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.”