Tablet’s editor ostriches in Jlem: there is no ’emotional, psychological or spiritual emergency’ for Israel

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 16 Comments

Allison Kaplan Sommer reports for Haaretz on Peter Beinart’s big appearance in Israel, a debate with his rightwing critics:

His critics were equally respectful and polite. Foxman did attack Beinart in a gentle and backhanded way, stating “My love and support for Israel is unconditional, it does not depend on the Israeli acceptance of my ideas. My Zionism is not in crisis because my Zionism is not conditioned on an embrace of an idealized view of what I’d like Israel to be.”

[Tablet editor Alana] Newhouse said she was concerned about the “shrillness” of Israel-Diaspora dialogue[; she said it] is “upsetting” and “creates the sense of an emotional, psychological and spiritual emergency that doesn’t exist” and urged “a lowering of the temperature of the discussion.”

Wow. What is she thinking? Well here is the money quote from Newhouse’s review of Beinart’s book in the Washington Post some weeks ago. More ostrich attitude, pooh-poohing the idea that Israel is in trouble or that its American Jewish base is getting wobbly:

Beinart and his supporters are now erecting their own self-satisfied and delusional monolith, calculated to appeal to disillusioned Jewish summer camp alumni, NPR listeners and other beautiful souls who want the Holy Land to be a better place but do not have the time or ability to study the issues, learn the languages or talk to the people on both sides whose hearts have been broken over and over again by prophets making phony promises.

Back to Sommer’s coverage of the debate.

And of course, [Beinart] was asked – probably for the nine millionth time this year – how he, as a Diaspora Jew, can so strongly advocate surrender of all of the territory over the Green Line when neither he nor his children will bear the physical consequences of such a move.

This is very important to understand. In the Jewish community, my views don’t count because I live in safety in the U.S., and I’m not on the front lines. And the Jewish community is held to be my community, more than say the American political community.

A final great exchange. Read this and ask yourself, Is Beinart’s response quintessentially Jewish? Or is it quintessentially human? I say, human.

what really won over the initially hostile bloggers happened when he was asked by a blogger who lives within the Green Line whether he should travel to his parents’ house in the West Bank to give a Torah lesson on the yarhtzeit [anniversary] of his grandfather’s death.

In such a situation, he asked, what would Peter Beinart do? Would he go or would he boycott?

Beinart paused only briefly, then said that he would go to the family event. Politics are politics, he said, but the obligation to honor your mother and father trumps ideology.

One blogger at the meeting said that this was the moment Beinart won over the crowd, and confessed he was among Beinart’s new fans. “The answer was so quintessentially Jewish, that I think many of the bloggers were forced to change their mind about Beinart.”

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16 Responses

  1. Annie Robbins
    June 25, 2012, 11:39 am

    “creates the sense of an emotional, psychological and spiritual emergency that doesn’t exist”

    whatever you say alana.

    • Winnica
      June 25, 2012, 11:58 am

      Actually, she’s right. in Israel no such emergency exists. It may exist in certain sections of American Jewry, though it certainly doesn’t exist in the growing orthodox section of American Jewry. As for the others, I’d say Newhouse is in a reasonably good position to have an informed opinon. Poking fun of her because you disagree isn’t solid argumentation, it’s merely poking fun.

      • Krauss
        June 26, 2012, 12:32 am

        I actually agree with Winnica.
        Israel isn’t in a crisis spiritually from a domestic viewpoint. It’s a messianic country and will continue to be so. All the violence, oppression and continued annexation/ethnic cleansing will continue. Because what Israel is now doing is being seen as akin to ‘Manifest Destiny’ that the United States had in the 1800s. The only problem is that this isn’t the same century as the Western world was wallowing deep into slavery. A memo Israel doesn’t seems to have gotten.

        And there is also a religious aspect to this. Annexation/ethnic cleansing is a lot easier to do if you think God wants you to do it.

        Finally, I also agree that this spiritual/political crisis doesn’t extend into the Jewish community(at least not the higher echelons). Sure, a lot of Upper West Side Jews may groan, but by a large, Abe Foxman’s and Alana Newhouse’s viewpoints are pretty mainstream and Beinart has failed.

        Now of course, while I do agree that all these points are correct within a Jewish context, that doesn’t mean that they are correct from a universal context where Israel is very much so embroiled in the death throes of it’s democratic opposition and where the only political opposition is whether you want the price of that cottage cheese to be shared more equally by the population or not. But the major issues.. there is no dissent. And whatever the Jewish context allows or disallows, this is increasingly irrelevant. Note that the book that started this debate, the Israel Lobby, was written by two non-Jews.

        The early dissenters among the mainstream media, Andrew Sullivan and Robert Wright, are also two non-Jews. And we’re getting to a point where Israel’s obvious crisis, oblivious to Jews inside the community(like Winnica) and much of the establishment is increasingly convoluting to the outside world. And this split will only be more and more visible the coming years.

