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Beinart in 2007
|Born||Peter Alexander Beinart|
|Spouse||Diana Robin Hartstein (2003–to date)|
Beinart in 2007
|Born||Peter Alexander Beinart|
|Spouse||Diana Robin Hartstein (2003–to date)|
Peter Alexander Beinart (//; born 1971) is an American political pundit. A former editor of The New Republic, he has written for Time, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books among other periodicals, and is the author of three books. He is associate professor of journalism and political science at City University of New York, senior political writer for The Daily Beast and the editor of its blog "Open Zion".
Beinart was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His parents were Jewish immigrants from South Africa (his maternal grandfather was from Russia and his maternal grandmother, who was Sephardic, was from Egypt). His mother, Doreen (née Pienaar), is former director of the Harvard's Human Rights film series at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and his father, Julian Beinart, is a former professor of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His stepfather is theatre critic and playwright Robert Brustein. Beinart attended Buckingham Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He then studied history and political science at Yale University, where he was a member of the Yale Political Union, and graduated in 1993. He was a Rhodes Scholar at University College, Oxford University, where he earned an M.Phil. in international relations in 1995.
Beinart worked at The New Republic as the managing editor from 1995 to 1997, then as senior editor till 1999, and as the magazine's editor from 1999 to 2006. For much of the time, he also wrote The New Republic’s signature "TRB" column, which was reprinted in The New York Post and other newspapers. From 2007 till 2009 he was a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Beinart is Associate Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York, Senior Political Writer at the blog The Daily Beast, and a Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation. Beinart has written for Time, The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, and some other periodicals. Occasionally Beinart has appeared on various TV news discussion programs. His achievements at a very young age have earned him the accolade "wunderkind". In March 2012, he launched a new blog, "Open Zion", at Newsweek/The Daily Beast.
Beinart is the author of the book, The Good Fight: Why Liberals—and Only Liberals—Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again, published in 2006. Drawing upon the work of the mid-century American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, Beinart argues that, paradoxically, the only way for America to distinguish itself from the predatory imperial powers of the past is to acknowledge its own capacity for evil. Acknowledging its moral fallibility, Beinart argues, would lead America to embed its power within structures of domestic and international law. This, Beinart argues, was the great accomplishment of early cold war liberals like Hubert Humphrey and Walter Reuther. The Bush administration, by contrast, carried on the tradition of right-wing anti-totalitarianism — exemplified by cold war intellectuals like James Burnham — which warned that recognizing America’s fallibility would lead to crippling self-doubt.
Beinart was a vocal supporter of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq but by 2006 as he published his first book, he "had concluded that it had been a tragic mistake", according to George Packer in The New Yorker. His second book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, published in 2010, in Packer's words, "look[ed] back at the past hundred years of U.S. foreign policy in the baleful light of recent events [and found] the ground littered with ... the remnants of large ideas and unearned confidence [as demonstrable in] a study of three needless wars", the First World War, Vietnam, and Iraq. Vietnam was presented in the context of ozio (indolence) in the wake of the necessary and successful World War II. WWI, Vietnam and Iraq were presented as each "based on an oversimplifying ism—Progressivism, liberal anti-Communism, and neoconservativism—and ... respectively, the hubris of reason, the hubris of toughness, and the hubris of dominance.
In the much commented 2010 essay "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment" in the New York Review of Books, Beinart has argued that the tensions between liberalism and Zionism in the U.S. may tear the two historically linked concepts apart. He argued that by abetting Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, American Jewish leaders risk alienating generations of younger American Jews who find the occupation to be morally wrong and incompatible with their liberal politics.
He expanded on this argument for his 2012 book, The Crisis of Zionism. Former American president Bill Clinton endorses the book, calling it "a deeply important book for anyone who cares about Israel, its security, its democracy, and its prospects for a just and lasting peace" on the back cover, adding "Beinart explains the roots of the current political and religious debates within Israel, raises the tough questions that can't be avoided, and offers a new way forward to achieve Zionism's founding ideals, both in Israel and among the diaspora Jews in the United States and elsewhere". Explaining his decision to adopt a more outspoken stance on Israel-Palestine, Beinart said: "When I saw that Avigdor Lieberman's emergence was provoking no outcry from the organized Jewish world, it felt to me that the organized Jewish community had essentially accepted a Zionism that would go wherever the Israeli government wanted to go. It seemed Obama and Netanyahu's agendas were going to be radically different, so supporting one meant not supporting the other." In the final section of the book, Beinart advocates boycotting products from Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories, but not from East Jerusalem, calling Israel beyond the Green Line "nondemocratic Israel".
Former owner of The New Republic, Marty Peretz criticised The Crisis of Zionism as "a narcissistic book, and the narcissism of privileged and haughty people is never particularly attractive". The book received a negative review from Bret Stephens in Tablet, which Beinart called "long and vitriolic" in his response in the same magazine. The Economist, critical about the boycott, which it called "not the shrewdest of ideas", considered the book "by no means bad. Though a bit too blithe about Arab intentions towards Israel, the interesting part of it is not what it says about the Middle East. It is the part about what their affair with Israel has done to American Jews", concluding: "No doubt Mr Beinart will be written off as a self-appointed Isaiah with a book to sell. But the sentiment is noble, and the message deserves to be heard."
A review of the book in The New York Times accused Beinart of expounding "Manichaean simplicities", though Beinart countered that the reviewer had simply misrepresented and evaded the core thrust of the book.
In an op-ed in The New York Times in March 2012, Beinart recommends what he calls "Zionist B.D.S." — a boycott of goods made in the Israeli settlements combined with renewed support for Israel within the Green Line, including East Jerusalem. The phrase "nondemocratic Israel" for the occupied territories "suggests that there are today two Israels: a flawed but genuine democracy within the green line and an ethnically-based nondemocracy beyond it. It counters efforts by Israel’s leaders to use the legitimacy of democratic Israel to legitimize the occupation and by Israel’s adversaries to use the illegitimacy of the occupation to delegitimize democratic Israel". And he concludes: "If Israel makes the occupation permanent and Zionism ceases to be a democratic project, Israel’s foes will eventually overthrow Zionism itself. We are closer to that day than many American Jews want to admit. Sticking to the old comfortable ways endangers Israel’s democratic future. If we want to effectively oppose the forces that threaten Israel from without, we must also oppose the forces that threaten it from within". Beinart's call for a boycott of products made in the Israeli settlements has been widely rejected by Jewish individuals and organizations, including J Street, and the op-ed provoked a same-day response from the Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, who called Beinart's position "marginal and highly radical".
In his address at J Street's plenary session in March 2012, Beinart, who according to the Israeli daily Haaretz "has firmly established his credentials as the Jewish establishment's enfant terrible", called for providing more space in the public discourse for critics of Israel, saying: "Any Jewish leader who conflates disagreement in policy with anti-Semitism should be fired". Beinart is dismissive of the whole notion of self-hating Jews: "What is a self-hating Jew? All Jews are self-loving and self-hating. It's one of the stupidest things I've ever heard."
Since 2003, Beinart is married to Diana Robin Hartstein, a lawyer. They live with their two children in New York City. He keeps kosher, regularly attends an Orthodox synagogue and sends his children to a Jewish school.