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Krugman jumps into debate over Beinart with both pinkies

on 45 Comments

It is a measure of Paul Krugman’s influence that within an hour or so of his posting a weak defense of Peter Beinart, yet still a defense, a half dozen people sent me the link. The guy is huge. Haaretz did a news story on the Krugman statement. His column is titled “The Conscience of a Liberal.” And this is part of what he says:

The truth is that like many liberal American Jews — and most American Jews are still liberal — I basically avoid thinking about where Israel is going. It seems obvious from here that the narrow-minded policies of the current government are basically a gradual, long-run form of national suicide — and that’s bad for Jews everywhere, not to mention the world. But I have other battles to fight, and to say anything to that effect is to bring yourself under intense attack from organized groups that try to make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to anti-Semitism.

I find this stunning. The guy has a Nobel Prize and a professorship and a perch at the New York Times, and he is afraid to go near the issue, one of the most important issues we face today, and when he does go near it he offers platitudes. Is it true that the end of Israel would be bad for Jews everywhere? Explain. Is it true that organized groups intimidate people on this issue? Elaborate. John Mearsheimer says that tenure is wasted on most professors. This seems further proof of his theory. Krugman obeys the strictures of Jewish community orthodoxy.

Oh and go to the link but his statement on behalf of Beinart is the repetition that he’s brave. Krugman avoids the boycott issue entirely. Here’s Haaretz, wowed:

Krugman’s unusually harsh critique of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is sure to elicit howls of protest from Israeli spokespersons and American Jewish organizations – more so, perhaps, as they come on the eve of Israel’s Independence Day. It is also sure to further inflame the continuously deteriorating relationship between the Israeli government and the New York Times, considered by many to be the most important newspaper in the world.

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45 Responses

  1. doug
    April 25, 2012, 12:52 am

    I have a different take. It’s that, quite simply, Krugman is not all that interested in Israel. Israel, even executing policies he equates to slow national suicide, is not as important to him as his other work focused on America. This will get more opprobrium heaped on him than MJR.

    Taking him at his word, it is even more impressive that he would say this so casually in the Times. Or anywhere in public. This is BIG!

    • chris o
      chris o
      April 25, 2012, 1:56 am

      I agree with doug. He specializes in economics and American politics and Republican-bashing so that is why he does not really write about it. As far as I’m concerned, Krugman is King… of the columnists! I love how in a mere 2 or 3 sentences, usually at the opening of his column, he delivers such simple and devastating broadsides against the target of the day. Sledgehammer blows. And here, he does it as an aside.

    • Krauss
      April 25, 2012, 2:45 am

      I have a slightly different take on Krugman.

      Sure, his main business is economics. But I am an avid reader of his blog and he is clearly very, very interested in politics. He has written about the democratic deficit in Hungary, for instance, and even scolded his readers for being insufficiently interested in democracy when they complained about a ‘marginal country’. He said that it matters, because the world is about much more than numbers.

      He also did a seperate post, last year I think, scolding an economist who did an analysis of something I don’t quite remember, but there was this throw-away line in this economist’s blogpost about dislike for politics. Krugman immediately jumped on it and said ‘economists must care about data and models, but politics matter too’.

      Just a few posts before his post on Israel, Krugman did another post on Hungary, linking to another NYT columnist.

      The guy isn’t solely focused on economics. He does care about democracy.

      And although I can’t comment on his Jewish identity, I believe his wife is Gentile(someone may correct me on this) and he generally doesn’t come off as very Jewish in his identity. In his public appearances, like the one at 92nd Y street(a very Jewish institution), he hardly made any reference at all to anything Jewish. He is very much so assimilated. But apparently assimilated in a way which doesn’t interfere with his Jewishness, because he brings this up.

      And I concur with Phil’s mild critique(is it fair if I charaterize it that way?), because I think that although support from Krugman is important, it’s flawed and in many ways cowardly.

