Morning Musings: More on the Transformation of Jeffry Goldberg

Here is an entire thread that I commented extensively on (hijacked might be more accurate).   It is an important development from my earlier piece:

It involves the further metamorphosis of conservative neocon Atlantic commentator and media figure Jeffrey Goldberg.  It is a big deal when conservative neocons with the stature of Jeffrey Goldberg show they are fed up with Israeli and Lobby policy and start talking about how it is hurting Israel and hurting this country.

Goldberg embraces J Streetby Philip Weiss on March 28, 2011

Send to a Friend Digg Furl 

Jeffrey Goldberg embraces J Street at his blog. (Thanks to Ali Gharib) He says they’re right in line with the George Washington of Zionism, Ben-Gurion.

[In 1967] Ben-Gurion said that Israel cannot be an occupier of Arabs. He was right then, and J Street is right now. If Shimon Peres is to be considered a Zionist; if Rabin is considered to have been a Zionist; and if David Ben-Gurion is to have been considered a Zionist, well, then J Street is Zionist as well. It is not heroic in the manner of these men, but neither are most of Israel’s current leaders, and nor are the leaders of American Jewry today.

Couple comments. This is significant in terms of Israeli opinion, which Goldberg has the ability to affect. Goldberg, who attacked the settlers in the New York Times 2 years back and then did nothing to follow up, is catching up. David Remnick and Peter Beinart have already claimed this territory, as writers. Note the jab at American Jewish leadership; this was Beinart’s theme of a year back which Goldberg challenged at the time.

Also note the embrace of Zionism. Old school. Jewish Voice for Peace’s Cecilie Surasky said two weeks ago, We avoid the word Zionism. We don’t see the point in getting in fights over the term. We focus on human rights. This wisdom is bubbling up in American progressive life and American Jewry and Goldberg and Remnick are surely hearing it from their own children, or their kids’ friends. Ben-Gurion of course approved ethnic cleansing of the nascent Jewish state so that it would have a large Jewish majority.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

MRW March 28, 2011 at 10:10 am

Ben Gurion called Menachem Begin a terrorist and despised him, hated him. Ditto Yitzhak Shamir, hated him as well.

Wonder who gave Goldberg his marching orders to embrace J Street? And for what reason?


Report this comment

irishmoses March 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Back in January I wrote a long piece on what I perceived as the slow metamorphosis of Jeffrey Goldberg:


Phil didn’t pick my piece up for Mondoweiss and others seemed to feel it was too early to tell. My personal view is that Goldberg is so seen from this side as the Neocon arch enemy, that he is cut no slack for signs of moderation. That is unfortunate because he has incredible influence and a transformation by him is truly earth shaking for the I-P movement.

Here are some excerpts from my January piece:
President Lyndon Johnson famously said, “If we’ve lost Walter Cronkite, we’ve lost the middle class”. If Benjamin Netanyahu has lost Jeffrey Goldberg, he may have also lost the American Jewish Middle Class

Jeffrey Goldberg is arguably the most important and influential main street media spokesman for the Israeli right wing. He has been predictably pro-Israel and has defended most of Israel’s military actions, usually on the grounds of self defense against an implacable Islamic terrorist foe. He was a vocal neocon supporter of the Iraq war and has strongly supported the idea of a preemptive US and/or Israeli preemptive strike against Iran’s nascent nuclear program. But something changed in Goldberg’s Atlantic blog in the past three weeks in which he has written seven blog articles on the Israel-Palestine issue. Perhaps it was the failure of the peace talks coupled with his end-of-year family trip to Israel. Whatever te cause, the change is profound and potentially earth-shattering in its effect on the Israel-Palestine issue and debate.

Goldberg’s change started with his December 23 Atlantic blog piece “Israel’s Self-Delegitimization Movement” in which he expressed his growing frustration with the Netanyahu government’s settlement policy:

“I would like someone in the Netanyahu government to please explain the plan here. It would make things so much easier to understand if we just knew the plan. Is the plan to continue settling Judea and Samaria so that there is no chance whatsoever of creating a Palestinian state? And if this is the plan, then what happens to those Palestinians who are being denied a state? Will they be absorbed into democratic Israel, thus bringing about an end to the idea that there should be a single small country on earth where Jews can be a majority? Or are they going to be denied democratic rights, in which case, well, Israel as we know it will cease to exist. Or is there some other plan? Or — maybe — there is no plan. Maybe these things just happenBut these settlements come with a price. I don’t believe that the Boycott-the-Jewish-State movement is motivated by the presence of settlements on the West Bank; it is motivated by something much, much darker. But the question must be asked: Why would Israel’s government acquiesce to the building of settlements that serve only to hurt Israel’s reputation among people who are on the fence? Put aside the arguments about what the Palestinians as a people deserve, and put aside the arguments about Israel’s demographic future. Even right-wingers agree that Israel’s reputation in the world is the lowest it has ever been. Why drive it even lower? So, again: What is the plan?”

