Jeffrey Goldberg

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.

  • Israel Relies on Evangelicals at its Moral and Political Peril

    Support from evangelical Christians was always a narrow reed on which to rest Israel's fortunes in America, and now the group is collapsing.

    It is a source of great frustration, even pain, among liberal American Jews that Israel finds such stalwart support among American evangelical Protestants, with whom they share very little. It is, of course, a source of great comfort to Israeli politicians such as Benjamin Netanyahu and to his even more right-wing colleagues, that evangelical support for Israel is so strong. Evangelical support always struck me as a narrow reed on which to rest Israel's fortunes in America, and not only because many evangelicals, in my experience, have no love for Jews as autonomous people, but merely as vehicles for the Christian redemption. I also thought it was odd to build a strategy around evangelicals because evangelicals don't represent a majority of Americans.

    Now, according to an important op-ed in The Times by a young evangelical pastor, it seems as if evangelicals represent fewer Americans than ever. I hope those Israelis who believe they can ignore the wishes of their liberal brethren (and their increasingly-former allies among non-Jewish liberals in the U.S.) read the whole thing. Here's an excerpt:

    In 2012 we witnessed a collapse in American evangelicalism. The old religious right largely failed to affect the Republican primaries, much less the presidential election. Last month, Americans voted in favor of same-sex marriage in four states, while Florida voters rejected an amendment to restrict abortion.

    Much has been said about conservative Christians and their need to retool politically. But that is a smaller story, riding on the back of a larger reality: Evangelicalism as we knew it in the 20th century is disintegrating.

    In 2011 the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life polled church leaders from around the world. Evangelical ministers from the United States reported a greater loss of influence than church leaders from any other country -- with some 82 percent indicating that their movement was losing ground.

    I grew up hearing tales of my grandfather, a pastor, praying with President Ronald Reagan at the White House. My father, also a pastor, prayed with George W. Bush in 2000. I now minister to my own congregation, which has grown to about 500, a tenfold increase, in the last four years (by God's favor and grace, I believe). But, like most young evangelical ministers, I am less concerned with politics than with the exodus of my generation from the church.

    Studies from established evangelical polling organizations -- LifeWay Research, an affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the Barna Group -- have found that a majority of young people raised as evangelicals are quitting church, and often the faith, entirely.
  • Responding to Alex Seitz-Wald on Gun Control

    Since he didn't include so much of the material in his story, I thought I would simply post my correspondence with Seitz-Wald here.

    Alex Seitz-Wald, of Salon, has published a piece critical of my Atlantic piece that argued for concealed-carry permitting as one answer to gun violence (the other answers I gave include some mainstream gun control measures -- you can read about my views here). Seitz-Wald contacted me by e-mail before writing his story, and I responded to his various questions, but he chose not to include most of them in his story (which renders in a dishonest way the actual arguments I was making). In his own e-mails, you will see that he makes the argument I was making for me. Since he didn't include so much of the material in his story, I thought I would simply post my correspondence with Seitz-Wald here. This is unedited, except for the removal of some repetitive information:

    Seitz-Wald's first e-mail to me:

    Hi Jeff,

    I'm a fan of yours and really respect your work, but wanted to give you a heads up that I'm working on a big piece for Salon for tomorrow that will disagree sharply with your story on guns. I've spoken with several academic gun researchers who criticized the piece for a lack of inclusion of scientific studies on gun violence, which they say shows pretty conclusively, as one just told me: "Where there are more guns, there are more deaths."

    I just wanted to alert you and offer an opportunity to respond, specifically on exclusion of scientific research, if you cared to. I can send more info later in the day as my piece comes together. Filing later tonight for publishing tomorrow morning. Thank you very much.

    I wrote back:

    I think you should call Adam Winkler at UCLA for comment before you write. Also, I was making a specific point in the piece: There is no proof that concealed-carry permitting has led to a rise in violent crime. And there is evidence (National Crime Victimization Survey, etc.) to suggest that many law-abiding people use guns to defend themselves successfully, most often without actually firing.

    But of course the more guns there are, the more deaths you're going to have. But it's not the population of concealed-carry permit holders that is, generally speaking, causing those deaths. The whole point of the piece was to argue that since we are a gun-saturated society, and since the police cannot protect civilians from gun massacres (Connecticut being only the latest example), people who are well-trained and vetted and screened ought to be able to participate in their own defense. I find the Canadian model very attractive -- as I wrote in the piece -- but it's too late to turn this country into Canada.

    I assume much of the criticism is about the John Lott quote?

    Seitz-Wald wrote back a few hours later:

    Apologies for the slow response, was on the phone with people.

    I'm certainly sympathetic the problem of having so many guns already out there, and to the desire to protect oneself, and I like shooting guns, but I don't think more is the answer because 1) they're often not effective in a heated situation (though they occasionally have been) and 2) more importantly, then you have the gun sitting around waiting to be used in an emergency, but  we know that access to guns often leads to more conflicts and suicide attempts turning lethal than they otherwise would be. That's my big issue.

    The Lott quote certainly drew criticism, but I don't have a problem with it. You cite him as an advocate, not an academic, and that's fine. I should note my piece is not just responding to your story but to the more guns, less crime argument overall, so I will talk about Lott, but on his own right in advancing the argument, not because you quoted him.

