Cpl. Jeffrey Goldberg, Guarding the Prison of the Nationalist Mind

As a Middle East expert who lived in the Muslim world for nearly 10 years, travels widely there, speaks the languages, writes history from archives and manuscripts, and follows current affairs, I found that none of that counted for much when I entered the public arena in the United States. It isn’t that I am thin-skinned or can’t dish it out as good as I get it. Rather, it is like being a professional baseball player ready for the World Series, who gets in the van and instead of being delivered to Yankee Stadium is blindfolded and taken to a secret fight club where people are betting on whether he can go 12 rounds with a giant James Bond villain. And he says, “But I’m not a boxer, I bat .400.” And they sneer, “You will pay for insulting our great aunt.”

This is an arena where vehement partisans are honored as “journalists,” where ability to speak languages or engage in cultural interaction counts for nothing, and where rich and powerful patrons make reputations rather than any real knowledge. NYT columnist David Brooks slammed me for not having recognized Ariel Sharon’s potential as a peace-maker with the Palestinians and for not seeing how positive the Iraq War was for resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. (???) I was routinely denounced by David Horowitz, who used to be an insufferable leftist in the 60s when he edited Ramparts and now is an insufferable rightwinger, but who knows nothing at all about the Middle East (and what he thinks he knows is wrong). Marty Peretz, who married into the Singer Sewing Machine fortune and then used his wife’s money to buy and ruin The New Republic, turning it into pro-Contra, pro-war rag, was annoyed to see me on television because of his vast fund of knowledge about Arabic hollow verbs. Michael Oren, a bad, partisan historian and Israeli army reservist (who fought in the Gaza War); who revived the Gobineau Orientalist tradition in his book on the US and the Middle East; and who is now the Israeli ambassador to Washington– weighed in against my receiving an appointment to the Yale History Department. Princeton-trained Martin Kramer until recently of Tel Aviv University, who recently advocated using the Gaza blockade to force small families on the half-starving Palestinians, made a cottage industry of snarky and mostly false remarks about Informed Comment; and has a relationship with the so-called “Middle East Forum”, which runs the McCarthyite ‘campus watch’ and which was part of a scheme to have me cyber-stalked and massively spammed.

More recently I have provoked the ire of a burly former Israeli military prison guard at the notorious Ketziot detention camp during the first Intifada, who is among our foremost journalists of the Middle East and given a prominent perch at The Atlantic magazine– Jeffrey Goldberg.

Horowitz and the others routinely just make up entire passages and attribute them falsely to their victims. You always think you can defend your position in an honest debate. You aren’t prepared the first time someone says, “How do you justify your spirited defense of Pol Pot?” Horowitz had some Kahaneist string together a series of statements I never wrote and published them in a book on the supposed 101 most dangerous professors (as if anyone is more dangerous to our Republic than a lying rightwing demagogue). What I really mind is that he never sent me so much as the T-shirt. Also, students still don’t seem sufficiently impressed by the title to get their papers in on time. John Fund of the Wall Street Journal, who had supported the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front’s attempt to take over the Algerian government, accused me of being pro-Islamist and then just made up entire sentences he claimed I had written, which he was forced to retract because I had not.

Likewise, Jeffrey Goldberg just now accused me of wanting “to deny to the Jewish people a state in their ancestral homeland.” The fact is that a) I’m generally sympathetic to the states recognized as United Nations members. But b) wounded romantic nationalism of Goldberg’s sort is a pathetic remnant of the twentieth century, which polished off tens of millions of human beings over wet dreams about “blood and soil.” There isn’t any “blood” or “pure” “races,” and human groups have no special relationship to territory. My complaint about the treatment of the Palestinians is that they have been left stateless and without citizenship or rights. I’m not a Palestinian nationalist who insists that they return to what is now Israel (though they should receive compensation for lost property if they don’t). The Germans weren’t always in Germany (in fact they are relative newcomers), and they aren’t of ‘pure’ ‘blood,’ and the 200,000 Jews in contemporary Germany–some of them Israelis– have as much right to be there as anyone else. Most Germans and most Ashkenazi Jews have a relatively recent female common ancestor. As a species and subspecies, we are from southern Africa, and that only about 100,000 years ago. If someone is nostalgic for the Old Country, they should try Gabarone, Botswana. And say hello to Mma Ramotswe for me.

