JTA — A speech in Atlanta by controversial author and Israel critic Peter Beinart sold out after a city Jewish community center canceled his appearance there.
Beinart spoke Wednesday night at the Margaret Mitchell House, near the Marcus JCC of Atlanta, which had canceled his appearance two weeks earlier. The Mitchell House speech also had a waiting list of about 75, according to reports.
The author most recently of “The Crisis of Zionism,” Beinart had been one of 52 writers invited to speak at the book festival of the Marcus JCC as part of the weeklong celebration of books by Jewish authors. His appearance at the festival was canceled after pressure by members who are offended by his opinions.
“The Crisis of Zionism” criticizes right-wing Jewish leaders in Israel and the United States for their support of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Beinart is an associate professor of journalism and political science at the City University of New York and edits the Daily Beast blog Open Zion.
Beinart told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that he has never before been disinvited as a speaker.
Paul Root Wolpe, director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University, in an open letter to the Atlanta Jewish community wrote that “Though Peter Beinart sits towards one end of the spectrum of Jewish political opinion about Israel, he is well within the boundaries of reasonable dialogue. Disagree with him, argue with him, criticize his facts or points — but do not ban him, do not invite and then disinvite him, and for heaven’s sake do not allow any set of Jewish members of the JCC to dictate to the rest who we should hear and not hear. We are better than that.”
The JCC assisted Beinart in changing the venue of the speech, despite withdrawing its sponsorship.