – I think or get the sense that he sees himself as a guy named Glenn – hopefully the silversteins and weiss’ of the world can learn a thing or two from him……

    • Chu
      March 13, 2012, 3:03 pm

      good point, that’ why there’s often a discussion about Spinoza somewhere.
      He’s a guide for them.

    • Kathleen
      March 13, 2012, 5:03 pm

      finkelstein took brave and honorable stands decades ago. And suffered repercussions Over the last five to 10 years either Jewish folks have chosen to come on out of the closet or what I believe has happened Jews have been willing to allow the light bulbs in their heads to be turned on … about this critical issue. Willing to face the facts on the ground.
      For some it even seems to be almost hip. But what ever the reason for this evolution…it is expanding

    • American
      March 14, 2012, 12:38 am

      “catharsis” is the right description for what some will go thru. Some won’t be able to take it emotionally and will run away. It’s like a diver walking out on the highest board, looking down and losing his nerve. …the advice being don’t look back or down, look straight ahead.

  4. atime forpeace
    March 13, 2012, 1:49 pm

    Beinart is younger and less of an ideological zionist than the rest of the jewish establishment, I would certainly expect nothing less from him since he grew up with some sort of american values, wait that last line is starting to sound ridiculous even to me.

    just because he is from a younger generation nothing to do with any national values.

    why do jews of all people want a state that belongs only to one race of people?
    special rights only for themselves. Hell they don’t seem to be supporters of muslim countries wanting to be only for muslims.

    no africans no hispanics or orientals or others too many to mention, no other religions permitted either?

    just us and no others allowed, the he man women haters club a la the little rascals.

    why are jews so inclusive in the west but so exclusive when it comes to israel?

    • hophmi
      March 13, 2012, 5:49 pm

      “why do jews of all people want a state that belongs only to one race of people?
      special rights only for themselves. Hell they don’t seem to be supporters of muslim countries wanting to be only for muslims.”

      We don’t. We want our right to self-determination, and the right to have what we have now, a state with a Jewish majority, just as there are dozens of states with Muslim majorities and dozens of states with Christian majorities. When there is a peace agreement, you can bet the civil rights Arabs already enjoy in Israel will eventually become full societal acceptance. After hundreds and hundreds of years of persecution, we just can’t rely on other nations. We must control our own destiny. Sorry.

      “no africans no hispanics or orientals or others too many to mention, no other religions permitted either?”

      All are present in Israel.

      “why are jews so inclusive in the west but so exclusive when it comes to israel?”

      We are no more exclusive than Europe, which is more homogeneously Christian than Israel is Jewish.

      • RoHa
        March 13, 2012, 10:37 pm

        “We want our right to self-determination”

        If by “self-determination” you mean “the right to set up a state”, then Jews do not have that right. This has been supported by lengthy argument several times on this site.

      • eGuard
        March 14, 2012, 6:14 am

        hophmi: just as there are states with Muslim majorities

        Which of these states would be your example state, hophmi?

      • Citizen
        March 14, 2012, 8:16 am

        At AIPAC 2012, Bibi said Jews alone, the Jewish state, must be master of its fate, because Jews cannot rely on any other state/nation to save Jews, because: “In every generation, there are those who wish to destroy the Jewish people.” And that’s the conclusion he drew from his story of Esther.

        My question is, what conclusion should a Gentile draw from this particular take away from world history and the story of Esther? And is my own long life experience at all relevant?

  5. LeaNder
    March 13, 2012, 1:52 pm

    Adam, I can’t resist to return for a little defamation:

    Adam Horowitz: How long before Beinart reconsiders his thoughts on the right of return? Or the idea of a Jewish state all together?

    Lea Nitwit: as soon as the powers that pay well signal it’s koscher; and that may well be never.

    Wasn’t Beinhart an Iraq war supporter? Some kind of Euston manifesto liberal. Only liberals fight the good fights?