    As for research, I'm mostly been speaking with researchers so far and don't have all the links at the moment, but can pass them along and will summarize. There's are several studies showing that keeping a gun in the home increases the risk of violent death 2-5 fold. Here's some quick things:

    On CCW, there's a criticism of the data showing lower arrests and criminal activity because the CCW population is very different from the general population: It skews older and is people who have pass a background check, so is a demographic that's far less inclined to commit crimes.

    On the 2.5 million defensive uses of guns, there's criticism that many of them aren't actually defensive (Hemenway at Harvard took the responses to a judge to get opinions and many would not count as lawful uses).

    This really quick, and I can provide more, but still digging in and crashing on this.

    (The bold is mine, because, of course, this is the precise point of my article.)

    I wrote back:

    I think, based on what you've written, that we have more of a philosophical difference than a data difference. I start from the position that we live in a tragic reality, in which there are 280-300 million guns in circulation already, and no Constitutional, or practical, way to seize them. As I said, Canada looks like a very nice place from the gun perspective, but we're not going to be transformed into Canada. And also -- the headline of the piece was "The Case for More Guns." and I'm not going to complain about headlines -- they are what they are -- but I'm not advocating the addition of more guns into the population.

    What I'm saying is that law-abiding, vetted and trained people who have guns have a right to self-defense, and that, since the police and other government agencies obviously have failed to prevent many gun massacres, citizens who are screened and trained could have a role to play in stopping violent crime. The training is the biggest problem -- in places like Florida, it's far too easy to get a concealed carry permit.

    But to answer specific points:

    Sometimes guns aren't effective in a heated situation; sometimes they are. Your point re: suicide is a good one; 35 percent of all suicides (roughly) are committed with guns. We need better mental health screening for gun buyers, obviously. And I guess we just have a different perspective on the frequency of gun violence around the house. The vast, vast majority of people who own guns store them responsibly, use them responsibly and never run into a problem with their guns. In a way, this goes back to the training issue. I have no problem at all with gun control measures that would lead to more careful vetting of those who buy guns legally. (Illegal gun ownership is its own problem, obviously.) 
    I don't believe I wrote in my piece that we should have more guns. I believe that responsible, law-abiding people can own and even carry guns with limited downside. I'd like to get the guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, and the violent, and the very young. But a large number of Americans don't fall into these categories.
    On (concealed-carry), yes, exactly. Thank you for making my point for me. My article is about concealed carry. The people who have concealed carry licenses are generally older, and have passed a background check, and commit crime at lower rate than the general population. So they are not the problem. The debate is how much a part of the solution they can be. (Again, my bold.)

    On the safety issue, yes, having a gun around the house can be very dangerous. Children die every year when they discover a gun around the house. More children, however, die in backyard swimming pools. Careless parents and guardians are the real vector when it comes to accidental child death.

    (Also), as you read in the article, I give more credit to the 108,000 number (as does Winkler), than I do the 2.5 million number. 

    Please feel free to quote any of this.

     Seitz-Wald wrote back soon after:

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I think you may be right about the ideological vs. data difference being the main issue, but I think there is a data difference as well.

    You say you're not advocating the addition of more guns into the population, but that's the invariable product of more people arming themselves to defend themselves. It seems to me like a bit of a distinction without difference. The title of your piece is, after all, "The Case for More Guns." I get that the vast majority of those people are law abiding citizens who just want to protect themselves, but it still adds up to more guns in circulation, and we know that more guns around means more death. 

    I'm taking on the larges more guns = less crime argument, which is obviously bigger than your essay and is not the exact case your essay is making. But I view your essay as the smart and reasonable version of this theory, which I argue is inherently flawed, so I want to address it in that context. It's easy to knock down John Lott or Louis Gohmert or the gun rights absolutists, but your essay is far more compelling and thus prone to sparking vital dialog. But if law abiding citizens arming themselves was the solution, then we should have very little crime now considering the number of guns out there.

    I will add another philosophical difference which is that you are looking at the things mostly from the individual's perspective, where it's obvious that anyone err towards gun rights -- who wouldn't want a gun? But I don't think that's not the right way to look at public policy questions, which should be viewed in the aggregate. I'd love to not pay taxes...

    I imagine we don't really differ much on policy prescriptions. I favor a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and closing the gun show loophole, along with more rigorous training for CCW, and better checks on mental health. I'm not at all satisfied with this as a solution, as you say, given the existing number of guns out there and the Supreme Court's current interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, it's the best we can do fo now. But I think it's kind of defeatist to just assume it's hopeless and fend for ourselves. Maybe it's a kind of progressivism: I think the government and police can be pretty farkakta often, but I'd rather leave it to them, where there's rigorous checks and accountability, than empower every citizen to make life and death decisions. I don't really have a better alternative, which I realize weakens my point, but I'm not ready to give up.


    I wrote back:

    I don't think the piece makes the case for "more guns." It makes the case, given the failure of gun control advocates to advance their cause, and given the failure of police departments (the understandable failure, mind you) to protect innocent citizens in these types of shootings, concealed-carry by vetted and screened and trained civilians is something we ought to consider.

