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

Israel/Palestine
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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.

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