THE BLOG
11/11/2013 04:09 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Peter Beinart and the Open Zion Venture

It is a wonder what is going on in Peter Beinart's mind right now. Having announced the impending closure of Open Zion, the blog he edits on The Daily Beast site, it is hard to imagine that he considers the project to have been a success. The comment section of the announcement showcases the wrath he provoked from certain elements of the Pro-Israeli community. "Good Riddance to self hating Jews and their minions" is the first reply on the Open Zion twitter account after the news was shared.

Beinart may have come to believe before all of this, before his book and his Op-Ed in the New York Times, that he might incur the appreciation of some advocates for Palestine, that he might be able to help bridge two increasingly distant voices.

But the delighted response from many Pro-Palestinian supporters indicates that his departure from traditional Zionist discourse may not have gone far enough to appease them either. "My belief is that Beinart jumped into the better late than never crowd not because he is just all of a sudden a compassionate person about the Palestinians horrific situation," someone comments, "it is all about trying to save the two state solution. Which Israel has made sure no longer exists. He finally admits to seeing the apartheid written on the wall."

It is a strange moment of validation for both of these polar-opposing elements, for each Beinart, and the failure of his blog, has demonstrated something different. For some on the Palestinian camp, it is that the contradictions between Liberalism and Zionism ensure that the two cannot be reconciled. For segments of the Pro-Israeli crowd, the blog's expiration proves that the conversation Open Zion tried to foster was too unafraid, went too far and flirted with anti-Semitism.

Now, Open Zion, the "New Conversation about Israel, Palestine, and the Jewish Future", has abruptly been concluded while still in utero without much of a conclusion.

The truth that will likely go unnoticed, however, is that Peter Beinart has demonstrated something very different with the short lived Open Zion than both of these groups would like to believe. And it is not their affirmation.

Beinart's message was very much one that was directed at Jewish America. It was his impassioned intent to shift the Pro-Israeli discourse into one that he calculated to be more Pro-Israeli, one that accounted for Jewish moral integrity and obligation, one that clashed with the impulse for expansionism and militarism, one that might curtail the reckless direction of contemporary Israel as he saw it.

And so he stepped out of the comforts of his conventional politics to gather the enmity of a community that he considered, even with his criticisms, to be his own.

The folding of Open Zion may further hint at what Beinart anxiously predicted, a Pro-Israeli community that facilitates the end of the Zionist project, a self-fulfilling prophecy in which the efforts for reflection and self-evaluation, that he contributed to, will only be revisited once it is too late.

But he was also unable to lure a large portion of contributors from the Pro-Palestinian camp. The unwillingness to embrace, or at least encourage, Beinart and his venture ultimately comes at a cost to the Pro-Palestinian camp. It is not because Palestinian advocates need always to endorse a two-state solution, the few Palestinian commentators on Open Zion often argued for a one-state solution. Instead, it is because Open Zion was a chance to engage with a community that Palestinian supporters don't often encounter, a missed opportunity to be sure.

Even harder to understand is the expectation to convince Jewish America, an essential component, of any concession when Beinart's own political change of heart was often met with the demand that he concede more, that he hasn't gone far enough. But instead of convincing and engaging with Beinart, or the community he has come to represent, of their reasons for opposing this version of liberal Zionism, they opted instead to berate and mock them.

In a brief correspondence a year ago, he mentioned his gratefulness for his children being too young to take notice of the reactions to his work. It may have been a concern that served as an impetus for the closure of Open Zion. "One Saturday morning when I was walking to synagogue, a man asked me if I was Peter Beinart." He writes in the announcement of Open Zion's closure, "When I said yes, he announced -- loud enough for his kids and mine to hear -- that "I think your politics are shit.""

There is no need to mourn for Peter Beinart or his sacrifices, the obvious comparisons to the much greater anguish of others at the hands of this conflict need not be mentioned. But he has done a brave thing. It is important to take note of that.

And what he has validated with Open Zion, and even its collapse, are not the virtues of obduracy but the valor in standing up to the expectations of our political communities when they are misguided.

Yes, Open Zion will soon be no longer. And shame on all of us