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.

  • Clawson: Khamenei "Worried" About Future of His Regime

    One of the smartest people I know on questions relating to Iran is Patrick Clawson, the deputy director for research of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. I asked him four questions about the just-past Lebanese election, and the upcoming Iranian election, and the possibility of renewed war between Iran's proxies and Israel. Here is our exchange:

    Jeffrey Goldberg: When it comes to Iran's nuclear program, does it matter who the country's president is, or is the nuclear program in other hands?

    Patrick Clawson: Iran's Leader -- or as he insists on being called, "Supreme Leader" -- Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is the one who has both the constitutional authority and the power in practice to call the shots on foreign and security policy.  Iran's presidents are more cheerleader-in-chief than commander-in-chief (Khamenei controls the armed forces, among his many other powers).  The nuclear issue is firmly in his hands.  That said, the choice of president is important.  Not because the president has much authority on the issues we care most about, but because the choice says much about the Leader's intentions.  When the Leader is confident that the Islamic Republic can ignore the West, he sanctions the elections of a hardliner like Mahmood Ahmadinejad.  When the Leader is persuaded that Iran has to sound more conciliatory - to blow smoke in our eyes instead of spitting in them - he allows a reformer" to win.
     
    JG: Will Hezbollah's semi-defeat in the Lebanese election make it more conciliatory, or will it send it back to its jihadist roots?

    PC: Unhappy that it and its allies lost the recent Lebanese elections, Hezbollah may well take up arms to insist that it retains its powerful role in Lebanon's government - a good example of how the principal victims of Iran's proxies are Arabs rather than Israelis.  Even before the election, Hezbollah was claiming that no matter what the election results, Hezbollah was still entitled to enough cabinet seats - a "blocking third" - to prevent the cabinet from taking positions of which it disapproved. Hezbollah had sent its militia to occupy all of Beirut, including the Christian-majority East Beirut, to demand this "blocking third." While the reform March 14 movement agreed to this under duress, that agreement - the Doha Accords, negotiated by the Qatari government - was to expire with this last election, but Hezbollah insists the Doha Accords formula will remain valid.  So the friends of Lebanon are likely to soon to confront the question: if Hezbollah picks up arms to reverse the election results, what can the West and moderate Arab states do to shore up Lebanon's democratic forces?
     
    JG: When do you expect the next eruption in violence between Iran's proxies and Israel?

    PC: Just as Hezbollah is more of a threat to Lebanese democracy than it is to Israel, Hamas in Gaza has killed more Fatah supporters than Israelis. Similarly, the various insurgent and militia groups that Iran helps in Iraq kill many more Iraqis than Americans.
     Iran's proxies have not done well fighting Israel.  Hamas' standing in Gaza has not been helped by its poor showing in last winter's fighting against Israel nor from the continuing suffering since then.  And for all its bravado during the 2006 war against Israel, Hezbollah is no more popular in Lebanon today than it was before that war.  It is seen by many Lebanese as a tool of Iran, one reason it and its allies did poorly in the recent elections. So, with any luck, Iran's proxies will exercise considerable caution before they take on Israel again.
     
    JG: There are clearly large numbers of people in Iran, the urban elites and the young most particularly, who seem unhappy with their government's priorities. Do you think we could be on the cusp of something new and different, and, from the Western perspective, better?

    PC: The majority of Iranians are profoundly unhappy with the government of the Islamic Republic, but that does not necessarily mean that change is imminent. What keeps the regime in power is its support from a dedicated minority of true believers, which is at least ten percent if not twenty percent of the population.  The regime can count on its fanatical backers to use force - deadly force, if need be - to stop protests and keep the public in check. Those unhappy with the current system have overwhelmingly dropped out of politics, convinced that real change is not possible.
     
