Journalist 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.
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.
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.