    I'm taking on the larges more guns = less crime argument, which is obviously bigger than your essay and is not the exact case your essay is making. But I view your essay as the smart and reasonable version of this theory, which I argue is inherently flawed, so I want to address it in that context. It's easy to knock down John Lott or Louis Gohmert or the gun rights absolutists, but your essay is far more compelling and thus prone to sparking vital dialog. But if law abiding citizens arming themselves was the solution, then we should have very little crime now considering the number of guns out there.

    Thank you thinking more favorably of me than you do Louis Gohmert. Re: your larger point, crime is, in fact, going down. I'm not going to argue causality (I would argue that general crime statistics suggest that concealed carry is not sparking a violent crime wave) but how do you know crime wouldn't be higher if people were disarmed? In other words, how do you prove that law-abiding citizens arming themselves isn't the solution, when you have the National Crime Victims Survey stats (see Winkler's quote in my story on the 108,000 number).

    I will add another philosophical difference which is that you are looking at the things mostly from the individual's perspective, where it's obvious that anyone err towards gun rights -- who wouldn't want a gun? But I don't think that's not the right way to look at public policy questions, which should be viewed in the aggregate. I'd love to not pay taxes...

    Yes,  believe an individual should have the right to defend himself from crime, especially since we know that the police do this so imperfectly. I suppose I wouldn't feel this way if you could prove to me that the 9 million concealed-carry permit holders in this country were robbing banks on a regular basis, but bank robbers aren't the sort of people who present themselves to their local sheriff for fingerprinting, background screening, gun-safety classes, etc.
    You don't hear the word "farkakta" too often at gun shows, in case you were wondering. Yes, I basically support the laundry list of items the Brady Campaign wants, but I also -- it is true -- fatalistic about the capacity for the country to reverse itself on guns. Buy-backs might be useful on the margins -- and unlike the Brady Campaign, which has closed the door to debates on the 2nd Amendment -- I wouldn't mind seeing a public debate on the subject. But here's the point -- many times we are on our own. That's the tragic truth. That school was undefended. Those kids were on their own. The principal and the school psychologist had to throw their bodies at Lanza in an effort to tackle him. That's all they had, and it wasn't enough.  Closing the gun-show loophole would not have helped that school. Having a police officer, or an armed security guard or someone with a gun who knew how to use it, that might have led to a different outcome.

    Sometimes I think I should take a much more radical stance and argue for gun eradication, but then I can't imagine a way to pull it off -- I can't figure out the policy that would induce most Americans to turn in their guns.  And to return to my first point -- this is a real philosophical difference. I think most Americans can be trusted with guns. I think the fact that we have somewhere in the range of 300 million guns in circulation, and crime is as low as it is, is something of a miracle. The truth is is that millions and millions of Americans keep guns, store them safely, use them properly and never hurt anyone. I don't really get southern and western gun culture myself, but I recognize that the people who are enamored of guns are, in the main, not criminals.

    Seitz-Wald didn't respond to this last e-mail. As you can see, we had a reasonable discussion about the issue. I was hoping that his article might reflect more of my thinking, contained in these long e-mails to him, but, unfortunately, it did not.

  • The Amazing Mr. Lieberman

    Avigdor Lieberman, who is taking a temporary leave of absence from driving Israel into the sea while he settles his legal affairs, has done it again.

    Avigdor Lieberman, who is taking a temporary leave of absence from driving Israel into the sea while he settles his legal affairs, has done it again. According to Lahav Harkov in the Jerusalem Post, he has managed to insult three of the most important women in Israeli politics -- at the same time!

    "I see the attack of these three veibers attacking me, Tzipi Livni, [Labor leader] Shelly Yacimovich and [Meretz leader] Zehava Gal-On - the Polish group," Liberman quipped, before correcting himself: "Actually, Zehava in Lithuanian, not Polish." Liberman is big fan of Yiddish, enjoys attending plays in the language, and seems to be trying to teach it to Israelis one scandal at a time.

    Nearly two years after introducing the Yiddish word feinshmeckers - literally gourmet, but used to mean a snob or a priss - to the Israeli vernacular by using it to describe Likud's more liberal wing, Liberman now brought in veibers, which literally means wives, but has a negative connotation in Yiddish meaning chatterboxes or gossipers.

    The good news for Lieberman is that veibers does not mean "wenches," as some reports have it. Remember, Lieberman has served for several years now as foreign minister of the sovereign state of Israel. The position was once filled by Abba Eban, by the way. And now look.

  • What Can We Do to Stop Massacres?

    Five thoughts on the Newtown shooting and the future of gun regulation

    The massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, has caused many people, including people at the White House, to say that this is not the day to talk about gun policy. This day is obviously for mourning the dead, but I don't understand why we shouldn't talk about the conditions that lead to these sorts of shootings. I wrote about this issue in the current issue of The Atlantic (you can read the story here), and I want to quickly make a few points drawn from that longer article.

    1) This is a gun country. We are saturated with guns. There are as many as 300 million guns in circulation today (the majority owned legally, but many not) and more than 4 million new guns come onto the market each year. To talk about eradicating guns, especially given what the Supreme Court has said about the individual right to gun-ownership, is futile.

