Criticizing Israel, Outside of Israel

Friday, September 23, 2011


In a much-discussed essay in a 2010 issue of the New York Review of Books, journalist Peter Beinart argues that groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Anti-Defamation League squelch criticism on these shores by regarding critics of Israel as enemies of Israel. Beinart and Steven Rosen, formerly of AIPAC, debate the issue in a story originally broadcast in June 2010.

Comments [22]


Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, send now Your Spirit over the earth. Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations, that they may be preserved from degeneration, disaster and war. May the Lady of All Nations, the Blessed Virgin Mary, be our Advocate. Amen."

Please pray this prayer and spread the prayer to others.

Apr. 25 2013 03:37 PM

what always confuses me is the notion, stated by the one gentleman, that if Iran or another of Israel's neighbors get nuclear weapons that they will undoubtedly use them against Israel. I think this is pure poppycock. whatever one thinks of the doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD) the proof is in the pudding. It worked. works. no one's using them because they don't want them used against themselves.

Oct. 09 2011 07:44 PM
Reza "The Great" from Somewhere in Great USA

As a Muslim and supporter of peace initiative, I was shocked with both views. The issue of Israel existence has been mixed up in past 30 years without looking in other neighboring countries. Please, note that there was no Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq or even Saudi Arabia. These countries were created upon Ottoman Empire destruction after World War I and II. To place everything in perspective, the right of existence is the most meaningless issue in 21st century. Why not Zionist, Arabs born in Palestine and other migrants create a newly country "unification", I call it "Republic of Jerusalem, with capital "City of Jerusalem". All parties should agree that Israel founders were once upon the time considered "terrorist", since they were blowing out British interest in Palestine (I am trying to elude that Hamas could change, too). Let us not use the proverb "what is good for me, it is bad for others!!!". If the founder of Israel were terrorists by certain country and then were forgiven, we could do the same for Hamas. If we all have good intention of creating new country "Republic of Jerusalem, we then should all have reconciliation by starting fresh. The right of return for Jews (left during Ottoman Empire to Iran and other places) and Palestine’s (during 1967 war) should not be anymore important factor, since one country is for all. Hope Zionist, Hamas, Israelis and Palestine’s consider my suggestions. May Blessing of God upon all of us.

Oct. 02 2011 10:41 PM
Benjamin Baumer from Chicago

A truly invigorating and exemplary debate. Thank you for sharing.

Sep. 28 2011 11:06 AM
fred from usa

Well the problem with criticism is that is assumes a level playing field, kind of in the way folks at fox seem to assume that they are "fair and balanced"... it just doesn't match reality. Most of the world is virulently antisemitic in some way or another, recent polls in the arab/muslim world show they don't even think any muslims were involved in 9/11, and many think jews were instead, so you aren't making criticism of israels or jews in a vacuum of intellectual fairness, but in reality it is in an atmosphere of hatred and irrationality. When this is not acknowledged, it is like making criticisms of jews during world war 2 while not acknowledging the rest of the stuff that is going on, it becomes absurd, and you are in effect giving aid to some of the worst bigots out there. Even europeans or brits have this problem, they will howl with rage when israels actions result in any civilian casualties, yet they forget their own record in such situations, the brits were happy to firebomb entire cities into rubble when rockets headed their way, yet some of these same people scream wildly disproportionate outrage at israel in a way that just betrays their double standards, or atleast a special standard for jews.

Sep. 28 2011 02:59 AM
Elizabeth Block from Toronto, Canada

I seem to remember Steven Rosen saying that there are academics who have been denied tenure, or gotten into trouble in other ways, because of their pro-Israel stand.
I have never heard of such a thing. Has anyone else? The interviewer did not ask Steven Rosen for any names.
I know a number of examples of academics getting into trouble because of their criticism of Israel, e.g. Norman Finkelstein. A grad student in Ontario was attacked in the provincial legislature for her master's thesis, which was critical of Israel! (Her school quite rightly refused to be influenced.)
Just curious.

Sep. 27 2011 09:18 PM

Obviously I didn't anticipate the order in which my (BVA) comments would be displayed. Their current order of display ["I'm not very optimistic..." first to "An effective peace-process..." 5th and last] is the reverse of their actual intended reading order. I requested some website intervention but it has not yet occurred and may never occur for all I know. I assumed that there is a character limit for each comment, so I put the entire mini-essay in a paragraph at a time.

I apologize to anyone who was confused by my input error.

Sep. 26 2011 05:02 PM
fbailey from milwaukee

steven rosen is so wrong. palestine does not have to be suppressed or oppressed in order for israel to survive. coming from a historically oppressed class myself (african american), i am appalled and disappointed when oppressed people become the monsters they detest. israel has a moral obligation not to stoop to the level of irrational extremists. what value is there in 'winning' if your soul is lost?

