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Hudes ’27: Untying a political knot: My reflection as a liberal Jew on a discussion with Peter Beinart

As protests erupt and discourse on Israel-Palestine once again takes center stage, it seems as though there are many more questions than correct answers. Last week, I attended a discussion hosted by the Office of the Chaplains and Religious Life with American journalist Peter Beinart — who's written extensively in favor of a one-state solution with equal citizenship for Israelis and Palestinians. I walked away from the talk still feeling as though there were far too many questions and not nearly enough right answers. But for the first time, despite a want for answers, I felt as though I had heard the right questions.

Beinart made the point to separate the Israel-Palestine debate into two parts: the discussion on what’s happening on the ground and the sociopolitical dynamics of how America is talking about the conflict. This distinction is why I think Mr. Beinart’s student discussion — which was attended by both BSI and JFCN — was able to produce productive discourse; it didn’t confound a discussion on foreign affairs with the rift in American identity politics. That’s to say, even if I don’t fully agree with Beinart’s ideology, his discussion gave me the tools to untie the political knot that I’ve found myself tied up in.

Following Oct. 7, American Jews found themselves without a political home, abandoned by the left but still too wary of the right. In his New York Times guest essay “,” Beinart articulates this as liberal Jews being forced to choose between liberalism and Zionism. Some, more often those associated with larger traditionally Zionist institutions such as the Anti Defamation League, have accepted the GOP and Fox ͵ as their new home, finding refuge in their unconditional support for Israel. Others, mostly the younger generation, have been swept away by the humanitarian appeals of Palestinian solidarity. These two camps, on a local level, are generally what have populated Brown Students for Israel and Jews for Ceasefire Now respectively. 

Then there are those who have clung onto the position which most of American Jewry enjoyed pre-Oct. 7, remaining both progressive and in support of a Jewish nation-state. But for this group of American Jews who are unwilling to compromise their liberal beliefs and find their place among the conservative party, the left feels equally inhabitable as protest to Israel becomes a normalized liberal imperative. This is where I have found myself. I believe in the Jewish people’s right to a nation-state but at the same time take a staunchly liberal position when it comes to any other social issue. It has become increasingly difficult to reconcile with the reality of my political home — feeling like the last one standing at the end of a game of musical chairs. 

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What Beinart has done for me is pull up a chair. Although what he offers is rather deterministic, giving me, and other Jews in my position a narrow escape to our current predicament (a one-state solution), he is the first voice in mainstream liberal discourse to make me feel as though my thoughts are worth pitching in, despite my internal conflict. 

As a Liberal Jew in limbo with an impressionable view, I have never felt quite enough confidence in either movement to join BSI or JFCN. I have felt a major pull from both sides to fall into one of these camps as a default, per my respective Judaism or liberalism. However, there has always been some fine print, some peripheral implication attached to the group that I never feel fully comfortable backing. For BSI it’s obviously the humanitarian implications, and for JFCN it’s clearly the contradiction to a Jewish nation-state. It has often seemed as though me — and others — joining one of these camps would be more accurately attributed to social dynamics than to ideological alignment — a symptom of groupthink overpowering critical thought. 

As a result, I find myself awkwardly wrestling, alone, with the need to perpetuate the one single Jewish nation-state, not willing to compromise my Liberalism to join BSI but not trusting enough in the radical undertones of the Palestinian movement to join JFCN. This places me roughly in the middle of Mr. Beinart’s rupture. The question Beinart so eloquently poses is the question I face. And while Mr. Beinart and I disagree on the answers, I feel he’s asked the right questions; I accept the contradiction and discomfort of my current position and look to move towards what I hope will feel like the right answers. 

Paul Hudes ’27 can be reached at paul_hudes@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.

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Paul Hudes

Paul Hudes is a staff columnist and a member of the editorial page board for the Brown Daily Herald. His column is wide-ranging but focuses mostly on American politics. Paul studies Applied Math Economics and English Literature.



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