    2) There are, however, some gun control laws that could be strengthened. The so-called gun-show loophole (which is not a loophole at all -- 40 percent of all guns sold in America legally are sold without benefit of a federal background check) should be closed. Background checks are no panacea -- many of our country's recent mass-shooters had no previous criminal records, and had not been previously adjudicated mentally ill -- but they would certainly stop some people from buying weapons.

    3) We must find a way to make it more difficult for the non-adjudicated mentally ill to come into possession of weapons. This is crucially important, but very difficult, because it would require the cooperation of the medical community -- of psychiatrists, therapists, school counselors and the like -- and the privacy issues (among other issues) are enormous. But: It has to be made more difficult for sociopaths, psychopaths and the otherwise violently mentally-ill (who, in total, make up a small portion of the mentally ill population) to buy weapons.

    4) People should have the ability to defend themselves. Mass shootings take many lives in part because no one is firing back at the shooters. The shooters in recent massacres have had many minutes to complete their evil work, while their victims cower under desks or in closets. One response to the tragic reality that we are a gun-saturated country is to understand that law-abiding, well-trained, non-criminal, wholly sane citizens who are screened by the government have a role to play in their own self-defense, and in the defense of others (read my print article to see how one armed school administrator stopped a mass shooting in Pearl Mississippi). I don't know anything more than anyone else about the shooting in Connecticut at the moment, but it seems fairly obvious that there was no one at or near the school who could have tried to fight back.

    5) All of this is tragic. As I wrote in the magazine, Canada, which has a low-rate of gun ownership and strict gun laws, seems like a pretty nice place sometimes.

    UPDATE: It's worth noting what President Obama said during the October 16 debate: "We're a nation that believes in the Second Amendment, and I believe in the Second Amendment. We've got a long tradition of hunting and sportsmen and people who want to make sure they can protect themselves."

  • Australia Grapples With China's Rise

    Like certain other people in Washington, I'm trying to make my own pivot to Asia.

    Like certain other people in Washington, I'm trying to make my own pivot to Asia, both because the Middle East is so maddening and depressing, and because, well, Asia is Asia. Very big and very exciting. Also, good food. I was in Australia the other week (food, eh, but people exceedingly nice), and I got the chance to spend an hour with the country's prime minister, Julia Gillard, and we spoke about the Middle East (you can read some of our conversation here), and we also spoke about Australia's own pivot to Asia, and what it means for its historic alliance with the United States. Here is some of this part of the conversation, from my Bloomberg View column:

    Australia is an empty country. Yet there's much anxiety there about refugees and migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and all across Asia.

    To an American visitor, that anxiety seems a bit overblown -- last year, according to the United Nations, Australia admitted only 9,200 refugees. I asked Gillard why her country couldn't open its gates a bit wider. After all, Australia seeks to be a top-10 world economy (it is the 12th biggest now, by most counts). An influx of Asian immigrants could be beneficial. Her response was telling.

    "We've done all right when it comes to landmass," she said. "We've got a lot of land, but it's dry land. One of the biggest domestic political issues we debate is water. In terms of migration settings, we run a sizable migration program, and we do that to meet our nation's economic needs, but it will always be calibrated to those needs, and the core of it is a skilled migration program.'

    Although there is limited appetite in Australia for Asian immigrants, in other words, there is no limit to the Australian appetite for Asian money. Most of the country's political and economic elite, led by Gillard, seem eager to pivot their economy toward Asia. A substantial amount of China's industrial growth is already fueled by minerals extracted from that dry Australian soil. Gillard's government recently issued a white paper that labeled the coming era the Asian Century, and promised that every Australian school would teach at least one Asian language.
    In 10 days of conversations across Australia, however, apprehension about China's rise among many in the country's middle class was a consistent theme. One junior officer in the Australian military who I spoke to put it this way: The government can try to make Australia as Asian as it wants, but most people are happier believing their country is solidly in the American sphere of influence, rather than the Chinese.

    Australians who are sensitive about their country's sovereignty have been grumbling about the stationing of 2,500 U.S. Marines in Darwin. On the whole, though, most of those I spoke to thought that the Marines will help check Chinese political ambitions in their region.
    When I asked Gillard if the Chinese were right to suspect that the Marine contingent was part of an American-led strategy to limit China's reach, she scoffed.

    "We are not engaged in a containment strategy of China. The idea that the Chinese would be flummoxed by 2,500 Marines is a little bit of an odd proposition." She quickly added: "I know the Marines are a very elite force, but 2,500 of them do not pose an emerging threat to China." She said the Marines were being stationed in Darwin primarily because they wanted a tough terrain on which to train.

    It's fairly obvious, though, that this was a fine bit of spin. The U.S. clearly has tough training terrain as well. Stationing Marines in Darwin can't be interpreted any other way except as a signal from Australia to the Chinese: We want your business, and we will learn your language, but we will not be subsumed by you.

    This is an unprecedented moment for Australia. In the words of Michael Fullilove, the executive director of the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, "For the first time in our history, our largest trading partner is a potential peer competitor of our great strategic ally."
    I asked Gillard if she thought her country was walking too fine a line. As Australia grows more and more dependent on the Chinese market, can its historical alliance with the U.S. really remain unchanged?

