Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

False Advertising: The Daily Beast and “Open Zion”

March 28, 2012 2:35 pm 1 comment

"Open Zion" Editor Peter Beinart. Photo:

Following its merger with Newsweek, The Daily Beast may be on its way to becoming something of an American news media institution. It was therefore a simultaneous source of wonder and pride to me that the paper would launch a blog entitled “Open Zion,” recently changed from “Zion Square,” and subtitled “a new conversation about Israel, Palestine and the Jewish future.”

It is not often that I end up quoting a Reform Rabbi, but Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue made a similar point in a sermon last week when he asked, “How has the New York Times become the paper of record not only for American society but the paper of record for when Jews want to speak to Jews about Jewish matters?”

Is it so that these subjects are of such interest and import to the American public that they demand so much attention and even the establishment of dedicated platforms in mainstream publications?

If this is the case however, it is no small travesty that the Daily Beast has done a remarkably shoddy job at delivering an even remotely accurate or fair representation of Zionist or Jewish discourse in this country and certainly in Israel. In fact after a brief review of the top listed entries, a more accurate sub label for the venture might be “an old conversation about Israeli crimes, Jewish power and the Palestinian Arab problem.”

The posts are replete with misleading references, half truths and dubious presuppositions and assumptions. Editor Peter Beinart, who has recently published a highly controversial book entitled “The Crisis of Zionism,” has not a semblance of credibility in fulfilling his self professed role of “challenging liberal Zionism from the left and the right,” as in recent years he has been trumpeting his strongly held and one-sided opinions on the subject matter  from just about every soap box that will have him. He says that he aims to “launch a conversation,” but the blog reads more like a Beinart tirade.

One example of Beinart’s incapacity is his selection of – in his description – “the hawkish Israeli historian Benny Morris,” to carry the contemporary mainstream Zionist banner. However, the interesting thing about Morris is that in an interview with Haaretz in 2004, he labeled himself as left wing and was described in the introduction by Ari Shavit as follows: “Benny Morris is the dean of Israeli ‘new historians’, who have done so much to create a critical vision of Zionism – its expulsion and continuing oppression of the Palestinians, its pressing need for moral and political atonement.” Additionally as of now, he only has one blog post that appears on the site, whereas an anti-Zionist contributor like Hussein Ibish has four.

Beinart’s editorial misdemeanors are many, and one could write books on the details. Indeed, I have read a number of capable and pointed critiques of the enterprise. What I would presently like to focus on is the Daily Beast’s misleading and false portrayal of the blog’s content and focus, by allowing the title “Open Zion.”

It seems that for the most part, the overall collective definition on the platform of the term ‘Zionism,’ was best captured by “Open Zion” blogger Jay Michaelson, in a blog entitled “Can You Be a Zionist If No One Thinks You Are?” He writes, “there’s a shrinking constituency that still believes Zionism can mean what it used to mean: the ideology that there should be a national home for the Jewish people in its historic homeland. The Left equates that ideology with the Right’s iteration of it…..(this) is what the Left means by “Zionism” and why it equates the term with racism.”

The problem however with the Zionism that Michaelson iterates is that it has subjective definitions, and that is because it is not guided by a defined purpose. What does he mean when he refers to a national home? And what are the parameters of the historic homeland he speaks of? What does the cause of Zionism represent today if Jews have reclaimed ownership of their ancestral Holy Land over 60 years ago?

Historian Alexander J. Motyl describes Zionism’s purpose in the Encyclopedia of Nationalism, “as a means for Jews to be liberated from anti-Semitic discrimination, exclusion, and persecution that has occurred in other societies.”

Michaelson and his fellow bloggers on Open Zion must accept that it is this definition of the Zionist purpose that should guide the boundaries of the ideology and its modern day manifestation. Simply put, the meaning of Zionism today is to ensure that the establishment of a Jewish state does not turn out to be an exercise of geographic convenience for those that wish to annihilate the Jewish race.

It is this conversation that so desperately needs to permeate Jewish discourse, and is for the most part so glaringly absent from the “Open Zion” project. As for the Daily Beat, the publication’s flippancy in allowing for the false labeling of a dedicated blog that is neither “Open” nor “Zionist” is simply disgraceful.

The author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at

1 Comment

  • Just wanted to add that the reason Beinart changed the name from Zion Square to Open Zion is that there is already a site called Zion Square, at Check it out, it’s also focused on Israel and gives a somewhat different perspective than Open Zion.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.

