Beinart is leaving ‘Daily Beast,’ and ‘Open Zion’ is closing

Journalist and author Peter Beinart. (Photo: Center for American Progress/Flickr)

Journalist and author Peter Beinart. (Photo: Center for American Progress/Flickr)

Updated: Our scoop has been confirmed in an announcement by Atlantic Media. Politico says Open Zion “will cease to exist.” And Haaretz has also announced that it is hiring Beinart to write about the issue. “Peter Beinart will be joining it as a senior columnist beginning January 1, 2014. Beinart will be writing for Haaretz exclusively and on a regular basis on issues related to the complex triangle of Israel, America, and the American Jewish community.”

Peter Beinart, the leading voice of liberal Zionism, is said to be leaving the Daily Beast and it is likely that Open Zion, the website he edits about the conflict at the Daily Beast, will close as a consequence.

Open Zion calls itself “a new conversation about Israel, Palestine and the Jewish future.” Though chiefly liberal Zionist, it has also distinguished itself in the mainstream with its news reporting and by publishing pieces that are critical of Israel and even express anti-Zionist views.

I’m told that Beinart is going to The Atlantic and that he made the decision to leave after it was announced in September that Tina Brown was departing as editor of the Daily Beast. Brown is a big supporter of Beinart’s, though the funding for Open Zion chiefly came from other sources than the Daily Beast, including the New America Foundation, the Daily Beast’s partner on the project.

Another factor is that Beinart doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed as a writer on the Israel/Palestine issue but maintain his reputation as a political writer on a range of American issues.

But because Open Zion is so closely connected to Beinart’s brand– his name and photograph appear on its front page, and he launched the site at about the same time that he published his book The Crisis of Zionism in April 2012– his leaving endangers the future of the site. I’m told the likelihood is that the site will close, but that Beinart is trying to find a home for the site. (I emailed Beinart to say I was writing about Open Zion but he said he was busy teaching today and then did not respond.)

His departure from the Daily Beast is a blow to those trying to force left-leaning Zionism into the discussion on Israel/Palestine. Beinart is liberal Zionism’s leading journalistic force. He has been a rock star at J Street’s annual conference; in 2012 young people went around wearing t-shirts saying “Beinart’s Army.”

The site’s leadership includes rightwinger Gil Troy, but it has a liberal Zionist orientation, stating:

Open Zion will foster an open and unafraid conversation about Israel, Palestine, and the Jewish future. We believe in a two-state solution in accordance with the liberal Zionist principles articulated in Israel’s declaration of independence, which promises a Jewish state that ensures “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex” and “freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.” But we also believe in respectful argument with those who disagree; we aim not to draw red lines but to debate them.

Now in his early 40s, Beinart first came to notice as the editor of the New Republic in the early 2000s, when he supported the Iraq war. A former guest at AIPAC conferences, Beinart burst into the Israel/Palestine discussion with a landmark piece in the New York Review of Books in spring 2010 called The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment, in which he said that by suppressing a discussion of Israel’s human rights abuses, the leading Jewish organizations were failing to “save liberal democracy in the only Jewish state on earth.” He is an associate professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York and a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine | Tagged

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

  1. David Samel says:

    It would be a shame for OZ to fold. I am much more intellectually inclined toward MW, but OZ did publish a very wide range of opinion, including Yousef Munayyer as a regular contributor. Some other writers, like Emily Hauser, wrote very credible articles. There was some dreck as well, though I read Gil Troy for comic relief. I think OZ was mostly read by liberal Zionists of the Beinart sensibility, people who I think should be encouraged to re-think Zionism entirely.

    • bangpound says:

      Some of the contributions were good, but their work was never very widely shared on social media. The comments were often racist trolling. At most one item from Open Zion would be placed on The Daily Beast home page.

      I think OZ was mostly read by liberal Zionists of the Beinart sensibility

      I can’t distinguish the reader statistics for Open Zion separately from the much more massive The Daily Beast, but what I could extrapolate from social stats, I actually don’t think it was very widely read.

      I wonder if the project was successful by the conventional metrics of a web publication. Did it have an audience? Was it growing? Was there a community of readers engaged in the conversations on the site?

    • Donald says:

      The front page was interesting for the reason you mention–Beinart had enough integrity to publish some anti-Zionist writers. On the other side there were people like Gil Troy, who was a total clown.