    "Asia's rise -- China, India, Indonesia -- the continuing strength of Japan and South Korea, the emergence from poverty of many nations toward more advanced economies, all means that we need to grasp the economic opportunities coming our way," she said. "We have the ability to map out a course in this century so that we all benefit from this time of change. But none of this detracts from a long-term pivotal alliance with the United States, and we want the United States to be on this journey in our region as it changes, as a partner with us and a partner in the region."

    It seems plausible that China, which at times conducts its foreign policy in a carelessly prickly and aggressive manner, could one day confront Australia (and other U.S. allies in the region) with unpredictable national-security challenges. As Australia pivots toward China, then, it makes eminent sense to keep the U.S. very close by.

  • The Difference Between Iran and Syria for President Obama

    Inaction on Syria doesn't automatically translate to inaction on Iran.

    From a Goldblog reader:

    I saw you on Meet the Press on Sunday, where you were very harsh about the Obama Administration's policy on Syria. You definitely seem to think they haven't done enough (I agree) to stop Assad from doing what he's doing. On the other hand, I remember you saying over and over that you think Obama will deal with Iran's nuclear issue, including the use of force if necessary. Doesn't Syria show you that he's going to appease Iran?

    Well, no. What Syria shows me is that Obama isn't doing enough in Syria. The president is seized by the issue of Iran because it is developing, he believes, a nuclear capacity. He knows, for reasons readers of Goldblog understand already, what a nuclear Iran would mean for the Middle East, for America's allies in the Middle East, and for his campaign against nuclear proliferation. He takes Iran more seriously as a threat to American national security interests than he does Syria. One issue doesn't necessarily inform the other. I, of course, think that earlier, bolder intervention in the Syrian conflict (more support earlier for the rebels, for instance) would not have only been wise from a humanitarian perspective; America has an Iran-related national security interest in breaking apart the Iran-Syria axis. But the Administration did not move in this direction. So be it. But I still don't know why inaction on Syria would axiomatically translate into inaction on Iran.

    Here's an alternative explanation for Obama's hesitancy in Syria -- perhaps he understands that he may eventually have to strike Iran, and he doesn't want the U.S. entangled unncessarily in Syria. I've always suspected that one of the reasons he was so eager to depart Iraq, and is so eager to leave Afghanistan, is that he believes Iran to be the paramount issue, and so wanted to clear the decks. Better not to have America burdened and exposed in these places if he's going to make a move against the Iranian nuclear program.

  • The One-State Nightmare

    This week brings yet another op-ed from The Times calling for the creation of "Isratine" (the coinage of a certain Muammar Qaddafi, whose career as an opinion writer was cut short by the Libyan people), this one from Saree Makdisi, an English professor at UCLA  To be fair to Makdisi, the Israeli right handed him his narrative, by making it as difficult as humanly possible to imagine the creation of a Palestinian on the West Bank and in Gaza. I, too, have argued that a one-state "solution" is an eventual possibility if the Israeli government doesn't reverse the West Bank settlement project (and, of course, if the Palestinians show a continued dislinclination toward compromise).

    What is remarkable about Makdisi's column is what is remarkable about all calls for a one-state solution: He writes as if a) the Jewish people do not deserve a state in even a part of their historic homeland; b) the Palestinians were never offered a state of their own (why can't, just for once, an advocate of the one-state solution acknowledge the fact that the United Nations offered the Arabs their own state in Palestine in 1947, an offer their leaders rejected? Not to mention offers made to Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas?) and c) the one-state solution is actually a solution. Here is Makdisi's view of the Jewish fate in what would become the Middle East's 23rd Arab-majority country: 

    Israeli Jews will pay what will turn out to be only a short-term price in exchange for many long-term gains. Like Palestinians, they will lose the dream and the prospect of a state exclusively their own. But -- also like Palestinians -- what they will gain in turn is the right to live in peace.

    I don't know Makdisi, so I don't know if he's Pollynannish or cynical. But one state is an impossibility, and not only because it would require the acquiescence of six million Jews who show no inclination to support such an idea. (Israelis are not unaware of the endemic anti-Semitism of the Middle East; the persecution and discrimination directed at Jews living under Arab rule in many countries and in many periods; and the general intolerance in the Middle East for ethnic and religious minorities.) The tensions built into a single state solution would be unbearable. This is from a recent column of mine that featured the analysis of the Israeli left-wing writer Gershom Gorenberg:

    ...Gorenberg, in his new book, "The Unmaking of Israel," a jeremiad directed at the Jewish settlement movement, writes at length about the absurdity at the heart of the proposal.
    "Palestinians will demand the return of property lost in 1948 and perhaps the rebuilding of destroyed villages. Except for the drawing of borders, virtually every question that bedevils Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations will become a domestic problem setting the new political entity aflame."

    Gorenberg predicts that Israelis of means would flee this new state, leaving it economically crippled. "Financing development in majority-Palestinian areas and bringing Palestinians into Israel's social welfare network would require Jews to pay higher taxes or receive fewer services. But the engine of the Israeli economy is high-tech, an entirely portable industry. Both individuals and companies will leave."

