Commentary Magazine


Topic: Peter Beinart

Demolishing Peter Beinart’s Book

In his review of Peter Beinart’s book The Crisis of Zionism, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal offers up what he calls a “harsh” critique. That would be one way to describe it. Devastating would be another.

Stephens eviscerates Beinart’s book by highlighting some of its errors, including false claims about the Sasson study (which measured how American Jews feel about U.S. support for Israel); asserting that Israel’s blockade shattered Gaza’s economy, with 90 percent of Gaza’s industrial complex closed in 2008 – even though the source of this claim is a study conducted by the IMF in 2003; relying on incomplete quotes by former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami; and insisting that the Egyptian leaders who have emerged in Hosni Mubarak’s wake have not called for Israel’s destruction. (Essam El-Eryah, who heads the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Egyptian Parliament, has said the Arab Spring will “mark the end of the Zionist entity.”)

“There’s more of this,” according to Stephens. “Much more. In fact, the errors in Beinart’s book pile up at such a rate that they become almost impossible to track.” Stephens then broadens his critique:

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In his review of Peter Beinart’s book The Crisis of Zionism, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal offers up what he calls a “harsh” critique. That would be one way to describe it. Devastating would be another.

Stephens eviscerates Beinart’s book by highlighting some of its errors, including false claims about the Sasson study (which measured how American Jews feel about U.S. support for Israel); asserting that Israel’s blockade shattered Gaza’s economy, with 90 percent of Gaza’s industrial complex closed in 2008 – even though the source of this claim is a study conducted by the IMF in 2003; relying on incomplete quotes by former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami; and insisting that the Egyptian leaders who have emerged in Hosni Mubarak’s wake have not called for Israel’s destruction. (Essam El-Eryah, who heads the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Egyptian Parliament, has said the Arab Spring will “mark the end of the Zionist entity.”)

“There’s more of this,” according to Stephens. “Much more. In fact, the errors in Beinart’s book pile up at such a rate that they become almost impossible to track.” Stephens then broadens his critique:

Still, the deeper problem isn’t that there’s so much in Beinart’s book that is untrue, but rather so much that is half-true: the accurate quote used in a misleading way; the treatment of highly partisan sources as objective and unobjectionable; the settlement of ferocious debates among historians in a single, dismissive sentence; the one-sided giving—and withholding—of the benefit of the doubt; the “to be sure” and “of course” clauses that do more to erase balance than introduce it. It’s a cheap kind of slipperiness that’s hard to detect but leaves its stain on nearly every page.

And this:

Beinart is singularly intent on scolding Israel, like an angry ex who has lost all grip on the proportions of the original dispute. To him, no Israeli misdeed is too small that it can’t serve as an alibi for Palestinian malfeasance. And no Palestinian crime is so great that it can justify even a moment’s pause in Israel’s quest to do right by its neighbor.

The book demonstrates “mental slovenliness” and is written with a “spirit of icy contempt and patent insincerity.”

None of this is surprising; Beinart’s antipathy toward Israel has been in full public view for a while now, and he has made sloppy and stupid arguments before. But to see bad arguments so systematically demolished, and bad faith so systematically exposed, is rare. It’s also a genuine public service. That sound you hear is Peter Beinart trying to escape from under the pile of ruin he finds himself.

 

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Fake But Original

The New York Times memorable headline on the falsified documents relating to George W. Bush’s military service — “Fake but Accurate” — has almost been matched by a Haaretz columnist’s description of Peter Beinart’s theory on Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu: he writes that the theory “may not be accurate but is nonetheless spectacularly original.”

Beinart’s theory — that what Netanyahu supposedly dislikes about Jews is what Vladimir Jabotinsky supposedly disliked about them — is not supported by the Jabotinsky essay Beinart cited as evidence for it. “Spectacularly original” does not seem quite the right phrase for what Beinart did.

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The New York Times memorable headline on the falsified documents relating to George W. Bush’s military service — “Fake but Accurate” — has almost been matched by a Haaretz columnist’s description of Peter Beinart’s theory on Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu: he writes that the theory “may not be accurate but is nonetheless spectacularly original.”

Beinart’s theory — that what Netanyahu supposedly dislikes about Jews is what Vladimir Jabotinsky supposedly disliked about them — is not supported by the Jabotinsky essay Beinart cited as evidence for it. “Spectacularly original” does not seem quite the right phrase for what Beinart did.

What is perhaps most remarkable about Beinart’s book, whose publication date is not until this coming Tuesday, is how quickly the new media was able to analyze his March 19 New York Times op-ed that excerpted part of the book’s conclusion. Before the end of the day, not only had COMMENTARY posted three stellar analyses (by Omri Ceren, Seth Mandel, and Sol Stern), but there were more than 20 other critical pieces — from the left, right, and center – elsewhere the same day. It used to take truth a long time to get its boots on; these days it can get dressed almost simultaneously.

The debate regarding Beinart’s op-ed and book continued after March 19 – the contributions later in the week by Gary Rosenblatt, David Wolpe, Naftali Moses, and Ruthie Blum are particularly noteworthy. Your best 20 minutes today might be spent watching the video of the impassioned sermon by Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch (a self-described liberal) at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, entitled “Peter Beinart’s Offense Against Liberalism.”

After that, you might look at the list of Jabotinsky essays posted today at Boker tov, Boulder! His 1911 Passover essay, “The Four Sons,” could facilitate an interesting discussion at this year’s seder, recognizing the essay was written 37 years before the re-creation of the Jewish state for which Jabotinsky worked his entire adult life, including his final day.

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Beinart’s Slippery Slope of Delegitimization

Omri ably dismantles the justification for Peter Beinart’s latest back-of-the-classroom arm-waving attempt to get attention by writing in approval of a limited boycott, divestment and sanctions strategy against the Israelis who don’t share his liberal opinions. The most obvious issue is that it is a slippery slope that will never simply remain targeting only settlements. (There are also other very good reasons to oppose the policy, as Omri notes as well.)

But there is another aspect of Beinart’s suggestion that is, like his BDS suggestion, both morally reprehensible and a dangerous slippery slope. That would be Beinart’s suggestion that we divide Israelis between those who live within the 1949 armistice line (good) and those who live beyond it (bad). Here is Beinart:

Instead, we should call the West Bank “nondemocratic Israel.” The phrase suggests that there are today two Israels: a flawed but genuine democracy within the green line and an ethnically-based nondemocracy beyond it. It counters efforts by Israel’s leaders to use the legitimacy of democratic Israel to legitimize the occupation and by Israel’s adversaries to use the illegitimacy of the occupation to delegitimize democratic Israel.

Having made that rhetorical distinction, American Jews should seek every opportunity to reinforce it.

Such list making is an atrocious excuse for reasoned debate, even without the slippery slope that will follow.

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Omri ably dismantles the justification for Peter Beinart’s latest back-of-the-classroom arm-waving attempt to get attention by writing in approval of a limited boycott, divestment and sanctions strategy against the Israelis who don’t share his liberal opinions. The most obvious issue is that it is a slippery slope that will never simply remain targeting only settlements. (There are also other very good reasons to oppose the policy, as Omri notes as well.)

But there is another aspect of Beinart’s suggestion that is, like his BDS suggestion, both morally reprehensible and a dangerous slippery slope. That would be Beinart’s suggestion that we divide Israelis between those who live within the 1949 armistice line (good) and those who live beyond it (bad). Here is Beinart:

Instead, we should call the West Bank “nondemocratic Israel.” The phrase suggests that there are today two Israels: a flawed but genuine democracy within the green line and an ethnically-based nondemocracy beyond it. It counters efforts by Israel’s leaders to use the legitimacy of democratic Israel to legitimize the occupation and by Israel’s adversaries to use the illegitimacy of the occupation to delegitimize democratic Israel.

Having made that rhetorical distinction, American Jews should seek every opportunity to reinforce it.

Such list making is an atrocious excuse for reasoned debate, even without the slippery slope that will follow.

The slippery slope, of course, is that the “legitimate” vs. “illegitimate” argument will immediately be applied to those, anywhere and anytime, who voice any support for the Jews Beinart says to stay away from. When reading Beinart’s proposed division, I immediately remembered hearing this before. It was, in fact, John Mearsheimer who proposed the formulation. (See Michael’s post for some more on Mearsheimer.) In a speech in April 2010, the noted conspiracy theorist offered two categories of Jews: “righteous Jews” and the “new Afrikaners” (there was a third category of the fence-sitters as well). Both Beinart and Mearsheimer want to draw these lines to save Israel from itself. Beinart warns:

If Israel makes the occupation permanent and Zionism ceases to be a democratic project, Israel’s foes will eventually overthrow Zionism itself.

We are closer to that day than many American Jews want to admit. Sticking to the old comfortable ways endangers Israel’s democratic future. If we want to effectively oppose the forces that threaten Israel from without, we must also oppose the forces that threaten it from within.

And here is Mearsheimer:

What is truly remarkable about this situation is that the Israel lobby is effectively helping Israel commit national suicide. Israel, after all, is turning itself into an apartheid state, which, as Ehud Olmert has pointed out, is not sustainable in the modern era…. It is hard to understand why Israel and its American supporters are not working overtime to create a viable Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories and why instead they are moving full-speed ahead to build Greater Israel, which will be an apartheid state. It makes no sense from either a moral or a strategic perspective.

At the time of Mearsheimer’s speech, those who occasionally defend Beinart excoriated Mearsheimer. Jeffrey Goldberg, for example, thought Mearsheimer’s speech sounded an awful lot like the leftwing anti-Semite of the Roosevelt era, Father Coughlin. He reproduced a quote that Meryl Yourish found from one of Coughlin’s speeches:

My purpose is to help eradicate from the world its mania for persecution, to help align all good men. Catholic and Protestant, Jew and Gentile, Christian and non-Christian, in a battle to stamp out the ferocity, the barbarism and the hate of this bloody era. I want the good Jews with me, and I’m called a Jew-baiter, an anti-Semite.

Goldberg added that what he finds most interesting about Mearsheimer “is how his understanding of Jews and their nefarious role in American (sic) and in the world has caused him to abandon the principles of foreign policy realism that he advocated in his previous career, the reputable career he had before the Jews conquered his brain.”

And apparently Mearsheimer’s cautionary tale couldn’t prevent them from conquering Beinart’s as well. No doubt Beinart’s vapid, vainglorious crusade to lead the good Jews against who he characterizes as consisting in part of “poor Sephardic, Russian and ultra-Orthodox Jews” will be treated with the same revulsion. Beinart may, as he says, care deeply about Jewish survival. But echoing Mearsheimer is a funny way to show it.