Sep. 26 2011 03:25 PM

I'm not very optimistic. And I hope that I am wrong and that it will take far less than what I have just described to bring about real peace and peace-of-mind for the Palestinians, Arabs, and Israelis. But realistically the hardened mind-sets of Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs must be confronted with the only reconceptualization that has even a small chance of radically transforming the current conflict into something far more manageable. As long as Palestinians, and Arabs continue to think of Israelis as burglars, or thieves, and as long as Israelis think of Palestinians, and Arabs as would be exterminators then they are both at a permanent impasse!

Sep. 25 2011 05:22 PM

The previous paragraph will strike most as very naive. Certainly their must be a more practical basis for crafting a lasting Middle East peace then good feelings and a slight amount of understanding. The most practical basis for peace is not "land for peace" but "economic development for peace". Israel could be the little engine that could pull the entire Eastern Mediterranean of its decades-long economic slump. The main point is that an "economic development for peace" bargain or any other bargaining basis depends on a "non-blame, dual victims understanding" of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Sep. 25 2011 05:21 PM

Some sort of co-catalytic process of both negotiations and larger public and private discussions (with this item of "who's really to blame" at the top of all the agendas) will most likely be required to develop the prerequisite "non-blame understanding" between and among the main adversary groups and subgroups. Unfortunately it may also require at least a few outside third parties willing to take implicit responsibility, if only by proxy, for the now more historically remote third parties that really caused the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Finding the appropriate proxies qualified by historical linage and current position, and also willing to acknowledge the necessary level of responsibility for this conflict is not very likely to say the least! Any candidates for such agency would fear both the bad public relations, adverse domestic political consequences, and the potential financial liability, even if they acted jointly to acknowledge this historical responsibility. And they may conclude that the probability of success is not worth the multiple risks, that accepting proxy responsibility may still not be enough to facilitate a "non-blame understanding" (between the Israelis and the Palestinians), and a relinquishment and reduction of long held hostilities by all sides.

Sep. 25 2011 05:20 PM

Many post-WWII third parties made mistakes of judgment and/or opportunistically sought to profit from the conflict, or to use it for their own ends, such as diverting attention away from oligarchic corruption and malfeasance. These opportunistic actors may be despicable by today's standards, but their overall share of blame is very minor compared to the European and North American historical actors through the end of WWII. But their 'sins' still loom large enough that they will not want to acknowledge their wrong-headedness, mean-spiritedness, and 'exploitative-ness'. They will of necessity also resist the conclusion that both the Israelis and the Palestinians are effectively blameless for their acts in the conflict over land to live on.

Sep. 25 2011 05:20 PM

An effective peace-process will only begin to develop between Israelis and Palestinians when both peoples conclude that neither is to blame for the historical situation they are in. They will only arrive at this judgment when they both realize 1) that ultimately they are both victims, direct and indirect, of the centuries-long historical process of anti-Semitism; 2) that this historical process was indifferent to collateral damage to any "innocent bystanders"; and 3) that if their historical places had been switched at the beginning of history each people would most likely have acted in a very similar manner in reaction to the combination of the precipitative events of the 20th Century, and the cumulative arc of events from the previous centuries. Only then will they be able to officially, unofficially, and subconsciously forgive each other collectively and individually for what they have both been provoked into doing to one another. The requisite transformative insight is recognition that the historical and cultural forces mounted by the numerous forgotten, unknown, and unacknowledged, as well as obvious third parties in the histories of Europe and North America caused the current Arab-Israeli conflict as surely as heat and water produce steam. (Some examples are Henry Ford and Father Coughlin just in 20th Century U.S. history.)

Sep. 25 2011 05:18 PM

It should be noted that along with the U.S., Canada, Germany, Italy, possibly Australia and others will vote against the Palestinian attempt at statehood without negotiations. But the U.N. General Assembly, dominated by enemies of the Jewish nation --the Islamic Conference alone has 56 member states-- will back the Palestinians who will then use the U.N. to bring lawsuits against Israel. Their goal is to delegitimize and destroy Israel because it is Jewish, not because of any of the things Peter Beinart might be writing about (which in any case came about as defense against the unceasing warfare against Israelis). The wiser Stephen Rosen understands that in a way that Beinart does not.

Sep. 25 2011 01:38 PM

>>Despite the overblown hand wringing about "squelched criticism" of Israel among American Jews, where is the legitimate concern about squelched praise for Israel among American Muslims?
It is easy to find pro-Palestinian Jews but where are the pro-Israeli Muslims?

