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.
Life is full of risks, and the job I do occasionally entails risk (I don't mean blogging, by the way. Blogging can make you crazy, but it can't kill you). I've kept a running list over the years of ways to keep safe while traveling in dangerous places, and not long ago I posted rules for surviving a terrorist attack on a developing-world hotel. The mid-air collision over the Hudson River between a small plane and a helicopter reminded me of another of these rules, one that applies universally, not just in Pakistan: Never take a helicopter ride for fun. Never. I fly in helicopters when it's part of my job, but sightseeing? Absolutely not. My feelings on this subject were colored by a particularly unfortunate experience in an Aeroflot helicopter over the Caspian Sea a long time ago, but it's not just Soviet-era helicopters that are risky. If you want to see New York from the air, go to the top of the Empire State Building, but only a weekend, when the chance of an airborne attack is substantially diminished.
In the next episode of the Goldblog survival guide: Death by Inner Tubing.
Maybe it's just me, but it seems as if Human Rights Watch keeps losing sight of the bigger picture. I'm not a reflexive critic of the group -- I think its reporting out of the Middle East (including Israel) has been important and useful; its recent critique of Hamas seemed credible, though a bit tepid (and it was accompanied by virtually no publicity, but I suppose that's not entirely HRW's fault -- human rights violations against Jews aren't as interesting to the world as human rights violations committed by Jews). This time, though, the group is criticizing Saudi Arabia -- where it recently boasted about its problems with Israel in order to butter up Arab donors -- for teaching detained terror suspects that Al Qaeda's militant ideology is un-Islamic. HRW objects to this program, saying that "human rights law does not permit the detention of persons to undergo a reeducation program."
Yes, we wouldn't want mass murderers to be convinced that mass murder is wrong, would we?
J.J. Goldberg (no relation, except if you're conspiracy-minded) delivers a devastating critique of Roger Cohen's recent piece on the making of Iran policy. Read the whole thing, but here is Goldberg's conclusion:
In a 5,000-word article in the August 2 Sunday Times Magazine, (Cohen)
unraveled the tangled lines of authority in Obama's Iran policy-making.
The loose thread, he strongly suggested, was veteran diplomat Dennis
Ross, an "ultimate Washington survivor," who started at the Obama State
Department, left in a "fiasco" and moved in a "bizarre odyssey" to the
National Security Council.
Ross's role in the
administration raises many questions in Cohen's mind, but the one that
comes up over and over throughout the article, "a recurrent issue with
Ross, who embraced his Jewish faith after being raised in a
non-religious home by a Jewish mother and a Catholic stepfather, has
been whether he is too close to the American Jewish community and
Israel to be an honest broker with Iran or Arabs." In the crisis
atmosphere following the Iranian election, "Can this baggage-encumbered
veteran... overcome ingrained habits and sympathies?" Indeed, "Will the
Iranians be prepared to meet with Ross?" -- a "reasonable question given
Ross's well-known ties with the American Jewish community."
in effect, is the dilemma facing American policy toward Iran at this
pivotal moment: Is there too much Jewish influence? We've heard the
question before in Hamas sermons, in Al Qaeda videos and on some
left-wing blogs. Now it's been incorporated into the nation's newspaper
If Jeffrey Goldberg and I ever decide to take a vacation together (look, it's possible), I think I've found the perfect place. Beirut:
last question came from Bertho, a 28-year-old Lebanese tour operator
who was the host of the main event that Thursday night in June: the
Bear Arabia Mega Party, at the Oceana resort about 30 minutes south of
Beirut. Scores of gay men -- most of them "bears," a term used the world
over for heavyset, hairy guys usually older than 30 -- were coming from
across Lebanon and the Arab world, as well as Argentina, Italy, Mexico,
the United States and elsewhere.
Discussion of Middle
Eastern politics with a healthy dash of back hair. What's not to love?
I suspect it was seeing beautiful Israeli soldiers as a teenager on a
trip to the Holy Land that made me a Zionist. As a troubled teen from
East Grinstead, it was quite an eye-opener.