    But Iran's Supreme Leader is worried about the vulnerability of the regime.  The main focus of his public speeches is about the danger of "soft overthrow" from "Western cultural invasion."  Khamenei warns that the West is plotting a "velvet revolution" like that which overthrew the Czechoslovak communist government in a mere one week's time.  He is so terrified that the  Islamic Republic could be quickly swept away that he has the security forces lock up journalists (like NPR reporter Roxanne Saberi), civil society activists promoting people-to-people exchanges (like the Wilson Center's Haleh Esfandiari), and physicians active in scientific exchange.  Presumably Khamenei knows something about his own country, and he worries that the regime is vulnerable.  Let us hope he is correct.
     
  • Is Obama God?

    Pete Wehner has a simultaneously amusing and disturbing post up about a strange exchange between Newsweek's Evan Thomas and Chris Matthews on Matthews' show last Friday:

    "Thomas, commenting on Obama's Cairo speech, said, 'I mean in a way Obama's standing above the country, above -- above the world, he's sort of God.' And when Thomas was asked by Matthews, "Reagan and World War II and the sense of us as the good guys in the world, how are we doing?" Thomas replied, "Well, we were the good guys in 1984, it felt that way. It hasn't felt that way in recent years."

    On the matter of whether Obama is "sort of God," I would only say that this kind of thinking is one reason it's useful to believe in the One God, as a way of checking human hubris. On the other question, of whether Thomas was correct in saying that "we were the good guys in 1984, it felt that way," Nexis tells a slightly different story about whether Thomas himself felt "that way" in the mid-1980s. Then with Time Magazine, he wrote the following in January, 1985:

    "Viewed broadly, Reagan's agenda seems hamstrung by internal contradictions. It is difficult to imagine, for example, how he can spend more for defense, refuse to raise taxes or cut Social Security, and still chop the annual deficit in half. He almost certainly cannot expect the Soviets to reduce their arsenal of heavy land-based missiles while the U.S. plunges ahead with the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars). Reagan seems so dreamily unconcerned with these realities that even some of his own backers fear he may lose control of future policy struggles. Incredibly, only two months after Reagan won back the White House by a landslide, and before he had even been sworn in for a second term, many in Washington regard him as little more than a lame duck...."

    Then there's this story, from October, 1984, concerning reports that Reagan's CIA was secretly teaching the contras how to torture their enemies:

    "The 89-page booklet entitled Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare is a primer on insurgency, a how-to book in the struggle for hearts and minds. Some of the "techniques of persuasion" are benign: helping the peasants harvest crops, learn to read, improve hygiene. Others are decidedly brutal: assassination, kidnapping, blackmail, mob violence. It could be a manual for the Viet Cong or the Cuban-backed rebels in El Salvador. If it were, the Administration would likely be waving it as proof of its thesis about the sources of insidious world terrorism. In fact, however, it is a publication of the CIA, written for Nicaraguan contras seeking to overthrow the Sandinista regime. Its disclosure last week came as a political embarrassment to the Administration and a major moral one for the U.S. It stirred memories of CIA abuses that were supposedly outlawed a decade ago and gave Democrats a potentially hot new campaign issue."

    And this, from September, 1985, about negotiations with the Soviets:

    "The Administration's hold-fast position may be a sound negotiating tactic, but it gives the Soviets an edge in the war of words. The rhetoric level will increase this week as both Shevardnadze and Shultz give major speeches to the U.N. General Assembly at the opening of its 40th session. The Soviets continue to build up the summit as a "window of opportunity" for a major breakthrough in arms control that may not arise again "for a very, very long time." The U.S. just as resolutely tries to play down such talk as "wishful thinking." At his press conference, Reagan said the summit should be viewed as "a beginning point for better relations, a starting point for progress." A critical question is how public opinion will respond in Western Europe. If the U.S. is ultimately viewed as an obstacle to nuclear sanity, the result could be disarray in the alliance and strong pressure to make concessions. The Administration is trying to keep the Allies in line by dangling lucrative defense contracts for SDI research. Last week the U.S. appeared to be close to signing agreements with the British and West Germans to clear the way for such research."

