Jewish World Review May 15, 2002/ 4 Sivan 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | It'll take a few more months until the fallout from Martin Peretz's sale of two-thirds of his New Republic-to conservative Roger Hertog and liberal Michael Steinhardt (also investors in The New York Sun)-is felt at the D.C.-based weekly. Which means editor Peter Beinart, who after a shaky start has overseen a quite readable magazine, including a schizophrenic mix of pure left-wing dogma with pieces that are reminiscent of former chief Michael Kelly's brief anti-Clinton/Gore tenure under Peretz, must lie awake at night.
After slogging through Beinart's jaw-dropping May 20 "TRB" column, however, I say the guy deserves an extended bout of insomnia.
With the exception of any number of anti-Israeli articles published in Europe (sicko Robert Fisk, a correspondent for London's Independent, comes to mind), I haven't read such a vile, bigoted take on the Mideast crisis as Beinart's in several months. He begins the column, ruefully, by quoting a friend's letter expressing the common sentiment that a sizable number of American Jews are, perhaps temporarily, switching allegiance to the Republican Party. Beinart's buddy said: "I think we are seeing the beginning of a great shift in Jewish politics-at the very least, I think we'll see a new respect for men like Tom DeLay and Dick Armey and President Bush."
That prospect bothers Beinart, who writes: "Today culture-war issues like school prayer and abortion are dwarfed by the threat to Israel. In such an environment, even many liberal Jews are willing to join forces with ardently Zionist evangelicals." Apparently, the overwhelming number of Christian conservatives who support Israel-so vehemently that they berate George W. Bush for not giving Ariel Sharon a no-questions-asked green light in his justified battle against mass-murderer Yasir Arafat-are ignorant crackers who are for now a necessary evil.
The sign that hangs on Beinart's treehouse reads "Restricted." He continues: "American Jews should shun the Christian Right because Zionism is not only a national tradition; it's also a moral one. And Christian conservatives like Armey and [former spokeswoman for the Family Research Council Janet] Parshall don't merely misunderstand that moral tradition; they disfigure it beyond recognition."
Beinart's reasoning: Armey, appearing on Chris Matthews' strange-and-getting-stranger Hardball, advocated a Palestinian state in another Arab nation.
Which led to a lecture from TNR's editor: "Among mainstream Israeli and American Jewish leaders, such views are considered monstrous. The overwhelming majority of Israeli politicians and intellectuals oppose deporting the Palestinians because they speak in the shadow of the Holocaust... Christian conservatives dress up their support for Israel in the language of anti-terrorism and democracy. But they pay scant attention to the fight against terrorism in biblically insignificant countries like Sri Lanka, India and the Philippines... And it raises a question that Jewish allies of the Christian Right should ponder: What will people like Armey and Parshall do when Israel takes actions-such as leaving much of the West Bank-that undermine the biblical justification for its existence?
Ultimately, if you don't love Israel for what it is, you can't be trusted to love it at all."
I'm not a Jew or an evangelical Christian, but it hardly takes a theologian to translate Beinart's hate-filled message. As a committed Democrat who's appalled at the prospect that Bush might double his Jewish support in the 2004 presidential election (from 19-40 percent), Beinart is looking beyond the current turmoil to crass politics. Never mind that the steadfast support for Israel in the United States affirms our citizens' reverence for democracy, in stark contrast to the rampant anti-Semitism in Europe.
Fortunately, bigots like Beinart are in the minority. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, for example, a persistent critic of what he considers Bush's semi-appeasement of Arab nations, told The Washington Times' Bill Sammon: "Bush has been a little wobbly in terms of sticking to the Bush doctrine and not being quite tough enough on Arafat, but on the other hand, he's been better than the Democrats. For all the people like me, who have been somewhat critical of him on the Middle East, there are no Democrats running to his right. So Bush certainly holds all the conservatives and picks up some Jewish votes."
And Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman, a former (and perhaps future) dinner companion of Bill Clinton, added: "The Republicans have become just as intense and strong in their support of Israel, if not more so, than the Democrats. It's really quite a remarkable change, and quite broad."
Even Frank Rich, the thought-challenged New York Times columnist, while sharing some of Beinart's paranoia about the Christian right, was more evenhanded on the subject. His May 11 essay-serious enough that it didn't contain even one Broadway or Hollywood analogy-at least said he was "grateful" for the "ardent and sincere" defense of Israel from evangelicals. And, incredibly enough, Rich doesn't differentiate between Democrats and Republicans.
He writes: "Our press is not being muzzled, of course, but the dictates of what constitutes politically correct conversation about the Middle East are being tightened to the point that American leaders of all stripes increasingly seem to be in a contest to see who can pander most to American Jews." Like Beinart, Rich questions Armey's motives. But also: "Among liberal Democrats there is John Edwards, the presidential candidate, who on 'Meet the Press' last Sunday seemed so fearful of losing a single Jewish vote or contributor [emphasis mine] that he answered straightforward questions about the Middle East with self-contradictory gobbledygook."
As for Israeli politicians, Benjamin Netanyahu, who, after orchestrating a resolution on May 12 never to allow a Palestinian state, appears close to replacing Sharon as Prime Minister, praises Bush as the U.S.'s most pro-Israel president. In a May 13 Weekly Standard article, Fred Barnes, while acknowledging that the President's current popularity with Jewish voters is "fragile," and in any case isn't likely to affect the 2004 election save Florida (I'd add New Jersey as well), nevertheless includes comments from Jews who, unlike Beinart, aren't spooked by Christian support for Israel. Pollster Frank Luntz told Barnes: "This is the first time in my lifetime that it's okay to be a Republican in the synagogue." And Richard D. Heideman, head of B'nai B'rith International, told The Washington Post's Thomas Edsall that while he's always been a Democrat he expects to vote for Bush two years from now.
Finally, if you feel grubby after reading Beinart's demagoguery, take a
look at David Gelernter's fine article "Why Americans stand with Israel" that appeared Monday in JewishWorldReview.com. He writes: "Today it is no accident that
America and Israel tend to understand each other-even to empathize with one
another-not invariably, but on the whole. To see why, you don't have be
Bishop [Desmond] Tutu or some eminent Frenchman resurrecting tired but
ever-popular Nazi theories about the satanically persuasive Jew. There is an
easier explanation. The founding settlers of America and of modern Israel
were offered victimhood on easy terms, and turned it down cold. They chose
to create new nations out of nothing instead."