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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Forward upset over Beinart's negative reviews

JJ Goldberg cannot understand why all those reviewers of Peter Beinart's new book aren't insisting on an Israeli mea culpa. In fact, he all but calls it a conspiracy.
Much of what’s been said about the book in the nation’s leading journals hasn’t been reasoned critique or analysis so much as vituperation. Something about this book has caused The New York Times, The Washington Post and some other normally high-minded publications to come unhinged. More precisely, to assign the book to reviewers who proceed, one by one, to come unglued.

What’s got them so agitated? It isn’t the book itself. “The Crisis of Zionism” is a relatively slight volume, expanding on Beinart’s 2010 New York Review of Books essay, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.” His basic thesis is that Israel’s West Bank occupation is eroding the country’s founding democratic values and alienating a younger generation of American Jews — and that the American Jewish community’s leaders and lobbyists respond with knee-jerk apologetics instead of fighting for their avowed liberal ideals. It’s been said before, but Beinart, an ex-New Republic editor and repentant Iraq War hawk, has brought a certain celebrity cachet.


The litany is remarkably unremarkable. It offers little more than fatuities trotted out as though they were settled facts rather than what they are: points of argument in a fierce trans-Atlantic debate. Nor do the reviewers bother to acknowledge that Beinart’s book actually considers most of their objections and answers them, agree or not. No, their goal is to show that they know what’s going on and Beinart doesn’t because he’s — well, that’s where the reviewers get creative. How many ways can they insult him?

Wall Street Journal deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens, writing in Tablet magazine (reprinted on the WSJ website) says Beinart is “singularly intent on scolding Israel, like an angry ex who has lost all grip on the proportions of the original dispute,” a lazy reporter whose work is “hysteria-fueled,” “an act of moral solipsism,” “another squeaky note in the blasting chorus that is modern-day Israel bashing.” Tablet’s own editor, Alana Newhouse, claims in The Washington Post, that Beinart is actually running for “the job of spokesman for liberal American Jews” while leading his putative flock in “erecting their own self-satisfied and delusional monolith, calculated to appeal to disillusioned Jewish summer camp alumni, NPR listeners and other beautiful souls who want the Holy Land to be a better place but do not have the time or ability to study the issues, learn the languages or talk to the people on both sides…”


For seriously unhinged, though, nobody beats Rabbi Daniel Gordis, writing in The Jerusalem Post. He calls Beinart’s book an “Israel-bashing fest,” claims Beinart “actually detests Israel,” then says Beinart’s “problem isn’t really with Israel. It’s with Judaism.” American liberalism, with which Beinart “is so infatuated,” doesn’t have room for “Jewish ethnic nationalism.” Working up a lather, Gordis says he doesn’t know “which kiddush Beinart recited on the first night of Passover” (it shouldn’t be a mystery — Beinart, unlike Gordis, is Orthodox), what’s in Beinart’s Haggadah or whether he’s familiar with the Torah blessings. His point is that all these texts declare the Jews’ tribal separateness and rage against “the nations,” mandating a xenophobic rancor that Beinart somehow lacks. Gordis even quotes approvingly “the Talmud’s claim that ‘converts are as burdensome to [the people of] Israel as leprosy.’” Pour out thy wrath, indeed.
Maybe all those people honestly believe that Beinart is dead wrong? The American Jewish Left's emperor has no clothes? What a concept....



At 11:43 PM, Blogger Herb Glatter said...

Ok it's a beautiful day here in Hood River, Oregon high 70's our granddaughters slept over last night lots of fun. so i sit down to read and i link to Forward article, the first line is:

One positive thing you can say about Peter Beinart’s critics is that none of them has smacked him in the face with a rifle butt.

OK so now any novice knows where the author is coming from. Some Jews, FEH

At 12:34 AM, Blogger Empress Trudy said...

My objection is that Beinart's thesis is as reasoned as mine about Laplanders is. Beinart assumes that because he personally is offended by the existence of Israel that by definition every other Jewish American either is or must be, or, if they're not, they're the glint eyed product of psychotic racist brainwashing. And even if all that crackpot-ism were actually the case, Beinart hasn't offered any sort context of reality to bolster his own claims. "American Jews are disaffected by Jews living in Yesha?" Do tell. How many, who are they how old are they and what else do they say? And why for instance would Beinart's own pathological loathing not be precisely an example of the very case against Jews he's trying to assert? He's essentially thrown anyone who doesn't ascribe to the Upper East Side MOMA donating ethos in the trash and he dares you to call him a bigot.

At 3:58 AM, Blogger Moriah said...

"the Talmud’s claim that ‘converts are as burdensome to [the people of] Israel as leprosy.’” Pour out thy wrath, indeed."

Why is this included in the article? Is Beinart a convert?


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