With Beinart Podcast, New York Times Pushes Zionism-Is-Racism Lie
by Ira Stoll
The New York Times is doubling down on Peter Beinart’s plan to replace the Jewish state of Israel with a binational “Israel-Palestine.”
A Times op-ed by Beinart earlier this month called for eliminating the existing country of Israel and substituting instead something that Beinart calls “Israel-Palestine,” “a Jewish home that is also, equally, a Palestinian home” or “a Jewish home that is not a Jewish state.”
Now the Times is piling on with a podcast in which Beinart is given a half-hour of audio time to advocate what the Times podcast headline calls “The Case for a One-State Solution.” If President Donald Trump or a Republican senator had used the word “solution” in the same breath as a call to wipe Israel off the map, you can bet that it would be accused of dog-whistling echoes of the “Final Solution” faster than you can spell Jonathan Weisman, but here we are.
One gets a sense of where the Times podcast is headed not only from the introduction but from the scripted lead-in read by Times columnist Ross Douthat. “Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is now threatening formal annexation of strategic pieces of Palestinian territory, a move that signals comfort with permanent occupation,” Douthat intones. This is inaccurate and tendentious on so many levels it is hard to know where to begin. Start, though, with the Times assertion that this is “Palestinian territory.” That’s precisely what is in dispute, and in fact as recently as May 2020, the Times opinion section, after a complaint from the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis, corrected a subheadline that erroneously described the West Bank as “Palestinian territory.” In addition, it’s quite possible that annexation signals precisely discomfort with “permanent occupation.” Agree or disagree with annexation, the idea is that it would change the status of the annexed territories from “occupation” to lands in which Israeli law or sovereignty applies on a more permanent basis. Also, it’s not “Benjamin Netanyahu’s government,” but the democratically elected government of the people of Israel.
The podcast goes further downhill from there. Rather than really debating or challenging Beinart, the Times columnists egg him on. “Philosophically, I am completely right there with Peter,” Times columnist Michelle Goldberg says at one point, while nevertheless mildly expressing concern that the Beinart plan would “turn into a civil war.”
“We agree about a lot,” Goldberg said to Beinart.
Douthat, who was also mildly skeptical of Beinart at times, at one point went on — during a conversation about Israel and the Palestinians, about how the arc of history “bends toward the end of Jim Crow … it bends toward the end of Apartheid.” This echoes the big “Zionism is racism” lie. The Times editorial page podcast series of which the Beinart “Case for a One-State Solution” episode is a part is called The Argument, but in this case, there is no argument, as all three people on the program are more or less on Beinart’s side, and against the side of Israeli Jews. The podcast would be more accurately called “The Agreement,” or “The Lovefest.”
The Times editorial page has been the focus of concern by pro-Israel groups and readers following the ouster of editors James Bennet and Bari Weiss and the ascendance of senior editor Max Strasser, a vocal public critic of the idea of a Jewish state.
Beinart spent his airtime on the podcast pushing the Soviet-era “Zionism is racism” lie hard, with frequent references to South Africa and its minority rule system of Apartheid. It’s a false parallel, but Beinart can’t drop it. “Even ten years before Apartheid ended, with the first real election in South Africa, in 1994, it was pretty much unimaginable to many observers, certainly most white South Africans, that there would be a free government that they could live under safely,” Beinart said. “The reason Apartheid ended in significant measure is essentially an uprising in black South Africa that never ended.”
At another point, Beinart called for the return of Palestinians from Gaza to the pre-1967 borders of Israel. “I found that there’s a certain kind of strange irony in the fact that American Jews, who like me wake up every morning and open a prayer book and pray for a return to a place that they left 2,000 years ago, can find it so easily to dismiss people’s desire to return to homes that they left in the middle of the last century,” Beinart said, asserting that Israel “was founded on an act of mass population expulsion in 1947 and 1948.” Actually some Arabs stayed, and of those who left, many did so voluntarily, rejecting Israeli pleas that they remain.
The New York Times podcast ended with Goldberg and Beinart sounding like conspiracy theorists, joining to condemn the organized Jewish community for supposedly attempting to squelch anti-Zionist speech.
“There is no form of speech more stigmatized, more officially repressed, more likely to derail a lot of professional prospects than anti-Zionism, in American life,” Goldberg said, conveniently overlooking racism, sexism, and homophobia. “It’s a uniquely repressed kind of speech.”
Said Beinart, “We have done in the organized Jewish community so much harm in terms of intimidating people out of being able to feel like they can express their opinion.”
Neither Beinart nor Goldberg seem to have considered the possibility that the reason there is not much expressed support for wiping Israel off the map may not be repression or intimidation. Rather, the reason may instead be widespread recognition that, as the deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Ken Jacobson, put it in a July 10 letter to the editor of the Times, “Alone among states in the United Nations, Israel’s existence is put in question without consequences, sometimes in blatant and obviously hostile ways, such as by Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, sometimes by those like Mr. Beinart who argue in softer terms, framing their position in terms of human rights. There’s not much difference in the end. Both violate every norm regarding sovereignty of a nation. In the final analysis, such calls are themselves antisemitic, or at the very least, as in the case of Mr. Beinart, play into the hands of the antisemites.” (Beinart called this accusation “bewildering,” telling Times podcast listeners that he wakes up in the morning and puts on tefillin and studies Talmud.)
Rather than being uniquely repressed, anti-Zionism is one form of bigotry that the New York Times opinion page and Beinart, a $165,275-a-year professor at the taxpayer-funded City University of New York School of Journalism, uniquely embrace.
Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.