Thursday, November 21, 2013

Beinart's 'Open Zion' closing; too large a tent?

fileJournalist and CUNY professor, Peter Beinart, has announced the closing of "Open Zion," the Israel-centered blog which he has edited and published at the Daily Beast website, at the end of 2013. I'm proud to have contributed four articles, joining numerous other writers, including a few who have or had links with our organization: Hillel Schenker, Mairav Zonszein and Daniel Roth.  All three live in Israel currently; Ms. Zonszein -- once on the staff of Meretz USA and an executive director of the Union of Progressive Zionists (now J Street U) -- is a sharper critic of Israel than I tend to be.   

Peter Beinart
Peter Beinart

Beinart indicated that the reason for Open Zion's termination is personal.  It has to do with his need to move on, especially to do more writing, not because of a lack of readership or financing.   I agree to a large extent with Liel Leibovitz, writing in Tablet that "The blog could have lived—even gotten better—after Beinart."  Leibovitz was somewhat critical of its content; although I wouldn't necessarily flag the same articles, it is valid to question some of the writing.  Perhaps it was more diverse than it should have been, or perhaps I'm just being too sensitive.      

I recall arguing with the editors  there are two paid staff who do the day-to-day editing — about some phrasing that I didn't agree with (unfortunately, I don't recall what this was, but I do remember my distress).  There's a degree of political correctness that's gone further in a critical direction regarding Israel than I would like.

At the same time, Leibovitz's Tablet webzine is often too easy on Israel (as are most Jewish publications). It's very hard to strike a truly fair balance that accurately reflects the reality of what there is to be critical of in Israel (plenty, unfortunately) and where Israel deserves our support and respect  we strive to do that on this blog. 

There seems to have been some occasional choice of staff and writers at Open Zion who are not fully onboard with Israel as the Jewish homeland.  Not that I would totally exclude non-Zionist and Arab voices, but I would not likely have such people as frequent contributors or staff.  In fact, I would like to see more point-by-point debate among Jews Zionists and non-Zionists  as long as it's conducted respectfully.

I've learned that two frequent contributors, whom I respect greatly, have asked to try to keep Open Zion going.  Since I've learned this in a private conversation, I don't feel at liberty to mention their names.  I don't know how to evaluate their chances for success, but it involves the dual functions of publisher and editor-in-chief, which my be more manageable if separated.  Their first step would be to reassemble staff; I understand that both the current paid editors have found new jobs.

Please understand that, despite my concerns, I see Open Zion as a brave and worthwhile project.  I hope that Beinart succeeds in passing along the baton.  

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Ralph,

This sounds about like the vision that you put forth for everything, that sadly some of your Meretz colleagues share:

"Not that I would totally exclude non-Zionist and Arab voices, but I would not likely have such people as frequent contributors or staff. In fact, I would like to see more point-by-point debate among Jews, Zionists and non-Zionists — as long as it's conducted respectfully."

Those pesky Arabs - people like Palestinian-American Yousef Munayyer, or even a non-Arab, Iranian-American editor like Ali Gharib - are always getting in the way of sincere efforts to achieve equality. Reminds me of your criticism of the young Palestinian citizen of Israel who left Meretz and who you found to be too shrill in her critiques of Israel.

Ted

Anonymous said...

Bravo! I am thrilled to learn that OZ may be saved. I thought it valuable that it included Palestinian voices and the full range of Jewish voices. Short of someone spouting anti-Semitic stereotypes or language, any knowledgable person interested in Israel/Palestine's future is worth dialoguing with.

Anonymous said...

Dear Partners for Progressive Israel,

Honestly, shouldn't Ralph's comment be offensive to many of you as members of a group supposedly committed to equality? Do you not have red lines as individuals and as a group?


"Not that I would totally exclude non-Zionist and Arab voices, but I would not likely have such people as frequent contributors or staff. In fact, I would like to see more point-by-point debate among Jews, Zionists and non-Zionists — as long as it's conducted respectfully."

Ted

Ralph Seliger said...

I consider this comment, like some others from Ted, testing the boundaries of civility. Nevertheless, for the sake of discussion, I've decided to post it.

Open Zion is officially called a "Conversation about Israel, Palestine and the Jewish Future." This mission statement mentions Palestine but its core component is to dialogue on "the Jewish Future."

Hence, it surprised me that one of the former editors and several people listed as columnists are not Jews. As I've said, it doesn't mean that I want non-Jews and non-Zionists categorically excluded from this conversation, but I would not place them in the position of being arbiters of it.

I know that militant pro-Palestinian partisans believe that non-Palestinians should never advise Palestinians about tactics & strategies in their struggle for self-determination. Similarly, but less definitively, I see Open Zion's stated purpose as a matter for Jewish self-determination.