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J Street Rolls Out the Red Carpet for BDS

These posts, about J Street conference speakers who advocate anti-Israel boycotts and sanctions, are becoming an annual tradition. Last year the ostensibly pro-Israel group hosted BDS advocates from fringe left-wing Jewish groups, raising questions as to why J Street’s commitment to “expanding the debate” over Israel only seems to involve stretching the spectrum to include the anti-Israel side.

This year J Street is hosting the book launch of Peter Beinart who — will wonders never cease — just published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for a “Zionist BDS” campaign that would seek to economically suffocate all Israeli Jews who live beyond the 1948 armistice lines.

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These posts, about J Street conference speakers who advocate anti-Israel boycotts and sanctions, are becoming an annual tradition. Last year the ostensibly pro-Israel group hosted BDS advocates from fringe left-wing Jewish groups, raising questions as to why J Street’s commitment to “expanding the debate” over Israel only seems to involve stretching the spectrum to include the anti-Israel side.

This year J Street is hosting the book launch of Peter Beinart who — will wonders never cease — just published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for a “Zionist BDS” campaign that would seek to economically suffocate all Israeli Jews who live beyond the 1948 armistice lines.

(1) In practice — which is to say, outside of Beinart’s singular too-clever-by-half advocacy — there’s no such thing as a limited anti-Israel boycott. There isn’t this critical mass of Western activists waiting to learn from Peter Beinart which Israelis they’re supposed to like and who they need to ostracize, and takes either shallow narcissism or revelatory cocooning to believe otherwise. Meanwhile the Palestinians talk about Israeli chains that “spread like cancer,” a nice rhetorical reminder that boycott movements get their strength not just from revulsion but from the cheap superiority to be found in feeling revulsed. Israel doesn’t actually make all that much in the West Bank, and the typical attraction of BDS has far more to do with chasing the never-quite-adequate pleasure of hating those people — of indulging in an ugly sneer at the thought of rotting Israeli goods and suffering Israeli families — than with utilizing objective economic leverage.

That’s why calls for so-called “targeted” BDS routinely metastasize into calls for total boycotts of the Jewish State. In Britain efforts to label products from settlements spurred greater efforts for full boycotts. Partisans inclined to hate Israel hijack not just the campaigns but also even the physical forums where partial vs. full BDS gets debated. The consistency with which that dynamic has played out raises questions about whether limited BDS advocates are merely naive.

(2) BDS is such a vulgar advocacy that even Norman Finkelstein, who once made John Mearsheimer’s list of good Jews, can’t stomach it. He recently lashed out against the “cult” in general, and he was specifically bothered by the nudge-wink pretense that BDS advocates can somehow untangle their campaigns from wholesale calls to wipe out Israel:

Finkelstein got into trouble when he said that some people in BDS “don’t want Israel.” He lectured his BDS colleagues: “Stop trying to be so clever, because you’re only clever in your cult. The moment you step out, you have to deal with Israeli propaganda … They say, ‘No, they’re not really talking about rights; they’re talking about they want to destroy Israel.’ And in fact I think they’re right, I think that’s true.”

In fact, Finkelstein said, it is “not an accident, an unwitting omission, that BDS does not mention Israel”: They “know it will split the movement, because there’s a large segment—component—of the movement that wants to eliminate Israel.” You can see why anti-Israel people were offended to hear this from Finkelstein, of all people. Yet Finkelstein was not revealing some deep secret about the motives of those BDS-ers. Anyone who has listened to their leaders, read their papers, seen them at play, or checked out their circle of acquaintances, supporters, and collaborators can hardly be surprised.

It would be great if someone could push Beinart on Finkelstein’s points, especially on the issue of left-wing BDS disingenuousness. The odds of that particular conversation happening at the J Street conference are, for obvious reasons, not particularly great.

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Beinart’s Backwards History

Newsweek excerpts Peter Beinart’s new book, The Crisis of Zionism, in which Beinart writes that Benjamin Netanyahu arrived to meet with President Obama in May 2009 with a “lack of interest in negotiations” — while Mahmoud Abbas arrived “eager to carry on the talks he had been pursuing with Netanyahu’s predecessor.” Beinart’s description is not only inconsistent with the public record, but distorts what Netanyahu tried to do in May 2009.

On May 18, 2009, sitting beside Obama, Netanyahu said he wanted “to start peace negotiations with the Palestinians immediately” and thought an agreement could be reached if they recognized Israel as a Jewish state with the means to defend itself; (2) on May 28, 2009, the supposedly eager Abbas told the Washington Post, the day before his own meeting with Obama, that he planned to do nothing but sit back and watch the Obama administration slowly squeeze Netanyahu from office.

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Newsweek excerpts Peter Beinart’s new book, The Crisis of Zionism, in which Beinart writes that Benjamin Netanyahu arrived to meet with President Obama in May 2009 with a “lack of interest in negotiations” — while Mahmoud Abbas arrived “eager to carry on the talks he had been pursuing with Netanyahu’s predecessor.” Beinart’s description is not only inconsistent with the public record, but distorts what Netanyahu tried to do in May 2009.

On May 18, 2009, sitting beside Obama, Netanyahu said he wanted “to start peace negotiations with the Palestinians immediately” and thought an agreement could be reached if they recognized Israel as a Jewish state with the means to defend itself; (2) on May 28, 2009, the supposedly eager Abbas told the Washington Post, the day before his own meeting with Obama, that he planned to do nothing but sit back and watch the Obama administration slowly squeeze Netanyahu from office.

Beinart tries to support his backwards history with a quote from a May 2009 presentation by Netanyahu’s top aide, Ron Dermer. I remember the quote; it comes from a video I posted at YouTube on May 3, 2009 and described in Contentions the next day. Here is the single sentence Beinart quotes from Dermer’s 20-minute presentation:

“There is no way now where you have on the Palestinian side a willingness to make the sorts of compromises that will be required for a deal on the core issues but yet despite that the previous government decided to negotiate and negotiate and negotiate and to focus on that and to bang their head against the wall.”

And here is an extended excerpt from Dermer’s remarks (with the portion Beinart quoted in italics, so readers can judge if Beinart accurately conveyed the gist of Dermer’s presentation):

[The path to peace] connects with something David [Makovsky] said. David said there’s a top-down approach and there’s a bottom-up approach. Netanyahu believes you have to combine both of those — which is why he has argued for a three-track approach to peace. There are two tracks that we consider bottom up, which is security and the economy. And there’s a third track – political negotiations.

Now what happened at Annapolis was that the government almost exclusively focused on political negotiations. They invested all their energies, almost all their efforts, in reaching an elusive agreement. And I agree with Aaron [David Miller] that there is no way now where you have on the Palestinian side a willingness to make the sorts of compromises that will be required for a deal on the core issues.

But yet despite that, the previous government just decided to negotiate, and negotiate, and negotiate, and to focus on that. They banged their head against the wall over and over and over again. And there is limited political capital in Israel, just as there is anywhere else; if you are focused on that — well then you are not focused on changing the reality on the ground. What Netanyahu will do – and you will see it I think in a rather dramatic fashion in the next two years particularly – is to work to change the reality on the ground.

First there’s security, which General Dayton is doing; he is recruiting and training Palestinian security forces … [The economic track] is led by Tony Blair … I’ve been in a few meetings with the prime minister and Tony Blair, and I am amazed at how many bureaucratic obstacles there are to Palestinian economic development. … [B]ut when you have a government focused on making the peace to end all peace, the deal of the century, and you don’t have a prime minister who takes the gavel and rolls up his sleeves and works day after day to move the bureaucracy along and to get through all the red tape, nothing will happen on the ground …

And the idea is that through economic development and through security cooperation you can create a context, a context where political progress is possible. What has happened up to now is to try to basically build a pyramid from the top down. It doesn’t work that way. You have to step by step, layer and layer, have the Palestinians have rule of law, have a decent economy, provide jobs, provide hope, and slowly but surely you actually build lots of stakeholders. ….

I am not of the school of thought that says, well if you just give everybody an extra refrigerator, they are going to give up their identity. It doesn’t work that way. But you can moderate the conflict through economic development – it’s happened in many places around the world – Cyprus is one of them, Northern Ireland is another one; there are many, many examples. So this is what makes it possible.

The Clinton peace process ended in a war, after Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians a state. The Bush peace process ended in another war, after Ehud Olmert offered the Palestinians a state. The peace process designed by the man Beinart calls the “Jewish president” required Abbas only to watch, as Obama reneged on prior oral and written agreements with Israel, sought to put daylight between it and America, bypassed it on successive trips to the region, and publicly humiliated Netanyahu on his own trips to Washington. Obama demanded that Netanyahu recognize a Palestinian state in his Bar-Ilan speech, but never demanded Abbas give a Bir Zeit speech recognizing a Jewish one.

Netanyahu came to Washington with a new approach – one that might create a context in which negotiations could succeed. He was met by Obama’s rejection of prior American commitments, an insistence on preconditions that had never been a condition of negotiations before, and a refusal to negotiate by the supposedly eager Abbas, as part of a strategy to bring down the Israeli prime minister. As Ron Dermer might say, it doesn’t work that way.

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Peter Beinart’s End Zone Dance

The day he published his 2010 essay in the New York Review of Books castigating the American Jewish establishment for too-strong support of Israel, Peter Beinart tweeted that it was the “hardest thing I’ve ever written.” As Noah Pollak noted at the time, there was nothing easier than Beinart’s criticism; there was already a wide market for it within the media.

Beinart subsequently received a book deal from Times Books, the publishing arm of the New York Times, and the book will be published next month. Last week, he circulated an email that Rabbi David Wolpe describes as “an end zone dance, a strutting lack of humility.” Here is the beginning of Beinart’s email:

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The day he published his 2010 essay in the New York Review of Books castigating the American Jewish establishment for too-strong support of Israel, Peter Beinart tweeted that it was the “hardest thing I’ve ever written.” As Noah Pollak noted at the time, there was nothing easier than Beinart’s criticism; there was already a wide market for it within the media.

Beinart subsequently received a book deal from Times Books, the publishing arm of the New York Times, and the book will be published next month. Last week, he circulated an email that Rabbi David Wolpe describes as “an end zone dance, a strutting lack of humility.” Here is the beginning of Beinart’s email:

Sometimes you get lucky.
I’ve spent the last year writing a new book, The Crisis of Zionism. It tells the story of how a young Barack Obama fell in love with the Jewish social justice tradition, only to discover the deep chasm between that tradition and the American Jewish Establishment when it comes to Israel.
It tells the story of an Israeli Prime Minister who rejects the very tradition that Obama reveres.
Finally, it offers an agenda for what American Jews — especially young American Jews — must do if we don’t want to be the generation that watches the dream of a democratic Jewish state die.
And that’s where I get lucky. Because by a wonderful convergence of events, the book will be released at this year’s J Street National Conference. …

The assertion that the Israeli prime minister (along with the American Jewish establishment) “rejects” the Jewish social justice tradition that Barack Obama “reveres” (ever since he “fell in love” with it at summer camp) lacks a certain nuance and subtlety. And the email goes on from there.