Now there is certainly a lot of the old Jeffrey in this statement, like his allusion to the darker motives of those in the BDS movement, but this shows the beginnings or foreshadowing of an epiphany: that something isn’t making sense to him; that Netanyahu may not have a plan, that Israel, through its actions, may be delegitimizing itself.

His next piece, on December 27, “What if Israel Ceases to be a Democracy”, the epiphany emerges along with its devastating potential outcome for Israel:

“I will admit here that my assumption has usually been that Israelis, when they finally realize the choice before them (many have already, of course, but many more haven’t, it seems), will choose democracy, and somehow extract themselves from the management of the lives of West Bank Palestinians. But I’ve had a couple of conversations this week with people, in Jerusalem and out of Jerusalem, that suggest to me that democracy is something less than a religious value for wide swaths of Israeli Jewish society. I’m speaking here of four groups, each ascendant to varying degrees: The haredim, the ultra-Orthodox Jews, whose community continues to grow at a rapid clip; the working-class religious Sephardim – Jews from Arab countries, mainly — whose interests are represented in the Knesset by the obscurantist rabbis of the Shas Party; the settler movement, which still seems to get whatever it needs in order to grow; and the million or so recent immigrants from Russia, who support, in distressing numbers, the Putin-like Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister and leader of the “Israel is Our Home” party.

Let’s just say, as a hypothetical, that one day in the near future, Prime Minister Lieberman’s government (don’t laugh, it’s not funny) proposes a bill that echoes the recent call by some rabbis to discourage Jews from selling their homes to Arabs. Or let’s say that Lieberman’s government annexes swaths of the West Bank in order to take in Jewish settlements, but announces summarily that the Arabs in the annexed territory are in fact citizens of Jordan, and can vote there if they want to, but they won’t be voting in Israel. What happens then? Do the courts come to the rescue? I hope so. Do the Israeli people come to the rescue? I’m not entirely sure. There are many Israelis who value democracy, but they might not possess the strength to fight. Does American Jewry come to the rescue? Well, most of American Jewry would be so disgusted by Israel’s abandonment of democratic principles that I think the majority would simply write off Israel as a tragic, failed experiment.

Am I being apocalyptic? Yes. Am I exaggerating the depth of the problem? I certainly hope so. Israel is still a remarkably vibrant democracy, with a free press and an independent judiciary. But on the other hand, the Israel that I see today is not the Israel I was introduced to more than twenty years ago. The rise to power of the four groups I mentioned above has changed, in some very serious ways (which I will write about later) the nature and character of the Jewish state.”

Here again, the old Jeffrey is clearly present, who, despite his epiphany, still describes Israel as “…a remarkably vibrant democracy…”, but the wheels are clearly coming off the bus. He now sees the grave threats from the religious factions, the Russian immigrants, and from the settler movement. Most important, he sees serious changes in the nature and character of the Jewish state that now make it not the Israel he originally encountered over two decades ago.

……. Finally, on January 11, Goldberg’s piece, “The Future of Jerusalem” brings his epiphany full circle:

” If a Jewish person’s only concern as a Jew is the acquisition of every square inch of biblical Israel on behalf of the Jewish people, then I suppose it is a Jewish interest. But if a Jewish person has other interests as well — such as in peace, or in the idea that Palestinians, though a much newer people than the Jewish people, deserve a state just as Jews do, or in the continued survival of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state — than the slow takeover of [East Jerusalem] is not in the best Jewish interest.

Peace will not come without the birth of a Palestinian state on the West Bank which has its capital in East Jerusalem. I’m as sure of that as I am of anything in the Middle East. Of course, peace may not come even with the birth of this state — I’m no longer quite so sure in the possibility, or at least in the availability, of peace — but it will surely never happen without it. This is why, of course, certain right-wing Jewish groups, aided and abetted by different factions in Israel’s chaotic government, are seeking to populate East Jerusalem with Jews: to prevent the birth of a Palestinian state. These particular Jews operate under the delusion that Israel can keep control of the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem forever, and most of the West Bank forever, without negative consequences. They are drastically wrong. Eventually, something is going to give. At a certain point in the not-so-distant future, Israel will either cease to be a Jewish state, or it will cease to be a democracy. Attempts to abort the birth of a Palestinian state only hasten this moment of decision.

Israel will survive without the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. It will not survive if it becomes a pariah state, and, in this unfortunate world in which we must exist, Israel is in danger of becoming an outcast among nations.”

