Beinart Targets Israel’s Nuclear Weapons in Latest New York Times ‘Guest’ Essay
In early May, shortly after the New York Times announced it was stripping anti-Zionist activist and City University of New York professor Peter Beinart of his “contributing opinion writer” title, a vice president of communications at the New York Times Company, Danielle Rhodes-Ha, told the Algemeiner that it might not be the last appearance of Beinart — and of other former contributing writers — in the Times pages.
“We hope they will still pitch guest essays, of course — Peter Beinart included,” Rhodes-Ha said at the time.
She wasn’t kidding. Since the April announcement about him losing the title, Beinart has published four Times opinion articles, an online search shows — basically the same monthly pace he was keeping before the Times made its bye-bye Beinart announcement. The Times has been promoting the Beinart pieces prominently on its Internet home page. That’s less a “guest” essay than one by someone who keeps returning so frequently he keeps a toothbrush in the bathroom drawer.
The latest article, headlined “America Needs to Start Telling the Truth About Israel’s Nukes,” suffers from many of the same failings that characterize Beinart’s earlier work.
Beinart writes, “the American government’s deceptive silence prevents a more honest debate at home about the dangers an Iranian nuclear weapon would pose. American politicians sometimes say an Iranian bomb would pose an ‘existential threat’ to Israel. That’s a dubious claim, given that Israel possesses a nuclear deterrent.”
The argument is repeated lower down in the column. Beinart writes, “it’s crucial that Americans make an informed decision about the risk a nuclear Iran poses to America’s closes ally in the Middle East. That’s harder when the American government never publicly admits that Israel has the means to deter a nuclear attack.”
Since Beinart flings accusations about “deceptive silence” and “lying by omission” and a less “honest” debate, ask: who is the one who is being deceptive? Beinart himself is offering misleading framing by suggesting that the American interest in preventing an Iranian nuclear weapon is solely driven by concern for Israel.
Actually, an Iranian nuclear weapon would imperil America as well. According to Obama administration Justice Department officials as reported in the New York Times itself, Iran has already launched cyberattacks against “dozens of American banks” and “a small dam in a suburb of New York.” Iran is also reportedly moving missiles into Venezuela — a country that is geographically closer to the US than it is to Israel. In July, four Iranians were charged with a plot to kidnap a journalist living in Brooklyn. Iranian-government orchestrated rallies feature “death to America” chants. The Iranian revolution featured the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran and Americans held hostage.
The US State Department’s latest country report on terrorism says, “Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members residing in the country and has refused to publicly identify members in its custody. Iran has allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran since at least 2009, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.” Al Qaeda targeted New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.
The State Department also says, “As in past years, the Iranian government continued supporting terrorist plots to attack Iranian dissidents in several countries in continental Europe. In recent years, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Albania have all either arrested or expelled Iranian government officials implicated in various terrorist plots in their respective territories. Denmark similarly recalled its ambassador from Tehran after learning of an Iran-backed plot to assassinate an Iranian dissident in its country.”
Beinart omits that Iran threatens America and Europe, not only Israel.
What’s more, the idea that Israel’s nuclear weapon would “deter” Iran is questionable. Iran funds suicide bombers. That provides an outlook into their death-cult ideology. As the eminent Princeton historian of the Middle East Professor Bernard Lewis memorably and with characteristic eloquence put it, for Iranian fanatics, mutual assured destruction “it not a deterrent, it is an inducement.”
The executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Robert Satloff, tweeted that Beinart was “blurring the distinction between Israel’s nuclear deterrent and Iran’s exterminationist nuclear project.” Said Satloff, “I don’t think I’m alone in wondering whether Peter Beinart prefers a nuclear-free Middle East or an Israel-free Middle East.”
A former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, tweeted, “Beinart’s ‘honest discussion’ must distinguish between Israel that doesn’t threaten to destroy another country and Iran that does, between the Jews who experienced the Holocaust and Iran that denies it, and between Israel, a target of terrorism, and Iran, its largest sponsor.”
Since Israel is not a party to the Iran nuclear talks, one wonders why Israel’s nuclear capabilities are even at issue. Why not propose scrapping America’s nuclear arsenal, too? At least the US, unlike Israel, was a party to the Iran nuclear deal. It would be absurd — leaving the US vulnerable to any number of other nuclear powers, from Pakistan to Russia and China, that go entirely unmentioned in Beinart’s article. The only nuclear weapon Beinart wants to make a headline of is Israel’s. It’s a peculiarly weak argument, with or without the “contributing opinion writer” title.
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.