Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Unthinkable Retort

I noted the other day how pleased I was by Jon Chait's largely positive response to Peter Beinart's trechant critique of the American Jewish Establishment's perspective on Israel and young Jews (my original reaction to the piece). Consequently, like Mr. Chait, I was honestly surprised at the vitriole Beinart directed towards Chait's post.

Beinart's accusation towards Chait is that he isn't angry enough, for "there is only one decent response to these truths: fury. If you're not angry, you're either not paying attention or you don't care...." I have to admit that I am not in the camp of those who think what the Middle East conflict needs is more anger, and the contributions of those who think anger is the right emotion to "build on" have rarely been positive, in my view. It is very weird to me that Chait is getting a negative reaction for essentially agreeing with Beinart's main points.

What it is most symptomatic of, I think, is this idea that any disagreement with any criticism of Israel or Israel's supporters -- even if only partial, even if expressed in perfectly temperate tones -- is necessarily some sort of wild-eyed, pro-Likud, senseless screed aimed at suppressing any and all debate. That Chait, a supporter of Beinart, got met with this reaction almost reflexively is deeply worrisome to me, and does not bode well for the success of the project Beinart claims he wants to start.

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