    • Dan Crowther
      March 13, 2012, 2:14 pm

      Wasn’t Beinhart an Iraq war supporter? Some kind of Euston manifesto liberal. Only liberals fight the good fights?
      Big Time Cheerleader. Go War Go. But now he’s a beautiful, special and important moral compass that “we” “need” on “our” side. Give. Me. A. Break.

    • Chu
      March 13, 2012, 2:17 pm

      good memory. Yes, he was a media TV pundit and a cheerleader for the Iraq invasion. It was disappointing to have a guy who was supposed to be on the left taking this position. Later I realized he was Jewish. Going forward, I hope he is more sincere about his positions, because he later came clean that his positions on Iraq were completely wrong only three years later. And this, oops, sorry we got it wrong attitude, was the de-facto position for a lot of the media and Congress. They were only relying on the evidence they were presented with at the time. Like the yellowcake…

      • Scott
        March 13, 2012, 10:01 pm

        He changed his views. He writes about it a bit in the new book, though what prompts such changes is always something of a mystery. People who change their views are disproportionately important, for better or worse. (I.e, first generation neocons). I doubt it was opportunism, though would be pleased enough if that were indeed the case. (Selling out to the anti-Zionists, amusing).

      • Chu
        March 15, 2012, 11:48 am

        Selling out the Anti Zionists. Well, there would be no where else to go now. I think Beinart saw the opportunity for self-growth in his industry. He was a pro-war pundit and writer for a pro-war agenda and hoped it would pay dividends. He was cashing in on some potential stock for himself, Scott.
        This mysterious change of view disguised his questionable morality at a time when the left was supposed to be the voice against those wicked Republicans. He wasn’t really duped at all, and Beinart had access to as many facts as the rest of us.

      • dahoit
        March 15, 2012, 12:34 pm

        Any chance his views changed because of our lack of success in Iraq?If we had gone in and the cakewalk predicted by the lame had been true,you can bet his tune would be the same,despite the immorality displayed by that action,and all the preceding Kabuki theater of our installing and supporting our boy Saddam prior to his going on the prod off our reservation.
        Another triangulating moral midget with a pulpit to spew from,an earnest dweeb of intervention and destruction,and a sign of the intellectual vacuum in our higher learning facilities.
        Hilltop youth smokin weed?You mean pacifists?Or does it have a different effect on Israelis chosen by God,reenforcing delusions of grandeur?

    • Sand
      March 13, 2012, 2:32 pm

      Lea Nitwit: as soon as the powers that pay well signal it’s koscher; and that may well be never.

      I tend to agree. As I’ve said before — many careers have been built (are being built) on ‘selling’ the lie of a fair ‘2-state’ solution .

      Zionist Jews — even Anti Zionist Jews who dominate the left (progressive) media — (present company/blog accepted) rarely face the truth, or unveil that a 2-state solution is DEAD — and I mean really DEAD. Not could be, or is on life-support, or creeping away for us — no — it’s DEAD.

      Still, even now we get ‘progressive’ liberal Jews* (part-time anti-Zionists– although I’m not really sure who they think they are sometimes?) harping on and wanting to stamp people as anti-semitic for daring to describe the obvious in your face assaults of the ISRAEL-FIRSTER. What — have they got too many in your family or something?

      * Ben Adler (The Nation), Ben Seder (Ring of Fire), Spencer Ackerman.

      It’s creepy that they cannot see the obvious facts in front of them — unless there is some other factor(s) working underneath? I really would like to know? For example, why haven’t these progressive investigative (self-identified) Jews not exposing the Zionist Lobby trying to get the Latino crowd involved to protect Israel? REPUBLICAN Christian Zionists — ok, but shouldn’t you be more concerned about the Latino voters — the voters who usually votes Democrat?

