Times Total Hatchet Job: Jonathan Rosen v. Peter Beinart

Jonathan Rosen's review in the Times, "A Missionary Impulse" of the book ‘The Crisis of Zionism,’ by Peter Beinart, is a total hatchet job.

Rosen is the editorial director of Nextbook, which seems at first to give him some credentials to review this book, but he is also the author, most recently, of “The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature” which cancels his credentials for this review. He is a published expert in birding, and a memoir writer, not a scholar nor even a pundit versed in Zionism, nor in American Judaism.

We are not a big fan of Beinart's views, often too liberal even for us. Oy but we do wince as his nemesis Rosen declares that Beinart is wrong because he is like a Mark Twain character, "Like the Widow Douglas trying to civilize Huck Finn before he lights out for the occupied territory, Beinart has a missionary impulse toward Israel. His faith resides in 'liberal ­ideals,' which he often makes synonymous with Judaism itself, or what Judaism ought to be."

The Rosen hatchet chips away until the final blow, where Rosen sums up modern Israel, and dismisses Beinart all in one sentence, "Sometimes it does this well and sometimes badly, but the struggle itself is the hallmark of a civilization far beyond Peter Beinart’s Manichaean ­simplicities."

Beinart may have written a bad book or a good book. It surely is a sophisticated work of argumentation. About that, other reviewers of all different stripes agree.

We will read the book and decide our own opinion of it. Meanwhile, Rosen has penned by far the worst "review" of the week in the Times, "Manichaean" or otherwise. In the Times Book Review we expect more substance and nuance, especially when a right winger outside of his area of expertise reviews a book by a trendy left winger who happens to be an expert in the subject matter of the book.

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