    In the best case, this new dystopia by the sea would be paralyzed by endless argument: "Two nationalities who have desperately sought a political frame for cultural and social independence would wrestle over control of language, art, street names, and schools." In the worst case, Gorenberg writes, political tensions "would ignite as violence."

    Will there eventually be one state between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River? Maybe. I can't say no for certain. Would it be a success? No. It would be a nightmare.

  • An Answer to the Argument that More Legal Guns = More Crime

    The assertion, in particular, that our country's loosened concealed-carry laws cause more spontaneous, emotion-driven shootings, isn't supported by the facts.

    In the wake of the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide, it has been asserted that American gun culture is to blame for this and other tragedies. It is true that if there were no guns in America, there would be no gun crime. There would still be crime, of course, and suicide, while a mental health problem, is made easier by the presence of guns. But the assertion, in particular, that our country's loosened concealed-carry laws cause more spontaneous, emotion-driven shootings, isn't supported by the facts. This is from my Atlantic article this month on guns:

    It is an unexamined assumption on the part of gun-control activists that the possession of a firearm by a law-abiding person will almost axiomatically cause that person to fire it at another human being in a moment of stress. Dave Kopel, the research director of the libertarian-leaning Independence Institute, in Denver, posits that opposition to gun ownership is ideological, not rational. "I use gay marriage as an analogue," he said. "Some people say they are against gay marriage because they think it leads to worse outcomes for kids. Now, let's say in 2020 all the social-science evidence has it that the kids of gay families turn out fine. Some people will still say they're against it, not for reasons of social science, but for reasons of faith. That's what you have here in the gun issue."

    There is no proof to support the idea that concealed-carry permit holders create more violence in society than would otherwise occur; they may, in fact, reduce it. According to Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA and the author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, permit holders in the U.S. commit crimes at a rate lower than that of the general population. "We don't see much bloodshed from concealed-carry permit holders, because they are law-abiding people," Winkler said. "That's not to say that permit holders don't commit crimes, but they do so at a lower rate than the general population. People who seek to obtain permits are likely to be people who respect the law." 
  • Israel Asked Jordan for Approval to Bomb Syrian WMD Sites

    Anxiety is increasing about the prospect of a desperate Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons against his rapidly proliferating enemies.

    Anxiety is increasing about the prospect of a desperate Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons against his rapidly proliferating enemies. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Assad that such chemical weapons use would cross a U.S. red line: "I'm not going to telegraph in any specifics what we would do in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people. But suffice to say we are certainly planning to take action."

    This new level of anxiety was prompted by reports that Assad's forces have been moving chemical weapons, according to David Sanger and Eric Schmitt in The Times. They report that one American official told them that "the activity we are seeing suggests some potential chemical weapon preparation," though the official "declined to offer more specifics of what those preparations entailed."

    The U.S. is not the only country worried about the possible use of chemical weapons. Intelligence officials in two countries told me recently that the Israeli government has twice come to the Jordanian government with a plan to take out many of Syria's chemical weapons sites. According to these two officials, Israel has been seeking Jordan's "permission" to bomb these sites, but the Jordanians have so far declined to grant such permission.

    Of course, Israel can attack these sites without Jordanian approval (in 2007, the Israeli Air Force destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor), but one official told me that the Israelis are concerned about the possible repercussions of such an attack on Jordan. "A number of sites are not far from the border," he said, further explaining: "The Jordanians have to be very careful about provoking the regime and they assume the Syrians would suspect Jordanian complicity in an Israeli attack." Intelligence sources told me that Israeli drones are patrolling the skies over the Jordan-Syria border, and that both American and Israeli drones are keeping watch over suspected Syrian chemical weapons sites.

    He went on to provide context of the Israeli request: "You know the Israelis -- sometimes they want to bomb right away. But they were told that from the Jordanian perspective, the time was not right." The Israeli requests were made in the last two months, communicated by Mossad intermediaries dispatched by Prime Minister Netanyahu's office, according to these sources. (I asked the Israeli embassy in Washington for comment on this, but received no answer.) 

    Jordan and Israel closely cooperate on security matters, and Jordan itself has become a hub of anti-Assad activity. Sources told me that the U.S., Jordan and their Arab Gulf allies have established a "war room" coordinated by the Jordanian General Intelligence Department (GID), which is organizing efforts to screen Syrian militants for jihadist sympathies, and to provide those without jihadist connections or proclivities with training and equipment. The "war room" was established in part to counter the influence of Turkish and Qatari supporters of more religiously militant anti-Assad fighters. Jordanian intelligence is also concerned about the Syrian regime infiltrating sleeper agents into the main Syrian refugee camp in Jordan near Zaatari, and into Jordanian cities, which are already temporary home to tens of thousands of refugees.

  • Why Susan Rice Would Be a Plausible Secretary of State

    Like most people, I would prefer to see President Obama nominate Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for secretary of state (and if not Duncan, then Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood), but if this doesn't come to pass, it seems to me that Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (the "embattled" U.N. ambassador, in journalese), stands a decent chance of being very good in the job. Rice wouldn't be the best nominee --  the best candidates seldom, if ever, get nominated (William J. Burns, the current deputy secretary of state, would do very well in the No. 1 job, as would Nicholas Burns, the former undersecretary of state for political affairs -- really, anyone named Burns would do).

