September 16, 2019

The ‘bravery’ of Beinart, and Krugman

Paul Krugman believes that Peter Beinart is “a brave man” who wrote “a brave book” ‎‎(“The Crisis of Zionism”). And why should Beinart be considered “brave?” Krugman only ‎gives one reason: The possibility of “intense attack from organized groups that try to ‎make any criticism of Israeli policies tantamount to anti-Semitism.”

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But even though the post is very short and the point is supposedly very clear, I still ‎had some questions to which I did not get answers:‎

‎1. If Beinart was brave to write this book, is Krugman brave for calling Beinart brave ‎‎(while those who do not think Beinart is brave are not brave)?‎

‎2. If Krugman is right and “most American Jews are still liberal” like Beinart and ‎himself, does it not make his point about bravery a little bit less convincing? By ‎Krugman’s own account, all Beinart is doing is catering to the views of the majority of ‎his potential readers.‎

‎3. Krugman is right: some organizations might attack Beinart. Is that such a heavy ‎price for the author to pay? Consider this price compared to the benefits: Beinart is ‎now far better known than he was, gets invitations to numerous forums, made a lot of ‎money, got a new and hyped journalistic gig, and is called “brave” by the likes of ‎Krugman. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.‎

‎4. Consider this sentence: “It seems obvious from here that the narrow-minded ‎policies of the current government are basically a gradual, long-run form of national ‎suicide”. Now ask: What does Krugman mean by “from here”? Does he refer to the ‎city of New York, to the offices of The New York Times (yes, reading the Times ‎might give one such impression of Israel), to the United States? And if it is so ‎‎“obvious”, does it not make Beinart’s book – yet again – not as brave as Krugman ‎argues?‎

‎5. Krugman also testifies, in this very short column, that he “basically avoid[s] ‎thinking about where Israel is going”. This means that Krugman is able to identify the ‎many follies and vices of a place about which he does not think.‎

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‎6. Did Krugman even read Beinart’s book? I don’t know. Has he read any book on ‎Israel in recent years? Does he know anything about Israel? He says nothing about the ‎content of Beinart’s book, shows no inclination to explain why Israel’s policies are ‎‎“long-run form of national suicide”, gives no hint as to the reasons why Israel deserves ‎to be criticized. If anyone wrote with such a commanding tone about the issues on ‎which Krugman does know something, he’d probably be the first to jump on him and ‎demand facts, details, logical analysis (he says he “doesn’t have the time” – but he ‎does give the impression that he had the time to read the whole book – and we all ‎know that reading takes more time than writing).‎

‎7. Piled on praise of someone as respectable and as smart and as celebrated as Paul ‎Krugman – does that make one brave?  ‎