An exchange between The Atlantic‘s liberal editor Peter Beinart and Rich Lowry, his counterpart at the right-wing The National Review, went viral overnight after the two veteran journalists sparred on CNN Monday over Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and the recent move by the Israeli government to bar U.S. Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from visiting the Occupied Territories.
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Beinart clashed with Lowry over the U.S. government’s and corporate media’s long history of ignoring the plight of Palestinians who face restricted movement and checkpoints manned by armed Israeli guards,
food shortages, and a decimated healthcare system.
During the exchange, Beinart said it took him visiting the occupied West Bank and seeing its oppressive nature in-person before he changed his position on the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict—and suggested the same could be true if lawmakers end their tradition of traveling to Israel on trips sponsored by AIPAC.
“The first time I went to spend time with Palestinians in the West Bank, it was a shattering experience,” Beinart said. “When you see people living under the control of the state with no rights—they cannot become citizens. They cannot vote for control of the state that controls their lives. They do not have free movement…People need to go and see for themselves. I’ve never seen anyone who’s gone and seen for themselves and not been transformed by the experience.”
Beinart argued that Americans and their representatives in Congress should demand Palestinians be afforded the “basic rights that all of us take for granted” instead of reducing the 4.6 million people who live in territories occupied by Israel as “supporting terrorism” because of statements made by Palestinian leaders.
“If an African-American who supported violence against the United States under slavery or Jim Crow, that did not excuse their denial of basic rights because I disagree with the tactic they were using to resist it,” he said.
Beinart’s vehement defense of Palestinians’ human rights was an unusual sight on cable news, and a number of rights defenders remarked that his comments were vital for Americans to hear after decades of watching the news media giving little to no attention to Palestinians while the U.S. government gives billions of dollars per year to Israel.
If American lawmakers witnessed the full scope of the Israel-Palestinian conflict rather than furthering their knowledge of Israel’s perspective on Palestine with yearly congressional trips to the region, Beinart said, many would no longer be able to support U.S. “complicity in the denial of Palestinian rights.”
“The only thing I could imagine would be similar for an American would be going to visit the Jim Crow South,” he said.
News outlets and lawmakers that fail to defend Palestinians, Beinart added, must also confront their participation in the established American tradition of denying rights to marginalized groups.
“Just as National Review defended apartheid, just as you defended segregation, you now defend Israel’s oppression of Palestinians’ basic rights,” he told Lowry. “It’s a tradition for you guys.”
“It really is astounding to see something like this on CNN,” journalist Ashley Feinberg wrote on social media.