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Tonight Peter Beinart gave a talk and I didn’t go.

What can Peter Beinart say that is not in his book “The Crisis of Zionism”  or his other writings or those of his circle –  “the anointed”, to borrow a phrase from Thomas Sowell?  

I have read his book which I found self-aggrandising, snide, slickly packaged and devoid of substance except, strangely enough, for his last chapter dealing with socio-demographic trends in American Jewry. His data and conclusions have been challenged but at least there he introduced some credible empirical data rather than cherry picked anecdotes or shallow historical analysis.

But worse than any defects of scholarship, logic or judgement, Beinart believes that it is Israel which must meet his ethical expectations in order to merit his loyalty and affection rather than the other way around. This is nothing but narcissism and adolescent hubris writ large and in the end I felt that I did not wish to drive 70 km to be part of the throng drawn by his celebrity status.

I’m not using this to justify my decision; I am well aware of the arguments pointing in the other direction.  Perhaps if it had been a debate, with Beinart meeting a credible opponent on equal terms, I might have responded differently. However, given the specific circumstances that is the way I felt and so in the end I decided to stay at home.

But I will be addressing some of the pretensions and limitations of the anointed on this site in due course.

Mike Berger 


3 responses to “Tonight Peter Beinart gave a talk and I didn’t go.

  1. Stephen January 27, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Neither did I. Israel now has the majority of Jews in the world. They have no interest in what I or even a Peter Beinart has to say. We can keep talking to ourselves but is it worth the cost of petrol?


    • Charles Smith January 28, 2013 at 6:42 pm

      Stephen’s driving sentiments are welcome.

      However he isn’t correct about Israel having no interest in what the Jews in the rest of the world have to say. Any reasonable Israeli must realize that diaspora Jews are an extremely important part of the Jewish world, so that what they say is definitely important to her, no matter whether positive or negative for Israel.

      When it’s said ALOUD in public AND it’s damaging to Israel, it can be positively dangerous, as in the infamous Goldstone affair. Mostly we can do nothing about certain diaspora Jews’ hangups which drive them to shout their abuse from the rooftops, usually because of a deep-seated embarrassment at being Jewish and in an effort to prove to the world that they’re not like the rest (whom the world can’t stand). But we’ve at least got to know about it so that counter measures can (or should) be taken to limit the damage.

      Diaspora Jews have a different perspective from Israeli Jews and sometimes it allows them to see the wood in spite of the trees. However, they do have to be careful to realize the limitations of their input, so that they should be very hesitant in joining Obama in believing “with a perfect faith” that they know better than the Israelis what is good for the Israelis. I can’t get over the chutzpa of that one……….



      • Stephen January 29, 2013 at 11:20 am

        Thanks Charles. Your closing sentiments encapsulate my main message. I would agree to disagree about how important diaspora Jews, except for the support of the USA, are to most Israelis. Yes the leadership makes politically correct noises and hosts conferences which the few mostly wealthy and well connected enjoy. As far as the ordinary chaver in the street is concerned, whether our caring, even a Peter Beinart’s, is good for them or not, is besides the point. I don’t know what you mean by any “reasonable Israeli”, but I seriously doubt if a nice interesting debate in Cape Town will cause many of them to listen. Nor should they. As you know the spectrum of opinion of Israelis is very wide, and the recent election has shown, to the chagrin of the New York Times, BBC and others who got it so wrong,, that they are not a bunch of rightwingers hellbent on “selfdestruction”. They don’t need me to tell them what to do so my debating it is not relevant. I do not say that the great existing Zionist efforts in the diaspora should not continue, and are important rather for the local community than for ‘reasonable’ Israelis. I was just picking up on Mike’s sentiment that each person can decide for themselves how and when the time, effort and cost involved in talking to ourselves is meaningful.


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