Great news for all those who want to see an American debate about Zionism. Martin Peretz has jumped into the discussion over his former employee John Judis’s book on Truman and the creation of Israel, saying Judis expresses “virulent anti-Zionist opinions.”
Peretz is trying to hold the line in a letter to the New York Times. Responding to a piece on divisions over Israel inside The New Republic, which he formerly owned, Peretz appeals to American liberals, and implicitly to the magazine’s new owner, Chris Hughes, to keep supporting the Jewish state.
From the beginning The New Republic clearly labeled itself on its cover “a journal of opinion.” The editors of the publication during my 35-year tenure as owner — from Michael Kinsley to Frank Foer — were very comfortable with its support for the Jewish state. On occasion, in fact, I had to keep up with the enthusiasm of Mr. Foer’s Zionist opinions, which do not remotely jibe with John Judis’s virulent anti-Zionist opinions in his book. …
The American people’s support for the Jewish state has never been stronger. For Israel’s enemies, and in Mr. Judis’s book, “Genesis: Truman, American Jews and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict,” this can only be explained as a subterfuge, a big lobby’s lie. In fact, an ancestral homeland for the Jewish people has been sympathetically regarded, first as a possibility and later as a reality, by many generations of Americans.
Why is a liberal magazine like The New Republic not to be permitted to consistently make the case that the notion of Israeli statehood needs to be supported, especially in view of the current violence among Israel’s neighbors?
A great question. And I think the answer is that a liberal magazine cannot maintain such an orthodoxy any more and claim that it’s liberal. John Judis has busted loose. Eric Alterman sticks out like a red thumb at the Nation.
The New Republic’s divisions stand for the wider discourse. So let’s have an open conversation. Was Mike Kinsley (the most reasonable man in the universe, who tried to teach me how to think) in fact “comfortable” with the magazine’s relentless support for Israel? I have to believe it pinched now and then: supporting that “ancestral homeland” claim when meanwhile the magazine was running pieces against Christian biblical claims in US politics. And what about Andrew Sullivan? He certainly fell off the turnip truck.
And if Judis was an anti-Zionist, who else was in the closet there? I know that Judis kept his head down when Peretz was walking the halls. When Judis mentioned Zionist “dual loyalty,” Peretz kept the piece out of the New Republic archive. (When I asked Judis about it at the time, he blamed it on a computer glitch.)
So let us be thankful to Peretz for again planting the flag of Zionism inside liberal life, and daring liberals to support biblical religious claims.
PS. The Times identifies Peretz in this fashion: The writer is working on a book titled “The Book of Grudges and Other Loves: Defending Zion.” This was always Eric Alterman’s point about Peretz’s vociferations, he never wrote a book. Can’t wait for Defending Zion.