I keep underestimating the Beinart effect. Three recent developments show Beinart's power. 1, Huffpo ripping off Beinart's Open Zion blog at the Daily Beast, 2, Stephen Robert's "God help an infant born in Palestine" op-ed in the IHT yesterday, and 3, Paul Krugman's support for Beinart in the Times.
The liberal Zionists are having their moment. And maybe they will help Obama.
1. Huffington Post is now imitating "Open Zion," the Beinart blog at Daily Beast, with a series of posts by liberal Zionists in the days leading up to Nakba commemoration day-- sorry, I mean Israel Independence Day. The editor is Leonard Fein of the Forward. He knows something is wrong, but he is bound and determined to save the brand:
In the essays that will that will be published over the next few days, liberal Zionists from both Israel and the United States explain their commitment. Almost all explicitly express their disappointment with Israel's current direction, yet make clear that that direction, in which exclusion and expansion are central themes, is not at all what Zionism implies....
the problem is how to grab hold of history and turn it in a direction that offers both peoples life, security, hope -- an end to the debilitating animosity, an end to the bloodshed, a new day.
That day will not dawn with the Israelis saying, "Oops, we made a mistake, give us a week to pack and we will leave quietly." Nor will the Palestinians say, "Well, Bantustans are better than nothing, we'll settle for that." No, the new day will dawn if and only if a viable Palestinian state is created next door to the Israeli state -- that is, only if the hoary principle of partitioning the land is, at last, implemented.
I would describe Fein's choice there as a false one. Many people with power have actually brought about Bantustans for the Palestinians. No one with any power is suggesting that Jews get out of Dodge; and as for my friends, they've merely suggested that Israelis and Palestinians adopt the system that has worked so well for Leonard Fein and me, liberal democracy.
Still, it's interesting that Huffpo has thrown itself behind this project. It shows how central Jews are to Democratic blue-state life.
2. The Stephen Robert piece in the IHT, "A Reset in Jewish Thinking," borrows a lot from Beinart: for a start, the Hail Mary pass for the two-state solution. And also the idea that Jews are powerful in a way we've never been before. I liked this language:
How can a people persecuted for so long act so brutally when finally attaining power? Will we continuously see the world as 1938, or can we use the strength of our new power to forgive, while never forgetting the lessons of our past?...
It is time for Jews to realize their changed position...
And here is Robert saying that Jews are doing to Palestinians what anti-Semites did to us.
A state that persecutes, deprives and denies its neighbors in a manner so similar to what our tormentors did to us cannot be acceptable.
It is disappointing to me that the IHT or Robert himself did not allow Robert to say what he said in the Nation a few months ago: It's "apartheid on steroids" in the West Bank. That would have changed the discourse, to get that argument from a Zionist on the NYT site. But he did get a great line in, emphasis mine:
Virtually imprisoned, the Palestinians lack freedom of movement and civil or political rights. They are subject to imprisonment without charges. They often lack water and jobs and are citizens of nowhere. God help an infant born in Palestine today....
3. Krugman's confession. Last night I did a churlish post about Krugman's endorsement of Beinart. But as MJ Rosenberg and Ilene Cohen and many commenters have pointed out, Krugman's confession that he has avoided the issue because of the threat of being accused of hurting Israel demonstrates the power of the lobby.
I have other battles to fight, and to say anything to that effect [Israel is committing national suicide] is to bring yourself under intense attack from organized groups that try to make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to anti-Semitism.
This is valuable. It proves what Walt and Mearsheimer said, it's career suicide to attack the lobby. Krugman should know.
Beinart's book is allowing Jews to come out in a way they refused to do when Walt and Mearsheimer said it, because Walt and Mearsheimer made the mistake of being goyim. I'm reading Beinart's book now and see that he has revisited the same terrain carved out by the 2007 book The Israel Lobby, but simply swapped out the phrase American Jewish Establishment for Israel lobby. It's a bit of sleight-of-hand, in which he gives no credit to trailblazers Walt and Mearsheimer, but it's working. I don't think Beinart's effort will have any effect on Israel and Palestine, but it will help to reform American Jewish identity.