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Open Zion Funder Questions Beinart Approach

Peter Joseph, of Israel Policy Forum, condemns ‘oversimplified rhetoric’

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Jason Zengerle reports that Peter Joseph, “a prominent liberal Jewish philanthropist,” helped fund Peter Beinart’s Open Zion blog at The Daily Beast (through the New America Foundation, where Beinart is a senior fellow). Joseph, who is in private equity, is most associated with the Israel Policy Forum—he is president—a liberal group that takes much the center-left positions you would expect but which, I am told, is increasingly trying to make itself into something more reflective of its name: not strictly an advocacy group, a la J Street, but an actual, well, policy forum, like a think tank, albeit one that does believe certain center-left shibboleths about Israel and the peace process. IPF told me this morning that it has no connection to Open Zion.

Joseph has been disappointed in the reception to Beinart’s The Crisis of Zionism, he tells Zengerle: “Unfortunately what I’ve seen is the book has led to greater polarization, and that doesn’t serve Israel’s best interests.”

But a month ago, Joseph, while emphasizing he has “very high regard” for Beinart, seemed in part to blame Beinart for this polarized reception, telling me: “I would not have used boycotting as a way of advancing my agenda—that I thought was somewhat provocative, and didn’t advance his cause per se.”

(Update, 12:45pm) This afternoon, Joseph elaborated on his take, confirming that he did fund Open Zion but in a personal capacity, and not through IPF. “These are two different projects,” Joseph said. “Open Zion is a clearinghouse for dialogue on this issue—on a variety of issues confronting the American Jewish community. In that respect I am very happy to support an effort to increase understanding and exchange of ideas. And Peter is open to a very broad range of opinions. He’s not looking to impose, as I understand it, some kind of a standard here in terms of what’s accepted.” But, Joseph continued, “The book and the op-ed piece are really different matters. There I thought there was much to be critical of. The boycott is the clearest example.” He added: “Peter and I are in regular contact. I’ve made my views known to him. And we have an ongoing conversation—and that’s what this is.” Indeed it is!

I had called Joseph last month after he published an op-ed on JTA decrying precisely this polarization, without naming any names. “Instead of staking out principled, nuanced positions that reflect an understanding of competing narratives, both sides have adopted an oversimplified rhetoric that feeds fierce debate in the American Jewish community and shrinks political space for pragmatic policy,” he argued, adding, “The past few weeks of mudslinging have highlighted how alienating and polarizing many of the tired left- and right-wing arguments about Israel have become. Enough already!”

As I argued last month, I think it’s a shame that Beinart’s book did not make its way into the wider conversation in the same way that it made its way into ours, but I do wonder whether that’s partly his fault. What if he had excerpted his chapter on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s intransigence instead of his call for Zionist B.D.S.? Things might have gone differently.

Then again, what if the New York Times Magazine had agreed to publish his initial essay instead of letting it slip to the New York Review of Books, which was guaranteed to make it more controversial?

Either way, the distancing of someone like Joseph is an indicator that—as of now—Beinart has not had the impact on the discussion he might have wished.

Related: Moderate Middle Must Be Heard on Israel Debate [JTA]
The Israeli Desert [NY Mag]
Earlier: Beinart Gets Rare Non-Inside Baseball Treatment

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most of Israeli are concerned about where but they should care also about when – that it would give em speed

yevka says:

Sorry, I agree with Beinart.

 http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/opinion/to-save-israel-boycott-the-settlements.html?pagewanted=all

yevka says:

 http://www.democracynow.org/2012/6/4/norman_finkelstein_on_the_role_of

Ezikiel says:

1. For many on the left, the term “boycott” sounds like something kind of benign and cute, a harking back to Gandhi and MLK. But to me and to great many Jews, the term evokes far dark images. Although Beinart does mention the dark history of boycotts in his NY Times piece, I still do not get the impression that he understand how provocative his call for boycott really is, and I think he should.
2. American Jews have a great gift to give to Israel. The plurality and basic tolerance and coexistence of different strands of Judaism in the US is something that the Israeli would do well to emulate. There is an honest search in Israeli society for e re-calibration of the attitude towards religion and tradition. It’s interesting, in this respect, to compare the platform of Yair Lapid, to that of his father. And, indeed, after many years of quiet struggle, the orthodox monopoly over Jewish life in Israel is finally beginning to fray, while at the same time young Israelis are finding new ways to connect to their Jewish roots. This is very good news, to a great extant due to the praiseworthy struggle of many Jewish Americans.
3. On the other hand, however, to Israeli ears, the idea of an American preaching to Israel on issues of security, which he does not seem to understand; to assume a moral superiority from the heights of New York’s Upper West side; and to propose a boycott of those Israeli settlers, who – whether you agree with them politically or not – are willing to defend the Jewish state with their lives, come off as arrogant in the extreme, and plain ludicrous.
4. Therefore, Jason Zengerle is right. Strive for peace within the Jewish people first, and you will gain my respect.

1.     For many on the left, the term “boycott” sounds
like something kind of benign and cute, a harking back to Gandhi and MLK.  But to me and to great many Jews, the
term evokes far dark images. 
Although Beinart does mention the dark history of boycotts in his NY
Times piece, I still do not get the impression that he understand how
provocative his call for boycott really is, and I think he should.

2.    
American Jews have a great gift to give to
Israel.  The plurality and basic
tolerance and coexistence of different strands of Judaism in the US is
something that the Israeli would do well to emulate.  There is an honest search in Israeli society for e
re-calibration of the attitude towards religion and tradition.  It’s interesting, in this respect, to compare
the platform of Yair Lapid, to that of his father.  And, indeed, after many years of quiet struggle, the
orthodox monopoly over Jewish life in Israel is finally beginning to fray,
while at the same time young Israelis are finding new ways to connect to their
Jewish roots.  This is very good
news, to a great extant due to the praiseworthy struggle of many Jewish
Americans. 

3.    
On the other hand, however, to Israeli ears, the
idea of an American preaching to Israel on issues of security, which he does
not seem to understand; to assume a moral superiority from the heights of New
York’s Upper West side; and to propose a boycott of those Israeli settlers, who
– whether you agree with them politically or not – are willing to defend the Jewish
state with their lives, come off as arrogant in the extreme, and plain
ludicrous. 

4.    
Therefore, Jason Zengerle is right.  Strive for peace within the Jewish
people first, and you will gain my respect.

julis123 says:

If you want to see how off base he is and how little he knows the Palestinians see this: (I promise you that it won’t make it to the NYT):
http://www.timesofisrael.com/palestinian-principal-in-hot-water-over-israeli-beach-party/

yevka says:

 http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/israel-is-new-south-africa-as-boycott-calls-increase-7813538.html

Rebecca Epstein says:

test

DSarna says:

Marc Tracy opined, “I think it’s a shame that Beinart’s book did not make its way into the wider conversation.”
I disagree.People are tired of hate-speech, and especially,  of self-hating, self-flagellating variety.It is no longer news.Ignoring it is, by far, the best and most-deserving remedy.
Marc, you  needs to take your super-leftist agenda somewhere other than Tablet, if you feel the uncontrollable need to rant.

brynababy says:

What a bunch of disgusting crap!

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Open Zion Funder Questions Beinart Approach

Peter Joseph, of Israel Policy Forum, condemns ‘oversimplified rhetoric’

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