He condemned AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. He claimed, more or less, that it is impossible for liberal Zionists to defend them. He seems to have a point. In his reply to Beinart, Jonathan Chait is reduced to lying about what Beinart said by removing necessary context from a quote
Chait dishonestly wrote
"Peter, for instance, twice writes that Palestinians 'wanted peace, but had been ill-served by their leaders.' " OK lets search for the text in context.
I only found it once and found no other instance of "ill-served by their leaders." The word "twice" makes the claim technically false. However the word "that" makes the claim a lie.
"The 2006 AJC poll found that [skip] Reform, Conservative, and unaffiliated Jews tended to believe that average Palestinians wanted peace, but had been ill-served by their leaders."
This is plainly not a statement by Beinart that Palistinians "wanted peace, but had been ill-served by their leaders." Beinart is daring to accurately quote the results of a poll. He is describing the views of Reform, Conservative, and unaffiliated Jews as assessed by the American Jewish Committee, not making any statement about Palestinians. Chait's position is that the actual opinion of actual Jewish Americans is unmentionable if Chait disagrees with it (I agree with Chait on Palistinian opinion, which was not the topic discussed by Beinart in his essay on Jewish Americans).
Chait does not take issue with any of Beinart's actual arguments. Neither does Jeffrey Goldberg. I admit that in checking on those two I am influenced by (blush) politico where Ben Smith gave a convenient list of who might respond to Beinart
"It will cost him friends, and start a conversation, particularly in the shrinking space occupied by liberal, Zionist* voices like his, Jeffrey Goldberg's, and Jonathan Chait's."
Goldberg wrote that he agrees with Beinart but objects to writing for the New York Review of Books.
I've only read through Beinart's essay quickly (though not so quickly that I haven't already exchanged a couple of e-mails with him about it) and I think it is in many ways analytically valid, if unsympathetic to some of the existential challenges faced by Israelis. But the essay's placement, in the New York Review of Books, the one-stop shopping source for bien-pensant anti-Israelism, is semi-tragic.
Beinart wrote the essay for The New York Times Magazine which didn't publish it for "stylistic" reasons.
In any case, Goldberg has a whine and a gratuitous insult, but provides no defence of AIPAC or the Conference of Presidents.
Back to Chait.
First he claimed he said it first
Not long ago, I ran into an AIPAC staffer at a social gathering. We debated the Middle East for a bit, and continued the discussion over lunch. I told him that I thought the political estrangement of liberalism and support for Israel posed a long-term existential threat, and that his organization was contributing to the problem. We agreed to disagree.
Then he notes
Former TNR editor Peter Beinart has a sharp, attention-grabbing essay in The New York Review of Books making this case not just against AIPAC but most of the mainstream American Jewish organizations. Indeed, he goes much further. Those groups, he argues, have abandoned liberalism on the Middle East
A long essay follows in which one might imagine that Chait discusses the differences between AIPAC and most of the rest of mainstream American Jewish organizations and considers which if any have abandoned liberalism on the Middle East.
I can detect no effort whatsoever to address these points of possible disagreement with Beinart. There is certainly no claim that AIPAC is substantially less "liberal on the Middle East" than the Conference of Presidents and no discussion of any sign that either has any trace of sincere liberalism "on the Middle East."
Chait does contest Beinart's claim that the mainstream Jewish organizations have an effect on young Jewish Americans (with friends like Chait they sure don't need enemies).
Mostly he attacks the messenger, expressing respect for Beinart and then bringing up his idiotic essay “A Fighting Faith,” The argument evidently is that, while Beinart is "one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever known," he is also such a demonstrable idiot that there is no need to respond to his actual arguments. In any case, bringing up "A Fighting Faith," is undeniably an argument ad hominem and not a valid response to Beinart's accusations against mainstream Jewish organizations.
He also discusses un-named leftist critics of Israel who claim that to support Meretz is to be right wing. Oddly he doesn't name any such critics or provide any evidence whatsoever that they exist. He had to mention them (whether they exist or not) to ballance his criticism of conservatives, who say that to be a good Zionist one has to vote Republican.
I conclude that it is impossible for liberals to defend the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organisations. I mean if no such defence is to be found in an essay in The New Republic which sinks to ad hominem arguments and removing necessary context from quotes, then I conclude no such defence is possible.