Rabbi Wolpe provides a substantive rebuttal of the email – particularly its invocation of the American civil rights movement as an analogy for those who rain rockets on children in Sderot – and offers some rabbinic wisdom for Beinart’s “smug dismissal” of Israel’s democratic leadership. He describes the email as “demagoguery” and suggests that Beinart is “better than this.”

It is a fairly low bar. But if the email is any indication, the coming book will exhibit the same lack of proportionality that Jeffrey Goldberg suggested in his 2010 interview of Beinart. Goldberg noted “the unseemly interest the left takes in Israel’s moral failings,” which ignores the fact that no other country does “a better job of protecting individual rights and freedoms while at war with a foe that seeks its physical elimination,” and he pressed Beinart to put the criticisms in his essay in context:

Are Israel’s failings, in fact, so terrible, especially given the line-up of enemies Israel is facing? I’m asking you to confront reality, not your utopian vision of what a Jewish country should be. The reality is that there are organizations and countries trying to physically eliminate the Jewish state. Even with this existential problem, Israel still manages to be the freest and most democratic state in the Middle East, and one that even grants its Muslim citizens the right to build minarets and wear burqas, unlike many countries in Europe. Again, I’m asking about proportionality. … [V]ery little (the settlements, etc.) is actually that different than it was five or ten years ago, except that Israel removed its settlements from Gaza and got rockets in return. …

[Muslim extremists] are pointing 40,000 rockets at Israel from Lebanon right now — and they are not pointing these rockets at Israel in order to bring about the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank. They are seeking the physical destruction of 5.5 million Jews in their historic homeland. I take this seriously, and I think you should take it seriously, as well. …You don’t have to be an Israeli extremist to believe that the Arab side is not especially enamored with the ideas of peace and compromise, despite the existence of Salam Fayyad and other Palestinian moderates. Perhaps we here in America should take these Israeli concerns more seriously, and have more respect for the hard-earned experience of Israelis.

Beinart’s email suggests he has gotten over his hand-wringing about the “hardest thing I’ve ever written.” He is positively giddy about the book-length version. What luck.

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Who’s Not Listening to Israeli Soldiers?

On Tuesday, Peter Beinart chastised American Jews for not listening more closely to Israeli soldiers. “There’s nothing American Jews love more than Israeli soldiers, except perhaps, Israeli spies,” he wrote in a piece in the Daily Beast titled “U.S. Jews Should Heed Top Israeli Soldiers Who Oppose Bombing Iran.” “So perhaps American Jews should start noticing that an astonishing number of Israel’s top soldiers and spies are warning against bombing Iran.”

A few years ago, I witnessed a debate inside the Israeli Knesset between two former heads of Israeli military intelligence, research and assessment, General Yaakov Amidror and General Danny Rothschild. The veterans disagreed on everything — technology, threats, solutions, defensible borders, control of territory and disengagement. During my service in the military, I saw the same phenomenon among officers at every rank. In robust democracies “listening” to soldiers—or civilians—is almost never a shortcut to obvious or unanimous answers.

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On Tuesday, Peter Beinart chastised American Jews for not listening more closely to Israeli soldiers. “There’s nothing American Jews love more than Israeli soldiers, except perhaps, Israeli spies,” he wrote in a piece in the Daily Beast titled “U.S. Jews Should Heed Top Israeli Soldiers Who Oppose Bombing Iran.” “So perhaps American Jews should start noticing that an astonishing number of Israel’s top soldiers and spies are warning against bombing Iran.”

A few years ago, I witnessed a debate inside the Israeli Knesset between two former heads of Israeli military intelligence, research and assessment, General Yaakov Amidror and General Danny Rothschild. The veterans disagreed on everything — technology, threats, solutions, defensible borders, control of territory and disengagement. During my service in the military, I saw the same phenomenon among officers at every rank. In robust democracies “listening” to soldiers—or civilians—is almost never a shortcut to obvious or unanimous answers.

With that in mind, Beinart is as guilty as anyone of not listening to Israeli soldiers. Consider all the Israeli generals whose opinions he casts aside because they differ from his. On the matter of Gaza and the West Bank, he rejects the opinion of former Chief of Staff General (ret.) Moshe Ya’alon, who opposes disengagements on security grounds. He disregards the former head of Israel’s General Security Service, Avi Dichter, who warned that “the evacuation [from Gaza] is dangerous, and the retreat will give the Palestinians a sense of victory and encouragement for terrorism.” Beinart dismisses the assessments of withdrawals of former head of Israeli intelligence, General Zeevi Farkash, former Israeli Air Force Chief General Ben Eliyahu, and former military secretary to the prime minister, General Gadi Shamni. He also rejects the advice of current National Security Advisor General Amidror, who believes control of territory is essential to defeating terrorism.

On the Iranian threat, he casts aside the warnings of former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit, that a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is the best way to keep Israel safe.

Beinart has every right to favor withdrawals from territories and oppose a strike on Iran, but this has little to do with his listening to Israeli soldiers.

The heart of the Iran question is complex. What to do when a brutal theocracy regularly threatens to destroy a member state of the UN and is on the verge of acquiring the most deadly weapons known to man?

Instead of addressing the issue on that basis, Beinart prefers tendentious guilt-by-association. He writes, “Netanyahu’s taste for the apocalyptic flows less from his Jewishness than from his conservatism—a conservatism learned during his close association with the Republican right while he served as a diplomat in Washington and New York in the 1980s.”

Iran does not stand in violation of the Genocide Convention because Netanyahu was hanging out with Republicans in the 1980s. Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani said triumphantly, “an atomic bomb would leave nothing in Israel.” Does his actual “taste for the apocalyptic” flow from his time spent secretly cavorting with Republicans in the 1980s?

Seventy percent of Israel’s population and 80 percent of its industrial capacity resides on a tiny strip of coastal territory, which two nuclear bombs could obliterate. Israeli military officials who work day and night to thwart this scenario aren’t fear-mongering right-wingers. They despise war, but many of them have come to the conclusion after painstaking deliberation that only Israeli jets can stop Iranian nukes. It was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, after all, who described his nuclear program as a train without brakes.

Beinart writes that “shifting power balances and increased threat levels” coming from Iran are “a far cry from Netanyahu’s language of existential destruction.” Others believe when a country threatens genocide, it should be taken seriously. Iranian euphemisms for Israel’s destruction such as “erased from the pages of history” don’t placate Israeli fears much. Nor does the Iranian leader’s reference to Israel as a “black and dirty microbe” and the subsequent parading of Shihab-3 missiles covered in banners reading, “Israel must be uprooted and erased from history.”

No one outside of a tiny circle of theocratic, apocalyptic, terrorist fanatics knows if Iran will actually use nuclear bombs. But would you bet the lives of millions of civilians on the guess that the Iranian regime’s stated goal is no more than a rhetorical ruse?

By all means, Americans should listen to Israeli soldiers—those who agree with them and those who don’t. But let no one slander those dedicated to stopping the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism from attaining the most deadly weapons on the planet as right-wing warmongers unwilling to listen to Israeli soldiers.

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The Definition of ‘Anti-Israel’

Last week, Steve Clemons organized a contingent of foreign-policy officials and commentators to send a letter to President Obama urging the U.S. to support the anti-settlement resolution at the UN.

It included many prominent critics of the Israel — Peter Beinart, Chas Freeman, and Andrew Sullivan, to name just a few.

Based on their well-documented eagerness to condemn Israel whenever possible, the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin referred to the group as “Israel-bashers” – prompting an angry response from Clemons and setting off a debate about the meaning of “pro-Israel,” according to Ben Smith:

The group J Street has been waging, and mostly losing, a political fight with more hawkish allies of Israel over the meaning of the term “pro-Israel,” and today another Washington skirmish erupts on the topic. …

There are two fights underway at the moment: One is defining the politically acceptable space in Washington for debating Israel policy; the other is the push by Bill Kristol and his allies to identify support for Israel explicitly with the Republican Party. That latter effort, ironically, has some of the same goals of the former, which would like to see the Democratic Party soften its hard line.

I wholeheartedly disagree with Smith’s assessment. I highly doubt that any Israel supporters on the right want to turn support for Israel into a partisan issue, especially since pro-Israel views are widespread throughout both political parties. As we saw from the midterm elections, it’s politically suicidal for candidates to take anti-Israel stances — regardless of party affiliation — because those are positions that most of the public disagree with.

As for Clemons’s protestations at being called anti-Israel, I have several comments.

Being critical of settlement construction is not an inherently anti-Israel position. But the tone of the argument and the way it’s framed and presented is a good indicator of whether someone is a friend or foe of the Jewish state.

Calling on Israel to halt settlement construction within the framework of peace negotiations — like in a statement from the Quartet — is one thing. Overturning years of precedent by joining together with enemies of Israel, as they grandstand and demonize the Jewish state in an international public forum, is appalling and would be a disgraceful way to treat any ally. Read More

Last week, Steve Clemons organized a contingent of foreign-policy officials and commentators to send a letter to President Obama urging the U.S. to support the anti-settlement resolution at the UN.

It included many prominent critics of the Israel — Peter Beinart, Chas Freeman, and Andrew Sullivan, to name just a few.

Based on their well-documented eagerness to condemn Israel whenever possible, the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin referred to the group as “Israel-bashers” – prompting an angry response from Clemons and setting off a debate about the meaning of “pro-Israel,” according to Ben Smith:

The group J Street has been waging, and mostly losing, a political fight with more hawkish allies of Israel over the meaning of the term “pro-Israel,” and today another Washington skirmish erupts on the topic. …

There are two fights underway at the moment: One is defining the politically acceptable space in Washington for debating Israel policy; the other is the push by Bill Kristol and his allies to identify support for Israel explicitly with the Republican Party. That latter effort, ironically, has some of the same goals of the former, which would like to see the Democratic Party soften its hard line.

I wholeheartedly disagree with Smith’s assessment. I highly doubt that any Israel supporters on the right want to turn support for Israel into a partisan issue, especially since pro-Israel views are widespread throughout both political parties. As we saw from the midterm elections, it’s politically suicidal for candidates to take anti-Israel stances — regardless of party affiliation — because those are positions that most of the public disagree with.