      First, he blames this current government. But either he doesn’t know or he doesn’t let on that the current policy is no major deviation from policy by Labor-led governments on the issue of settlements. The ruling that forbade Palistinians in the WB to marry Palistinians within ’67 Israel(unlike Jews who can do it) came under a Kadima government, remember, the ‘alternative’? And under which regime did Operation Cast Lead happen?

      The statement of support is in of itself significant as a bellweather, but if his support is for a flawed concept then how does that advance anything, it’s the Let’s All Blame Bibi-line which lib zionists love because it gets them off the hook and let’s them pretend the alternative is vastly different – which it isn’t. Likud has in many ways been less bloodthirsty and settlement construction came to a peak under Ehud Barak. It’s important to always emphasize this.

      Beinart peddles the same myths. I see Mearsheimer/Walt as far more courageous, because they were non-Jewish and they were the ones who changed the paradigm. They were ahead of everyone else and they paid a much steeper price. Beinart may face critique but his career has actually lifted because of his book, because people understand he is right. Whereas Mearsheimer and Walt stopped getting invitations, they were smeared as anti-Semites and not merely ‘misguided’ or ‘Israel bashers’ and they didn’t get an opportunity for NYT Op-Eds or their own Newsweek column, their own Newsweek blog/forum, or a media blitz like Beinart has done all over the MSM.

      So no, Krugman is wrong. And his support came much too late, because reading his blog makes you understand the man does care about democracy and politics. He knew what was going on but stayed silent almost forever and now he came out when it’s safe and he endorses a false narrative.

      As I said in the beginning, this move is yet another sign of the changing tone of the debate, but Krugman shouldn’t be praised for doing something which by now carries little price, especially from an establishment Jew like him writing in the NYT.

      • Pixel
        April 25, 2012, 4:13 pm

        “…something which by now carries little price”

        Everything, no matter how small or how late, helps.

      • American
        April 25, 2012, 4:24 pm

        “The guy isn’t solely focused on economics. He does care about democracy.”

        I read a in depth interview piece done on Krugman several years ago….. Krugman’s original theory was that econcomics could create or destroy democracies….so there always was a political connection for him in economics. However, in the interview he expressed a current sense of defeat about that belief……finally realized how disgusting/hopeless politics is due to those in it I suppose who won’t realize that connection.

  2. annie
    April 25, 2012, 12:56 am

    he is afraid to go near the issue, one of the most important issues we face today, and when he does go near it he offers platitudes. Is it true that the end of Israel would be bad for Jews everywhere? Explain.

    hmmm, not sure i read this the way you did phil but i have not opened the link and read his whole article yet either.

    It seems obvious from here that the narrow-minded policies of the current government are basically a gradual, long-run form of national suicide — and that’s bad for Jews everywhere, not to mention the world.

    i tend to agree with him “a gradual, long-run form of national suicide” is bad for jews and the world. i did not hear him say “the end of Israel would be bad for Jews everywhere”. and i am not sure if i would consider that blockquote a platitude, especially since he prefaced it with ‘It seems obvious’. one of the characteristics of platitudes is “uttered as if it were fresh or profound”. there’s nothing fresh about this nor is he alluding that it is. he offers it as if it’s old, too old and worn out, very everybody already knows.

    i wish he were more into it tho, he was one of the first journalists that really took the neocons to task for iraq (as i recall).

    i bet if he were feeling fresh he could give it a run for the money, but the prospect sounds like it exhausts him just thinking about it. the whole tone is very apropo in a certain way, very expressive of his mood. now that i have read his brief commentary i like it even more.

    • annie
      April 25, 2012, 1:45 am

      the narrow-minded policies of the current government are basically a gradual, long-run form of national suicide…… to say .. that … is to bring yourself under intense attack from organized groups that try to make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to anti-Semitism.

      so, he said it. and when he wrote it he knew he would bring himself under intense attack from organized groups that do make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to anti-Semitism.

      one can come under a deluge of attack for a long article or a book. for krugman, offered himself to the frontline of attack in 3 paragraphs totaling all of 6 sentences. call it what you will but this is not a ‘gradual, long-run form of suicide’, it’s more like seppuku.

      or death by koan. or…brief, with a dull blade.