One might as well ask, during the 1980s: "Where are the pro-Apartheid blacks."

Sep. 25 2011 08:30 AM
Michael Dorfman

It's funny that Mr. Rosen so protects the exclusivity qualify "who is a friend of Israel." Just like ultra-orthodox insist on their narrow definition of "who is a Jew."

Sep. 25 2011 06:51 AM
Michael Dorfman from Beer-Sheva

Rosen's argument about "who is a friend of Israel?" is very similar argument schtetl yahne "Who is a Jew?"

Sep. 25 2011 06:06 AM
Michael Dorfman from Beer-Sheva

Rosen's argument about "who is a friend of Israel?" is very similar argument schtetl yahne "Who is a Jew?"

Sep. 25 2011 06:05 AM
Isa Kocher from Debruce NY

why i ask does every suggestion about israel get answered by blanket condemnations of muslims as murderous fascists terrorists intent on killing jews. i am a usa 100% disabled vet. i know that as long as i can remember that muslims have even been martyred for being pro israeli, such as anwar sadat. it's just a damned racist lie that muslims hate israel, muslims hate jews.

just as it's a lie that jews hate muslims.

however in NYC the last time i was there i was attacked and beaten on the LIRR as a terrorist for SAYING iu worked in "Palestine," when asked what i do. the most pro-Israeli anti-terrorist Muslim cleric i have ever known is Imam Faisal Rauf, yet the whole christian zionist tea party muslim hate crowed vilified him personally in terms they wouldn't even use about Hitler.

and no, if as a friend i cannot say one peep of criticism about anything you ever do or say or i am not your friend, then i have to say i am a friend but you choose who your friends are and i can't change that.

as a friend i can't let you drive drunk, shoot yourself or walk off a cliff... if stopping you from self destruction means we're not friends than as a friend i have to stop you. even if you can't forgive me for it.

i just did that very thing with another close friend who allowed pro-terrorism activities in his islamic study center. just as i quote torah to israelis, i showed him the quran and teachings of mohammed [saws] that forbid hatred, racism and terrorism. he no longer accepts me as muslim.

it's not friendship when you can't protest hate racism and war crimes.

IDF did execute unarmed journalists and children on Mavi Marara, did terrorize and torture unarmed senior disabled american vets, did attack unarmed civilians executing them by point blank shots to the face. these are facts. and nothing hamas or anyone did can excuse it.

if what HAMAS does is the measure of Israel's responses, then Israel's responses are just as immoral inhuman unacceptable as anything anyone in al-Qaeda does.

i can say that as a friend but it's up to you to chose to be the human god asks us to be, or to be something else.

friends don't let friends be war criminals. or they are accomplices. that is the choice.

Sep. 24 2011 02:33 PM
Neal Rubenstein from Lexington, MA

The sad truth is that Israel having been radicalized by the Holocaust is paranoid, sees antisemitism everywhere, and is dedicated to the genocide of the Palestinians.

Sep. 24 2011 01:22 PM
Richard Johnston from Manhattan Upper West Side

Speaking as a friend of Israel it seems to me that the dirty little secret nobody talks about is that 90% or more of Americans would not bat an eye if Israel ceased to exist tomorrow, a historical, geopolitical and human-rights catastrophe. This truth is recognized by fanatical pro-Israel adherents as well as by their counterparts on the other side. There is no other comparable dynamic in American politics or foreign policy.

The ironic result is that both sides feel empowered, and neither side wants to give ground, for quite different reasons. There is no "common ground," only distasteful compromise. The fact that criticism of Israel is growing in the American press means there has to be movement pretty soon or the worst outcome becomes more likely.

Sep. 24 2011 07:41 AM

Despite the overblown hand wringing about "squelched criticism" of Israel among American Jews, where is the legitimate concern about squelched praise for Israel among American Muslims?
It is easy to find pro-Palestinian Jews but where are the pro-Israeli Muslims?
Surely there must be some and why do they not speak out about their support of Israel?
Why is the news media so uncurious that "pro-Democracy" movements in the Arab world tend to be hostile to the only successful and prosperous democracy in the region which is Israel?

Heated discussion and arguments about all things Israel among Jews in the US and Israel is as common as oxygen so this debate is nothing new.
What would be new is a balanced debate amongst Muslims in the US and abroad about the existence of Israel with one side offering sympathy to Israel as the only mature democracy in the region standing opposed to ubiquitous Arab tyranny.

It is not the height of condescension and bigotry to expect Jews to have a balanced, civil and "honest debate" about Israel with various viewpoints but not Muslims?

Sep. 23 2011 07:03 PM

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