An Open Letter to Paul Krugman

April 26th, 2012

Dear Mr. Krugman-

On Tuesday around 3.30pm, my inbox began filling up with subject headings such as, “Did you see this from Krugman???” and, “From my favorite economist… on Beinart?!” Your three short paragraphs, which began as a heads-up that you intend to write something at some point about Peter Beinart and his new book, The Crisis of Zionism, created quite a stir.

What was so striking to so many was not, of course, what you actually said about Peter (although I agree with you that he is a “brave man who deserves better”), but what you said about what you wouldn’t say. What struck a chord was that despite your belief that current Israel’s policies are leading it down a suicidal path, you choose to stay silent on the topic – not because you don’t care, but because of the attacks and accusations of anti-semitism and the like that would follow.

Israel not being your bailiwick, why would you, like Peter, walk into the “buzzsaw,” you tell us.

Mr. Krugman, I understand this sentiment. As the President of J Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby, I am followed closely by my own personal buzzsaw. I know that the cost of speaking up about Israel can be so dear that many hundreds of thousands of Jews choose instead to stay silent or disengage from Israel entirely.

But as you rightly point out, Israel’s present path affects not only Israel, but all Americans and Jews everywhere.

Which is why I would like to invite you to reconsider your decision. I invite you to not let a vocal minority silence your voice. You are a Nobel prize-winning economist and leading American thinker whose contribution to the marketplace of ideas on so many issues is such an asset to this country’s democracy. I invite you not to let their smears cause you to sit this one out.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking you to drop your day job and take up the cause. I’m not even asking you to devote extensive column inches to this topic. All I’m asking is that you not silence yourself because someone else has decided that if you do, you’ll have to pay a price.

I like to think that the three short paragraphs that you wrote on Tuesday were a hint of more to come and not a vow of silence. So, on behalf of the many Jewish Americans to whom you can give voice, I invite you to say more.

Because only when everyone – especially those who already have a megaphone – stands up, will the smears and attacks lose their power. Only then will brave men like Peter Beinart receive the fair treatment you so clearly think they deserve.

Many thanks,

Jeremy Ben-Ami