      • pabelmont
        April 25, 2012, 9:52 am

        Annie: Exactly: He said it, briefly, [Israel headed down the drain] but he didn’t elaborate (almost as if it were too obvious to require elaboration), and he ALSO specified another fact, also too obvious to require elaboration, that he’d get shot down.

        He is also a bit of a coward: he could have taken on the Zionist Mafia (those who shoot people down). Given examples.

        He could have elaborated on why he believes Israel is going somewhere in a hand-basket. Given examples.

        Maybe next time.

      • yourstruly
        April 25, 2012, 10:14 pm

        and as an economist he could have described how these perpetual wars in the mideast and southwest asia + the trillion or so america spends on its military and intelligence impact our tottering economy.

    • ahhiyawa
      April 25, 2012, 6:59 am

      ‘…now that i have read his brief commentary i like it even more.”

      Me too Annie.

      What’s important is that a personality like Krugman has spoken out, no matter how tepid. The importance of the act is well demonstrated by the hysterical attacks its elicited.

    • seafoid
      April 25, 2012, 8:26 am

      I like it too. Israel is not his responsibility. Sovereignty is about accountability but they haven’t figured that out in Israel yet.

      Krugman knows his economics. He knows how Israel will eventually become undone.

      “Is it true that organized groups intimidate people on this issue? Elaborate.”

      What happened to Chas Freeman

      what happened to Ken Livingstone

      And what went on pre 1980

      It was a technique which the Zionists were to employ throughout their struggle. The technique of promoting damaging personal attacks on those who stood in their way rather than trying to counter their arguments.”
      “Such non conformists were subtly made aware that their jobs might be at risk, their books unpublishable, their preferment out of the question, their public reputations vulnerable if they did not renounce the heresy of anti Zionism ”
      Publish it not, Mayhew and Adams, 1975

      • Sumud
        April 25, 2012, 9:43 am

        Thanks for that book reference seafood, I hadn’t heard of it before. Have you got the original 1975 printing or the updated 2006 edition which I note is *not* listed on Amazon US but is on Amazon UK:

      • seafoid
        April 25, 2012, 10:36 am

        I have the 2006 version, Sumud.

        The ziobots have been following the same patterns of lobbying, hypocrisy, intimidation, slander, character assassination, career destruction and murder for 5 generations .

        Now it’s out in the open and can be summoned at the touch of a button. And they will pay.

      • Pixel
        April 25, 2012, 4:16 pm


        If that’s a typo, it’s really funny.

      • seafoid
        April 25, 2012, 5:25 pm

        Can’t eat me with dairy products

      • Sumud
        April 26, 2012, 3:20 am

        whoops, that was a typo seafoid – sorry!

      • American
        April 25, 2012, 4:32 pm

        Krugman knows his economics. He knows how Israel will eventually become undone.”

        Israel (re US) is a ponzi scheme in every sense of the word….Krugman knows it can’t last. Clx even one year of US aid and or guarentees and down it would go….couldn’t pay it’s internal or external obligations without literally obliterating it’s private sector and workers tax wise, and I doubt that even that would even keep their doors open.

      • seafoid
        April 25, 2012, 5:11 pm

        And the reparations will kill it. That’s why the US is all over the ICC making sure nothing gets through. Eventually there will be Ziobots at the Hague and the Orthodox and the reparations will have bankrupted the country

  3. CitizenC
    April 25, 2012, 1:53 am

    I agree with Doug. PK is not very interested in Israel. In that he is “normal”, wears his Jewishness very lightly, not as a crippling identity complex. His kid gloves treatment is simply the normal Amurkin reaction, despite the advantages of his position as Phil points out.

    • ahhiyawa
      April 25, 2012, 7:00 am

      “…PK is not very interested in Israel…”

      Then he would never have opened his mouth in the first place.