    We're all familiar with the reasons why Susan Rice would allegedly make a lousy of secretary of state: She's brittle, she's inexperienced, she lacks the stature to challenge President Obama, and she is no great foreign policy genius. (As Nicholas Lemann noted earlier this week, "The foreign-policy world extravagantly admires intellectual brilliance, but rarely produces it.") Rice's role in the Benghazi mess (that of the "Unfortunate Spokeswoman") doesn't bother me overly much. She should have been more careful about what she said when she said it, but she is very obviously being scapegoated by some Republicans, and this scapegoating makes me more sympathetic to her cause.

    What is that cause? What are the qualities that would make her a credible secretary of state? Three come to mind immediately. (Not including the fact that she once gave Richard Holbrooke the finger, which suggests, if nothing else, moxie.)

    The first is that she has gained tremendous, even unparalleled experience, at the United Nations. She has learned how to parry the Russians and the Chinese; she has figured out the snakepit ways of the international system; she has seen up-close the hypocrisy of totalitarian and anti-democratic states (states that still make up a good portion of the UN membership). At the UN, Rice has become an eloquent voice for human rights, and she has done an able job of arguing against the wildly disproportionate criticism leveled at Israel in the General Assembly and in putative UN human rights forums. She has been far from perfect in the job, but she has generally been solid.

    The second reason: She has had some very public failures. A secretary of state nominee -- anyone in high office, really -- should have some experience with failure, and she has it, most notably on Rwanda, during her service as an Africa expert in the Clinton Administration. She realized soon after the genocide that her Administration was derelict and absent from the scene, and she has spoken movingly and with apparent sincerity about her own shortcomings.

    The third reason is related to the second reason: For people who believe that America has a benevolent and positive role to play in the world, in confronting dictators, stopping genocide and highlighting human rights abuses, Rice should be their candidate. For isolationists, Rice at State would be a real challenge. She is inclined toward humanitarian intervention -- I believe she had these inclinations even before she saw the price of timidity and inaction in Rwanda -- and her active stance on the Libya intervention (and the obvious tension she feels about the so-far limited role the U.S. has played in Syria), suggests that she won't be afraid to recommend to President Obama greater involvement in the world's crisis zones. (One of the reasons John McCain's operatic opposition to Rice's potential nomination makes no sense to me is that he shares many of the same activist inclinations as Rice).

    This is not an argument that Rice has the profile or potential of a Hillary Clinton-class secretary of state. But it is to argue that she would bring certain important qualities to the job, and that she is being treated very shabbily at the moment.

  • The Case for More Guns (and More Gun Control)
    Sven Liendbaek

    The Case for More Guns (and More Gun Control)

    How do we reduce gun crime and Aurora-style mass shootings when Americans already own nearly 300 million firearms? Maybe by allowing more people to carry them.

  • The Quickest Path to Palestinian Independence

    Maybe the quickest way for Palestinians to achieve independence in Gaza and the West Bank is to give up their dreams of independence.

    Maybe the quickest way for Palestinians to achieve independence in Gaza and the West Bank is to give up their dreams of independence. From my Bloomberg View column this week:

    When Abbas goes before the UN, he shouldn't ask for recognition of an independent state. Instead, he should say the following: "Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza 45 years ago, and shows no interest in letting go of the West Bank, in particular. We, the Palestinian people, recognize two things: The first is that we are not strong enough to push the Israelis out. Armed resistance is a path to nowhere. The second is that the occupation is permanent. The Israelis are here to stay. So we are giving up our demand for independence. Instead, we are simply asking for the vote. Israel rules our lives. We should be allowed to help pick Israel's rulers."

    Reaction would be seismic and instantaneous. The demand for voting rights would resonate with people around the world, in particular with American Jews, who pride themselves on support for both Israel and for civil rights at home. Such a demand would also force Israel into an untenable position; if it accedes to such a demand, it would very quickly cease to be the world's only Jewish-majority state, and instead become the world's 23rd Arab-majority state. If it were to refuse this demand, Israel would very quickly be painted by former friends as an apartheid state.

    Israel's response, then, can be reasonably predicted: Israeli leaders eager to prevent their country from becoming a pariah would move to negotiate the independence, with security caveats, of a Palestinian state on the West Bank, and later in Gaza, as well. Israel would simply have no choice.

    This won't happen, of course. Israeli intransigence has always had a friend in Palestinian shortsightedness.

  • 'Shame on Anyone Who Thought Morsi Was a Moderate'

    Strong words from Muslim Brotherhood expert Eric Trager.

    Strong words from Eric Trager, a Muslim Brotherhood expert:

    Washington ought to have known by now that "democratic dialogue" is virtually impossible with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now mobilizing throughout Egypt to defend Morsi's edict. The reason is that it is not a "democratic party" at all. Rather, it is a cultish organization that was never likely to moderate once it had grasped power.

