The Assault On Peter Beinart


The Tablet explains part of the context: that Peter's Zionist and Jewish credentials are deep, that he, like me, was an editor of The New Republic, the bastion of domestically liberal American Zionism, and has a long history of serious intellectual and historical work and analysis. And indeed his views on the necessity of an urgent two-state solution to save Israel from itself, and an end to the settlements his peers merely pretend to oppose but enable with every non-step they take, is not that radical. Allison Hoffmann notes:

New York Times columnists Thomas Friedman and Roger Cohen have vociferously accused Netanyahu, with the help of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington, of making Israel into a pariah state by undermining the Obama Administration’s early efforts to jump-start the peace process. Last fall, the American-born Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg released The Unmaking of Israel, a jeremiad arguing that the 45-year Israeli occupation has been a cancer on the country’s body politic; the book scored a glowing endorsement in the New York Times Book Review from Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg.

Goldberg himself made such an argument, for Pete's sake, if you'll pardon the expression. But Peter must be destroyed, marginalized and attacked. This I expected. It is part of the hazing process any writer has to go through to speak honestly about what Israel is becoming and its consequences for the US across the globe. What I didn't expect was the dismissive, evasive bile of Goldberg. And then this:

“It’s a narcissistic book, and the narcissism of privileged and haughty people is never particularly attractive,” Martin Peretz, the former owner of the New Republic and Beinart’s earliest patron, told me. “I always knew he was a very vain man, but a lot of us are vain, and if you had his mother, or if I had his mother, I’d be even more vain than I am.” Peretz put on a mocking falsetto—“this is the most brilliant boy, he’s so smart, he’s so touching”—before going on: “It’s a Jewish mother situation. You can use that—even if it makes me sound a little bitchy.”

Good God. The utter lack of engagement with the arguments of a book that has yet to be published is revealing – and the deployment of personal matters as a way to smear someone is exactly the same tactic as Jeffrey Goldberg's abuse of private matters, like his version of a conversation we once had. Then there is the Goldberg assertion that Peter is unqualified to sit in the celestial recliners of the truly informed, guarded by Leon Wieseltier. Funny how these condescending memes cascade all at once:

“Peter’s a quick study, but some things you can’t study quickly. He had a hit, and ran with it.”

I've been through my share of personal vilification over the years – because of my stands on marriage, or HIV, or Iraq, or race, or Israel, or you-name-it. But this level of vicious personal obloquy from people who once advanced and supported him? It beggars belief.

There is something rotten here. And something utterly bankrupt. You want to know why these people have become so unhinged? Read the book. They're terrified of its truth.

(Photo: J Street/Flickr via the Tablet.)