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Washington Post Columnist Gives Private AIPAC Talks on How to Help Israel in ’08 Election

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According to the AIPAC website, tomorrow in New York, Peter Beinart, a columnist for Time and the Washington Post and a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, will be giving a "briefing" to "discuss Jewish involvement in American politics. He will talk
of the role that the pro-Israel community can play in the coming
elections." Sounds like a pep talk.

I emailed AIPAC about going to the event and Hila Stern, a "leadership" manager, called to say that the briefing is off the record. I imagine the same is true of Beinart’s appearance at the Knoxville AIPAC next month. And I see that Beinart also spoke 2 weeks back in Philadelphia to AIPAC’s "Senate club," people who give over $10,000 to the organization, where he also addressed "the role that the pro-Israel community can play in the coming elections."

Journalists should be allowed to make money from speaking engagements, but I find Beinart’s appearances unseemly. AIPAC is a "controversial" organization (the adjective routinely used for Walt and Mearsheimer’s book in the mainstream media). Or anyway, it’s an important advocacy group on a central issue in the election. I wonder what a Time and Washington Post columnist is  advocating to advocates about.

More important, Beinart’s 2006 book, The Good Fight, urged Americans to make their country great again by going to war against terror in Iraq and elsewhere and in doing so utterly suppressed the Israel/Palestine issue. Israel and Palestine are unmentioned in the index, they show up glancingly in the text. The big lesson of the book is a neoconservative lesson that "tyranny breeds jihad"–not American policies in the Middle East. This argument might be more convincing if its proponents would at least acknowledge a simple fact (best expressed by Mohamed El Baradei) that Palestinian conditions are a "red flag" of injustice across the Muslim world. Beinart’s complete failure to mention the hateful and illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank is of course consistent with many other pro-war Jewish voices, including Paul Berman, Lawrence Kaplan, Bill Kristol, and Ken Pollack, that murderers’ row of intellectuals who pushed the Iraq war and merged liberalism with neoconservatism ( The New Republic, Dissent, and the American Enterprise Institute). None of them saw the Israeli occupation or Palestinian conditions as a real problem.

The AIPAC notices confirm what I have suspected about Beinart, a pro-Israel agenda. There is nothing wrong with having an agenda; most everyone’s got one. What’s wrong is when journalists hide ideas that are important to them from the public.

Will AIPAC (or Time Magazine or the Washington Post) review the decision to bar reporters from Beinart’s talk?

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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