CNN Panel on Israeli-Palestinian Issue Goes Off the Rails, Turns Into Shouting Match

CNN Panel on Israeli-Palestinian Issue Goes Off the Rails, Turns Into Shouting Match

There was a good conversation to be had about the Israeli-Palestinian situation on CNN’s The Lead Monday afternoon. Unfortunately, as is the tradition of cable news, it devolved into an entertaining but worthless shouting match instead.

The shouters were Peter Beinart of The Atlantic and Rich Lowry of National Review. The subject was a group called Miftah, which was sponsoring the recently cancelled trip to Israel of Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The shouting was a good example of the rift that has opened between the majority of American Jews, who lean left, and the right-wing nationalism of the current Israeli government that has aligned itself with the Republican Party and its illiberalism.

Beinart, an Orthodox Jew, started off by talking about the “shattering experience” of visiting the Occupied Territories for the first time and seeing the oppression that the Palestinian people live under:

“The only thing I could imagine being similar for Americans is going to visit the Jim Crow South. When you see people living under the control of the state with no rights, they cannot become citizens, they cannot vote for the control of the state that controls their lives. They do not have free movement…they live under a military legal system and the consequences are more brutal than we can imagine sitting here.”

Beinart added that while he does not agree with some of the antisemitic statements that Miftah has published on its website in the past, the most important point is that people need to see the situation in the Occupied Territories and the repression that Palestinians live under for themselves.

Lowry responded that Miftah is not an organization of “honest brokers,” adding that “we would not afford a white nationalist organization the leeway that Peter is giving this organization” and complaining that no one should associate with a group that supports terrorism.

That was when everything went off the rails.

Beinart tried to make the point that hollering about Palestinian terrorism is a way of deflecting from the very basic facts on the ground: that Palestinians live under a repressive regime supported by American tax dollars. “The real issue,” he said, “is an absolutely indefensible denial of human rights.”

“Is this your standard for white nationalist organizations?” Lowry shot back. “They said some racist things, they support some terrorism.”

The obvious point here is that of course an American Jew is not going to support a white nationalist group, considering avowed white nationalists have made a habit of shooting up synagogues during the Trump presidency. But also, white nationalists in America and other Western nations are full citizens who do not live under repressive military regimes that deny them basic human rights. If anything, they would be the ones denying those human rights to others. Including Palestinians.

It’s a ridiculous and embarrassing comparison for Lowry to make, but it had the effect of not forcing him to defend the conditions under which Palestinians live. Which was, of course, exactly what he likely intended.

Watch the video above, via CNN.

Gary Legum

Gary Legum has written about politics and culture for Independent Journal Review, Salon, The Daily Beast, Wonkette, AlterNet and McSweeney's, among others. He currently lives in his native state of Virginia.