Don’t worry, Paul, I won’t call you an anti-Semite in this post. I’ll just explain something important about your short blog today about Beinart’s Crisis of Zionism. Namely, there isn’t much “bravery” required to criticize Israel, especially if you’re already a well-known academic, pundit, journalist or writer. In fact, it is a great career move. Also, Beinart is not being referred to as an anti-Semite by Jewish groups.

To begin, let me say that I admire and deeply respect Paul Krugman.

I admire Ha’aretz quite a bit less, considering its average daily 4-5 highly critical op-eds of Israel, not to mention its comments section which resembles an Al Jazeera fan-club love-in. Still, I read it because it is an important news source for Israel.

Today Krugman may have overtaken Tom Friedman as Ha’aretz’s favorite American columnist.

What did Krugman do? He wrote that he believes Israel’s current government is leading Israel to national suicide and that Peter Beinart is a brave man. He brought up the touchy subject of anti-Semitism, saying that he avoids entering the Israel-Arab fray (he didn’t word it this way, he was referring only to criticism of Israel) because

“organized groups…try to make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to anti-Semitism.”

Krugman concludes by saying that Peter Beinart is brave for writing the book he recently published, presumably because he has to face the “buzzsaw” of being called an anti-Semite by Jewish groups.

So Ha’aretz obviously is thrilled to have someone influential in the US repeat their own line that the current right wing Israeli government’s policies are destroying Israel. And then to have the prominent writer add how critics of Israel face withering criticism that includes accusation of anti-Semitism? Wow. Why you could practically hear Akiva Eldar and Amira Hass dancing for joy.

Unfortunately, while Krugman’s position on Israeli policies is one worthy of some debate, I believe he is quite wrong about Beinart and his circumstances. There is nothing brave in Beinart’s actions or writings. He is not facing the specter of being called an anti-Semite. Search on any internet search engine for “Peter Beinart antisemite” or “Peter Beinart antisemitic” or “peter beinart antisemitism” as I just have and at least in the first pages of the search (I didn’t have the patience to go deeper, sorry) there were no articles or blogs, certainly not from any reputable sources, where Beinart is called anti-Semitic. In fact, you find supporters of his position and reasoned articles, pro and con, about his book.

So what is Krugman alluding to when he writes of

“intense attack(s) from organized groups that try to make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to anti-Semitism?”

Perhaps Krugman is referring to his colleague, Tom Friedman? Friedman’s recent comment in an editorial that Congress is “bought and paid for by the ‘Israel lobby'” received condemnation as an anti-Semitic remark. Then again, it was. Even Friedman modified his statement to say that the “Israel lobby” “engineered” the ovation Congress gave Netanyahu rather than bought it. There’s no difference, really, but these supposed nasty Jewish organizations stopped attacking him because they appear to have recognized that he was trying to make amends.

And I know what else Krugman is talking about: people like Walt & Mearsheimer who have been criticized for the manner in which they group all affiliated Jews in North America (except the anti-Israel ones) into a “lobby” and take on a highly dubious narrative of Israel to stake this claim. Then they go around the US pushing this claim over and over (in presumably well paying talks), while denying their anti-Semitic creation, even as they are giving public talks where they discriminate among “righteous Jews” and “Likudnik” Jews. Now why exactly shouldn’t their book be called anti-Semitic?

And who should call it anti-Semitic if not organized Jewish groups? Hispanic groups? It’s not just an attack on Israel, Mr. Krugman, it’s an attack on American Jews.

So is the use of the term “Israel Firster” by MJ Rosenberg. Nobody is attacking him as an anti-Semite for taking a position against Israel, but rather because of his vile and bigoted approach to condemning American Jews whose views differ from his because they support Israel. Those who use anti-Semitic terms have their feet held to the fire, as they should. It’s a slippery slope when you don’t keep a careful eye on these things, as history informs us.

So I recommend backing off from the frivolous anti-Semitic charges claim. Sure, sometimes the ADL flies off the handle when they see a T-Shirt with a star that looks like a WWII Jewish star on its pocket, but generally, except for maybe ZOA and a couple of other hard-right groups, Jewish organization have tended to be fairly responsible about admonishing only attacks that DO attack Jews and not only Israel by using the anti-Semitism label.

When these groups attack attackers of Israel as anti-Semitic, it tends to be restricted to occasions when the comment or the person has acted, well, in an anti-Semitic fashion. At other times, when organizations are criticized, what seems to be conflation of their anti-Israel position with anti-Semitism is typically a situation where their behavior toward the sole Jewish state reflects significant hypocrisy regarding their own country’s/group’s or other countries’/groups’ behavior in similar or far less challenging circumstances.

