Closed Zion

Anti-Israel blog Open Zion shuts down with departure of Peter Beinart

Liberal pundit Peter Beinart is leaving the Daily Beast for the Atlantic, marking the end of Open Zion, Beinart’s anti-Israel blog that was published on the Beast’s website.

Sources familiar with discussions over Beinart's departure said it was a mutual decision, and the Beast did not attempt to counter-offer the Atlantic.

Beinart’s move was first reported by Mondoweiss.

Daily Beast executive editor John Avlon confirmed in a statement to Politico on Monday that Open Zion, which was founded by Beinart in 2012, would be discontinued. The blog was funded by the New America Foundation.

"We privately discussed this transition last month and concluded that his New America Foundation-funded Open Zion blog would sunset at the end of the year when he moves over to The Atlantic," said Avlon.

Open Zion appeared to have been back-benched at the Beast well before Beinart’s announced departure. Its stories have not been promoted on the homepage for the past several months.

Beinart did not respond to request for comment.

Gil Troy, Open Zion’s editor-at-large since 2012 and one of its few pro-Israel voices, said he was not aware that the blog would be discontinued when contacted on Monday evening. But he also expressed frustration with the project.

Troy said in particular it was difficult to recruit pro-Israel contributors because many did not want to write for a blog that was largely viewed as anti-Zionist.

"My mandate was to try to find as many people who were willing to write either one shot or on a regular basis to broaden the conversation politically, culturally," said Troy. "And to the extent that that didn’t happen, I regret that it didn’t."

He also said the anti-Israel comments he received from many readers "were just horrific."

"The degree to which people are willing to call someone who’s proudly pro-Zionist a Nazi, the ease at which people evoke the stupid sloppy, apartheid analogy … the ease at which people jump to demonize someone who’s pro-Israel, was very disturbing to me," said Troy, who is also a history professor at McGill University.

However, Troy said he has enjoyed working with Beinart and engaging in open debate.

"When it was at its most open, I truly loved Open Zion, and gave Peter Beinart and the team he’s put together real credit for trying to open that conversation," said Troy.

"If indeed Open Zion goes down, I regret the fact that this experiment in having a part of the mainstream media launch a blog about Israel-oriented issues will have failed," he added.

Beinart, who began his career at the New Republic, is a vocal critic of Israel and has advocated for settlement-targeted boycott campaigns against the Jewish state.

Open Zion describes its purpose as "foster[ing] an open and unafraid conversation about Israel, Palestine, and the Jewish future."

While Beinart actively sought out pro-Israel writers to balance out the site, it remained a heavily anti-Zionist publication.

The blog has published columns equating Israel with South Africa under apartheid and supporting the boycott, divestment, and sanctions [BDS] campaign against Israel. Its regular contributors include anti-Israel activist Yousef Munayyer, Iranian regime advocate Trita Parsi, and Americans for Peace Now director of policy and government relations Lara Friedman.

Pro-Israel insiders said it would not be missed despite the blog’s Israel-centric focus.

"Open Zion was truly the online definition of one hand clapping, so it will hardly be missed," said one official from a pro-Israel organization.

The official also noted that the Daily Beast did not fund Open Zion or pay its editorial staff.

"What we now know, and is particularly interesting, is that the people who worked for Beinart on OpenZion were in fact never employees of Newsweek/DailyBeast, despite the fact some tried to pass themselves off that way," said the official. "In reality they worked for and were paid by the New America Foundation."