  4. Philip Munger
    Philip Munger
    April 25, 2012, 3:21 am

    First of all, he poked the hornet’s nest with a long, little stick, rather than a short, big one. No Freudian implications intended. He will get stung by the militant expansionist Zionists over this, and seems to know that.

    Secondly, Glenn Greenwald deserves a perch in mainstream journalism similar to the one Krugman occupies. Or Naomi Klein. Her ideas on how to fix economic end-games are more imaginative and worker-friendly than Paul’s usually are. Krugman simply wants to both keep his perch, and perhaps use this column as some sort of opening gambit to expand upon the kinds of issues he covers, or to test the waters on going outside his fairly safe place in the swimming hole.

    As writers here, including Phil W. have often observed, maybe there’s family history or family dynamics that might offer illumination on why he chose to weigh in so carefully, and at this point in time.

    Welcome to the club, Paul Krugman. There’s no turning back, if you have the cojones I believe you possess.

    • tombishop
      April 25, 2012, 7:20 am

      I agree with you that Glenn Greenwald “deserves a perch in mainstream journalism”. He has been consistently courageous and principled on the issue of Israel and all issues related to the repressive state that the U.S. government has been transformed into. He has comment on Paul Krugman in the update to his latest column:

      UCLA Professor warned about Israel views
      What kind of person goes to college and demands to be shielded from political views they dislike?

      • Sumud
        April 25, 2012, 8:24 am

        I agree with you that Glenn Greenwald “deserves a perch in mainstream journalism”.

        I agree with you both, *if* by mainstream journalism you aren’t limiting that to mean the war-mongering sycophantic government-mouthpiece corporate media.

        Greenwald is extraordinary, among the best of the new journalists that has been enabled by the internet and social media. Every article he writes is impeccably sourced; book-quality articles every few days. He engages with his readers through social media – great ‘crowd sourcing’ – and has little-to-no ego about being corrected on facts – because facts are his priority.

        It’s so far from the faux journalists that inhabit the corporate media. They are dinosaurs and propagandists, evolutionary irrelevant. I say more power to Greenwald and his ilk, including Phil & co. here.

  5. Tuyzentfloot
    April 25, 2012, 4:17 am

    I think Krugman describes his compromises and his priorities honestly and accurately. I like the guy. Of course, he also explains why he has contributed so little to the I/P issue, and Philip’s right to doubt whether Krugman has much to offer there anyway. He has other priorities, and tackling the I/P issue would have hurt these priorities. This is annoying but it’s very reasonable.

  6. April 25, 2012, 6:13 am

    – “like many liberal American Jews … I ”

    So he identifies as a ‘liberal American Jew’. – From my reading of Krugman’s columns, I had always thought he didn’t idenify as a Jew at all. I only infered he was of some Jewish descent because he once mentioned something his grandmother had said, in Yiddish.

  7. Gene
    April 25, 2012, 8:00 am

    I think that he’s just afraid, and I do mean ‘afraid’, of confrontation. I once saw him in a tv spot with Bill O’Reilly, and it was just very, very sad to watch.

    • April 25, 2012, 12:12 pm

      Yes, he is afraid, but it’s brave to say so: I’m afraid of the anti-semitism attacks by the Israel lobby. – One should advertise that:

      (He isn’t a German nor did he serve in the Waffen SS)

  8. eGuard
    April 25, 2012, 8:10 am

    Paul Krugman: the narrow-minded policies of the current government

    Just the current government? Is that your best, mr Krugman? All you can do is whisper in the “liberal Zionist Jewish and democratic” tent? Your econimics analysis must be interesting too. And also useless, narrow-minded, distracting.

  9. Dan Crowther
    Dan Crowther
    April 25, 2012, 9:31 am

    But I have other battles to fight, and to say anything to that effect is to bring yourself under intense attack from organized groups that try to make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to anti-Semitism.

    Translation: Israel isn’t worth it.