This is huge; this is the transformation of Jeffrey Goldberg from a highly influential near Zionist zealot and Israel-right-or-wrong Likkud apologist to a person who now realizes that Israel is in a death spiral and that influential Jews like him need to speak out strongly and speak out now if Israel is to survive.

The transformation of Jeffrey Goldberg is still a work in progress. Like many of us who have come around 180 degrees on in the Israel-Palestine issue over the past few years, we did and do so in fits and starts. It will be easy to snipe at him and take easy cheap shots at his past statements and occasional backsliding, to treat him as still the enemy. I think a better approach is to welcome him, to congratulate him on his metamorphosis, to help him in his transition, and to seek his help, allegiance and advice in helping bring this issue to the forefront of US politics. Jeffrey Goldberg is a new and late-coming ally in this struggle, but an ally he is and an important one at that. His transformation may be the opening of the floodgates; the Walter Cronkite moment of the struggle to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to save Israel from itself.

Jeffrey Goldberg is a late comer to our side of the I-P issue, and he continues to test the waters gingerly with one foot at a time. Yet, it is time to quit seeing him as the enemy incarnate and instead welcome him as a fellow Jew who has wandered a bit longer in the desert than most. If Jeffry Goldberg comes in from the desert he will bring with him the potential for millions more Jews who continue to wander in the Zionist desert, for a true sea change in the mainstream Jewish community.

Changes in mainstream beliefs don’t come easy. It took a Walter Chronkite to change mainstream America’s view of the Viet Nam war. Jeffry Goldberg could be the Walter Chronkite of the Israel Palestine war.

Gil Maguire


Report this comment

Robert March 28, 2011 at 1:13 pm


I’ve had the strong impression with Jeffrey Goldberg that he is self-interested, and cynical in what he writes. He’s not a fearless truth-teller. He knows that his position, and ability to get big interviews, is critically dependent upon not coming out and saying all that he understands about the I-P situation. There are indications that he has private conversations with Andrew Sullivan about the situation that help inform Sullivan’s more blunt and truthful opinion, then Goldberg spars with Sullivan in public.


Report this comment

irishmoses March 28, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I see what you are saying Robert. To a great extent Goldberg still plays to his neocon audience (or masters) which is very evident even in his latest piece of J-Street. Yet, if you carefully read the seven posts from his blog that I cite in my article, it is very clear he is coming around and beginning to use his immense influence to say “enough is enough”. The fact that he backslides may show cynicism or just the process of change, or both.

In any case, who would have predicted six months ago that Goldberg would become anti-Netanyahu, anti-settlement and inclusive of J-Street. To me, this is a much more profound change than that of Beinart and Remnick. Those two are speaking to the choir of a largely liberal Jewish audience and are latecomers to that party. Goldberg, on the other hand, speaks to the mainstream Jewish community which is the only audience that really counts in this debate. Once AIPAC loses the support of the mainstream Jewish community, they’ve lost the battle.

The mainstream Jewish community is the toughest nut to crack and will take the likes of Jeffry Goldberg types to crack it. The Beinarts and Remnicks will help at the margins, at the more liberal fringes. I suspect it will take the conversion of more than a few neocons to change the debate so that the mainstream Jewish (and non-Jewish) communities will stand up and pay attention.

I think Phil and others who have led the charge in the I-P issue are quite properly repulsed by the Jeffry Goldberg neocon types, but this repulsion makes them blind to the reality that conversion of neocons like Goldberg my provide the key to significant change in the political dynamics of the I-P issue.

Gil Maguire


Report this comment

Pixel March 28, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Thanks for the link to your piece. Fascinating.


Report this comment

MRW March 28, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Gil, I don’t think Goldberg has the moral strength to be a Cronkite. He has too much baksheesh to lose, mainly because he does not have Cronkite’s stature to begin with. Goldberg is always going to cut along access lines. He’s no Phil Weiss.


Report this comment

irishmoses March 28, 2011 at 2:39 pm

You are right, I remember Walter Cronkite and Goldberg is no Walter Cronkite. Still, he is a fairly major neocon player, at least in the media. In terms of having influence in the mainstream Jewish community which I view as still largely “Israel-right or wrong”, I suspect Goldberg (as odious as he is) has much more influence and access to that community than does Phil Weiss (as wonderful as he is) who I think is likely viewed as more liberal, more “J-Streetish”, more of a traitor to their cause because of his dissent.

I am fairly new to this community and issue and don’t run in this crowd so I may be way off base on this. It just seems to me that the mainstream Jewish community won’t change until significant players in that community, whom they listen to and respect first change. Goldberg is the first of those players to show significant change which to me is a true sea change.