As for Clemons’s protestations at being called anti-Israel, I have several comments.

Being critical of settlement construction is not an inherently anti-Israel position. But the tone of the argument and the way it’s framed and presented is a good indicator of whether someone is a friend or foe of the Jewish state.

Calling on Israel to halt settlement construction within the framework of peace negotiations — like in a statement from the Quartet — is one thing. Overturning years of precedent by joining together with enemies of Israel, as they grandstand and demonize the Jewish state in an international public forum, is appalling and would be a disgraceful way to treat any ally.

That’s the entire point of the resolution before the Security Council. It’s meant to single out and scapegoat Israel for the delays in the peace process. In reality, there are many obstructions to the negotiations — the biggest ones coming from the Palestinian side — and neither Clemons’s letter nor the Security Council resolution mentions any of them.

What else can that be called except bias?

If Clemons seriously wants to see the end of settlement-building, I can’t imagine a worse way to go about it than by supporting a UN resolution. Historically, more progress has been made on curbing settlement construction when the U.S. has lobbied Israel privately (e.g., the secret agreements under Sharon and Bush). And I fail to see how humiliating one of our closest and most loyal allies in front of the world will help bring about further progress on peace negotiations.

The UN resolution demonizes Israel, unfairly scapegoats Israel and undermines peace negotiations. If that’s not anti-Israel, then what is?

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J Street Backs Effort to Condemn Israel at the UN

Once again, the left-wing lobby J Street is twisting the definition of “pro-Israel” beyond recognition. With the Palestinians and their allies at the United Nations poised to launch another attempt to brand Israel as a pariah, the group that claims that their allegedly “pro-peace” stand is the true path to being “pro-Israel” has now called upon the Obama administration to find a way to vote for the measure rather than vetoing it.

The measure, which will formally brand Israel as a violator of international law because of its settlement policy, has been endorsed by other so-called “pro-Israel” figures such as Peter Beinart who have claimed that it is the duty of “liberal Zionists” to save Israel from itself (which is to say that they disagree with the verdict of Israel’s voters, who sensibly rejected J Street’s preferred candidates at the ballot box and believe that the result of the last election should be overruled by American fiat).

While their assumption that building Jewish communities in the West Bank and in those parts of Jerusalem that were illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 is utterly false, many Israelis and friends of Israel do not support building throughout the territories. But the point here is not whether it is wise to put down new settlements in areas that would almost certainly be given to the Palestinians in the unlikely event of peace. (And the reason why peace is unlikely has nothing to do with settlements and everything to do with the fact that the Palestinians have refused to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.) The goal of Palestinian diplomacy is to isolate Israel and to brand it and its policies as the sole obstacle to peace.

Though J Street’s statement tries to draw a distinction between the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem and the settlements that exist close to the untenable 1949 armistice lines and other bad settlements elsewhere, the point of the resolution is to treat the homes of more than half a million Israeli Jews as “stolen” property that must be given up by Israel if it expects to be allowed to survive. Far from advancing the cause of peace, this resolution will serve to make it even more unlikely, since what would follow its passage would be an international campaign for divestment and boycotting of Israel that would be based on the supposed legal imprimatur of the UN.

That is why anyone who claims to be a friend of Israel must call on the Obama administration to fulfill its obligation as an ally and veto this resolution. An American vote in favor of this measure, no matter how it is worded, or even an abstention, would send a loud signal to the world that Obama has abandoned the Jewish state. This would not only damage Israel; it would also embolden Arab and Islamist rejectionists to dig in their heels and make even the theoretical chance of a peace deal even less plausible. It would also heighten the chances of another round of violence from Hamas and Hezbollah.

That J Street would choose to endorse this resolution, however weasel-worded that endorsement might be, is yet another sign that this George Soros–funded entity is hopelessly out of touch with mainstream pro-Israel sentiment and is, in fact, more likely to side with Israel’s foes in a pinch (as it did when it opposed Israel’s counteroffensive against Hamas terrorists in Gaza in December 2008) than with its friends.

Once again, the left-wing lobby J Street is twisting the definition of “pro-Israel” beyond recognition. With the Palestinians and their allies at the United Nations poised to launch another attempt to brand Israel as a pariah, the group that claims that their allegedly “pro-peace” stand is the true path to being “pro-Israel” has now called upon the Obama administration to find a way to vote for the measure rather than vetoing it.

The measure, which will formally brand Israel as a violator of international law because of its settlement policy, has been endorsed by other so-called “pro-Israel” figures such as Peter Beinart who have claimed that it is the duty of “liberal Zionists” to save Israel from itself (which is to say that they disagree with the verdict of Israel’s voters, who sensibly rejected J Street’s preferred candidates at the ballot box and believe that the result of the last election should be overruled by American fiat).

While their assumption that building Jewish communities in the West Bank and in those parts of Jerusalem that were illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 is utterly false, many Israelis and friends of Israel do not support building throughout the territories. But the point here is not whether it is wise to put down new settlements in areas that would almost certainly be given to the Palestinians in the unlikely event of peace. (And the reason why peace is unlikely has nothing to do with settlements and everything to do with the fact that the Palestinians have refused to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.) The goal of Palestinian diplomacy is to isolate Israel and to brand it and its policies as the sole obstacle to peace.

Though J Street’s statement tries to draw a distinction between the Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem and the settlements that exist close to the untenable 1949 armistice lines and other bad settlements elsewhere, the point of the resolution is to treat the homes of more than half a million Israeli Jews as “stolen” property that must be given up by Israel if it expects to be allowed to survive. Far from advancing the cause of peace, this resolution will serve to make it even more unlikely, since what would follow its passage would be an international campaign for divestment and boycotting of Israel that would be based on the supposed legal imprimatur of the UN.

That is why anyone who claims to be a friend of Israel must call on the Obama administration to fulfill its obligation as an ally and veto this resolution. An American vote in favor of this measure, no matter how it is worded, or even an abstention, would send a loud signal to the world that Obama has abandoned the Jewish state. This would not only damage Israel; it would also embolden Arab and Islamist rejectionists to dig in their heels and make even the theoretical chance of a peace deal even less plausible. It would also heighten the chances of another round of violence from Hamas and Hezbollah.

That J Street would choose to endorse this resolution, however weasel-worded that endorsement might be, is yet another sign that this George Soros–funded entity is hopelessly out of touch with mainstream pro-Israel sentiment and is, in fact, more likely to side with Israel’s foes in a pinch (as it did when it opposed Israel’s counteroffensive against Hamas terrorists in Gaza in December 2008) than with its friends.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: America: The Left’s Dispensable Nation

It takes a world-class imagination to believe that the cause of democracy will not suffer from American neglect. Luckily for Peter Beinart, it takes only political bias to assert it. And so Beinart’s latest column at the Daily Beast attempts to rehabilitate the Obama administration’s freedom-neutral foreign policy by assuring us that “even in a post-American world, democracy has legs.”

Good to know. But in a post-American world, tyranny acquires jet engines. Beinart cites the Tunisian revolt as evidence of democracy’s global health.  One must ask: Wasn’t it liberal types like Beinart who rightly used to point out that toppling a tyrant in no way constituted the establishment of representative government? If Ben Ali’s flight from Tunis to Riyadh comprises democracy’s legs, Arab freedom is ready for a walker.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

It takes a world-class imagination to believe that the cause of democracy will not suffer from American neglect. Luckily for Peter Beinart, it takes only political bias to assert it. And so Beinart’s latest column at the Daily Beast attempts to rehabilitate the Obama administration’s freedom-neutral foreign policy by assuring us that “even in a post-American world, democracy has legs.”

Good to know. But in a post-American world, tyranny acquires jet engines. Beinart cites the Tunisian revolt as evidence of democracy’s global health.  One must ask: Wasn’t it liberal types like Beinart who rightly used to point out that toppling a tyrant in no way constituted the establishment of representative government? If Ben Ali’s flight from Tunis to Riyadh comprises democracy’s legs, Arab freedom is ready for a walker.

To finish reading this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Loughner, McVeigh, and Ted Kaczynski

Over at the Daily Beast, the suddenly hawkish Peter Beinart is incensed that nobody else has the guts to call Arizona gunman Jared Loughner a terrorist. According to Beinart, there’s only one logical explanation for this — Americans are unaware that white people can be terrorists too:

Had the shooters’ name been Abdul Mohammed, you’d be hearing the familiar drumbeat about the need for profiling and the pathologies of Islam. But since his name was Jared Lee Loughner, he gets called “mentally unstable”; the word “terrorist” rarely comes up. When are we going to acknowledge that good old-fashioned white Americans are every bit as capable of killing civilians for a political cause as people with brown skin who pray to Allah?

I’m curious about whom Beinart is accusing of not acknowledging that white people can be terrorists. It certainly couldn’t be the conservatives — you could barely turn on Fox News during the 2008 election without hearing the phrase “unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers.” And it’s clearly not the left, which seems to constantly live in fear that right-wing anti-government terrorists are on the verge of taking over the Republican Party.

Still, Beinart needlessly goes on to inform readers (just in case we weren’t aware) about the history of Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh. Yes, Beinart, we all realize that these two white men are terrorists — the media brings it up only every single time an Islamist terror attack occurs in this country.

But it seems that he isn’t the only person struggling to twist the Arizona tragedy into a denouncement of America’s racial attitudes. At the Huffington Post, Charles D. Ellison makes a similar argument, claiming that Loughner’s skin color has prevented people from calling him a terrorist:

When a “crazy” white guy with a gun, wound up on polarized talking points and manifestos, indiscriminately kills innocent Americans in broad daylight, it takes several days in the aftermath before the larger public will even accept a hint of premeditation. Typically, the collective American psyche will initially trivialize the event by calling the perpetrator “deranged” or “mentally unstable.” The social response script is fashioned to fake us into a false sense of security. It’s isolated, they say. Just one crazed nut with a gun.

It’s worth noting that the left vehemently attacked any suggestion that the Ford Hood shooter was a terrorist in the days after the incident, even though there was a great deal of evidence that Nidal Hasan was motivated by radical Islam. But even that’s besides the point. The reason Jared Loughner hasn’t been called a terrorist has nothing to do with his skin color — it’s because there isn’t enough evidence at this point to conclude that his actions were (a) politically motivated and (b) meant to intimidate or coerce for a political purpose. Not all acts of violence, no matter how horrific, meet the definition of terrorism.