Back to Beinart. Paul Krugman, sadly, chose the wrong supposed victim for this claim of frivolous anti-Semitism charges and supposed bravery in the face of Jewish organizations’ supposed buzzsaw. Beinart has made a career move that has now been accompanying us for over two years, despite the many flaws in his argument. Yet, nobody stops or even tries to stop him. He gets reviewed seriously, he is discussed seriously, he gets to write for a living, he can give public talks at not unreasonable rates due to his greatly increased visibility, he is given opportunities to be a key player in the discussion about North American Jewry and, although he doesn’t live there and is not an expert on Israel, also a place at the pundits’ table regarding Israel.

Beinart knows what many have already figured out: attacking Israel is a GREAT career move. Jewish organizations and many Jewish blogs and publications refrain from anything but solid, respectable criticism for many of the folks who now make a very fine living attacking Israel and its supporters.

If only those of us who are reasonable in our criticisms of Israel and also in our support for Israel could have the kind of unmolested support and platform that critics of Israel possess. Of course, nobody cares if you don’t shout. Beinart is shouting (currently in the form of an extremely one-sided blog that doesn’t permit comments at Daily Beast) and it’s only enriching him. He has nothing to fear. Perhaps those of us who care about Israel’s survival have much more to fear.

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  • My issue with Krugman and Beinart is not that they’re anti-Semites. It’s that they are at best, stupid and at worst, manipulative. As for Rosenberg? Yeah. He fucking hates Jews, no doubt. Great post TM. Why doesn’t stuff like this resonate more? Because it gets mixed in with all the crazy Israel right or wrong nutters that populate the comments section at the Jerusalem Post. Oh well. Who needs the attention?

  • Krugman is definitely not stupid but he may be manipulative, there’s no way for us to know. Beinart is also not stupid and quite effectively manipulative.

    The problem with the Internet is there’s too much info out there, but I do know how to drive more readers. I simply need to write a few staunchly anti-Israel articles, have them published as op-eds in the right places and soon I’ll have a boyish haircut and get quoted by NY Times columnists who will also refer to my great bravery.

  • So they’re cynics… Beinart’s (and Krugman’s) opinions are less valid bc they get paid well?

  • Where did I write that, Brian? I am claiming that the claim that Beinart’s actions require bravery are false, if not ridiculous. Attacking Israel has only increased his public visibility, given him a bigger seat at a table (which in turn increases his influence and ability to promulgate his message) and probably has increased his income to some degree.

    I don’t do it, but if I really wanted to challenge Beinart and his ideas, I could go right on over to Open Zion at Daily Beast and speak my mind. Oh, wait…

  • themiddle: “Where did I write that, Brian? … Attacking Israel has only increased his public visibility, given him a bigger seat at a table … and probably has increased his income to some degree.”


    • Brian asks: their opinions are less valid because of moolah?

      Middle answers: No, you missed the point. This post doesn’t mention the validity of Beinart’s opinions because they’re not relevant to the topic. The topic is whether Beinart has been attacked as an anti-Semite by Jewish organizations and whether he is brave to attack Israel. Both are false statements.

      Brian: (quoting what suits him and ignoring the point again) *facepalm*

      Sorry, what can I say if you still don’t get it. It seems obvious to me.

  • Brian: Here’s how it works. A Jew declares something that is highly critical of Israel. If he’s not of the usual loony variety, his opinion gets validated by the media because, hey! what a great story! This guy is traditionally pro-Israel, or Orthodox or went to or sends his kids to Jewish Day school, whatever… its dramatic and th media loves it. Once it gets some traction in the media, everything follows therefrom. Look at Beinart. His ideas are unoriginal and flawed. But he has the NYT as a bully pulpit. Young Americans don’t affiliate with their communities because they are turned off by their strong support for Israel??? Bullshit. Boycott products made in the Territories? Dan Sieradski and others advocated that years ago. It was naive and stupid then (no offense Dan) and it remains naive and stupid today. Yet? He got a book deal, he has a busy speaking schedule and he even spoke at the fucking GA! Our self appointed leaders are total geniuses. This dynamic has been in existence for years and years. Decades even. There’s nothing new under the sun.

  • There’s a bit more to Beinart than his flawed views on Israel and American Jews.

    He also strongly believed that Ron Paul would do well in the battle for the Republican nomination. As in:

    “Since the Iowa caucuses generally reward organization and passion, I suspect Paul will win them easily.”

    “The dominant storyline at the Republican convention will be figuring out how to appease Paul.”

    Guess he got that one wrong. Majorly wrong.

    And even worse was his judgment about how the Iraq War would affect the world:

    But as soon as Beinart joins the misguided ‘progressive’ chorus criticizing Israel, all his previous history is overlooked, forgotten, or conveniently set aside by those rushing to anoint him as the next Serious Adult in the room. It’s the fashionable thing to do these days.