      Bridges & Pathways Latino-Jewish Dialogue (with AIPAC of course — and the White House)

      –Attending: Stephanie Valencia
      Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement

      This is not news to be explored? – Why is it being ignored? Are there no Israel-Firsters at this ‘Strategic’ meeting? And then people are shocked and wonder why our Congress supports Israel more than our own President?

      • LeaNder
        March 13, 2012, 3:42 pm



        Three areas of mutual concerns were identified:
        1. Immigration –
        2. Education
        3. Israel

      • Sand
        March 13, 2012, 8:03 pm

        Yeah Right! With the main stakeholders who instigated, paid and are attending this event you can believe it’s more like:

        1. Israel (Agenda to bomb Iran — I mean what’s new!)
        2. Education (How to market Israel aka Israel propaganda techniques)
        3. Immigration (This is where the real “horsetrading begins)

        I think what’s important to note here — is the BS when we are told the Zionist Lobby only seeks to control and affect Foreign Policy — but really that’s not how the game is played. The Zionist Lobby most definitely has the power in Congress to affect US domestic policy.

        For example: The horsetrading (threats used?) over Obama’s Health Care Bill.

        Steve Clemons: Linkage: Iran, Settlements, Health Care & Israel?

        “…David Schenker who directs the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

        “…Schenker, who offered some interesting insights on the show, went on to assert that while he saw no linkage between Israel’s settlement expansion and a boost to Iran’s regional posture, he suggested there was a linkage between US-Israel relations and getting Obama’s health care reform passed.

        What?? Play that again.

        So, David Schenker sees no linkage between what a huge number of observers see as Israel wrecking chances for a credible two state track — and the use of this grievance by Iran in its support of transnational Arab networks in the region, but nonetheless sees linkage between President Obama’s fragile health care reform position and the state of US-Israel relations?! Schenker’s view was that Obama couldn’t afford to have a testy, strained relationship with Israel because it would cost him support in Congress for his health care legislation.

        backed up by Roger Cohen, former New York Times foreign editor — noting in Newsweek:

        Cohen: (page 2) “…Our policies up to now have failed. But any adjustment in U.S. policy toward Israel is extremely difficult. There is a state called Florida, with a large Jewish community, a calculation not lost on America’s leadership. President Obama, I understand, has been told by some Jewish congressmen, if you want your health bill, step back on Israel…”

      • ritzl
        March 13, 2012, 10:11 pm

        Wow. Our policy toward Israel is more important than health care for Americans, to some. I honestly never even contemplated the possibility that that could (or would) be a play, even in US politics.

        This issue corrupts everything it touches, and it seems to touch everything.

      • Kathleen
        March 14, 2012, 10:28 am

        whoa nellie

  6. Woody Tanaka
    March 13, 2012, 2:49 pm

    one cheer for Peter. Hip, hip.

    Look, anything less than the recognition that the Zionist idea — the creation of a “Jewish state” in a land already occupied by non-Jews — is an abhorrent travesty which should be terminated with all possible speed and replaced with a polity which respects the full human, political and social rights of all its inhabitants and provides for complete equality for all is a recipe for disaster.

    This is like a white Southerner in 1962 saying that there should be no lynchings but, of course, he’s not calling for the repeal of Jim Crow. “I’m actually pretty willing,” that version of Beinart says, “to compromise my liberalism for southern white society’s security and for its status as a white land.”

    It’s good that he’s moved a step away from that, but he’s got a mile to go.

  7. Chespirito
    March 13, 2012, 4:07 pm

    I haven’t had a chance to read Beinart’s book, but where does he stand on US aid to Israel–the $3bn a year in military aid, the loan guarantees, the unlimited diplomatic support? Until Beinart starts speaking out against Washington’s lavish and unconditional support of Israel, his bottom line is no different from AIPAC’s, and his pleas for peace and equality are just empty words. Sorry, but I’m sick of American intellectuals evading all responsibility for our own country’s vigorous and destructive role in all this. As Woody says, Beinart’s got a mile (or more) to go.

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