        But Newhouse will most likely continue to be astonished at the debate and think, ultimately(if she doesn’t already, that this isn’t the logical conclusion of what Israel has been doing for decades(with the ‘unconditional love’ as Abe Foxman put it) from the Jewish establishment. She’ll most likely be confused, paranoid and ultimately outraged. To her, and to many like her, it will be the work of the shadowy anti-Semities. The denial will probably run it’s course to the very end. And judging from Winnica’s comment, she and many others won’t be alone in this.

      • Winnica
        June 26, 2012, 8:55 am

        Kruass could be right, of course, tho he has the intellectual integrity to note that it may take many years for this to become clear.

        And he could be wrong. Seen from the perspective of thousands of years of unbroken history, it’s hard to find a period in the past many centuries in which the objective position of the Jews was better than it now is. The Jews of Spain in the 13-14th century had it pretty good, but they were only a fragment of the entire nation. The three communites of Judea, Alexandria and Mesopotamia had it good at different moments between the 3rd century BCE and the 5th century CE, though most of the time there was no full Jewish political sovereignty.

        Sovereignty plus widespread economic well-being plus personal freedom all at the same time have been exceedingly rare in the past 2600 years, and in spite of what many of the Mondoweiss community are convinced, there are precious few indicators that the current conditions are headed towards any sort of a catastrophe. Meanwhile, in Israel, the conditions of the Palestinians of Israeli citizenship are consistently improving, thus strengthening Israel further.

        Even the Palestinians of the West Bank have it better now than a decade ago, and there is hope that a protracted period of relative calm will eventually lead to the ability of the two sides to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. This would have seemed highly improbable a decade ago.

      • Shingo
        June 26, 2012, 9:10 am

        This would have seemed highly improbable a decade ago.

        It’s actually less probable seeing as Israel has gobbled up more land in the interim.

      • seafoid
        June 26, 2012, 9:25 am

        “Seen from the perspective of thousands of years of unbroken history, it’s hard to find a period in the past many centuries in which the objective position of the Jews was better than it now is.”

        Blessed be the yeshiva student who scared the little girl on her way to school. Blessed also be the one who spit at and cursed female passersby. Blessed be the ultra-Orthodox man who called the female soldier a prostitute, and blessed be those who demonstrated in striped prisoners’ garb and stuck yellow stars on their clothing.

        Orthodox hypernationalism and its sometimes violently antidemocratic, even racist voices partly account for Beinart’s pessimistic prognosis for mainstream American Judaism and its relation to Israel.8 “American Zionism,” he fears, “will become the province of people indifferent to liberal democratic ideals, and the American Jews most committed to those ideals will become indifferent, at best, to the Jewish state.”9 He cites studies showing that younger non-Orthodox American Jews, conspicuously liberal in their values and politics, are less and less attached to Israel. Here is the American Jewish version of the conflict I have described in Israel between democratic ideals and tribal nationalism. Both my grandfathers, like most American Jews of their generation, at once Rooseveltian Democrats committed to strong notions of social justice and ardent Zionists, would have been horrified by what has happened in Israel and by the consequent need for American Jews to make such a choice.

        On the other hand, we have a very high and rising cost of living, first and foremost in housing. I think this is partly an effect of capital fleeing from other parts of the world building up a bubble in the housing sector in Israel.
        But if and when the Israeli bubble does explode, I think we will have a rapid change and escalation of the social situation. The problem will no longer be “just” the cost of living but the tenability of the entire structure.,7340,L-4229900,00.html

        One disconcerting trend noted by the IEI was a 16% drop in Israel’s exports to the European Union, which came to $3.6 billion.
        Israel’s exports are experiencing a downturn, the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute (IEI) said Tuesday.
        A new IEI report said that Israel’s exports came to $10.9 billion in the first quarter of 2012 – a 6.5% drop from Q4-2011 and a 5% tumble compared to last year’s first quarter.
        One disconcerting trend noted by the IEI was a 16% drop in Israel’s exports to the European Union, which came to $3.6 billion. EU exports make up 33% of Israel’s overall global exports.

      • Winnica
        June 26, 2012, 9:31 am

        Actually, Shingo, Israel has “gobbled up” considerably less land in the past decade than it evacuated. I understand that the universal opinion on this website is that Israel is constantly grabbing ever more Palestinian land on the West Bank, but the reality is that it isn’t. Here and there it has of course happened, regretably, but by and large the additions to the settlements are limited, and most of them happen within the existing perimeters of the settlements. Actually, most of them happen within the perimeters of rather few settlements in identifiable blocks. The heyday of Israeli settlements, when new ones were sprouting up all over the place, was in the early 1980s, and has long since past into history.

