Peter Beinart, columnist at The Daily Beast (Newsweek’s online presence) and author of The Icarus Syndrome and the up-coming The Crisis of Zionism (and, not incidentally, of a cri de couer entitled “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment” that set the American Jewish world on its ear when the New York Review of Books ran it in June 2010, in that it told the truth that no one wanted to talk about) is launching a new group blog, called Zion Square, to be hosted on The Daily Beast.
I’m one of the columnists.
This is very cool. This is very, very cool, and in many ways, is the very thing I’ve been trying to achieve since I started writing op/eds in 2002, post-graduate school.
And I was hardly even talking about it, though it’s been in the works for a month or so, because as an old school reporter, I know that your story isn’t safe until it’s on someone’s doorstep (or, in this case, computer monitor) and why on earth would I want to jinx this? So, you know: Mum = the word!
But Tablet Magazine ran a piece about the project today, and, well – if it’s online, it must be true, right? Here’s what they said:
“I find very little interesting conversation about what Zionism is,” Peter Beinart, the former New Republic editor who has emerged in recent years as one of the most prominent center-left commentators on foreign policy, and especially Israel, told Tablet Magazine yesterday. “The term has become so politicized and associated with the right that this is a moment where the question of what Zionism is and the variety of different Zionisms that can exist really needs to be discussed.” The place he hopes this “intellectually open and unafraid” discussion will occur is Zion Square, his new group blog at The Daily Beast, which launches Monday.
According to Beinart, most of Zion Square’s contributors broadly share his belief in “the Jewish democratic state, based upon the principles of Israel’s declaration of independence,” alongside a Palestinian state….
Among Zion Square’s ten regular columnists, only one would commonly be thought of as offering a right-of-center perspective—the Israeli Benny Morris. The rest are: Bernard Avishai, Lara Friedman, Gershom Gorenberg, Emily L. Hauser, Hussein Ibish, Yehudah Mirsky, Yousef Munayyer, Trita Parsi, and Einat Wilf.
Friedman, of Americans for Peace Now, might be the farthest left (APN, for example, advocates boycotts of goods made in the occupied territories but not Israel). Mirsky, rabbinically ordained and concerned as much with Jewish identity as politics, could also be considered center to center-right. Gorenberg’s recent The Unmaking of Israel is, in my opinion, a fantastic book. Wilf is the only professional politician, a member of the Knesset from Ehud Barak’s Independence Party. And Parsi might prove the most controversial selection: the president of the National Iranian American Council, he has become a lightning rod in the Iran debate, criticized by the right for an allegedly overly credulous view of Iranian willingness to back away from a nuclear program.
Beinart is particularly excited to have voices from the Arab world, including Ibish, who is Lebanese, and Munayyer, who is Palestinian (and he noted that Parsi is Iranian). “One of the defining characteristics of the organized Jewish community’s discussion is the Palestinian voices rarely have a chance to be heard by a Jewish audience,” he argued. The ways in which the organized Jewish community narrow American discussion of Israel is a theme of Beinart’s book, which will be excerpted in Monday’s Newsweek (The Daily Beast’s print counterpart), as well as of the widely read essay he published nearly two years ago, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.”
I’ll note two things:
- I am every bit as left-wing at Lara Friedman! C’mon now, Tablet!
- Trita Parsi was interviewed on The Daily Show last night. I’m going to be blogging with the guy who Jon Stewart interviewed last night. /faints
- (okay, three things) Every name on that list but mine is well known in my circles – I’m currently envisioning a lot of people going “Emily L. – who, now?”
Aside from my excitement about mememememe, though, it should also be noted that the project is terrific and exciting, on it’s own, un-me related merits! These are conversations that anyone with a stake in Israel needs to be having, and I’m very grateful to be able to play a part.