      I’m not sure who read the blog. The pro-Israel commenters were mostly as bad as Troy, or worse, and often bashed Beinart for running such an “anti-Israel” blog. Some were explicitly racist. Recently a few of that stripe were even banned, though I didn’t see the posts that led to that decision. Our old pal RW was just about the only liberal Zionist I can recall offhand who posted semi-regularly in the comments. I can recall others, but they were sporadic. I don’t think Beinart ever had the commenters he probably wanted to have–most were either well to his right or well to his left.

  2. joemowrey says:

    Sorry to have to keep beating this drum against Beihart, but I’m always amazed when people like him continue to be taken seriously as pundits and policy analysts. He was a cheerleader for the criminal war of aggression waged by the U.S. against Iraq. He made serious policy arguments in favor of a war based on blatant lies and driven by a media propaganda campaign so transparent that even a child could see through it. And yet Beinart is still allowed to teach journalism and political science at a major university.

    I’m no policy “wunderkind,” (a term which has actually been applied to this arrogant punk) and yet myself and tens of millions of other thinking human beings around the world understood that a heinous crime was being committed against the people of Iraq. We had the courage to stand against it. Beinhart made his living promoting it.

    So now we are supposed to grant him credibility regarding any views he may have on foreign policy issues? He should be laughed off the stage wherever he appears. Instead, people buy his books and applaud his absurd ideological blatherings. It’s sort of like saying, “Well, just because he used to believe in Santa Clause doesn’t mean we shouldn’t trust him now.”

    Wow, what a world we live in. The irony takes ones breath away.

  3. mcohen says:

    Perhaps MW should reconsider its own views.

  4. pabelmont says:

    Perhaps the theory behind OZ was to speak to the LZ Jews, saying: WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT, but EVEN SO there are some roughnesses around the edges that we need to become more aware of. The old song, “We didn’t know” that was so popular in Germany after 1945 doesn’t sit well with Jews — any more — now that it is themselves who are singing it.

  5. seafoid says:

    Beinart was a wunderkind but Zionism chews them up and careerists are particularly at risk. You gotta bend over and mouth the hasbara. It was the same with the Iraq war so he has the experience. Very hard to bring the people along if they don’t want to know.

    The Beast lost too much money which is why Brown jumped. It is hard to make journal ism pay and anti Zionism is even more of a challenge.

    • Kathleen says:

      “liberal Zionist” I thought Phil had given up using this oxymoron.

      My belief is that Beinart jumped into the better late than never crowd not because he is just all of a sudden a compassionate person about the Palestinians horrific situation it is all about trying to save the two state solution. Which Israel has made sure no longer exists.

      He finally admits to seeing the apartheid written on the wall

  6. seafoid says:

    An open and unafraid conversation about Israel is still a very rare bird , endangered in most US states.

  7. shalom says:

    Its not about Open Zion or even Mondoweiss. It is about the left and right listening to each other enough to find real ground to agree on as the basis for peace with security and justice for all. Not easy or fast but far more necessary that the left and right talking to themselves until Two States are no longer possible. Meet a Conservative. Make a new friend and open your heart and mind to a better future together.

  8. seafoid says:

    Open Zion will be taken offline and the WZO will build a wall around it……

  9. German Lefty says:

    “Liberal Zionism” has no future because it is a contradiction in terms. The same applies to the name “Open Zion”. I won’t be sad if the site closes.

  10. eGuard says:

    His departure [...] is a blow to those trying to force left-leaning Zionism into the discussion on Israel/Palestine.

    More Zionism? His Open Zion is the US homeland version of the peace process.

  11. ToivoS says:

    Beinhart should commended for how far he did move from open ended support for Israel. I think the problem is that liberal Zionism is not an end in itself. The complete contradiction enclosed in a “Jewish and democratic” is a very difficult load to bear. He would have to move beyond that if he were to continue OZ. I guess it was not something he could do without being completely ostracized by the larger Jewish American community. I can see why he doesn’t want to be defined Israel-Palestinian issue. Time to move on to safer ground.

    • Kathleen says:

      Hey Beinart ended up on MSNBC etc far more than he ever had before when he joined the better late than never crowd on this critical issue. While he should be “acknowledged” for finally stepping out of line when the gettin was good he should not be canonized for stepping up to the plate a bit on this issue. “liberal Zionist” what a joke. “Jewish and Democratic” right

  12. Reds says:

    Wonder if it had anything to do with his criticism of Adelson and the Rabbi and supporters not speaking up about his calls for nuclear genocide against Iran?