      • seafoid
        June 26, 2012, 9:32 am


        It will all depend on what the goys think, not on what the Jews do
        Ben Gurion was a clown.

        A vast majority of Germans, 69.4 percent, said they were relatively supportive to very supportive of the Palestinian side. Kempf divides them into two groups: The smaller group is characterized by clearly pro-Palestinian positions and strong anti-Semitic prejudices (25.7 percent ). The rest of the respondents who criticized Israel (43.7 percent ) have strong to very strong pro-Palestinian opinions, but almost completely reject anti-Semitic prejudices. Only a small sub-group of the most radical of these critics (2 percent ) displays some anti-Semitic prejudices.

        Kempf, who is one of the leading political psychologists in the world, found that the non-anti-Semitic critics of Israel are more knowledgeable about the conflict and feel greater emotional closeness to it than those who are anti-Semitic. They also have a stronger orientation toward peace and human rights.

        The study shows a correlation between the level of support for the Palestinians and the extent of the familiarity and emotional involvement with the conflict.

      • Winnica
        June 26, 2012, 9:48 am

        You see, Seafoid, the problem with your method is that you cherrypick the parts of the story that bolster your thesis while pretending the rest of it doesn’t exist. Also, you don’t evaluate your sources: if someone said it’ it’s fine, irrespective of that somone’s authority, or agenda, or if there are other authorities saying the opposite. Finally, you confuse trees for the forest. there are always parts of the picture which are unpleasant, regretable, unfortunate and so on. That’s life.

        My statement, on the other hand, specifically took the long view. Whether a derpessed EU economy is importing less while a growing Asian one is importing more, is a significant trend, is hard to know when you’re in the middle of it. The long term, however, looks at trends not individual cases. Just as the explosion of successful sales of Israeli hi-tech compaines in the past 18 months may be a trend, and it may be a new norm. It’s hard to know.

        As for the housing bubble: I don’t know if there is or isn’t one. Nor does anyone else. So you are free to your opinions, which you state clearly, and I’ll keep mine.

      • Shingo
        June 26, 2012, 10:40 am

        ust as the explosion of successful sales of Israeli hi-tech compaines in the past 18 months may be a trend, and it may be a new norm. It’s hard to know.

        Not really. Israel’s greatest trading partner is Europe, so Europe will take Israel down with it. Mind you, the US is sure to try and bail out Israel.

      • seafoid
        June 27, 2012, 5:46 pm


        Reading the Israeli press daily it is clear that there are a lot of things going on in the country that do not bode well for the future. Maybe there are some great coffee mornings arranged by yummy mummies in Rehavia that never make it to the press but the country is turning increasingly right wing and women and foreigners are the main victims.

        Israelis think the world owes them a living. It doesn’t.

        Your Pollyanna impression won’t do anything for Zionism.

      • Shingo
        June 26, 2012, 3:05 am

        in Israel no such emergency exists.

        Yeah, it’s not like Israelis leaders keep complaining about the deligitimization of Israel.

  2. seafoid
    June 25, 2012, 11:47 am

    “how he, as a Diaspora Jew, can so strongly advocate surrender of all of the territory over the Green Line when neither he nor his children will bear the physical consequences of such a move”

    How can anyone with cancer choose surgery ? Isn’t it far more logical to leave everything in the hands of G-d?

    Israel looks more and more like Lehman Bros. They Will NEVER uproot those kids/fail to bail us out

  3. ritzl
    June 25, 2012, 12:51 pm

    On Beinart’s response:

    Assume and extrapolate the humanity a bit and ask if a Palestinian can do the same, west of the Green Line if not elsewhere in the WB/Gaza. That’s the problem. Not that Beinart does or does not honor his father and mother. It’s that he reserves a right/privilege/grace of character for himself that he is selectively parsing and denying to others. It’s that the politics and humanity on this issue should be [are actually] inseparable.

    So many “liberal Zionists” do seem to see it otherwise with these artifices. It seems to me that papering over the overarching inhumanity of the Occupation with a “but family is most important” narrow definition of one aspect of humanity to win over Israeli audiences is pretty much what perpetuates the Occupation. It enables Israelis to say to themselves that with noble sentiment like this, from a Critic, how bad can the Occupation really be. It’s like a 10m high wall around Beinart’s criticism. You just can’t see over it or won’t venture past it to get the full effect.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s a necessary first step, but all this caveat-laden criticism seems so self-dismissive.

    • stevieb
      June 25, 2012, 4:24 pm

      I was going to comment(in a similar vein) but you did it much better than I ever could have, Fritz. Not a ‘human’ choice at all, imo…

    • seafoid
      June 25, 2012, 5:11 pm

      If Beinart was fair of course he would have answered “anyone who goes behind the line as an enemy gets shot and their family has their house demolished and if they are lucky a special death squad led by Ariel Sharon himself will destroy the village”.

      Because the cult always trumps family.

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