Peter Beinart and Killing the Messenger

Avoiding/ignoring the message we do not want to hear.

by Yoram Getzler, co-host of
May 26, 2010

The author is an Israeli visiting community member and BJN contributor Paul Korda.  He is responding to BJN’s previous posting about Peter Beinart’s essay in the NY Times Book Section and the our compilation of the subsequent responses, agreeing and disagreeing, that have appeared in the blogosphere.  This post originally appeared on

Yoram Getzler
Yoram Getzler

Much of the debate is an attack on the messenger. IT IS NOT an intelligent DISCUSSION OF the unpopular and uncomfortable findings that Mr. Beinert POSITS.

This is an old technique to avoid dealing with a difficult problem. It is so understandable; after all, who wants to confront an issue which challenges one beyond our comfort zone and abilities?

Of course we can always kill the messenger / ignore the reality and continue on as before.

True  Mr. Beinart’s IDEAS ARE LESS THAN COMFORTABLE FOR MOST AMERICAN JEWS; ideas we would rather not hear, know or think about. In attempting to understand and explain HIS IDEAS Beinart makes statements that frighten and insult many Zionists. So MOST OF US WOULD RATHER smash the mirror and return to the comfortable assumptions of the past.

DON’T ask questions, you will not get answers that make you uncomfortable. This  process CERTAINLY inhibits learning and changing. Both of which can develop as a result of answers to difficult questions arising from concerns or observations.

Somebody –  a Republican, NO LESS –  wanted to know what the young generation of American Jews thought and felt about Israel. Why “NO LESS”  a Republican? ARE REPUBLICANS STILL VYING FOR  “The Jewish Vote” ?  I am not a Republican but I am interested in the question, which I consider critical to our future, as Americans and as Israelis.

That our policies vis-a-vis the Arab residents of the areas we CAPTURED in the 1967 Six Day War (of defense) are offensive to most of the world is not news. It is also well known that there are Israelis, young and old who also object. The idea that diaspora Jews, young and not-so-young are uncomfortable is not a surprise. So maybe one of the real questions should be; should we adopt policies that might endanger the state in order to satisfy those who are unhappy and alienated? I think the answer is clearly NO. However, WE MAY WANT TO BE MORE CIRCUMSPECT IN WHAT WE SAY AND DO AS ISRAELIS.

Are there policies that we could safely pursue that would mitigate the negative perceptions? Can Peter Beinart’s essay stimulate a potentially creative and fruitful conversation that we could engage in that might have a positive outcome? NOT if we reject it out of hand because we disagree with its basic premise or with the political affiliation of the author.

Is there something useful we could learn from the article and its insights?

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