It’s time to uncancel Palestinians

Man speaks at podium

Peter Beinart could do more to acknowledge the Palestinians who put forward the vision of one state with equal rights for all, years before he did and in the face of relentless hatred. He says he will. (Zócalo Public Square)

Palestinians got canceled last week on a New York Times podcast.

Perhaps canceled is an overstatement.

So far as is known, a Palestinian speaker hadn’t actually been invited to discuss a one-state solution with Peter Beinart on the podcast hosted by Times writers Ross Douthat and Michelle Goldberg.

This is not a new phenomenon: Palestinians have been largely absent from US media for years, including CNN, MSNBC and other major networks, particularly at the beginning of Israeli assaults on Gaza when the issue is being framed and culpability attributed to Palestinians.

The same goes in print and online. Newsweek’s editor Josh Hammer decries “cancel culture,” but he’s excluded Palestinians from his op-ed page while repeatedly publishing anti-Palestinian bigots.

Hammer can be expected to sideline Palestinians for as long as he can.

In some ways, it’s more painful when Beinart gets to go to the front of the line to discuss one state, while Palestinians who have advocated such a state with equal rights for much longer don’t get their views on the subject lifted up.

Beinart and Goldberg know better. Douthat’s opinions are anti-Palestinian and willfully misrepresent views he dislikes.

Goldberg is well aware of what Palestinians face and is clearly troubled by their permanent subjugation – though she has written against and misrepresented the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israeli institutions complicit in this oppression.

She did nonetheless want to interview Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the boycott movement, on the same podcast last year before President Donald Trump canceled his visit to the United States.

I had hoped for better from her.

At one point on Twitter she tried to explain away the exclusion of Palestinians from the recent podcast episode by tweeting that “while it’s shameful how often Palestinians are left out of arguments about their own futures, this is mostly a discussion about intra-Jewish politics.”

That excuse didn’t hold up, in part because Douthat is very vocal about being Catholic.

Goldberg later deleted the tweet.

For all those who have chafed at discussions of the two-state solution too often being an internal Israeli dispute about how much more land to steal from Palestinians, it’s worth noting the dangers of turning one-state discussions into what Goldberg downplayed as “a discussion about intra-Jewish politics.”

That is not unlike describing a discussion about desegregation in the United States as being about “intra-white politics.”

How hard would it be to include Palestinians in these debates? If Goldberg made an error of judgment, it would be easy enough to speak to the matter on an upcoming program and include Palestinian supporters of one state.

But do it soon.

Beinart, for his part, started out by acknowledging his intellectual debt to Palestinians following publication earlier this month of his piece in Jewish Currents calling to “abandon the goal of Jewish-Palestinian separation and embrace the goal of Jewish-Palestinian equality.”

He tweeted about the Palestinians he had read on the subject of one state with equal rights for all.

But he spent approximately five seconds on the subject in the Times podcast and without giving details of the Palestinian influences on his writing.

Later in a Twitter thread – seemingly reacting to the online backlash over the podcast – Beinart again acknowledged that “Palestinians have been largely excluded from the mainstream US media conversation about Israel-Palestine.”

“That exclusion continues today, and represents one more form of Palestinian dispossession,” he added.

Beinart asserted that “there is a legitimate role for intra-Jewish conversations in Jewish spaces.”

But he pledged that “When it comes to non-Jewish institutions, media or otherwise, I will make it a general rule not to do panels of three or more without a Palestinian.”

Beinart certainly could do more, including consistently citing the tremendous efforts Palestinians have made to put forward the one-state with equal rights vision in the face of relentless hatred and dehumanizing objections.

Yet for all the flaws with how he’s gone about it, I’m glad Beinart wrote his piece in Jewish Currents.

It was overdue, and it also took courage – though only because of how anathema Palestinian equality remains in some of the political circles Beinart frequents.

Stating one’s support for equal rights in the face of decades of subjugation of Palestinians shouldn’t be that astonishing.

It is more dismaying that so many Democratic politicians in Washington have found themselves incapable of moving half as far as Beinart has this month.

Joe Biden, for his part, still refuses to align the Democratic Party with grassroots sentiment supportive of Palestinian rights.

Beinart has moved a considerable distance from his days as an editor at The New Republic, not to mention his initial strong support for the Iraq war in 2003. Better to admit these mistakes than to double down on them.

War hawks, of course, are generally allowed to make the same mistakes again and again in Washington and in our media. There are seemingly no professional consequences as we lurch from disaster to disaster.

Those moving to support equal rights for Palestinians and away from insisting that the Iraq war was the right call surely should get greater attention than war hawks and deniers of Palestinian rights.

But what of those who were against the Iraq war all along or who started calling for equal rights in one state a decade or more ago? Shouldn’t they be seen as prescient and more in media demand?

Criticism and next steps

Beinart, however, is getting slammed from an increasingly bigoted right which attacks him for having too much “privilege,” but says nothing of the reality of Palestinians living as second-class citizens – at best – under Israeli rule.

Israel lobby groups such as the Anti-Defamation League have also claimed that Beinart’s call is either anti-Semitic or plays into the hands of anti-Semites.

I recognize in myself and others a well-placed fury at the injustice and cruel anti-activist rhetoric employed in the current situation.

But I also think the moment calls for taking Beinart at his word and moving ahead vigorously with the broader support he represents, while grappling with shortcomings in his analysis and presentations.

We are endeavoring to envision a very different future for the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea: one based on equality, justice, inclusion, restitution and repair and a willingness to face the truth.

New voices of support represent progress in expanding this vision. One way of seeing the right-wing backlash against Beinart – long there against Palestinian advocates – is that it signals dismay that the power of legal equality in one state is gaining ground over antiquated notions of an exclusivist state subjugating Palestinians with the full financial support of the US government.

Young people – and most people of good will – are apt to rally to equal rights over ultranationalism and discrimination.

In the meantime, it is time for those who are genuinely interested in justice to demand that media platforms at long last uncancel Palestinians and allow them to speak.




The next step for Peter will be to raise his voice in defense of BDS as a necessary tool for realizing Palestinian rights, just as boycotts broke the yoke of apartheid in his country of birth and led to the expansion of civil and labor rights in the country he grew up in. Jews and Palestinians need his voice and so do non-Jewish and non-Palestinian Americans, because the boycott's status as a democratic right is more than threatened, it's already been severely weakened, with half of the country passing laws to that effect or worse.

Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune,, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.