    Memories grow hazy, of course, but it's worth noting that most of the mainstream press in the 1980s thought that Reagan was a dimwit and a lunatic, and that the Soviet Union was immortal.

  • Charles Taylor, Jew for Jesus

    Goldblog reader Mike Schilling writes, in reference to the Liberian warlord Charles Taylor's apparent embrace of Judaism:

    If you read the Foreign Policy article to the end, it's OK:

       "Q. Does that mean he has rejected Christianity then? Because that's quite a radical departure.

       A. No, no, no he hasn't rejected Christianity. He has always been a Christian. He just decided    to become a Jew. He wants to follow the two religions."

    So he's actually a Jew for Jesus.  They can have him.

  • I Agree With Roger Cohen

    On the subject of Philip Roth. Cohen writes:

    But don't get me started on the academy, whose prejudice against the United States and failure to recognize Philip Roth is beyond scandalous. "American Pastoral" alone merits the Nobel several times over. A further prize, for proving the creative fecundity of late life, should be accorded Roth.

    His anger is entirely justifiable -- I mean, Pearl Buck gets a Nobel, and not Roth? The whole thing is nuts. On another level, I'm not sure Cohen is reading deeply the later Roth. The young Roth treated his Judaism as comedy; the older Roth has explored, seriously and at length, the marginal nature of Jewish existence. Not something that seems to preoccupy Cohen.


  • Semi-Good News from Lebanon

    Hezbollah made no electoral advances yesterday, which is positive news (unless you happen to be Hezbollah's Jewish supporter), but Avi Issacharoff notes that not much, in fact, will change:

    For the duration of their next term in power, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's cabinet and majority leader Saad Hariri's coalition will be dependent on Hezbollah's goodwill. With last summer's violent showdown, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah made absolutely clear who is in charge.

  • Tim Geithner, Not a Jew

    The Goldblog inbox is regularly visited by correspondents eager to make the case that the world economy is controlled by the Jews. Most of them make the case, at best, in semi-literate fashion (when anti-Semites write properly, or even use spell-check, I'm going to start worrying), and a surprising number of them make their arguments through the use of lists, which is to say, they provide me lists of prominent Jews as proof that.... there are a lot of prominent Jews. Where it gets highly amusing is when these lists contain the names of people who are quite obviously not Jewish. These days, the lists are dominated by one name: Tim Geithner. I've received dozens of e-mails claiming that Geithner is Jewish, and in the sway of nefarious Wall Street Talmudists. Here is an excerpt from one such letter:

    "The jew Summers and the jew Geitner are giving our goverment to the Isrealis locks stocks and barrels. This is the plan from the beginning with the jew bernanke and obama who is suported by the jew emanel. obama gets all his money from jews and they are using the american tax money to push the arab out of palestine forever."

    I always thought it was "lox, stock and barrel," but never mind that. Here's another: "Geithner is the zionist who is controlling the taxes and is under the complet control fo the mossad the zionist murder agency. this zionist is only one. the zionists are everywhere in the government of america."

    It is true that Larry Summer and Ben Shalom Bernanke (anti-Semitic letter writers are always sure to mention his actual middle name, which is a beautiful middle name) and I suppose the  Jewishness of Summer and Bernanke alone is enough to send anti-Semitic fevers spiking. But I'm sorry to report that Timothy Franz Geithner is extremely not Jewish. This is not to say that some of his best friends aren't Jewish, but the man quite obviously doesn't show up on my Jewdar for any number of reasons, including that crucial "Franz." In fact, Geithner is, as best as anyone can tell, a member of the United Church of Christ.

    Personally, I'd be happy to claim Geithner for the tribe (I'm happy to claim nearly everyone, except Charles Taylor), but I think the secretary is quite permanently seated on the Christian side of the aisle. In other words, please stop writing, anti-Semites e-mailers. Or at least come up with someone new. 