The debates and discussion on Mondoweiss are largely among like believers and, as informative as it is, is not much more than dicking around at the liberal margins. The debates and discussion need to focus on the mainstream communities, both Jewish and non, because that is where the ignorance is and where the battle will ultimately be won or lost. The Vietnam war debate turned around only when a mainstream icon, Walter Cronkite, told mainstream America, “this war’s a loser.”

Goldberg ain’t no Cronkite, but he is a significant start.

Gil Maguire


Report this comment

hophmi March 28, 2011 at 2:12 pm

“Ben-Gurion of course approved ethnic cleansing of the nascent Jewish state so that it would have a large Jewish majority. ”

Couldn’t resist sticking that in there, could you?

Haj Husseini, of course, said “Kill the Jews wherever you find them.” The Arab states, of course, invaded Israel in 1948. The UN, of course, approved the partition plan by a vote of 33 to 13. The Palestinians, of course, embarked on a campaign of terror several times. The Egyptians and Jordanians, of course, did less for Palestinian statehood than the Israelis.

Of course, of course, of course. We can keep of coursing each other or we can actually make peace. Which is it, Phil?


Report this comment

Shingo March 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Haj Husseini, of course, said “Kill the Jews wherever you find them.”

Husseini was out of a job on 1937 and on exile.

The Arab states, of course, invaded Israel in 1948.

False. They invaded Palestine and attacked Israeli forces stationed there. No sovereign state was attacked.

Why ate you lying about this?


Report this comment

hophmi March 28, 2011 at 5:53 pm

“Husseini was out of a job on 1937 and on exile.”

So what? Radio was international, and he made his statement on March 1, 1944. From Berlin. Why are you incapable of accepting this?

“False. They invaded Palestine and attacked Israeli forces stationed there. No sovereign state was attacked.”

You’re in la-la land. Egyptian forces attacked Israel from the South and bombed Tel Aviv. Israel was a sovereign state at that point. The UN Secretary-General described the invasion as “armed aggression.” What’s wrong with you?


Report this comment

Shingo March 28, 2011 at 11:43 pm

So what? Radio was international, and he made his statement on March 1, 1944. From Berlin. Why are you incapable of accepting this?

So he was no loner the leader of the Palestinians and none of them honored his demand for Johad against the British – unlike the Zionists.

Egyptian forces attacked Israel from the South and bombed Tel Aviv.

They bombed Israel’s air force. They did not attack Israel. None f their forces invaded Israel.

Israel was a sovereign state at that point. The UN Secretary-General described the invasion as “armed aggression.” What’s wrong with you?

Armed aggression against whom? No sovereign state was attacked in 1948. Look it up. No UN Resolution was passed condemning the attack becasue there wasn’t one.


Report this comment

DICKERSON3870 March 28, 2011 at 6:45 pm

RE: “Goldberg embraces J Street” – Weiss
MY COMMENT: He will catch hell for that. From Hagee and the Christian Zionists, if no one else.


Report this comment

Bill NYC March 29, 2011 at 7:52 am

Ahhh, Goldberg embraces J Street. Some endorsement. As Norman Finkelstein says, J Street is “tepid,” so naturally Goldberg (for whatever reason) finds it within himself to confer upon them the label “Zionist.” How big of him. I’m sorry…maybe it’s because I’m cranky and tired and it’s early in the morning, but Goldberg and J Street deserve each other. I’m sticking with JVP.


Report this comment

irishmoses March 29, 2011 at 12:03 pm

While you are correct about J Street being tepid and Zionist-light, the importance of Goldberg’s support for J Street is that it opens a door for contrary (heretical) thought among the mainstream Jewish community (“MSJC”) which still largely sees Israel as beseiged and faultless. Getting the mainstream Jewish community (not to mention the non-Jewish version) to recognize and reject the apartheid nature of Israel would be huge. Neither Goldberg nor J Street yet admit what they are seeing is apartheid, but at least they are finding fault with it and noticing how ultimately it may prove fatal for Israel.

In my view J Street has little real influence in the MSJC. Goldberg, on the other hand, is golden to them. His conversion could have a major impact on the MSJC because he has such strong Zionist credentials. It is the conversion of the Goldberg types that will turn the tide. As much as I admire the efforts of JVP, Mondoweiss, and even J Street, IMHO they all operate at the margins of this debate and preach largely to a choir that has little real influence with the largest, most critical, and most ignorant player, the MSJC.

Gil Maguire

This entry was posted in East Jerusalem, intolerance, Israel, Israeli, Israeli settlements, J Street, Jeffrey Goldberg, lobby, Palestine, Palestinian, Settlements, West Bank and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s