Peter Beinart: Barred From Atlanta’s Jewish Book Festival [View all]
1:12 pm November 13, 2012, by Jay
UPDATE: As the AJC’s Rosalind Bentley reports, tonight’s presentation by Peter Beinart at the Margaret Mitchell House has been sold out.
Peter Beinart was raised in the Jewish faith, attends an Orthodox synagogue in New York City, keeps kosher and says “I love Israel and believe in the Zionist experiment.” He was also just named one of the “Forward 50” by the Jewish Daily Forward, a listing that marks him among those “who have made a significant impact on the Jewish story in the past year.”
So how does Beinart become persona non grata at the Book Festival of the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, his invitation to speak this week suddenly withdrawn? Beinart himself is in some ways mystified, noting that “I speak to Jewish audiences all the time — at synagogues and community centers,” and had never previously been disinvited. However, he also recognizes that in his new book “The Crisis in Zionism,” he says things that have angered and perhaps even frightened America’s Jewish establishment.
In brief, Beinart sees Israel becoming less and less democratic — both in spirit and reality — as it attempts to swallow the occupied territories without granting basic human rights to the millions of Palestinians who live there. And he warns that over time, an abandonment of Israel’s democratic heritage will jeopardize its support among young Jewish Americans by forcing them to choose between Israel and their support for democracy and equal rights.
Last month, an opinion poll released in Israel highlighted the risks cited by Beinart. The poll found that 42 percent of Israeli Jews did not want their children to attend class with the children of Israeli Arabs; only 19 percent would give Palestinians the right to vote if the territories were permanently annexed into Israel. And just six years after Jimmy Carter was strongly condemned for using the term “apartheid” to describe Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, 59 percent of Israeli Jews admit point-blank that apartheid now exists in their country.