  • The Party of the First Part

    It's Friday: No Buchenwald commentary today, just the Marx Brothers:

  • The End of Jury Duty

    The truth is, I'd like to be picked for a good trial, like a cocaine distribution ring, or Scooter Libby. But the only trials I've ever been on have been real sleep-inducers. So I'm glad I was ultimately rejected. Rachael Brown was rejected as well. But that's because she's a hooligan. 

  • Is Obama Trying To Overthrow Bibi?

    It seems to me that Obama is trying to force the collapse of Netanyahu's government. I base this mostly on intuition. Of course, the Obama Administration would never claim to be interfering in the internal politics of another country, but it seems obvious that Netanyahu's narrow coalition won't survive sustained American pressure on the settlements question. Netanyahu is in a terrible spot: He must preserve, at all costs, Israel's strategic relationship with Washington; on the other hand, he has right-wing coalition partners who are myopically obsessed with the status of the Neve Manyak outposts. Something is bound to break, and when it does, the Netanyahu government collapses. Which doesn't mean that Netanyahu is out of power. It means that he then shares power with Tzipi Livni's centrist Kadima Party. If I were an American policymaker, that's the Israeli coalition I would hope for: Netanyahu-Barak-Livni, rather than Netanyahu-Barak-Lieberman. You watch: It's coming. 

  • Drunk Jews Spouting Racist Nonsense

    Max Blumenthal goes to downtown Jerusalem and prompts drunk American Jewish kids to say horrible things about Obama. On the one hand, Blumenthal is an exploiter who doesn't seem to like Israel very much; on the other hand, the things these pathetic kids say are repulsive and the yeshivas that sent them to Israel are due for a serious soul-search this Yom Kippur. Their children are an embarrassment to Judaism:

  • Wolpe: Obama Misunderstands Jewish Aspirations

    David Wolpe on the big speech:

    The aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied." That is not true, and unfortunate to say. The aspiration is rooted in deep, enduring roots in the Land of Israel, which the Islamic world has lately taken to denying. Claims that the Temple never really stood in Israel, or that the Jewish connection to the land is a later fabrication, are also malevolent and ignorant denials of history. Jews do not claim Israel because we were slaughtered; that merely proved the necessity of a refuge. We claim Israel because it is our ancient homeland. That the world proved incapable of living in peace for centuries proved not our entitlement, but its urgency of fulfillment. And he might have mentioned that much suffering was a product of the Islamic world; while many historians argue that Islam was more tolerant than Christianity (an argument I believe has a great deal of merit) nonetheless the catalogue of Jewish suffering under Islam is considerable and should have been noted.
  • Obama is Livni

    Daniel Gordis says that the real news out of Obama's speech is that he is, fundamentally, Tzipi Livni:

    "President Obama assumed positions virtually identical to those of Israel's political center -- namely, that the Palestinians must renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist, while Israel must cease settlement building and permit a Palestinian state to arise. Now, Benjamin Netanyahu's problem is that it's difficult to distinguish between President Obama and Tzipi Livni. And in Israel's recent elections, Livni and her Kadima party won more votes than anyone else."
  • The Israeli Reaction to Obama's Speech

    On the Israeli reaction to the Cairo speech, from Goldblog reader Jared Sagoff:

    The whole thing reminds me of the old Jewish joke about the unattended baby on the beach who wanders into the ocean, only to be miraculously saved by an attentive lifeguard.  When the mother returns, she looks the lifeguard dead in the eye and says, "well, you know, he had a hat!"
  • The AP Doesn't Exactly Understand the Middle East

    From a dispatch today, entitled, rather stupidly, "Analysis: Obama's Islam success depends on Israel":

    "Among the long list of problems that cloud American relations with the Islamic world, none is more troubling in the Muslim streets and halls of power than U.S. ties to Israel and massive support for the Jewish state in the heart of the Arab Middle East."

    Umm, no.

Video

Hunting With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe

Video

A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

The story of an action figure and his reluctant sidekick, who trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.

Video

I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."

Video

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Writers

Up
Down

From This Author