Of course, the left can’t grasp that, since it views the entire issue of terrorism in terms of race. To them, any type of crackdown on terrorism is seen as a concerted effort to target all Muslims, not just Islamic radicals. And, in that respect, in seems like they’re the ones who should probably stop focusing so much on skin color.

Over at the Daily Beast, the suddenly hawkish Peter Beinart is incensed that nobody else has the guts to call Arizona gunman Jared Loughner a terrorist. According to Beinart, there’s only one logical explanation for this — Americans are unaware that white people can be terrorists too:

Had the shooters’ name been Abdul Mohammed, you’d be hearing the familiar drumbeat about the need for profiling and the pathologies of Islam. But since his name was Jared Lee Loughner, he gets called “mentally unstable”; the word “terrorist” rarely comes up. When are we going to acknowledge that good old-fashioned white Americans are every bit as capable of killing civilians for a political cause as people with brown skin who pray to Allah?

I’m curious about whom Beinart is accusing of not acknowledging that white people can be terrorists. It certainly couldn’t be the conservatives — you could barely turn on Fox News during the 2008 election without hearing the phrase “unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers.” And it’s clearly not the left, which seems to constantly live in fear that right-wing anti-government terrorists are on the verge of taking over the Republican Party.

Still, Beinart needlessly goes on to inform readers (just in case we weren’t aware) about the history of Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh. Yes, Beinart, we all realize that these two white men are terrorists — the media brings it up only every single time an Islamist terror attack occurs in this country.

But it seems that he isn’t the only person struggling to twist the Arizona tragedy into a denouncement of America’s racial attitudes. At the Huffington Post, Charles D. Ellison makes a similar argument, claiming that Loughner’s skin color has prevented people from calling him a terrorist:

When a “crazy” white guy with a gun, wound up on polarized talking points and manifestos, indiscriminately kills innocent Americans in broad daylight, it takes several days in the aftermath before the larger public will even accept a hint of premeditation. Typically, the collective American psyche will initially trivialize the event by calling the perpetrator “deranged” or “mentally unstable.” The social response script is fashioned to fake us into a false sense of security. It’s isolated, they say. Just one crazed nut with a gun.

It’s worth noting that the left vehemently attacked any suggestion that the Ford Hood shooter was a terrorist in the days after the incident, even though there was a great deal of evidence that Nidal Hasan was motivated by radical Islam. But even that’s besides the point. The reason Jared Loughner hasn’t been called a terrorist has nothing to do with his skin color — it’s because there isn’t enough evidence at this point to conclude that his actions were (a) politically motivated and (b) meant to intimidate or coerce for a political purpose. Not all acts of violence, no matter how horrific, meet the definition of terrorism.

Of course, the left can’t grasp that, since it views the entire issue of terrorism in terms of race. To them, any type of crackdown on terrorism is seen as a concerted effort to target all Muslims, not just Islamic radicals. And, in that respect, in seems like they’re the ones who should probably stop focusing so much on skin color.

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Israel’s Critics Cry About Being Repressed … from Their Usual Soapbox at the New York Times

That the New York Times’s Roger Cohen has a problem with Israel is not exactly a secret. As far as he is concerned, the country’s democratically elected government and the people who elected it don’t measure up to his moral standards. Moreover, he and those who share his views, like writer Peter Beinart, think that any Jewish or non-Jewish friends of Israel who prefer to focus their efforts on continuing to defend Israel against an Arab/Muslim siege and anti-Zionist campaigners who seek to isolate it rather than spend their time flaying it for perceived sins are also not living up to the standards they are setting for them.

Today Cohen weighs in again to tell the sad tale of a liberal American who went to Israel to work for left-wing causes there and claims to have gotten into a scuffle with right-wingers after a demonstration in Tel Aviv during which he and his friends waved signs that said “Zionists Are Not Settlers.” Politics in Israel can be a bit rougher than what we’re used to here in America, but there’s no excuse for violence. It would have been far better for his antagonists to merely point out that Zionists have always been “settlers,” since there would be no state of Israel had not some Jews had the chutzpah to jump-start the rebirth of Jewish life in the Jewish homeland by planting roots in places where Arabs didn’t want them to be. Like, for example, the metropolis of Tel Aviv, where the demonstration took place, which a century ago was nothing but a small annoying Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Arab Jaffa.

But Cohen isn’t content to merely blackguard Israelis or their supporters. In order to put forward his argument in a way in which those who agree with him can be portrayed as victims rather than judgmental critics who don’t understand Israel’s dilemma, he has to claim that their views are being suppressed. Thus, it isn’t enough for him to promote the views of the left-wing lobby J Street or to echo the arguments of Beinart about Israel’s moral failures; he must also claim that the “debate remains stifled.” Read More

That the New York Times’s Roger Cohen has a problem with Israel is not exactly a secret. As far as he is concerned, the country’s democratically elected government and the people who elected it don’t measure up to his moral standards. Moreover, he and those who share his views, like writer Peter Beinart, think that any Jewish or non-Jewish friends of Israel who prefer to focus their efforts on continuing to defend Israel against an Arab/Muslim siege and anti-Zionist campaigners who seek to isolate it rather than spend their time flaying it for perceived sins are also not living up to the standards they are setting for them.

Today Cohen weighs in again to tell the sad tale of a liberal American who went to Israel to work for left-wing causes there and claims to have gotten into a scuffle with right-wingers after a demonstration in Tel Aviv during which he and his friends waved signs that said “Zionists Are Not Settlers.” Politics in Israel can be a bit rougher than what we’re used to here in America, but there’s no excuse for violence. It would have been far better for his antagonists to merely point out that Zionists have always been “settlers,” since there would be no state of Israel had not some Jews had the chutzpah to jump-start the rebirth of Jewish life in the Jewish homeland by planting roots in places where Arabs didn’t want them to be. Like, for example, the metropolis of Tel Aviv, where the demonstration took place, which a century ago was nothing but a small annoying Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Arab Jaffa.

But Cohen isn’t content to merely blackguard Israelis or their supporters. In order to put forward his argument in a way in which those who agree with him can be portrayed as victims rather than judgmental critics who don’t understand Israel’s dilemma, he has to claim that their views are being suppressed. Thus, it isn’t enough for him to promote the views of the left-wing lobby J Street or to echo the arguments of Beinart about Israel’s moral failures; he must also claim that the “debate remains stifled.”

What is his proof? Because left-wingers who tried to disrupt a speech being given by Israel’s prime minster were “dragged out” of the auditorium where Netanyahu was trying to speak in New Orleans. Never mind that if someone tried to do that to President Obama, he’d be arrested. What else? Because one synagogue in Massachusetts decided not to host a J Street leader. Shocking. Want more? Cohen claims that AIPAC, a vast group with across-the-board support from American Jews, won’t debate J Street, a small group largely funded by financier George Soros (though the group spent years inexplicably lying about Soros’s role in propping up this Potemkin organization) that is dedicated to supporting American pressure on Israel. Even worse, the young Jew whose story Cohen tells is getting some negative feedback from friends about his J Street activities. Isn’t that awful?

The truth is, despite promoting itself as the liberal alternative to AIPAC, a stance that ought to make it popular due to the fact that most Jews are liberals, J Street has little grassroots Jewish support. That’s because it has systematically taken stands on Israel’s right to self-defense and the nuclear threat from Iran that strike most Jews as being outside the pro-Israel consensus. But far from being silenced, J Street is the darling of a mainstream media that has consistently promoted it, especially in places where Israel’s supporters have trouble making their voices heard. Like the opinion pages of the New York Times.

But Cohen did get one thing right. He notes in passing that the administration’s latest attempt to pressure Israel failed because “President Barack Obama had virtually no domestic constituency” for his policy. This is absolutely true. The vast majority of Americans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, support the Jewish state and oppose twisting its arm in this manner. That they hold to this belief despite the constant drumbeat of attacks on Israel, such as those by Cohen, his Times colleague Nicholas Kristof, and Peter Beinart, speaks volumes about how marginal J Street still is.

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Daily Beast Swallows Newsweek

They call it a merger, but let’s not kid ourselves. Tina Brown will be running the show and is sure to offload the remaining deadwood at Newsweek and dispense with its un-navigable website. I sort of imagine Vanity Fair — the East Coast edition. Costumed members of Congress in large group photos by Annie Leibovitz. More slam pieces on Sarah Palin. And, of course, lots and lots of ads. The Daily Beast is editorially eclectic — running from the left-leaning anti-Israel rants of Peter Beinart to the conventional media wisdom of Howard Kurtz to the sharp essays of Mark McKinnon. And, for old times’ sake, she may throw in the conspiracy meanderings of Seymour Hersh, just in case the New Yorker crowd wants to take a peek now and then. So it will certainly be a less dreary and predictable publication than the newer Newsweek or the old Newsweek, for that matter.

Yes, her own politics are predictably left, but she has, at least in this round of her career, not imposed the sort of ideological rigidity that has branded the Huffington Post as the left’s cocoon (where nary a non-liberal opinion can be uttered). But what they say in a Tina Brown publication is much less important than how they say it. And how they dress.

It may not be a better class of journalism, but it will certainly make a splash and might well be commercially viable. Besides, I look forward to all the stories on politicians and their pets and to getting an inside look at the lavish homes of our elected leaders.

They call it a merger, but let’s not kid ourselves. Tina Brown will be running the show and is sure to offload the remaining deadwood at Newsweek and dispense with its un-navigable website. I sort of imagine Vanity Fair — the East Coast edition. Costumed members of Congress in large group photos by Annie Leibovitz. More slam pieces on Sarah Palin. And, of course, lots and lots of ads. The Daily Beast is editorially eclectic — running from the left-leaning anti-Israel rants of Peter Beinart to the conventional media wisdom of Howard Kurtz to the sharp essays of Mark McKinnon. And, for old times’ sake, she may throw in the conspiracy meanderings of Seymour Hersh, just in case the New Yorker crowd wants to take a peek now and then. So it will certainly be a less dreary and predictable publication than the newer Newsweek or the old Newsweek, for that matter.

Yes, her own politics are predictably left, but she has, at least in this round of her career, not imposed the sort of ideological rigidity that has branded the Huffington Post as the left’s cocoon (where nary a non-liberal opinion can be uttered). But what they say in a Tina Brown publication is much less important than how they say it. And how they dress.

It may not be a better class of journalism, but it will certainly make a splash and might well be commercially viable. Besides, I look forward to all the stories on politicians and their pets and to getting an inside look at the lavish homes of our elected leaders.