    '(T)he process through which one becomes a Muslim Brother is designed to weed out moderates. It begins when specially designated Brotherhood recruiters, who work at mosques and universities across Egypt, identify pious young men and begin engaging them in social activities to assess their suitability for the organization. The Brotherhood's ideological brainwashing begins a few months later, as new recruits are incorporated into Brotherhood cells (known as "families") and introduced to the organization's curriculum, which emphasizes Qur'anic memorization and the writings of founder Hassan al-Banna, among others. Then, over a five-to-eight-year period, a team of three senior Muslim Brothers monitors each recruit as he advances through five different ranks of Brotherhood membership--muhib, muayyad, muntasib, muntazim, and finally ach amal, or "active brother."

    Throughout this process, rising Muslim Brothers are continually vetted for their embrace of the Brotherhood's ideology, commitment to its cause, and--most importantly--willingness to follow orders from the Brotherhood's senior leadership. As a result, Muslim Brothers come to see themselves as foot soldiers in service of the organization's theocratic credo: "Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law; the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations." Meanwhile, those dissenting with the organization's aims or tactics are eliminated at various stages during the five-to-eight-year vetting period.
  • A Hero: Vladka Meed, RIP

    She smuggled weapons into the Warsaw Ghetto and, after improbably surviving the Shoah, made sure we remembered what had happened.

    Vladka Meed, who smuggled weapons into the Warsaw Ghetto and, after improbably surviving the Shoah, made sure we remembered what had happened, has died. It was my great honor to have met her on a number of occasions. She was the definition of heroism.

    We have entered a period, sadly, in which the last Holocaust survivors, and the last veterans of World War II, are dying. I'm trying to make it a priority to meet more of them -- and introduce them to my children -- before they're all gone.

    Here's The Times on Meed:

    Mrs. Meed's resistance work started with the deportation of 265,000 Jews from Warsaw to the Treblinka death camp and continued after the uprising by the ghetto's besieged remnants. She told her story in Yiddish in her 1948 book, "On Both Sides of the Wall," one of the first published eyewitness accounts. It was translated into English, German and at least three other languages, is still in print, and was a central source of the 2001 television movie "Uprising."

    When the Germans walled off a portion of Warsaw, she was still a teenager. Working as a machine operator sewing Nazi uniforms, she grew increasingly dejected watching the deportations in 1942 that included her mother, a 13-year-old brother and a married sister. But she responded resourcefully to a call for armed resistance.

    With her brownish hair and prominent cheekbones, she could pose as a gentile, so the Jewish underground asked her to live on the Christian side of the wall and become a courier. Born Feigele Peltel on Dec. 29, 1921, she took the Polish nickname Vladka.

    Women were often preferred as couriers, she said in a 1983 interview. "If a man in the underground went on a mission, he could be recognized as a Jew by his circumcision," she said. "A woman's body might be searched, but it could not give that information."

    She was soon buying bullets, pistols, even dynamite, and carrying them, as well as money and essential information, to the Jewish side of the wall. Sometimes she became part of a Polish ghetto work detail, sometimes she bribed her way across and sometimes she clambered over the wall. With death all but certain, she once recalled, "there was very little left to fear."

    Several times, she smuggled Jewish children out of the ghetto and into the homes of sympathetic Christian families. According to Michael Berenbaum, a leading Holocaust scholar, she helped pass on to the Polish underground the startling news about Treblinka -- that trains filled with Jews were returning empty, that no food was being shipped and that there was an omnipresent stench of corpses.

  • The Strange Obsession With Proportional Body Counts

    The Israeli body count isn't low because Hamas is trying to minimize casualties. Quite the opposite.

    The New York Times has a very good editorial on Hamas that is flawed by an illogical assertion. About that assertion in a minute, but here's some of what the Times says:

    Hamas, which took control of Gaza in 2007 and is backed by Iran, is so consumed with hatred for Israel that it has repeatedly resorted to violence, no matter the cost to its own people. Gaza militants have fired between 750 to 800 rockets into Israel this year before Israel assassinated one of its senior leaders last week and began its artillery and air campaigns. That approach will never get Palestinians the independent state most yearn for, but it is all Hamas has to offer.

    Israel also has a responsibility for the current crisis, which threatens to complicate and divert attention from international attempts to deal with the threat of Iran's nuclear program and the Syrian civil war. Israel has a right to defend itself, although it is doing so at the cost of further marginalizing the moderate Palestinian Authority that helps administer the West Bank and it risks further isolating Israel diplomatically.

    Okay, fine. But then the editorial states the following, in an effort to suggest that the Hamas threat is not quite existential:

    Israel has a vastly more capable military than Hamas, and its air campaign has resulted in a lopsided casualty count: three Israelis have been killed.

    Whenever I read a statement like this, I wonder if the person writing it believes that there is a large moral difference between attempted murder and successfully completed murder. The casualty count is lopsided, but why? A couple of reasons: Hamas rockets are inaccurate; Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system is working well. But the Israeli body count isn't low because Hamas is trying to minimize Israeli casualties. Quite the opposite: Hamas's intention is to kill as many Israelis as possible. Without vigilance, and luck, and without active attempts by the Israeli Air Force to destroy rocket launchers before they can be used, the Israeli body count would be much higher. The U.S. judges the threat from al Qaeda based on the group's intentions and plans, not merely on the number of Americans it has killed over the past 10 years. This is the correct approach to dealing with such a threat.


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