    • just says:

      I wondered the same thing. Although, I don’t consider his tweet to be much of a “slam”.

      link to mondoweiss.net

      It was more of a mild smack on the hand. I think he’s finally realizing that defending the indefensible does not have much future in it.

      • LeaNder says:

        I doubt. Maybe the whole Daily Beast enterprise will fold down soon. Didn’t last too long, if so, but I am not surprised.

        Bye, bye Peter Beinhart, Wunderkind? Really? Can’t see that. I won’t miss either you or Open Zion. All I remember having read over there was one or two articles by Trita Parsi, but that’s about it. The latest wisdom on the P5 + 1 negotiations including the link to Jeffrey the goldbug Goldberg would not really make me return. Anything is better on the issue even the Washington Post.

      • just says:

        Whoops. I was wrong.

        “Author and journalist Peter Beinart will be joining Haaretz as a senior columnist as of January 1, 2014. Beinart will be writing for Haaretz on a regular basis on issues related to the complex triangle of Israel, America, and the American Jewish community.”

        link to haaretz.com

        I marvel @ the phrase “the complex triangle of Israel, America, and the American Jewish community.”

        • German Lefty says:

          I marvel @ the phrase “the complex triangle of Israel, America, and the American Jewish community.”

          Yes. If any non-Jew dared to suggest that US Jews (or German Jews) have anything to do with Israel and its policies, then he would immediately be accused of anti-Semitism because he supposedly refers to things like “dual loyalty” or “collective guilt”.

  13. Ellen says:

    The Daily Beast seemed to have a confused identity. It flirted with sensationalism, sometimes cheap titilation and on occasion real reporting with real information. A formula that might have worked in the print world. A little something for everyone. (“I buy it for the good writing……not the pictures….”)

    It appears that Tina Brown was not sure where she wanted it to go and OZ also reflected this mindset. Meanwhile Mr. Beinhart is joining Haaretz.

    • seafoid says:

      link to haaretz.com

      “Author and journalist Peter Beinart will be joining Haaretz as a senior columnist as of January 1, 2014. Beinart will be writing for Haaretz on a regular basis on issues related to the complex triangle of Israel, America, and the American Jewish community.

      An Associate Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York, Beinart authored the ground-breaking book, “The Crisis of Zionism” in 2012. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Time Magazine, The New York Review of Books and other publications. Last year he was named in Foreign Policy magazine’s list of 100 top global thinkers.

      “Peter Beinart has reshaped the discussion about the future of Israel in the American Jewish community, and his voice will be a great contribution to Haaretz’s team of writers,” said Haaretz Editor-in-chief Aluf Benn. “His original thinking and unique point of view will enrich both our Israeli and American readers.”

      Peter Beinart said: “Haaretz is one of the reasons I love Israel. It represents the best of what Israel can be. I’m so honored to be joining its ranks.” “

    • Kathleen says:

      Agree with your analysis of the Daily Beast. Yawn.

  14. German Lefty says:

    This Haaretz article is very interesting, too.
    link to haaretz.com

    The Jewish studio where Hollywood stars work for free
    One Hollywood film studio has commanded only A-list talent since its inception — Elizabeth Taylor, Morgan Freeman, Sandra Bullock, Michael Douglas, Nicole Kidman — and they all worked for free. What kind of studio head has such pull? It’s Rabbi Marvin Hier, the mini-mogul of Moriah Films, the movie division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. [...]
    “I think they understand the Simon Wiesenthal Center is an organization dedicated to perpetuating the memory of the Holocaust and also to fighting anti-Semitism and the campaigns in the world to discredit Israel, so they want to help in that manner,” Hier said. “And I think it helps them that they’re following a long tradition of what some of the greatest names in the entertainment community have done.” [...]
    “If you want to impact Jewish history, you have to say something to the world, the world out there,” he said. “We need friends in the non-Jewish community. They need to know what happened to the Jews; that 6 million were murdered in the Nazi Holocaust, and even after 6 million were murdered in the Holocaust, Israel doesn’t have a peaceful month.”

    A commenter wrote: “The fact of the matter is that should the Wiesenthal organisation ask an a-list celebrity to volunteer, they wouldn’t dare say no, for fear of intimidation, and reprisals on their careers aswell as discrediting their works.”

    I wonder if that’s true.