    How is this a “bad” thing? I don’t think he’s cowardly at all, or obeying orthodoxy. He states that Israel is on the road to national suicide and in the next sentence says he more or less fine with it – inferring he would care more, but the psycho’s have made it hard to do so. This sounds very much like a guy emotionally detached from where The Jewish State is headed. It’s almost like hes mocking The Lobby. I mean, the guy just called BS on the whole “any criticism of Israel is anti-semtic” meme without any qualifiers. JVP doesnt even do that. Remember their letter to the Methodists where JVP told them that their stance is brave considering the centuries of anti-jewish violence etc perpetrated by christians? As if a person born in the 80’s has a responsibility to account for misdeeds a thousand years ago. Krugman gets my respect.

    Here’s an American Jew that isnt obsessed with Israel one way or the other, and we’re bashing the guy…..Oy Vey. He’s probably more of an anti-zionist than most jewish anti-zionists, and here’s how I know: He doesnt write about being jewish on a daily basis. The real orthodoxy is that every single Jew the world over has to have hard felt feelings one way or the other about Israel – Krugman is clearly not interested in this, and for that, again, he gets my respect. He just wants to be a guy named Paul who teaches and writes a column for the paper of record – Im fully on board with this, and I am an anti-capitalist, who disagrees with him a good portion of the time.

    • annie
      April 25, 2012, 1:17 pm

      i kinda doubt he’s not interested. krugman was so engaged in the early stages of the iraq war you could tell he was (very) into politics.

      • Dan Crowther
        Dan Crowther
        April 25, 2012, 1:22 pm

        Oh I definitely think he is interested in politics and the world generally, and I do think he has (and probably continues to) feel some sort of affinity to Israel – but he isnt going to make it his cause, and he doesn’t seem all that interested in “righting the ship” especially in light of the reflexive smearing he would go through at the hands of his fellow american jews — Ive said it for a while now, american jews will ruin zionism for american jews – just like I say “other christians ruined christianity” for myself. Krugman seems to be on the same path……

      • seafoid
        April 25, 2012, 2:09 pm

        The Iraq war was an American mess with implications for the US deficit and future economic policy. Israel is a mismanaged militaristic experiment in hubris with no relevance whatsoever to the US economy.

    • ritzl
      April 25, 2012, 5:32 pm

      Agree. Plus his [feigned or real, who knows?] diffidence invited the open-ended and potentially devastating question of WHY it’s not worth it (to criticize Israel in depth). Just another, though prominent, pointer at the enforcement mechanism of the Lobby. IOW, a “What are they afraid of?” moment.

      I think that maybe an even more important implication of how Krugman phrased himself is that he did it before the fact. Should [heh] he get hammered for this, he has doubly highlighted the constraints imposed on bringing info to the US because he correctly predicted an outcome.

  10. Patrick
    April 25, 2012, 11:51 am

    It’s clear to me that Krugman really values his position at the Times where his opinion pieces, based as they are on his expertise in economics, can have real influence on US economic policy and politics. He would have good reason to believe that this influence would be put into jeopardy if he were to wade into the Israel/Palestine issue. It’s understandable that he should be reluctant to do so.

  11. annie
    April 25, 2012, 1:14 pm

    mjrosenberg just weighed in on krugman’s column:

  12. Tuyzentfloot
    April 25, 2012, 1:46 pm

    I think Seymour Hersh was taking the same position as Krugman a few years ago, as recounted here by Bruce Wolman. Someone should take Hersh up on that btw :) But of course he didn’t actually commit to anything..

  13. radii
    April 25, 2012, 2:47 pm

    Krugman dipped his toe in the water – scalding? freezing? … I think he’ll find it’s “just right” and he can not only go near the topic again but weigh in on it regularly and with zeal

  14. April 25, 2012, 2:49 pm

    Is Krugman – as a Jew – afraid of real anti-Semitism also?

    Now that Krugman’s relationship to Israel and Jews comes up, I remember a column of his where he wrote about fanatism in the US. The main example he cited was the incident that someone had stormed into the Washington Holocaust Museum schouting “the Holocaust is a lie” and shooting the guards.