It's completely possible that Andrew and I would, in fact, vacation together, though it would be on the Cape, for a bear-watching whale-watching excursion.
Has the administration gone down a dead-end alleyway by having so much emphasis
in the early days on settlement growth?
David Makovsky: I
think the administration is using an ax when it could use a scalpel. The fact is
that there was a basic baseline understanding that Israel would not expand
settlements. The administration felt that even if the agreement existed, it was
insufficient, and that what you needed really was a more kind of
undifferentiated freeze of settlements. It seems like in [the administration's]
pursuit of the perfect, this has proven to be far more elusive than the administration
would have hoped.
JG: I'll give you
two broad developments and just frame them in the current negotiations: the negative
development, of course, is that Iran continues its pursuit of nuclear
capability. The positive development is that in the West Bank, you have, I
would say, the first Palestinian leadership in Palestinian history to truly
fight terrorism, to truly care about the daily lives of their people.
DM: The irony is
that while U.S.-Israel relations is going through a period of considerable
strain, Israeli-Palestinian relations are probably better than they've been in
many, many years. I think
events on the ground are the most encouraging dimension, and I only wish that
the U.S.-Israel piece of this would catch up to it in a way that would say
enough with the diminishing returns; let's get on with the main event.
JG: If you didn't have Iran sitting there, making the move toward
nuclearization, you'd have this positive development in the West Bank, you'd
still have Hamas and Gaza, but it'd be weaker because you wouldn't have Iran.
DM: I'm concerned
that the strain between the U.S. and Israel over settlements is going to bleed
into the U.S.-Israel relationship on Iran. If there's a lot of bruised feelings
here, will this have an impact on the highest level of being able to work
together on the main event? We need to maintain a sense of proportion and we
should reach a pragmatic conclusion, which is, on the settlements, doable: No
expansions. You can monitor that --that means no extra land, that can be
prejudged negotiations, but keep the good relations for this main event, which
is, if the U.S. and Israel don't work together in this Iran crisis, it is more
likely Israel will strike out on its own. To the Administration's credit now, I
think now they're making a real effort to keep Israel close and keep it updated
on its views on Iran.
JG: There are two
things that are going on right now. One is an existential challenge to Israel,
the other is not. Wouldn't you, as a negotiator, say to the prime minister, 'Look,
you feel like you're in a position now that you were in of May 1967, clearly a
huge threat is looming. Why don't you just give on this other issue, which is comparatively
smaller, so that we can all focus together on the overarching issue?'
DM: I think that
ultimately that's where Netanyahu was coming from, but he wanted something much
grander. He wanted Obama to commit to striking Iran, which I don't think Obama
would do even if Israel would say that it would yield Jerusalem. That's not a
linkage that the U.S. wants. Part of the problem is that on the immediate issue
of the Palestinians, the administration believes that a deal is very reachable
and therefore this is just a bridge to that.
JG: Do you think
a deal is reachable?
DM: No. I think a
territorial, borders deal is achievable if you want it. But I think Netanyahu
doesn't like the borders idea and feels that anything he agrees to in the
short-term will be held against him if there isn't an agreement, and it'll
become an open-ended precedent, so to speak. That might be something he could
do for three months, but the administration wants something that's a year and
Look, we saw this before with the first George Bush, if two leaders
aren't talking to each other, it poisons the relations over time. Bush hardly
spoke to (Yitzhak) Shamir. So I tend to think each one needs the other on
Iran. The U.S. needs Israel too because they don't want the Israelis going off on
their own. My feeling is each side knows that but if there are these bad
feelings that accumulate, what is rationally in the best interest of both sides
somehow won't materialize that way.
JG: Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister -- what does it mean if he goes because of the criminal charges that might be filed against him?
understanding is that he'll name someone else from the party to his position so
that the party remains in the coalition. I don't think it means a lot because
the fact is that what is happening is you're having other players today, like Ehud
Barak, doing a lot of the settlement negotiations with (George) Mitchell. He's sidelined
already and therefore I don't think his indictment is going to be decisive.
