I urge everyone to take a look at this week’s New York (magazine), where Jason Zengerie has written an excellent and telling pieced on the continuing conversation and controversy about Zionism within the Jewish-American community. Zengerie’s article focuses on the contentious ascent of Jewish academic and pundit, Peter Beinart, and the reception given to his recently published book, The Crisis of Zionism.
From the moment it was published, The Crisis of Zionism has dominated the American Jewish political discourse. The book argues that Israeli policies—chief among them the occupation of Palestinian lands—threaten the democratic character of Israel and the Zionist project in general, and that it’s the responsibility of American Jews to help change those policies…Politically conservative Jews attacked the book—not unpredictably. “Why does [Beinart] hate Israel so?” Daniel Gordis asked in his review for the Jerusalem Post, before answering: “Beinart’s problem isn’t really with Israel. It’s with Judaism.” The Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens, writing for Tablet, branded The Crisis of Zionism “an act of moral solipsism.” But withering reviews have come from Beinart’s ideological allies on the Jewish center-left as well. Writing in The New York Times Book Review, Jonathan Rosen—a mild-mannered Jewish public intellectual whose most recent book was a meditation on bird-watching—savaged Beinart for his “Manichaean simplicities” and for “employ[ing] several formulations favored by anti-Semites.
While deftly weaving through the litany of responses to Beinart’s philosophy, Zengerie ultimately focuses on Beinart’s internalization of these critiques, whether supportive or denigrating. In doing so, Zengerie gives the reader insight into the frustrations, disappointments and hopes of a public figure who has come to typify the existential crisis faced by many liberal, Jewish intellectuals in America. Given the discrete nature of this group, one whose voice rarely emerges amidst the din of mainstream punditry, Zengerie has accomplished something singular in having the reader live vicariously, albeit fleetingly, through Beinart’s tribulations.