May 24, 2010

Goldblog vs. Peter Beinart, Part III: Zionism Reloaded - The Atlantic


Jeffrey Goldberg - Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, he has reported from the Middle East and Africa. He also writes the magazine's advice column. Bio | All Posts | Email Goldberg | Books

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation and was appointed in 2002 to be a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

May 21 2010, 12:03 PM ET

It's been a mixed week for the Jews; on the one hand, we have excellent news out of the Major Leagues: Ryan Braun, Ike Davis, Kevin Youkilis, and Ian Kinsler all homered on the first night of Shavuot, raising the Jewish home run total this year to 20 (Gabe Kapler also had a good night). On the other hand, American Jewish support for Israel has collapsed completely, at least according to the Internets. This collapse, which has been brought about by a single Peter Beinart essay in the New York Review of Books, has led AIPAC to shut down operations completely (the furniture sale is next Tuesday, I've been told).

Peter and I, after a strategic pause to celebrate the receipt of the Torah on Sinai, continued our e-mail conversation about his article last night, and here are excerpts. Peter, by the way, is the author of the forthcoming book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, which I sincerely hope is all wrong.

I'm leaving for the Perfidious Zionist Entity shortly, with some side trips planned to various countries also despised by al Qaeda, so our dialogue might be interrupted by travel, but I'm having fun talking to Peter about his interpretation of this moment in Jewish history, and as you know, the theme of Goldblog is "fun."

Jeffrey Goldberg: It's been said this week that you are brave for writing what you wrote. I think you're aware that I never consider criticism of Israel to be brave -- after all, it's the thing to do. But ignore my bias for a moment: Is there something inherently brave about criticizing Israel (and AIPAC) that I'm missing? I imagine you yourself reject the idea that what you did was brave, by the way.

Peter Beinart: Let's put this in context. We live in the U.S., not Iran or Zimbabwe. There's very little threat of physical--let alone state-sponsored--violence for anything you say politically. So in a global context, it's hard to say anyone in the U.S. is really brave no matter how unpopular their views. With that caveat, I think there is something a little brave for a member of Congress or an administration official to criticize AIPAC or criticize Israel harshly because it could end their political career. Let's just imagine that a Senator or Cabinet Member said what Barak and Olmert have said about Israel being on its way to being an apartheid state if it doesn't give back the West Bank. That would be a serious career-threatener. For a journalist/pundit, however, it's completely different. In the press, criticism--even harsh criticism--of Israel is common, and in fact, I think in the blogosphere it is almost becoming the norm. In all honesty, the thing I worried about most was the reaction of some of our friends, because a lot of the people whose friendship I really value are significantly to my right, which isn't surprising at an Orthodox synagogue. But I mostly worried for nothing. There's been a lot of disagreement, but nothing the least bit malicious. It's made me realize how remarkable and unusual a community we live in, in fact. I think I may even have smoked out one or two hidden doves.

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