JG: Does Obama
need to do a better job communicating to Israelis, as Aluf Benn suggested, and
to American Jews as well?
DM: Absolutely. This
is a President with very formidable communication skills, and he needs to reach
out. The question is always,if you feel the issue isn't about communication,
it's about policy, maybe there's a way that you could explain your policies in a
way that people could understand, but it is certainly feeding criticism of the President
that he hasn't reached out. And I think he just doesn't want to do it during
this impasse over the settlements because he feels it looks defensive.
Apparently, Walmart wasn't satisfied with being the top media-manipulating, union-busting, soul-sucking, Nazi cake-decorating crappy-Chinese-products selling store in America. Now it's preying on Girl Scouts. Walmart has copied two of the group's signature cookies, Thin Mints and Tagalongs, and will soon sell them nationally at lower prices -- sure to cut into the do-gooders' profits, which are generated solely from cookie sales.
I have been very dismayed to see so much commentary
revolve around the public's 'right' to basically scream at and demean police
officers at will. ... The idea that police officers should expect to be excoriated
by the general public on a daily basis without cause is fairly repugnant.
Yes, it is technically legal to yell and hurl insults at the police, but why
would anyone want to champion this as if it was some sacred right? Why
shouldn't the default position be that police officers are deserving of respect
and that the public, even if it can legally treat police officers in an abusive
manner, shouldn't do it because it's wrong? There is a big difference
between "I can" and "I should" that our society seems to be
Apparently, Hezbollah doesn't mind if Jews spend thousands of dollars to fix up the 84-year-old Maghen-Abraham synagogue in Beirut. Though the terrorist group's presence in the country is likely responsible, at least in part, for the dimimished size of the Lebanese Jewish community (about 200), a Hezbollah spokesman said last year that they "respect the Jewish religion just like we do Christianity. The Jews
have always lived among us. We have an issue with Israel's occupation
of land," the L.A. Times reported. Still, the renovations have barely been mentioned in Lebanese newspapers, and if you try to snap a picture of the site, you'll get arrested -- perhaps an effort to keep Iran from finding out.
The last part of my Aspen Ideas Festival interview with Michael Oren, the new Israeli ambassador in Washington, focused on the most dangerous threat to Israel's existence: Iran. Jeffrey Goldberg: Existential
threats to Israel. Iran, obviously, is at the top of the Prime Minster's list,
at the top of most Israelis'.
Michael Oren: And a lot of Arabs' lists.
JG: And a lot of Arabs' lists as well. Go through the existential threats
very quickly, if you could, and your view of those existential threats, and
talk about the current moment in Iran and the specific question on Iran -- that is, do
you agree with the Obama administration's approach to the current crisis in Iran?
MO: Israel has supported the Obama administration's approach of outreach and
engagement with Iran. We believe that the president has America's best interest
at heart, we believe he has the interests of the region at heart, we are
concerned. We are concerned about the timing and the time-line of this
engagement. There are clocks ticking all around. One of those clocks is the Iranian
enrichment clock, which will show that, by a certain date, the Iranians will
have sufficient, highly enriched materials to create a bomb that could
literally wipe Israel off the map in a matter of seconds, that they could
accomplish, in a matter of seconds what they deny Hitler did, and kill 6 million
Jews, literally. We have that clock.
We are anxious also that Iran, in the
course of this engagement, shows a change of policy in the region, [in] its
support of terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, that are also trying to
wipe Israel off the map. Now we are particularly concerned, and the American
administration is concerned as well, in light of recent events in Iran.
Everyone's waiting, everyone's seeing what's going to come out of this
situation in Iran. But while we're waiting, while we're watching, the clocks
are still ticking in Iran.
JG: Do you believe that President Obama was strong enough in his support,
moral support, for the Iranian people? Do you think there's more that President
Obama could do?
MO: I'm not going to second-guess President Obama's positions on Iran. I
think his last statement was very clear, very adamant in his condemnation of
the regime's suppression of peaceful demonstrators in Tehran and other cities.