Israeli Army Cpl. Jeffrey Goldberg then corrects my assertion that he has no vision of the future of the Palestinians by saying that he has advocated for a Palestinian state in all of the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital.

So let me say up front that I did not in fact think Goldberg would go quite that far, and that I apologize for getting him wrong.

But here are some problems with Goldberg’s position, nevertheless:

  • He doesn’t seem to understand that simply having a vague notion that maybe a two-state solution is desirable (for the good of his vision of an ethno-nationalist state in Israel) is different from actively working for it and being willing to criticize publicly those leaders attempting to forestall it. It isn’t a talisman you can use to justify warmongering or bigotry. George W. Bush, after all, took the same position. In. One. Speech. I don’t see the sense of urgency and passion about this issue in Goldberg that was visible in his wretched so-called ‘journalism’ about Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which was riddled with ridiculous assertions about Saddam sleeping nude every night with Usama Bin Laden while playing with his miniature atomic bombs, and which Dick Cheney used to get up the horrific invasion and occupation of Iraq.
  • Goldberg has not only not exactly been at the forefront of the peace movement, he has argued and agitated against doing anything practical to achieve this increasingly unlikely goal. He is the Rottweiler of ideologues when it comes to making sure that no Israeli policy is ever criticized by anyone without his branding the critics bigots and even genocidal. Since, as noted, Goldberg is possibly still an Israeli army reservist and actively served in the Israeli Army as a prison guard during the first Intifada or Palestinian uprising, I can’t understand why anyone takes him seriously when he lashes out at critics of Israeli policy. I mean, what would you expect? If an Arab-American had served in the Palestine Authority police, would anyone give him a perch at The Atlantic and routinely bring him on CNN to denounce critics of Mahmoud Abbas?
  • Holding the leadership of a country harmless from civil society criticism guarantees that the leadership will not change its policies. Goldberg actually instructed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not to pressure the Netanyahu government to move in the two-state direction, on the grounds that pressure only sends Israeli leaders to their bunkers. Well, if you can’t pressure them, then I suppose you are waiting for the Likud Party and Yisrael Beitenu to volunteer to cease colonizing the West Bank and cease blockading Gaza. The United States routinely pressures other countries, including allies, over issues on which there is a US interest. The US pressured Turkey to let the 4th Infantry Division march through that country to Iraq. The US pressured France to vote for a UNSC resolution authorizing the Iraq War. The US is currently pressuring Japan not to close the bases on Okinawa. Why does Goldberg think the US should treat the Israeli leadership with kid gloves?

    Me, I see Likudniks and Avigdor Liebermans at the head of a country with one of the world’s most powerful militaries and intending to implement policies likely to get Americans killed, and I intend to scream bloody murder.

  • Does Goldberg have a plan “B”? Because his two-state solution is so 1993. The problem is, it is almost certainly past the point where any such thing is possible, given the size and extent of Israeli colonies in the Palestinian West Bank. Goldberg admits that the only two likely outcomes of the current policies of Binyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman are Apartheid or a one-state solution.

    Would Cpl. Goldberg like to specify which he would prefer, in case it comes to that (as it likely already has)?

    End/ (Not Continued)

  • Posted in Uncategorized | 35 Responses | Print |

    35 Responses

    1. Dear Juan,

      You seem to have forgotten that "bullshit baffles brains," especially in this country.

      As for the Atlantic Monthly,…it used to be a good magazine. I'd use it to scoop out the lumps for the cat's litter box, but I already have an instrument for that purpose. Ergo, I think I'll just cancel it.

      –linda in chicago

    2. You can only expect these guys to get more shrill has time passes by and especially as they run out of time.

      I suspect there are tens of millions who know who you are and the value of what you do.

      Thanks for stepping to the front and putting it all on the line

      I think the end of this madness is quickly approaching and these guys will be the last to figure that out.

