The Year in Sanity: Peter Beinart

A liberal hawk sees the light on Israel

By Justin Elliott
Published October 13, 2010 1:13AM (UTC)
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Peter Beinart

Until this summer, journalist Peter Beinart was best known as a prominent liberal hawk, the man who accused Iraq war critics of "abject pacifism," and the editor who used the New Republic to vocally advocate for the invasion of Iraq. Then, in May, with the publication of an essay on Zionism that has become as influential as it was unexpected, Beinart transformed himself into an important critic of U.S. policy -- and American Jewish sentiment -- toward Israel.

Beinart, who attends an Orthodox synagogue, called his New York Review of Books piece, "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment," "the hardest thing I ever wrote."

In it he takes aim at groups like the Anti-Defamation League and AIPAC "for scolding people who contradict their vision of Israel as a state in which all leaders cherish democracy and yearn for peace" -- when that vision clearly does not match reality. "Morally, American Zionism is in a downward spiral," he wrote, citing the opposition of American Jewish institutions to "a Zionism that challenges Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and toward its own Arab citizens."

Beinart's essay met intense hostility from his former allies on the foreign policy right. But he has followed the New York Review essay with a series of columns for the Daily Beast zeroing in on, among other things, Israel's Gaza embargo, the ADL's hypocrisy, and the disingenuousness of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Justin Elliott

Justin Elliott is a reporter for ProPublica. You can follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin

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The Year In Sanity