I think it's very important, again, that we watch carefully what happens in
Iran, on one level the events in Iran have unmasked to the world, to anybody
whoever doubted the true nature of the regime. This is a regime that's willing
to kill its own citizens, that will certainly have no compunctions about
killing other peoples in the region, Jews and Sunni Arabs alike. On the other hand,
we have to watch and see whether there's a breakdown of rule in Iran, whether a
supposedly moderate leadership emerges, which would be welcome, but if that
moderate regime does not moderate Iranian behavior, it would further complicate
Yes, he was a jerk, and yes, you couldn't say things like, "Just put yourself in the shoes of a Palestinian for a second," without having him explode, and yes, he was mean even to people he liked, but Sid Zion, who died Sunday, is one of the reasons I wanted to be a reporter. I strongly suggest you dig up a copy of "Read All About It: The Collected Adventures of a Maverick Reporter." If it doesn't make you jealous of the reporter's life, then I don't know what to say to you; move to Hartford and become an insurance executive, maybe.
Dina Wein Reiss, an alleged Orthodox scamster (not that there's a trend or anything), is out on bail now, waiting for her trial to begin next year. Via Tablet, Fortune reports that, after she was released, Reiss "enlisted her rabbi
in her bid to convince a judge that she should not be required to wear
an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet. Orthodox practice, the rabbi
said, forbids women from wearing slacks or pantsuits. Summer was
coming, Wein Reis's lawyer noted, and any skirt or dress shorter than
ankle length would reveal the bracelet, which would complicate her
efforts to get a new job. The judge agreed."
Seth Lipsky found this quote about Herr Ahlwardt, the German anti-Semite whose visit to New York in 1895 caused an uproar among the city's appropriately upset Jews. Apparently Roosevelt was ready for the controversial appearance:
"While I was Police Commissioner an anti-Semitic preacher from
Berlin, Rector Ahlwardt, came over to New York to preach a crusade
against the Jews. Many of the New York Jews were much excited and asked
me to prevent him from speaking and not to give him police protection.
This, I told them, was impossible; and if possible would have been
undesirable because it would have made him a martyr. The proper thing
to do was to make him ridiculous. Accordingly I detailed for his
protection a Jew sergeant and a score or two of Jew policemen. He made
his harangue against the Jews under the active protection of some forty
policemen, everyone of them a Jew! It was the most effective possible
answer; and incidentally it was an object-lesson to our people, whose
greatest need it is to learn that there must be no division by class
hatred, whether this hatred be that of creed against creed, nationality
against nationality, section against section, or men of one social or
industrial condition against men of another social and industrial
condition. . . . "
Cliff May reports over at The Corner that the website of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem mentions nothing at all about Israel, and instead discusses various American-sponsored programs to aid Palestinians:
Here's what you don't find -- at least not at this moment as I'm viewing the site: A word about Israel. Not a single one. No hint that Jerusalem is in Israel or that Israelis live there -- much less that it's Israel's capital.
And while there is a link to an Arabic language version of the site, there is no link to a Hebrew version. What are we -- and what are Israelis -- to make of this? My column this week
is on a related theme: the tendency of the Obama administration
to "curry favor with our adversaries at the expense of our friends." Or worse.
There are two problems here: Cliff's insinuation that this has something to do with Obama; and his larger argument that the U.S. is ignoring Israel to its detriment. The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem has for a very long while been devoted to managing American relations with the Palestinians; the American embassy in Tel Aviv -- embassy, not consulate, mind you -- is dedicated to relations with Israel and Israelis. Yes, there is a mention on the embassy website of Hillary Clinton's recent statement concerning American support for the Palestinians (not exactly a radical statement, by the way) and there are also links to sites that aid busineses that want to do business in Israel and that promote American-Israeli cultural events. (All the sites, by the way, are uninteresting, hard-to-navigate and generally crappy.)
There is not much of a controversy here. It would, in the best of all possible worlds, be appropriate to see the American embassy relocated to West Jerusalem, though I would note that not even George W. Bush moved the embassy there when he had a chance.