    3. You are winning sir, and they are losing despite their filthy tactics. I salute your bravery and professionalism.

    4. Excellent posting Prof. Cole. Thanks.
      I'll certainly join you on: "Me, I see Likudniks and Avigdor Liebermans at the head of a country with one of the world's most powerful militaries and intending to implement policies likely to get Americans killed, and I intend to scream bloody murder."
      Ana I hope our military would do likewise.

    5. Thank ypu Prof. for being my source of enlightening information. Please do continue. I can not thank you enough.

    6. Dear Professor:

      I can only imagine how frustrating it is when one attempts to engage someone, right or left, who is permitted to say whatever they please to "support" their position.

      However, please do not despair, you are one of the few sources of facts on the Middle East and U.S. citizens need you to continue to inform us.

    7. "He is the Rottweiler of ideologues when it comes to making sure that no Israeli policy is ever criticized by anyone without his branding the critics bigots"

      Huh? Even the most curcory glance at his blog would reveal that he's been quite critical of both the current government and of the West Bank settlement movement.

    8. It is Goldberg and his fellows and their rigid, hate, bigot, minipulitive, deceptive, vindictive, dispitfull, ignorant believes that are Influancing Moderate Jews and believers in peace and turning them into hatefull, defenssive, crying anti semetic. Shame on them shaping young minds with lies and hate. They are even tuning up moderate Arabs into radical thinking and hate in loosing faith in any human like process for the palastinians. And Shame on CNN for providing such a radical road to hate to the world. There is no respect for the truth that jurnalism stand for. There is no respect for morality or a value called human being. CNN should be held responsible for it's deceptive and dangerous hand picked presentation of the truth..

    9. Offcourse they are going to attack you. They can't defend their lies so they attack the truth speaker.

    10. Thank you, Prof. Cole, for exposing these partisan frauds.

      I am sure Goldberg and other Israeli apologists and propagandists, just to be consistent, would also have no objection to right-wing Christians, for example, decalring the US as a "Christian State" and creating a state that accords one group based on ethnicity/religion more rights than others, including the indegenous people of the land.

      That being said, this recalls I.F. Stone, who perceptively (in "Holy War") noted this sort of contardiction and how Zionism corrupts the human soal: ""Israel is creating a kind of moral schizophrenia in world Jewry. In the outside world, the welfare of Jews depends on the maintenance of secular non-racial pluralistic societies. In Israel, Jewry finds itself defending a society whose ideal is racial and exclusionist. Jews must fight everywhere for their security-against principles and practices they find themselves defending in Israel."

    11. Let Goldberg stick his head in the sand as always and cries foul. He doesn't even have the credentials to logically dispute anything. No one in his right mind would argue against your expertise as a historian and self respected journalist. Let him screen anti semetism as much as he wants. What is that? No one even have the right to tell the facts anymore? Who do they think they are. Repressive games might work by them somewhere else. Not here. As they say, let them ride their highest horse, they can't shut the truth off.

    12. Well said, and what's more: correct. More power to your elbow.

    13. And he says, "But I'm not a boxer, I bat .400." And they sneer, "You will pay for insulting our great aunt."

      Hard to write, can't stop laughing.

      Best summary of "civil discourse" that's come my way in a long time, maybe ever.

    14. That's what the cowards of the world do. They attack you, even cyber-attack you and spam you. it's good that they havnt viral distrued your site. They are cowards. Cowards in their distorted presentations of the truth and in their every day life. It's the only way a coward can achieve a false sense of achievement.

    15. As you say, you give as good as you get. I think it's time for everyone, including Goldberg to get on the record about whether they prefer one state or Apartheid. Put me, your interested though, admittedly, still all too ignorant reader, down for one state.

    16. If you were Arab-American, the next step would be to tap your phone. if an Arab-American dares to chalange isreal policies or it's U.S support, he is automatically a Possible terrorist.

    17. As a European none of this suprises me in the slightest. Americans are in my general experience a shallow and ignorant people it does not come as a suprise that the mainstream media in America has become a largely rogue propaganda outfit.

      Fact is the likes of Goldberg, Brooks, Fund and the rest would not stand a prayer of getting a journalism job with any major European publication even rightwing newspapers like the UK Telegraph have basic journalistic standards (ie not making stuff up).