    That incident occured after Obama had been in Germany visiting the concentration camp Buchenwald (which Obama had said was part of the Holocaust when in fact it wasn’t. The camp was liberated by the Americans. The Holocaust camps were all liberated by the Soviets. See Peter Novick’s book.)

    Anyway, I was wondering at the time why Krugman cared about the shooting at Holocaust Museum. There were also other examples of fanatism he cited.

  15. justicewillprevail
    April 25, 2012, 3:27 pm

    Krugman is just reiterating a point made here more than few times: American Jewish culture and values are antithetical to Israel. Most know it, but the moral, political and career-harming blackmail that is employed by AIPAC and the army of zealots means most would rather look the other way. There is no shame in that, in my view, but the fact that he is expressing it is another crack in the facade that zionists are desperate to maintain, one which is false and designed to silence criticism. The forced and intimidating alliance Israel and its Israeli firster echo chamber impose on American Jews can’t stand the increasing divergence of values. Doesn’t matter what religion you are, no-one wants to be dragooned into supporting a system of apartheid and injustice by the fundamentalist thought police who favour censorship and smearing as their favourite methods (did anyone say Dersh?)

    • April 25, 2012, 6:03 pm

      – “American Jewish culture and values are antithetical to Israel.”

      If this were so, why does even Krugman say that “national suicide [of Israel] – that’s bad for Jews everywhere [including the US]”? – If Israel’s culture and values were antithetical to American Jewish culture and values , than American Jews would say: Go to hell Israel, you are not part of our Jewish culture.

      I think there isn’t just something wrong with Israel, there is something wrong with American Jewish culture as well. Or with Jewish culture in general, if I may say so.
      Paul Krugman is obviously still part of this culture. I thought his connection to Judaism was just a Yiddish saying by his grandmother: “sei a mensch”.

      • justicewillprevail
        April 25, 2012, 7:04 pm

        I believe that the two sets of values are at odds with each other. Krugman, and many others, are beginning to realise it but retain some sort of muddled hope that the myth of Israel can be revived. The pressure to conform is huge, as he admits. The point is that his view is a bellwether of the change happening – it is a loosening of the straitjacket they are held in, and it will take time for the cracks to widen. But, like spring, it is coming.

      • April 25, 2012, 8:20 pm

        – “a loosening of the straitjacket they are held in” –

        I thought Krugman had never been in a straitjacket.
        Why does he has to liberate himself ? And from what?
        The standing he has – he could just shrug anybody off.
        I guess, his straitjacket is his Jewishness – not the Israel lobby.

        I wasn’t aware of that – you know, all I knew was his Jewsh grandmother.

  16. pabelmont
    April 25, 2012, 6:06 pm

    Perhaps Krugman’s very short essay should be read as an INVITATION to other biggies to “come out” similarly. A thousand tiny essays (“I agree with Paul, Israel is a danger to everything it touches”) by important people.

    Death by 1000 paper cuts.

    Death of Greater Israel project. Leading (I hope) to recall of settlers and removal of wall, acceptance of Arab League peace proposal. But they’ve gotta be convinced. No-one ever gives away anything the prize without a reasons.

  17. DICKERSON3870
    April 25, 2012, 7:09 pm

    RE: “Krugman jumps into debate over Beinart with both
    pinkies” ~ Weiss


    P.S. That ‘oh so sublime’ 50’s “settee” behind them is absolutely “to die for”! ! !

  18. radkelt
    April 26, 2012, 12:17 am

    I love Krugman (Robert Reich also), why fault him for not engaging in the IP issue? Many other important journalists avoid it as well, particularly those not pushing the Likud line. His commentary has significantly informed the public political
    discourse, and especially by inference our foreign policy. If you wish to engage those who espouse a liberal agenda on thier IP views I suggest starting with Alan Grayson, Russell Feingold, Bruce Fein.

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