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What to Do About the Israel-Hating Left

There is an interesting column by Aryeh Rubin (no relation) from the Jewish Week that is creating some buzz. The column addresses the phenomenon that Norman Podhoretz deftly explored in Why Are Jews Liberals? Rubin writes:

I believe in equality for all. I support civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, universal health care, feeding the poor, social justice, separation of church and state, access to education, diversity, the arts, animal rights (I have not eaten meat or poultry in 33 years), and more. …

Still, I have not elevated liberalism to the status of religion. I do not blindly follow the liberal agenda and my convictions take a backseat to my commitment to the well-being of Israel and the Jewish people. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the majority of U.S. Jews, who have substituted liberalism for Judaism and whose actions are often governed by misguided priorities. In lieu of traditional Jewish belief or value systems, many American Jews have adopted what is essentially a theology of universalism and tikkun olam, or social justice. In doing so, much of American Jewry has essentially become de-Judaicized.

It is hard to dispute — what with the likes of J Street, Peter Beinart, et. al, daily attacking the Jewish state — that the leftist value system has run headlong into support for the Jewish state. (“Many American Jews have become distanced from Judaism’s larger core values and are uncomfortable making moral judgements concerning the distinction between good and evil, which is an inherent part of our heritage. In addition, many are uncomfortable with the notion of the exceptionalism of Israel, and even with the exceptionalism of the U.S.”) And we have seen time and again that the Jewish state comes in a distant second to their liberal dogma. Read More

There is an interesting column by Aryeh Rubin (no relation) from the Jewish Week that is creating some buzz. The column addresses the phenomenon that Norman Podhoretz deftly explored in Why Are Jews Liberals? Rubin writes:

I believe in equality for all. I support civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, universal health care, feeding the poor, social justice, separation of church and state, access to education, diversity, the arts, animal rights (I have not eaten meat or poultry in 33 years), and more. …

Still, I have not elevated liberalism to the status of religion. I do not blindly follow the liberal agenda and my convictions take a backseat to my commitment to the well-being of Israel and the Jewish people. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the majority of U.S. Jews, who have substituted liberalism for Judaism and whose actions are often governed by misguided priorities. In lieu of traditional Jewish belief or value systems, many American Jews have adopted what is essentially a theology of universalism and tikkun olam, or social justice. In doing so, much of American Jewry has essentially become de-Judaicized.

It is hard to dispute — what with the likes of J Street, Peter Beinart, et. al, daily attacking the Jewish state — that the leftist value system has run headlong into support for the Jewish state. (“Many American Jews have become distanced from Judaism’s larger core values and are uncomfortable making moral judgements concerning the distinction between good and evil, which is an inherent part of our heritage. In addition, many are uncomfortable with the notion of the exceptionalism of Israel, and even with the exceptionalism of the U.S.”) And we have seen time and again that the Jewish state comes in a distant second to their liberal dogma.

The irony here, as many of us on the right have pointed out, is that the very values the leftists champion are those protected and nourished by the Jewish state. If the Israel haters would put their animus aside for a moment, they might see that support for the Jewish state is compatible, indeed essential, to defense of their agenda. As Rubin puts it:

Liberal Jews should be making the case for Israel as a bastion of liberal values. Israel is the only country in the Middle East with a free press. It is the only true democracy in the Middle East, with equal rights for women and, in practice, a refuge for gay Arab men from neighboring countries. In Israel there are no honor killings, no stonings, no capital punishment, no cutting off of the hands of thieves.

Throughout our history there have been Jews who have opted out, and this is an acceptable reality. What is not acceptable is that today, entire legions of Jews, in the name of liberalism, are in effect working against the survival of the Jewish people, whether out of ignorance, different priorities, or a lack of understanding of the global perspective.

There are, I suppose, two ways to address this grim reality. One is to hope that the leftist Jews can be persuaded by evidence and reasoned with. But alas, they all too often seem to prefer constructing their own counter-reality — whether it is the Richard Goldstone report or the vilification of Israel following the flotilla incident. Another is to move on. It is not as if Israel doesn’t have friends in the U.S. Rubin suggests:

[T]oday it is the American right that has evolved to the point where it is much more philo-Semitic and more pro-Israel than the left. The hawks and the evangelicals among them are the most fervent supporters of the State of Israel. From the perspective of our own survival, we must gravitate to, and work with, those who wish us well and support our standing in the world.

And as we’ve seen in recent polling, Americans — excepting the left — remain overwhelmingly pro-Israel.

So I’d prefer not to waste too much time or breath on trying to persuade the unpersuadable. Their untruths should be combated and their propaganda exposed. But there is much to be done in making alliances across the political spectrum, rallying Congress to confront the administration’s laxity on Iran, and redirecting mainstream Jewish groups away from their obsession with non-peace talks and toward more productive activities such as delegitimizing Israel’s delegitimizers.

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Blind-Squirrel Alert for Beinart

In keeping with his tradition of trying to stay behind the pack on all issues, Peter Beinart has put his finger into the air and decided that Barack Obama is a lousy president. That isn’t news for the majority of Americans, who believe Obama is not doing a good job, but makes sense for a guy who supported the war in Iraq until it became unpopular.

Of course, unlike the rest of America, Beinart has a beef with the president not because he ran as a centrist and has tried to govern from the left. Rather, Beinart’s evaluation of the administration’s foreign policy is that it is too much like that of George W. Bush, since Obama rightly refused to immediately cut and run from Afghanistan.

But, like any blind liberal squirrel, Beinart is bound to find an acorn every now and then. In a column in the Daily Beast, while bashing Obama for being too much like Bush with regard to the Middle East for not appeasing Hamas, Beinart stumbles across a couple of obvious truths about the peace process:

Given his lack of democratic legitimacy, it is delusional to imagine that Abbas can carry out the brutally painful concessions a final peace deal would require. And it is delusional to imagine that Hamas will permit the success of a peace process meant to further marginalize it; indeed, it has already greeted the start of direct talks with terrorist attacks.

Beinart is right about that. Obama’s decision to strong-arm Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas into talks is an invitation to disaster. And he’s right to call Abbas’s government a “Potemkin Palestinian leadership.”

But that’s as much wisdom as Beinart is capable of, since his advice for Obama is to try engagement with Hamas. Beinart’s conviction that the only thing that prevents Obama from further empowering these murderers is “a political debate in Washington that dramatically constrains his ability to respond” — code words for the pro-Israel consensus in the United States that Beinart so deplores. But the only word to describe his belief that Hamas, an Islamist terrorist group closely allied with Iran, will make peace with Israel is the same one Beinart uses to describe Obama’s trust in Abbas: “delusional.”

In keeping with his tradition of trying to stay behind the pack on all issues, Peter Beinart has put his finger into the air and decided that Barack Obama is a lousy president. That isn’t news for the majority of Americans, who believe Obama is not doing a good job, but makes sense for a guy who supported the war in Iraq until it became unpopular.

Of course, unlike the rest of America, Beinart has a beef with the president not because he ran as a centrist and has tried to govern from the left. Rather, Beinart’s evaluation of the administration’s foreign policy is that it is too much like that of George W. Bush, since Obama rightly refused to immediately cut and run from Afghanistan.

But, like any blind liberal squirrel, Beinart is bound to find an acorn every now and then. In a column in the Daily Beast, while bashing Obama for being too much like Bush with regard to the Middle East for not appeasing Hamas, Beinart stumbles across a couple of obvious truths about the peace process:

Given his lack of democratic legitimacy, it is delusional to imagine that Abbas can carry out the brutally painful concessions a final peace deal would require. And it is delusional to imagine that Hamas will permit the success of a peace process meant to further marginalize it; indeed, it has already greeted the start of direct talks with terrorist attacks.

Beinart is right about that. Obama’s decision to strong-arm Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas into talks is an invitation to disaster. And he’s right to call Abbas’s government a “Potemkin Palestinian leadership.”

But that’s as much wisdom as Beinart is capable of, since his advice for Obama is to try engagement with Hamas. Beinart’s conviction that the only thing that prevents Obama from further empowering these murderers is “a political debate in Washington that dramatically constrains his ability to respond” — code words for the pro-Israel consensus in the United States that Beinart so deplores. But the only word to describe his belief that Hamas, an Islamist terrorist group closely allied with Iran, will make peace with Israel is the same one Beinart uses to describe Obama’s trust in Abbas: “delusional.”

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The Key to Middle East Peace Is in Tehran

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Scott Brown makes a cogent (and too infrequently made) argument:

The fact that Palestinians finally agreed to direct negotiations, without preconditions, is a positive step. But let’s not delude ourselves: There can never be peace in the Middle East with a nuclear-armed Iran.

He confirms what many observers have already reported: moderate Arab states care far less about the “peace process” than they do about the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. (“[I]n all my meetings in Israel and Jordan, what weighed most on the minds of security officials and political leaders was the prospect of a nuclear Iran.”) He explains:

It is not hard to imagine the terror that would be unleashed if Hezbollah and Hamas—emboldened by the protective watch of their benefactor—stepped up their campaign of hate against Israel. This would, in turn, embolden extremists around the globe.

But of course, an increasingly aggressive Iranian regime, even without nuclear weapons, is largely responsible for the ongoing terror directed against Israel. This is the real barrier to peace (sorry, Peter Beinart et. al, it’s not the settlements). Hamas killed five Israelis this week, but what country supports and funds Hamas? Iran. Abbas can’t make a peace deal even if he wanted to (a very big “if”), because he cannot give Israel what it wants — an end to violence. That will only come when terrorist groups (including Hezbollah on its northern boarder) are defanged. And that requires regime change and/or a decisive blow to their patrons in Tehran.

From the start of his presidency, Obama has had linkage backward — making the unsupportable claim that Iran can be disarmed only in the aftermath of a successful peace process. It is actually the reverse — toppling the mullahs would be the best encouragement (other than the Palestinians’ renunciation of violence and a one-state solution) to a true peace process. Ironically, doing what Obama loathes (attacking Iran, adopting regime change as our official policy) may be the only way for him to get what he desperately wants but cannot achieve (resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict).

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Sen. Scott Brown makes a cogent (and too infrequently made) argument:

The fact that Palestinians finally agreed to direct negotiations, without preconditions, is a positive step. But let’s not delude ourselves: There can never be peace in the Middle East with a nuclear-armed Iran.

He confirms what many observers have already reported: moderate Arab states care far less about the “peace process” than they do about the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. (“[I]n all my meetings in Israel and Jordan, what weighed most on the minds of security officials and political leaders was the prospect of a nuclear Iran.”) He explains:

It is not hard to imagine the terror that would be unleashed if Hezbollah and Hamas—emboldened by the protective watch of their benefactor—stepped up their campaign of hate against Israel. This would, in turn, embolden extremists around the globe.