      It is a vicious circle in America where the public is largely ignorant to the wider world which allows propoganda outfits to get away with trash which just makes the people more ignorant. The American people remind me of North Koreans in this way.

      As for the Israel Palestine debate I support the views of Francis Fannon on the matter with regards to one of the final vestiges of colonialist states.

      I always side with the oppressed people no matter what. Whether it be violent or non violent struggle they choose I wholeheartedly support there battle against colonialist states.

    18. sorry not to be able to join the chorus of bravo's, but this:
      "So let me say up front that I did not in fact think Goldberg would go quite that far, and that I apologize for getting him wrong."

      is pretty stupid, and pretty telling. anyone who has read pretty much anything Goldberg has written in the past 5 years (at the Atlantic, in his book, in his other reporting, in his blog, wherever) would already know that this is his position, because he talks about it all the time. in fact, I've found nastier smears (though not by much) of Goldberg only in right-wing rags, which hate that he promotes in any way Palestinian national aspirations.

      obviously Goldberg is not enough of an extremist for you, Mr. Cole, and I suppose his own many years of Middle East reporting, including being embedded with Hamas, can't possibly stack up to your truly show-stopping credentials.

      but the fact that you obviously haven't read the man since the Iraq war (about which he has admitted he was wrong, as I think any sensible person would have to) and yet still feel entitled to drag him through the mud like this is pathetic, childish, and a useful indicator of everything that is wrong with the far left perspective on Israel.

      but by all means, continue to smear people who are calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state. it's so much easier than having to compromise one single iota of your own biases, and it's bound to win more freedom and more safety for those who need it. we owe your professional background and dignified bearing a debt.

    19. An apartheid state IS a one state solution. You can't keep the majority of a country underfoot forever. Eventually, the Palestinians will elect an Arab prime minister, or start intermarrying with Israelis. I hope all these expansionalists like Palestinians, because that who their grandchildren will be.

    20. An avid reader of both your and Goldberg's blogs, I think you and he have more more in common that you would like to admit.

    21. "What I really mind is that he never sent me so much as the T-shirt. Also, students still don't seem sufficiently impressed by the title to get their papers in on time."


    22. Thank you Prof. Cole. I gave up my subscription to Atlantic a long time ago. E.Jean

    23. Thanks for explaining why the Atlantic had sunk so low. I stopped reading it years ago.

      The mantra "Speak truth to power" is demonstrated on a daily basis in Informed Comment. This is the critical difference, you inform, they lie.

    24. You condescendingly harp on his role as a prison guard during the first intifada while neglecting to mention that from that experience came a book describing his 15 year friendship with a PLO leader and their dialogue which led Goldberg to question many of his assumptions and to understand the need and right for Palestinian self-determination. That in and of itself is so lacking in context that I question whether you are being deliberately misleading.

    25. Thank you Professor Cole for keeping your eye on the ball. If I recall correctly, it was The Atlantic magazine that first commissioned and then denied Mearsheimer & Walt's essay on The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. This eye opening account was subsequently published in the London Review of Books before it became a book itself.

    26. Thank you Professor Cole for standing up to these bullies and frauds for the oppressed and the weak. Your blog hugely enriches Americans, who desperately need informed analysis, not partisan propaganda.

      I am an optimist: History, in the long run, always corrects itself. Justice for the Palestinians will come, one day or another, one way or another.

    27. Your controversial map speaks more loudly than any of our words. Whatever Mr. Goldberg claims to support or oppose, the map is nothing less than implementation of policy. Everyone knows it's happening. A large number of Americans simply want to see the Palestinians disappear; they like what the map is showing even as they claim not to see it.

      I have spent five years on the Internet saying over and over again that Israel's leaders have always intended to do unto the Palestinians what America's leaders intended to do to its Native peoples. We are simply repeating the lies and evasions of 140 years ago, while the process of elimination continues. The thing that has changed is that rich white people no longer reproduce faster than their victims. So our secret expectations that the victims will soon disappear and let us off the hook are frustrated, and increasingly so are we.

