Sunday, May 06, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 05/06/2012 Beinart Peters Out?

From DG:

1) Petering out

Last week Peter Beinart debated Daniel Gordis over the "Crisis in Zionism."

Elder of Ziyon picks up on one of Gordis's lines to suggest a "tweet" to promote a true understanding of Israel and its history.

Challah Hu Akbar picked up on a line stated by Beinart, but doesn't stand up to scrutiny. I agree with Challah's friend who's quoted. Israel's critics, like Beinart, often mis-characterize statements and events in order to create a framework for criticizing Israel.

Gary Rosenblatt was happy that the debate was civil.

This is kind of astonishing. This shouldn't be a debate at all. Beinart represents a fringe viewpoint in America generally and the Jewish community specifically. If he hadn't taken an anti-Israel stand, no one would pay attention to him. But it's been a good career move for Beinart. He got a book deal and gets to edit columns (mostly) devoted to bashing Israel at the Daily Beast.

The "Crisis of Zionism" hasn't been nearly as good for Times Books, which, incredibly, lists the book as a "top seller." (h/t Barry Rubin) Jonathan Tobin wrote the other day:
According to BookScan, the respected service that tabulates point-of-sales purchases of books at stores around the nation, Beinart's much-hyped effort is a flop. Reliable sources tell us that BookScan, which is believed to capture the figures that represent about 60 percent of the book buying in the nation, has tabulated that as of this week Beinart had only sold 2,845 copies of The Crisis of Zionism. Because books that sell thousands more than that number are considered by publishers to be busts, Beinart's ballyhooed cri-de-coeur must be considered a colossal flop. And considering that Beinart is believed to have received an advance of several hundred thousand dollars for it, one imagines that the brass at Times Books — the partnership between Henry Holt and the New York Times that published Crisis — are kicking themselves for being duped into believing the market for post-Zionist carping extended beyond the tiny group of people who will buy anything that takes a dim view of Israel.
Crisis's current Amazon rating is 2,530. That might not be considered embarrassing for a run-of-the-mill non-fiction book. But it's a terrible ranking for a book whose author has been feted on broadcast and cable networks in the kind of public relations blitz orchestrated by his publisher normally reserved for a blockbuster.
If I wrote a book and benefited from the level of promotion that Peter Beinart enjoys, I probably could sell 2,845 copies too!

Emanuele Ottolenghi quotes a strong argument against the demographic argument made by Beinart (and many other critics of Israel.)
Demographic developments undoubtedly are a source of long-term Israeli anxiety. But they are not the type of immediate threat that spurs risky political decisions. Moreover, the binary choice Palestinians, Americans, and even some Israelis posit—either a negotiated two-state outcome or the impossibility of a Jewish, democratic state—assumes dramatic and irreversible changes that Israel would not be able to counter. Yet Israel possesses a variety of potential responses. Already, by unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza, former prime minister Ariel Sharon transformed the numbers game, effectively removing 1.5 million Palestinians from the Israeli equation. The current or a future government could unilaterally conduct further territorial withdrawals from the West Bank, allowing, as in the case of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's West Bank government, or compelling, as happened in Gaza, large numbers of Palestinians to rule themselves and mitigating the demographic peril. The options, in other words, are not necessarily limited to a two-state solution, an apartheid regime, or the end of the Jewish state.
The source of this argument are not "Likudniks" or other Zionists but Robert Malley and Ali Agha writing in the New York Review of Books.

2) The margin

Last week I wrote about the New York Times report on Methodist vote not to divest from Israel. Walter Russell Mead observed something I had missed. (via memeorandum)
The insidious Israel Lobby has struck again. It somehow managed to infiltrate the United Methodist Church and convince the Methodists, by an overwhelming 2-to-1 margin, to vote against ending investments in companies involved in Israel's enforcement of its control of the occupied territories. According to the New York Times, the Methodists' decision follows similar repudiations by the Lutherans and Episcopalians.

One might have expected the Times to emphasize the lopsided nature of the vote and consider what it might say about the way Israel is perceived by American Christians. Instead, it buried any mention of the 2-to-1 margin until the penultimate paragraph, after devoting considerable ink to a wider discussion of the BDS (boycott/divestment/sanction) movement. The movement, we should add, has been remarkably unsuccessful.
Even the margin was reported in the context of the BDS movement:
In two separate votes, divestment was defeated by a 2-to-1 ratio. Susanne Hoder, a Methodist from Rhode Island and a spokeswoman for a group for divestment, the United Methodist Kairos Response, said: "Though we did not get the decision we hoped for, we have succeeded in raising awareness about the persecution of Palestinian Christians and Muslims. We have awakened the conscience of the churches and pointed out the inconsistency between our words and our actions."
Ms. Hoder said that four geographic regions, or "annual conferences," of the Methodist Church — Northern Illinois, California Pacific, New York and West Ohio — had already voted to pull out their own investments. "We expect that more United Methodist conferences will do this," she said.

3) The hunger meme

Last week I criticized Jodi Rudoren's Palestinian Resistance Shifts to Hunger Strikes.

Leo Rennert observed (via memeorandum):
Prisoner complaints, Rudoren writes, also are aimed at Israel's use of renewable periods of administrative detention without actual trial. But this is a tactic not unknown in the West, including the United States, when resort to full trials would jeopardize valuable intelligence sources inside terrorist camps. In the meantime, the prisoners in Israeli jails have access to their own lawyers and to reviews by Israeli courts. In fact, as Rudoren eventually acknowledges, two hunger strikers just appeared before the Israeli Supreme Court to challenge their detentions.
So much for how Israel treats prison inmates. And what about all those non-violent tactics embraced by the Palestinians? Again, readers have to wait until they get to the jump page to find that 300 women marched in Ramallah, chanting "Down with the olive branch, long live the rifle." Not exactly a call to non-violence. But Palestinian sins are regularly forgiven in the pages of the New York Times.
And what about the extent of this new, supposedly "non-violent" movement spawned by the hunger strikers? Again, readers have to slog through lots of hype and puffery before Rudoren admits that "so far, the solidarity demonstrations have been small."

Barry Rubin concluded:
In other words, this is not a news article but a work of political propaganda that could have been produced by a Palestinian public relations firm or an American Jewish group that acts as a Palestinian public relations firm. The purpose of this article is not to report or explain what is happening but to elicit sympathy and support for — shall I say it? well, it happens to be true — terrorist murderers or would-be murderers who were foiled despite their best efforts.
Let me again add that there is nothing "liberal" or "conservative" about these facts. Nothing at all. Pretending otherwise is another propagandistic thought-control effort to get people to deny reality in the guise of opposing horrible right-wingers. It comes from the type of people who can ignore the persecution of Christians in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, the Gaza Strip, and other places in the Middle East while fabricating and highlighting claims that Israel is making Palestinian Christians flee.

4) An observation 
The three items above show a disturbing trend among a certain segment of the intellectual and journalistic  elite in this country. Regardless of their shallowness or shabbiness criticisms and condemnations of Israel are taken as a sign of one's moral seriousness and sophistication. When the critic, like Peter Beinart, claims to be a Zionist the argument is prized even more.

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