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.
Salon's Andrew O'Hehir had some trouble understanding the lede to my piece this month on Inglourious Basterds -- it's a "dream sequence," Andrew -- but he makes an interesting point about Tarantino and his intentions, which is worth considering before the blogosphere explodes when the movie comes out next week.
Quentin Tarantino has no
serious opinions or convictions whatever regarding Nazis or Jews or the
Holocaust. Beneath all his B-movie genre-worship, Tarantino remains a
pomo disciple of Jean-Luc Godard, playing an elaborate game of
bait-and-switch with his audience and seeking to disarrange the
conventional stories -- or stories about stories -- we've got in our
heads. More simply, he's just fucking with us.
Tamara Wittes writes, in reference to the Rob Malley/Hussein Agha op-ed which declared the goal of a two-state solution more-or-less hopeless, to say:
I understand the throwing-up-of-hands
impulse you express, and that you think Rob Malley and Hussein Agha are
expressing in their op-ed. But there is a significant moral and material difference
between throwing up your hands as an individual and suggesting it as a guide
for policy on the op-ed page of The New York Times.
Peace processes and peace agreements are not about achieving
nirvana. They do not "resolve" conflicts between peoples. What
diplomacy does is halt conflicts, stop violence, and create room for the
possibility of societal reconciliation, which is admittedly rare but not
unheard of. Does anyone think that Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland have stopped resenting each other or being
suspicious of one another's intentions? Have they let go of their bitter
history? Do they now all believe that the other side is just as right as they
are? No on all counts - and they don't need to, as long as they are
still willing to settle their issues through shared government instead of through
bombings in the streets. That is a high achievement, and a one that is not
inconceivable as a goal for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"They're so shreklich, so afraid," he told me. "That fear in them is
always there. Always. It's terrible. They worry about anti-Semitism.
They worry about what the goyim will think of them. Maybe Jews really
believe they're not as good as the next guy. But I sure as hell don't
feel that way. Jews shouldn't be scared anymore. Never scared. They
should be mad."
If you've studied aerodynamics, you know that airplanes "want to stay in the air" -- if the engine fails, they turn into gliders, not plummeting objects. Helicopters "want to fall out of the air" -- yes, despite the limited ability to "autorotate" and avoid a direct plummet. I respect people who fly them, which is harder than flying airplanes. But I keep a respectful distance.
Tablet Magazine is featuring a delightful piece by Sidney Zion's old friend Victor Navasky, which proves that Navasky is, in a manner of speaking, a Zionist after all. Read the whole thing, but here's one irresistible anecdote:
I've already said that Sid had a love-hate relationship with the Times. Let me give an example. In his last years at the Times,
Sid got a tip that Judge Henry Friendly, then perhaps the preeminent
appellate court judge in the country and prominently mentioned as a
possible U.S. Supreme Court nominee, many years earlier failed to
disqualify himself from ruling on a case in which he had a conflict of
interest. Assured by Managing Editor Abe Rosenthal that if he got the
goods the Times would print the piece, Sidney spent the next weeks
definitively documenting the story. But when the time came to print it,
Rosenthal was overruled by James Reston, who was then running the
paper. Reston summoned Zion into his 10th floor office, and from behind
his imposing desk, explained that if Friendly actually received a
Supreme Court nomination, the Times would run the story. But absent
that, Reston was not about to run a piece that would cast a dark shadow
on Friendly's otherwise distinguished career.
"The difference between you and me, Mr. Zion," Reston said, "is that
you were brought up as a poor Jew on the scrappy streets of Passaic,
New Jersey, whereas I was brought up in the Church of Scotland outside
of Glasgow." At this point, Sidney rudely interrupted. "I thought that
the difference between us," he said, "is you are sitting there, whereas
I am sitting here."
It was all a Jewish plot. Jewlicious has the specifics. A highlight:
Abbie Hoffman, who was the head of the Yippies along with Jerry Rubin, Paul Krassner and Woodstock's Ed Sanders shook down the concert organizers for $10K, and then exhorted the
attendees not to pay the admission price. The head of security was
Arthur Schubert, a waiter from the Concord Hotel. Anyone who can handle
hungry Jews could handle security of half a million stoned young
adults. Speaking of food for half a million... members of the Monticello
Jewish Community Center made sandwiches with 200 loaves of bread, 40
pounds of cold cuts and two gallons of pickles.
My interview with Quentin Tarantino about his new movie, "Inglourious Basterds," is now up on the Atlantic website, though I suggest you read it after you subscribe to the magazine. I don't want to give away too much about my time with Tarantino, but I will share this one, representative quote: "Holocaust movies always have Jews as victims," he told me, by way of explaining why he made the movie he made. "We've seen that story
before. I want to see something different. Let's see Germans that are
scared of Jews. Let's not have everything build up to a big misery,
let's actually take the fun of action-movie cinema and apply it to this
Hussein Agha and Robert Malley, in the latest in their never-ending series of provocative and thoughtful op-eds, make the following statement:
For years, virtually all attention has been focused on the question of a future Palestinian state, its borders and powers. As Israelis make plain by talking about the imperative of a Jewish state, and as Palestinians highlight when they evoke the refugees' rights, the heart of the matter is not necessarily how to define a state of Palestine. It is, as in a sense it always has been, how to define the state of Israel.
This reads to me like an unfortunate bit of pussy-footing. Events are moving me into the camp of people who believe there isn't an actual solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and it seems as if events are moving Agha and Malley in this direction as well. But if they're arguing that the conflict will only end when Israel ceases to define itself as a Jewish state, they should say it outright. It's not an appealing notion -- that there is room in the Middle East for twenty-three Muslim-majority states, but not room enough for one Jewish state , but they should state it if they believe it.
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.