But of course, an increasingly aggressive Iranian regime, even without nuclear weapons, is largely responsible for the ongoing terror directed against Israel. This is the real barrier to peace (sorry, Peter Beinart et. al, it’s not the settlements). Hamas killed five Israelis this week, but what country supports and funds Hamas? Iran. Abbas can’t make a peace deal even if he wanted to (a very big “if”), because he cannot give Israel what it wants — an end to violence. That will only come when terrorist groups (including Hezbollah on its northern boarder) are defanged. And that requires regime change and/or a decisive blow to their patrons in Tehran.

From the start of his presidency, Obama has had linkage backward — making the unsupportable claim that Iran can be disarmed only in the aftermath of a successful peace process. It is actually the reverse — toppling the mullahs would be the best encouragement (other than the Palestinians’ renunciation of violence and a one-state solution) to a true peace process. Ironically, doing what Obama loathes (attacking Iran, adopting regime change as our official policy) may be the only way for him to get what he desperately wants but cannot achieve (resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict).

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RE: Speaking of Pro-Israel

The Emergency Committee for Israel responded to the J Street gang’s inquiries late yesterday. Spokesman Michael Goldfarb went through the questions one by one (my comments in brackets):

“Always happy to guide the perplexed” [Bonus points for Maimonides reference], Goldfarb wrote, before taking on J Street. …

“Question: “ECI refuses to take a position on the two-state solution. But two-thirds of Israelis and American Jews support it. The last four prime ministers of Israel have. Will ECI stop hiding its true colors on the only possible way to achieve real peace and security for Israel as a Jewish, democratic homeland?”

Answer: ECI supports a two-state solution if Israel has defensible borders [not 1967 borders, obviously] and if the Palestinian state is stable, peace-loving [which isn't remotely in the cards, but we all should have goals] and anti-terrorist [like Sweden]. ECI does not support a “two-state solution” if one of the states is to be a terrorist state. And, yes, ECI believes there can be peace and security for Israel without having yet achieved a two-state solution. [It would help if the U.S. president were less overtly hostile, of course.]

Question: “Does ECI support the new peace talks starting this week, built on the notion that it should be possible to achieve a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?”

Answer: Yes. ["Notion" is a good way of putting it.]

Question: “Do they support the governments of Israel and of the United States in doing what they can to make them successful?”

Answer: Yes, if “success” means real peace and security. No, if “success” means the Obama administration [with J Street's blessing] pressuring Israel to make concessions that would strengthen anti-Israel extremists, weaken Israel’s security, decrease the chances of real peace, and lead to a terrorist state on Israel’s borders. [In other words, why would Israel trust the Obama administration, which has been indifferent or unhelpful on all these points?]

He then asks two pointed questions: “Does J Street support a two-state solution no matter what the character and borders of both states? Does J Street support peace and security for Israel in the absence of a Palestinian state?” The first is a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition, because the J Street leftists get flummoxed by the notion of a “Jewish” state — no, really, they do. But if they actually said so or hedged to keep their anti-nationalist, anti-Zionist supporters and followers from hollering at them, they’d tip their hand that they are way outside the mainstream. The next is also a gotcha — because J Street has for some time argued that the two-state solution is essential to Israel’s security, sidestepping the current needs of the Jewish state to defend itself.

Now this has the makings of a lively and healthy debate. How about a real one — you know Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami vs. a couple of the ECI team? Oh, it’d be lots and lots of fun. The J Streeters can even bring along  Stephen Walt and  John Mearsheimer for intellectual and moral support, of course.

The Emergency Committee for Israel responded to the J Street gang’s inquiries late yesterday. Spokesman Michael Goldfarb went through the questions one by one (my comments in brackets):

“Always happy to guide the perplexed” [Bonus points for Maimonides reference], Goldfarb wrote, before taking on J Street. …

“Question: “ECI refuses to take a position on the two-state solution. But two-thirds of Israelis and American Jews support it. The last four prime ministers of Israel have. Will ECI stop hiding its true colors on the only possible way to achieve real peace and security for Israel as a Jewish, democratic homeland?”

Answer: ECI supports a two-state solution if Israel has defensible borders [not 1967 borders, obviously] and if the Palestinian state is stable, peace-loving [which isn't remotely in the cards, but we all should have goals] and anti-terrorist [like Sweden]. ECI does not support a “two-state solution” if one of the states is to be a terrorist state. And, yes, ECI believes there can be peace and security for Israel without having yet achieved a two-state solution. [It would help if the U.S. president were less overtly hostile, of course.]

Question: “Does ECI support the new peace talks starting this week, built on the notion that it should be possible to achieve a negotiated resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?”

Answer: Yes. ["Notion" is a good way of putting it.]

Question: “Do they support the governments of Israel and of the United States in doing what they can to make them successful?”

Answer: Yes, if “success” means real peace and security. No, if “success” means the Obama administration [with J Street's blessing] pressuring Israel to make concessions that would strengthen anti-Israel extremists, weaken Israel’s security, decrease the chances of real peace, and lead to a terrorist state on Israel’s borders. [In other words, why would Israel trust the Obama administration, which has been indifferent or unhelpful on all these points?]

He then asks two pointed questions: “Does J Street support a two-state solution no matter what the character and borders of both states? Does J Street support peace and security for Israel in the absence of a Palestinian state?” The first is a heads-I-win-tails-you-lose proposition, because the J Street leftists get flummoxed by the notion of a “Jewish” state — no, really, they do. But if they actually said so or hedged to keep their anti-nationalist, anti-Zionist supporters and followers from hollering at them, they’d tip their hand that they are way outside the mainstream. The next is also a gotcha — because J Street has for some time argued that the two-state solution is essential to Israel’s security, sidestepping the current needs of the Jewish state to defend itself.

Now this has the makings of a lively and healthy debate. How about a real one — you know Peter Beinart and Jeremy Ben-Ami vs. a couple of the ECI team? Oh, it’d be lots and lots of fun. The J Streeters can even bring along  Stephen Walt and  John Mearsheimer for intellectual and moral support, of course.

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What Objection to the Ground Zero Mosque Is Not

Liberals who two years ago abandoned their humdrum lives to become career alarmists about Sarah Palin’s Pentecostalism now wish to be taken seriously as misty-eyed champions of America’s tolerance of diverse faiths. Whatever the intent of the planned Cordoba House Mosque Community Center Bowling Alley Drive-in Imax Nail Salon and Day Spa actually is matters not at all. It is to be celebrated because it is Islamic and because America does not discriminate on the basis of religion. The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd laments that President Obama, in his muddled failure to partake in the festivities, has “allowed himself to be weakened by perfectly predictable Republican hysteria.” After all, says Dowd,“By now you have to be willfully blind not to know that the imam in charge of the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the moderate Muslim we have allegedly been yearning for.”

Braille has come a long way. When I read that Rauf refused to call Hamas a terrorist organization and that he respects the doctrine of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini I could swear I took it in with my eyes. Just as I seemed to do when in 2008 I read that Dowd, the declared enemy of predictable hysteria, asked of Sarah Palin, “When the phone rings at 3 a.m., will she call the Wasilla Assembly of God congregation and ask them to pray on a response, as she asked them to pray for a natural gas pipeline?”

Feisal Rauf is A-OK with Khomeini-ism and he’s a welcome voice of reason; Sarah Palin prays and that makes her an unhinged zealot.

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Liberals who two years ago abandoned their humdrum lives to become career alarmists about Sarah Palin’s Pentecostalism now wish to be taken seriously as misty-eyed champions of America’s tolerance of diverse faiths. Whatever the intent of the planned Cordoba House Mosque Community Center Bowling Alley Drive-in Imax Nail Salon and Day Spa actually is matters not at all. It is to be celebrated because it is Islamic and because America does not discriminate on the basis of religion. The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd laments that President Obama, in his muddled failure to partake in the festivities, has “allowed himself to be weakened by perfectly predictable Republican hysteria.” After all, says Dowd,“By now you have to be willfully blind not to know that the imam in charge of the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the moderate Muslim we have allegedly been yearning for.”

Braille has come a long way. When I read that Rauf refused to call Hamas a terrorist organization and that he respects the doctrine of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini I could swear I took it in with my eyes. Just as I seemed to do when in 2008 I read that Dowd, the declared enemy of predictable hysteria, asked of Sarah Palin, “When the phone rings at 3 a.m., will she call the Wasilla Assembly of God congregation and ask them to pray on a response, as she asked them to pray for a natural gas pipeline?”

Feisal Rauf is A-OK with Khomeini-ism and he’s a welcome voice of reason; Sarah Palin prays and that makes her an unhinged zealot.

Religion is  deserving of mockery at all turns—unless it is the Muslim strain to be practiced two blocks from Ground Zero. Of course, objections to the comparison are predictable. Palin was vying for the vice president’s office and Rauf is merely . . . the bridge-building embodiment of Muslim outreach that the post-9/11 world has been waiting for.

The Left’s shift from defamers of faith to champions of faith has come complete with the characterization of the Right as hateful bigots. That thousands of American liberals have in the past protested Papal visits, with some placards comparing Christianity to Nazism, is a testament to freedom of speech. That non-liberal Americans protest only the building of a specific mosque in a specific location is a testament both to prejudice and to indifference on religious freedom.  In the Daily Beast, Peter Beinart asks, in high dudgeon, “Remember when George W. Bush and his neoconservative allies used to say that the ‘war on terror; was a struggle on behalf of Muslims, decent folks who wanted nothing more than to live free like you and me?” No matter that neoconservatives like the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens writes that the problem with celebrating Rauf as a moderate is that doing so steals support and recognition from “Muslims in the U.S. like Irshad [Manji] who are working, tirelessly but mainly out of view, toward the cause of reform.” And never mind that in the New Republic Reuel Gerecht, a neoconservative,  envisions a potential mosque built by a true moderate that “would honor us all.” Dowd, Beinart, and the like can only enjoy hero status if their opponents are depicted as convincing villains.

The myths about those opposed to the mosque don’t stop there. Conservatives, we are told, are eager to invent new instruments of government to block the mosque’s construction. While fewer than a handful of conservatives have made passing references to zoning laws, the overwhelming majority have gone out of their way to note that there is no legal argument against the mosque. As Peter Kirsanow pointed out at National Review’s Corner blog, “You don’t need to have been a lecturer in constitutional law like Obama to know that the mosque’s backers have a right to build at Ground Zero.”