Current day month ye@r *


  • Israel Theater BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    BDS Gives Belgian-Jewish Actress New Lease on Life in Tel Aviv

    In an interview with the Israeli site nrg on Wednesday, Belgian-Jewish stage actress Noemi Schlosser recounted immigrating to Israel after her career in Europe was destroyed by BDS. Schlosser said she had enjoyed success in Belgium and international acclaim until she was targeted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for her pro-Israel stance during Operation Protective Edge — last summer’s war against Hamas in Gaza. She described watching the theaters where she performed go from packed to nearly empty over a short period of […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    In Israel for Champions League Soccer Match, Chelsea Manager Says Team Not Worried About Security Situation

    The manager of the Chelsea Football Club said on Monday that he is looking forward to playing in Israel this week against Maccabi Tel Aviv, in spite of the security situation, Israeli news site nrg reported. Jose Murinho, who is already in Israel with his team to compete against Maccabi in the Champions League soccer match, was  asked whether he was worried about the current wave of Palestinian violence sweeping the country. “I have no worries at all regarding the security situation, and neither do […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Opinion In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    In the Middle East, ‘The Tail Wags the Dog’ (REVIEW)

    Blaming the West has become the most pervasive method of teaching for many Middle East studies departments, which are becoming the heart of pop-culture academia. Efraim Karsh, a distinguished professor of Middle Eastern studies at Bar-Ilan University and professor emeritus at King’s College London, in his latest book The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East, dispels this myth. “Britain’s ‘original sin,’ if such was indeed committed, lay not in the breaking up of Middle Eastern unity but […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About

    With Popularity and Sales up, ‘Mensch on a Bench’ Has Much to Smile About – The Mensch on a Bench is so much happier now than he was a year ago. Look carefully and you will notice that, whereas the previous Mensch had a decidedly worried look, this latest version of the popular Hanukkah toy is flashing an exuberant grin. Is the erstwhile Mensch smiling because he expects to be in some 100,000 homes by year’s end? In truth, the change in visage was suggested last year by the “sharks” on ABC’s Shark Tank […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Adam Sandler Updates Famous ‘Chanukah Song,’ Includes Hulk Hogan, David Beckham and Scarlett Johansson in Latest Version

    Actor Adam Sandler unveiled a new version of his famous “Chanukah Song” on Saturday, adding a slew of Jewish celebrities to the ditty’s updated lyrics. The comedian — who released the original song about being Jewish during Christmas in 1996 — performed the latest version of the comedic track during the New York Comedy Festival at Carnegie Hall. Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee, actor Jake Gyllenhaal and “the two guys who founded Google” are among the famous Jewish celebrities now in the line up. Sandler also included lyrics about Star Wars‘ Princess […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

    Famed Israeli Violinist Itzhak Perlman to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom – Famed Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman will be among the 17 recipients of America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom next week. He is the fourth Israeli to receive the highest civilian honor in the US. “A native of Israel, he came to the United States at a young age and was introduced to Americans broadly when he appeared on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1958. Mr. Perlman made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1963 when he was 18,” a White House […]

    Read more →
  • Features Spirituality/Tradition Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots

    Don’t Think Israel is a Luxury Destination? Check Out These 6 Spots – While Israel is a common destination for cultural and religious pilgrimages, travelers seeking the best hotels, fine dining, and upscale relaxation less often find themselves in the Holy Land. Yet in recent years, the country’s burgeoning tech scene has attracted a business crowd accustomed to ritzy accommodation. Besides, the permanent summer of Tel Aviv and Eilat makes them prime destinations for European vacationers. Israel’s populace managed to tame the swamps and irrigate the desert — so going luxury should […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features Has Shia LaBeouf Reached the End of the Line?

    Has Shia LaBeouf Reached the End of the Line?

    Was Shia LaBeouf’s performance art piece at Manhattan’s Angelica Film Center (where he spent three days watching his own films) a sign of madness or genius? Judging from the lines and the fans, it was the latter. Shortly before 6 a.m. on Thursday, approximately 140 people were on line for the last day of the live-streamed event at Angelica Film Center. Fans who waited were happy to give their opinions. “I don’t think he’s crazy,” said Elliot Quartz, an 18-year-old student at the New School, who waited […]

    Read more →