    28. The Palestinian/Israeli problem is the core of the MidEast Troubles. Without a solution here, there will be no solutions anywhere in the area. Without dwelling
      on history, I will go directly to the solution.

      First, Israel pulls back to the pre-1967 borders.

      Second, Jerusalem becomes an International City and the Israeli capital is re-acknowledged as Tel-Aviv. The Palestinians name their own capital.

      Thirdly, the City-State of Jerusalem is physically defined to form many functions :

      – The city will become host to most large-scale UN functions.
      – Jerusalem will have a local security force AND a small supervising UN security force.
      – The borders will be maintained by Israel and Palestine, either in tandem or separately.
      – There will be an International airport.

      – The area will be large enough to be physically defended and observe adjacent areas.
      – The area will control the major local highland aquifers, and oversee per capita national allocations.
      – The area will allow a transnational journey by either nationality. By passing through Jerusalem, an Israeli transits N/S, and a Palestinian travels E/W. This allows Palestine to have international borders with Jordan and Egypt, but not Syria or Lebanon, respecting current treaties and civilities.

      Jerusalem will be a service, marketing, light manufacturing,and tourism zone. The UN will demand a large service economy. Each family unit will be prorated by size, then entered into a lottery for both a plot of residential land and a plot of commercial value. The allocations will be random to negate ghettos and insularity. The residential and UN infrastructure will be internationally funded and built immediately. The residents will have startup funding of some sort. The residents of Jerusalem will have ownership, equity, involvement, and potential.

      The area will be a duty/tax free area, and the allocated ownership will be dispersed to the “right to return” Palestinians, the displaced Israeli colonists,
      and all who have lost their homes for any reason attributed to the strife. ( This could include the nomadic Bedouin.) Internal agriculture (because of crowded conditions) will also be “eminent domain-ed”, the owners compensated, and they and the land are then included in the allocation.

      There will be a local autonomous elected government, perhaps patterned after an American city's structure, with a taxing and spending power.

      The Jerusalem area should be as small as possible, hence the agricultural exclusion. The land should be locally Israeli or Palestinian owned and occupied, as much as possible. The UN will have a large campus. Land will be allocated to public use, such as future parks, libraries, and infrastructure. A commercial sector will evolve from the segmented and populist ownerships.

      The interwoven residential and commercial ownerships will not abide terrorism; neither will the UN functionaries. The key to controlling terrorism is to remove the cause and the base. This will do both. If the Israeli/Palestinian situation was settled to both their satisfactions, then the world, in full clarity, could neuter a main talking point of both Al-Queda and Iran. This would be a huge step towards World Peace.

    29. I love a professorial smackdown and this is one of your best Professor. Your scholarship and resistance to the dogs of war and the hatemongers does you much credit Prof. Cole. I feel like I should get some of course credit having read you for nigh a decade now. Thanks again.

    30. Hi Juan,

      I've been reading your stuff at Salon for a while, and I agree with a lot of what you say. When I saw this column today I wanted to comment on it, but I didn't want to join the chorus of freaks so I came over here.

      You said something that seems to require more support. I think I would agree with this if I just had a good argument to back it up. Here's what you said:

      There isn't any "blood" or "pure" "races," and human groups have no special relationship to territory.

      This is one of those statements that sounds sensible, but there are a lot of objections that could be made, and they are hard to explain away. For example, if I live at a place for 50 years, and I own it, and my great-grandfather owned it, and I want my grandkids to own it, isn't that a special relationship? How is it different for any group, large or small, that claims ownership of a place?

      Isn't the whole Palestine conflict rooted in the fact that many or maybe even most people disagree with that statement? If you could get everyone to agree on that, wouldn't the whole problem be solved?

    31. This fellow, Jeffrey Goldberg is apparently a lightning-rod for criticism from pseudo-experts and assorted whackos ~ lives for and loves to write all about himself and this "how I have been wronged" dynamic ~ which drowns out any contribution he may make to The Conversation, imho. He is clearly over-qualified for Informed Comment and ready for Prime Time. I suggest we pass the hat, take up a collection and send him there, tout de suite.

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