Those uneasy about Rauf and the Cordoba House project are not hysterical, hateful, or statist. Their objections have to do with something less devious than prejudice and simpler than the law: common sense. Here is a thought experiment: If the mosque was slated to be built not two blocks away from Ground Zero, but actually on it, would those opposed still be exposing their contemptible hysteria by complaining? The site would still be private property, after all. And if the imam of that mosque openly preached a naked form of extremist Islam, should anyone who objects still be ashamed of themselves, as New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg has suggested? Freedom of religion would still be a fundamental American tenet, would it not? In other words, there are points at which it is very clear that non-prejudiced objections to legal undertakings become common sense. For the mosque’s unflappable admirers, the current location and the current imam don’t court that tipping point. For most Americans, forever transformed by the deadly attack on our homeland, they eclipse it.

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RE: Peter Beinart’s Lamentation

Pete, I was torn about whether to follow up on your very adept post concerning Peter Beinart’s frustration (as well as that of much of the left) with Obama, America, etc. But I think it is important to call out blatant religious bigotry, and so, at the risk of drawing more eyeballs to his noxious discourse, I decided that this portion of Beinart’s rant deserves further comment:

Until a month or so ago, I genuinely believed that the American right had become a religiously ecumenical place. Right-wing Baptists loved right-wing Catholics and they both loved right-wing Orthodox Jews. All you had to do to join the big tent was denounce feminists, Hollywood, and gays. But when push came to shove, Sarah Palin didn’t care about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s position on gay marriage. In today’s GOP, even bigotry doesn’t spare you from bigotry. I wonder what Mitt Romney was thinking, as he added his voice to the anti-Muslim chorus. He surely knows that absent the religious right’s hostility to Mormons, he’d likely have been the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee. I look forward to his paeans to religious freedom when anti-Mormonism rears its head again in 2012.

And oh yes, my fellow Jews, who are so thrilled to be locked arm in arm with the heirs of Pat Robertson and Father Coughlin against the Islamic threat. Evidently, it’s never crossed your mind that the religious hatred you have helped unleash could turn once again against us. Of course not, we’re insiders in this society now: Our synagogues grace the toniest of suburbs; our rabbis speak flawless English; we Jews are now effortlessly white. Barely anyone even remembers that folks in Lower Manhattan once considered us alien and dangerous, too.

This is as bizarre as it is inappropriate. Not to belabor the point, but Beinart knows as much about religious conservatives as he does about Israel — i.e., most of what he “knows” is wrong. There is great commonality among people of faith, and it is not based on cartoonish prejudices. Needless to say, what brings together observant Baptists, Catholics, and Jews — as well as a great many others – are quaint notions like the centrality of the Bible in their lives, the objection to hyper-secularism (which seeks to crowd them out of the public square), and, yes, a deep faith that America is a blessed nation with certain responsibilities in the world.

Sarah Palin cares not one wit about Rauf’s views on anything but the issue at hand, because she, unlike Beinart, can stick to the point. That point, in case we’ve lost track, is whether we should cheer a provocateur who will bring (and already has) untold strife to the country, anguish to 9/11 survivors, and cheers from jihadists, who would see the Ground Zero mosque as a triumphant symbol of Islam. As for Romney, I don’t recall his advancing views all that different from a number of Muslims. Or Howard Dean (who seems to realize that the Ground Zero mosque is “not about the rights of Muslims to have a worship center … it is a real affront to people who lost their lives”).

As for Beinart’s second paragraph, it is an unfortunate example of the bile that can be splattered on Jews by Jews, with nary an eyebrow raised by elite opinion makers. Had Pat Buchanan, to whom Beinart lately bears an uncanny resemblance, accused Jews of walking with Father Coughlin, or had Al Sharpton (before becoming part of polite liberal company) referred to Jews as “effortlessly white,” I imagine all sorts of elites would be throwing a fit. But now it is par for the course.

Beinart has either lost control of himself or is out to best the Beagle Blogger in playing to the angry, unreasoned left. There are, after all, lucrative books deals in doing that. Who knows what his motives are, but he might want to stop before Politico runs a forum on whether he, too, has gone around the bend.

Pete, I was torn about whether to follow up on your very adept post concerning Peter Beinart’s frustration (as well as that of much of the left) with Obama, America, etc. But I think it is important to call out blatant religious bigotry, and so, at the risk of drawing more eyeballs to his noxious discourse, I decided that this portion of Beinart’s rant deserves further comment:

Until a month or so ago, I genuinely believed that the American right had become a religiously ecumenical place. Right-wing Baptists loved right-wing Catholics and they both loved right-wing Orthodox Jews. All you had to do to join the big tent was denounce feminists, Hollywood, and gays. But when push came to shove, Sarah Palin didn’t care about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s position on gay marriage. In today’s GOP, even bigotry doesn’t spare you from bigotry. I wonder what Mitt Romney was thinking, as he added his voice to the anti-Muslim chorus. He surely knows that absent the religious right’s hostility to Mormons, he’d likely have been the GOP’s 2008 presidential nominee. I look forward to his paeans to religious freedom when anti-Mormonism rears its head again in 2012.

And oh yes, my fellow Jews, who are so thrilled to be locked arm in arm with the heirs of Pat Robertson and Father Coughlin against the Islamic threat. Evidently, it’s never crossed your mind that the religious hatred you have helped unleash could turn once again against us. Of course not, we’re insiders in this society now: Our synagogues grace the toniest of suburbs; our rabbis speak flawless English; we Jews are now effortlessly white. Barely anyone even remembers that folks in Lower Manhattan once considered us alien and dangerous, too.

This is as bizarre as it is inappropriate. Not to belabor the point, but Beinart knows as much about religious conservatives as he does about Israel — i.e., most of what he “knows” is wrong. There is great commonality among people of faith, and it is not based on cartoonish prejudices. Needless to say, what brings together observant Baptists, Catholics, and Jews — as well as a great many others – are quaint notions like the centrality of the Bible in their lives, the objection to hyper-secularism (which seeks to crowd them out of the public square), and, yes, a deep faith that America is a blessed nation with certain responsibilities in the world.

Sarah Palin cares not one wit about Rauf’s views on anything but the issue at hand, because she, unlike Beinart, can stick to the point. That point, in case we’ve lost track, is whether we should cheer a provocateur who will bring (and already has) untold strife to the country, anguish to 9/11 survivors, and cheers from jihadists, who would see the Ground Zero mosque as a triumphant symbol of Islam. As for Romney, I don’t recall his advancing views all that different from a number of Muslims. Or Howard Dean (who seems to realize that the Ground Zero mosque is “not about the rights of Muslims to have a worship center … it is a real affront to people who lost their lives”).

As for Beinart’s second paragraph, it is an unfortunate example of the bile that can be splattered on Jews by Jews, with nary an eyebrow raised by elite opinion makers. Had Pat Buchanan, to whom Beinart lately bears an uncanny resemblance, accused Jews of walking with Father Coughlin, or had Al Sharpton (before becoming part of polite liberal company) referred to Jews as “effortlessly white,” I imagine all sorts of elites would be throwing a fit. But now it is par for the course.

Beinart has either lost control of himself or is out to best the Beagle Blogger in playing to the angry, unreasoned left. There are, after all, lucrative books deals in doing that. Who knows what his motives are, but he might want to stop before Politico runs a forum on whether he, too, has gone around the bend.

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Peter Beinart’s Lamentation

Peter Beinart is very unhappy — at President Obama, at Republicans, at Democrats, and at America itself. Beinart writes:

The president is furiously backtracking; Republicans are clawing over each other to demonize Muslims; Democrats are dead silent. It’s time to face reality. Whether or not the “ground zero” mosque ever gets built, the political debate is over. Decency lost.

So almost nine years after September 11, we need to confront a few painful truths. First, while the military and counterintelligence aspects of the struggle against al Qaeda will likely last long into the future, the “war of ideas” is over. America has thrown in the towel.

Beinart adds this:

Congratulations, Republicans, you’ve safeguarded ground zero against the insidious threat of religious liberty. I’ve always found going there a deeply moving experience, but for the time being, at least, I’ve lost my desire to go. Hallowed ground? After the unforgivable events of the last month, it’s become a little less hallowed for me.

Set aside (if you can) the melodramatic prose. What we are seeing is evidence of a deep and growing alienation — not just in Mr. Beinart but among many liberals. They increasingly view themselves as caught up in a world filled with anguish, with emptiness, with moral meaninglessness.

We are at the early stages of an important phenomenon. Liberals, unable to come to terms with the manifold failures of President Obama, are becoming increasingly alienated from our country and from its political system. The public overwhelmingly opposes them on everything — from building the mosque near Ground Zero to ObamaCare, from the effort to sue Arizona over its law for curbing illegal immigration to much else. In response, their rhetoric is becoming increasingly shrill. Scapegoats must be found — and they include Obama’s predecessor, the GOP, the Tea Party, our political culture, Congress, and the public itself.

We have seen this kind of alienation happen before with the rise of the New Left in the late 1960s and early 1970s. What we may be seeing today is the emergence of a New New Left.

This would be very bad for liberalism and for America.

Peter Beinart is very unhappy — at President Obama, at Republicans, at Democrats, and at America itself. Beinart writes:

The president is furiously backtracking; Republicans are clawing over each other to demonize Muslims; Democrats are dead silent. It’s time to face reality. Whether or not the “ground zero” mosque ever gets built, the political debate is over. Decency lost.

So almost nine years after September 11, we need to confront a few painful truths. First, while the military and counterintelligence aspects of the struggle against al Qaeda will likely last long into the future, the “war of ideas” is over. America has thrown in the towel.

Beinart adds this:

Congratulations, Republicans, you’ve safeguarded ground zero against the insidious threat of religious liberty. I’ve always found going there a deeply moving experience, but for the time being, at least, I’ve lost my desire to go. Hallowed ground? After the unforgivable events of the last month, it’s become a little less hallowed for me.

Set aside (if you can) the melodramatic prose. What we are seeing is evidence of a deep and growing alienation — not just in Mr. Beinart but among many liberals. They increasingly view themselves as caught up in a world filled with anguish, with emptiness, with moral meaninglessness.

We are at the early stages of an important phenomenon. Liberals, unable to come to terms with the manifold failures of President Obama, are becoming increasingly alienated from our country and from its political system. The public overwhelmingly opposes them on everything — from building the mosque near Ground Zero to ObamaCare, from the effort to sue Arizona over its law for curbing illegal immigration to much else. In response, their rhetoric is becoming increasingly shrill. Scapegoats must be found — and they include Obama’s predecessor, the GOP, the Tea Party, our political culture, Congress, and the public itself.

We have seen this kind of alienation happen before with the rise of the New Left in the late 1960s and early 1970s. What we may be seeing today is the emergence of a New New Left.

This would be very bad for liberalism and for America.

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