The Chief Rabbi of a One-Man Island

At a session yesterday at the J Street conference (an "unofficial" session, though it doesn't sound too unofficial in this rendering), Max Blumenthal excoriated the head of J Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami, for "capitulating" to me in our interview last week.  Blumenthal called me the self-appointed "chief rabbi of a one-man island," which sounds great -- this might become a Goldblog motto, actually, although I'm not sure what it means -- and denounced me for vicious warmongering in Gaza (this post being a case in point, I suppose). More consequentially, Blumenthal also mocked Elie Wiesel, to widespread laughter, apparently. Here's a tip: Criticizing public figures who survived the Holocaust is permissible, of course. But mocking them is disgraceful. It's also not going to win you too many Jewish friends, though this hasn't been Blumenthal's goal, obviously. In any case, here is some of what he said, according to a transcription made by Goldblog aide-de-camp Tali Yahalom:

I was troubled by the Jeffrey Goldberg interview with Jeremy Ben-Ami. I found a lot to be troubling with this interview conducted by Jeffrey Goldberg, who supported zealously the war on Lebanon, who supported the war on Gaza. I can't remember the last time Jeffrey Goldberg was right. He seems to have an ulterior agenda, but he did, at one point, call the settlers zealots in 2004 in an article for the New Yorker. And yet, when Jeremy Ben-Ami attempts to address the policy implications of the settlements and support the Obama administration's agenda on the settlement freeze, Jeffrey Goldberg tried to put Jeremy in an uncomfortable situation to say the bloggers are anti-Zionist, denounce Helena Cobban, denounce Max Blumenthal, say Stephen Walt and Mearsheimer are Nazis, say they're anti-Semites. Jeffrey Goldberg has appointed himself the chief rabbi of a one-man island. Only Jeffrey Goldberg can be against the settlements, because he's a serious man. And what happened really disappointed me, at least on the point of Walt and Mearsheimer.

Now it's legitimate to disagree with their analysis - I personally think they provided cover for J Street to be able to exist to fill this void but Jeremy capitulated, he sort of prostrated himself before the serious man, Jeffrey Goldberg, and he said yes, it's true they wrote the modern version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, they're anti-Semites. And to me, when you call Stephen Walt and John Meirsheimer anti-Semites - first of all it raises the question: if you're going to capitulate before Jeffrey Goldberg, if you can't stand up to Jeffrey Goldberg, how can we trust you to stand up against the settlers, how can we trust you to stand up against the government of Netanyahu and Lieberman?

One line in this moving speech will come back to haunt J Street, I'm afraid: the idea that Walt and Mearsheimer provided cover for J Street to create itself. This is erroneous, I think. J Street came about because progressive Zionists -- and younger American Jews, generally -- had become tired of the reflexive support offered successive Israeli governments by the American Jewish establishment, and wanted to advocate for Israel in a different way. J Street grew organically, and continues to grow organically, and its spiritual fathers are people like Eric Yoffie, the leader of the Reform movement, and Shimon Peres, and the late Yitzhak Rabin, and certainly not the Jew-baiters Walt and Mearsheimer.

I'd write more on this subject, but I have to go build a synagogue on my one-man island. Actually, I'm thinking about building two synagogues.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.


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