Shut up, he explained


Bernard Avishai asks Jeffrey Goldberg to please shut up, and actually makes a moving case for it:

In any case, I am humbly asking that you stop. The claims you continue to make about me–that is, "anti-Zionists" like me–are too silly to be worth anyone’s time, but the reach of the Atlantic website is too important to ignore. If I do not respond, it may seem that your take-away is true, or plausible, or at least worth repeating.

Nor is this 1909, when calling someone anti-Zionist meant you were merely a part of a fascinating debate on how Jews survive "modernity." It is 2009, and calling someone anti-Zionist tends to type him as opposed to the very existence of Israel or a Jewish national home of any kind. Given the constellation that runs from Hamas to the Oxford Debating Union, the epithet can do a person harm.

And I write from the gate at JFK, returning (legally, but warily) to Jerusalem, embattled enough by the fear that Sidra’s and my home will soon be swept up in a kind of Balkan tragedy, with bloody-minded fanatics on both sides demanding allegiance, and "experts" like Lozowick only too eager to choose sides. My deeds upon my head! I crave the law, if not that law. I have enough on my mind.

Avishai, it must be said, started this (I cover the back and forth here) by claiming, wrongly, that Goldberg was boycotting the J Street conference. He was not, and in fact commissioned coverage. (Where, by the way, can I get a Tali Yahalom? Just asking.) Avishai should eat his words, period.

But lumping Avishai in with "anti-Zionists" — ugh.

Look, the triumph of Zionism is Israel. Self evident, I know, but not when you consider other contemporary national movements — Ireland, for instance, has yet to make a persuasive case for speaking Gaelic to its own people, the Quebecois aren’t quite sure who they are, Pakistan is a godawful mess, and – and, and Hebrew is not only thriving, it is kicking serious תחת, Israelis possess self-knowledge in abundance (maybe in surfeit) and the country is stronger than ever.

The key to perpetuating this success, this triumph — or a key (a good anti-missile defense system also helps) — is to think it, rethink it and rethink it again. This, it seems to me, is what Avishai does.

Drawing up checklists, applying litmus tests, demanding renunciations — these are not formulas for healthy growth.

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