A few readers step into the fray:
Back in 2010, in the form of a question addressed to Peter Beinart, of all people, Jeff Goldberg gave an unwitting justification for his persistent intellectual subterfuge on the subject of Israel:
It's interesting to me that you, an Orthodox Jew, don't answer the question about Zionism in any sort of theological way whatsoever. Anti-Semitism to me is not a good enough answer to the question of "Why Israel." I'm not Orthodox, but I do feel a spiritual connection to our homeland. Without this connection, can Israel's location in what was Palestine be justified? Shouldn't it have been built in Bavaria?
In other words, for Goldberg, the only legitimate justification for Israel is a "theological" one.
How much stock can we then put in his supposedly political discussions of the state's actions? More to the point, how much stock can we place in his reporting, since he must always begin from the premise that, whatever tactical errors Israeli politicians might make, the country itself will always turn out to have been "right" in the eyes of eternity?
How is a non-believer (even a non-believing Jew like myself) ever supposed to engage in this discussion, let alone a Palestinian? Sounds like "don't get the complexity" is code for "impious," if you ask me. And I think the last thing the Middle East conflict needs is more piety.
I have spent a fair amount of time in my career wading into the law and ethics of boycotts. I find absurd the notion, suggested by Goldblog and advanced by Ami Eden, that Beinart's call for a boycott of goods produced from illegal settlements is equivalent – or even roughly equivalent – to the call by Beinart's critics to boycott Beinart himself. Beinart is proposing a community sanction for pure conduct – and illegal conduct at that. Beinart's critics, in stark contrast, are proposing a community sanction for pure speech and expression of ideas. The notion that those who call themselves liberals can't see such a basic distinction is profoundly troubling. Can you imagine what Goldberg or Eden would say if, in response to a call to boycott South African goods in the days of apartheid, right-wingers said that the boycott advocates should fear that they themselves may be boycotted? I am pretty sure they'd call it a form of bullying – retaliation for free speech.
Beinart's idea may not in substance be a good one – I have to mull it more – but it's an idea. And the suggestion that those who disagree with Beinart would be justified in boycott him for expressing the idea is not just morally foggy; it's dangerous because there's a hint of a threat to Beinart in those suggestions: "You will be a pariah of you keep bucking the 'community.'"