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.

  • A True Gene Sperling Story

    Why it's a stretch to think that he was threatening Bob Woodward

    The Terminator, a.k.a. Gene Sperling -- the White House economics chief of diminutive stature but ferocious arguing chops -- has gotten on the wrong side of Bob Woodward for telling him the legendary reporter that he would "regret" making the claim that the president moved the goal posts on the sequester. I'm not qualified to judge the merits of either man's case (though I do think that Woodward is a very careful reporter) because I don't know enough about the issue. But I do know that it is a stretch to think that Gene was threatening Woodward, as Woodward has alleged, and as many of Woodward's new conservative admirers also allege.

    The reason I know this is that a long time ago, way back in the 1900s, I gave Gene a column at The Daily Pennsylvanian, the University of Pennsylvania student-run newspaper (I was the editor of the paper at the time, and Gene was a Wharton graduate student), and we regularly tussled about the length of his columns. His columns, as I recall (I'm trying to dig them out from the pre-Internet era), were pretty great, but they always came in too long. The average column on our op-ed page ran about 800 words. Gene would turn in columns at 1,500 or 1,800 words. The editorial-page editor (Craig Coopersmith, who is now a famous physician) and I would suggest various cuts, and Gene would nod, and the columns would then come back at 1,900 words.

    We usually managed to squeeze the columns in, because he was the best columnist we had, but on occasion he would present us with an insurmountable physics problem, and we had to cut. One day, when we couldn't get the column on the page at his preferred length, he put up a big fight, and he said, "You'll rue the day you cut this column."

    I recognize that this happened decades ago, and you're probably wondering why I remember it at all. The reason is, it was the first time I had ever heard anyone ever use the expression "rue the day" in speech and it stayed with me.

    I tell this story only to make the point that I did not feel threatened by Gene's statement, which was arguably stronger than the one he made to Woodward. Of course, he didn't have the White House behind him when he was a columnist at The Daily Pennsylvanian. On the other hand, we needed him as a columnist fairly desperately, so he did have us over a barrel.

    And no, I don't rue the day I cut 700 words out of Gene Sperling's column.

  • An Explanation of European Anti-Zionism

    A non-Jewish Zionist from Wales writes about how he started out in the usual place -- loathing Israel -- and then came to something more complicated.

    Below are excerpts from a fascinating essay written by a self-described non-Jewish Welsh Zionist (it's my understanding that there are many more black Mormons than there are Welsh Zionists) who started out in the usual place -- loathing Israel -- and then came to something more complicated. I only know Tom Doran from Twitter, but he seems like an interesting guy. Here is his analysis of the roots of left-European anti-Zionism:

    American and Israeli accounts of anti-Zionism have a tendency to portray modern Europe as slouching towards a Bethlehem of Jew-hatred, with far-left and far-right combining to bring about a return to the 1930s. I wouldn't go that far. Anti-Zionism is certainly ubiquitous on the hard left, but in my experience is merely one component of a seamless, all-encompassing theory of the world that, if I may be cynical for a moment, revolves around three questions:

    1. Which side is the United States on?

    2. Which side has all the money/weaponry?

    3. Which side, overall, has lighter skin?

    Where all three questions generate the same answer, that answer is The Enemy. Where the answers are mixed or unclear, the result is abject confusion, as in the case of Syria. In the manner of a stopped clock, this formula will occasionally yield the correct position, as with South Africa (of which more later). More often, it's a first-class ticket into the moral abyss. In the interests of balance, I should point out that a nontrivial percentage of right-wingers make use of the same three questions with the results inverted.

    Doran, who is himself a product of the left, is careful to note that many stridently anti-Israel European leftists are not anti-Semitic per se, but do make common cause with people who just don't like Jews:

    I don't mean to suggest that genuine Jew-hatred is unheard of on the left, merely that cause and effect operate differently than many suppose. Once you've decided that Israel is an avatar of Western imperialism and Jewish supremacy, it's hard to avoid being drawn into a clammy underworld of paranoia in which mainstream, reality-based criticism cross-pollinates with, as the phrase goes, something much darker. An example that might be familiar to American readers is the sad case of professor John Mearsheimer. Once he'd identified Israel as the chief source of American foreign policy woes (with partner-in-Jew-baiting Stephen Walt), it was only a matter of time before he plunged into the gutter with an endorsement of notorious Israeli neo-Nazi Gilad Atzmon.

    Read the whole thing, it's quite interesting, particularly his observations on what you might call Apartheid Substitution Effect, the desire of some well-meaning leftists to experience again the excitement of the anti-South Africa divestment movement of the 1980s. Also interesting to the headquarters staff at Goldblog is Doran's statement that a certain book about the Middle East opened his eyes to the complexity of the issue.

  • What's Your Problem?

    What's Your Problem?

    Q: I’m the editor in chief of a national magazine. For several years, we ran a popular back-page advice column, but the writer whined…

  • Six Degrees of Sally Oren
    John Cuneo

    Six Degrees of Sally Oren

    Just one woman links Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Bibi Netanyahu.

  • Prominent Hagel Detractor Endorses Fascistic Vision of Israel

    The alleged "Friends of Hamas" does not exist, but Ben Shapiro's call for forcible expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank is very real.

    One of Chuck Hagel's most vociferous critics is a Breitbart writer named Ben Shapiro, who is responsible for this bit of immortal journalism:

    On Thursday, Senate sources told Breitbart News exclusively that they have been informed that one of the reasons that President Barack Obama's nominee for Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, has not turned over requested documents on his sources of foreign funding is that one of the names listed is a group purportedly called "Friends of Hamas."

    There is, of course, no group called "Friends of Hamas," and Chuck Hagel did not receive funding from this group, which, as I just mentioned, does not exist. (Dave Weigel did the hard work of proving its non-existence, and Dan Friedman, from the New York Daily News, subsequently explained that he may have inadvertently introduced, in a joking fashion, the idea that such a group did, in fact, exist.)

    I bring this up not to question the quality of journalism perpetrated by writers associated with the Breitbart site. (Full disclosure: Breitbart.com has argued that I am a "court Jew" who has been "obsequiously bending over for Barack Obama for some time.") Instead, I bring this up to note the remarkable fact that Mr. Shapiro, who has positioned himself as a stalwart defender of Israel and of the Jewish people, has expressed views that place him squarely in the fascist camp. Not only is he to the right of Chuck Hagel and Barack Obama, he is to the right of the mainstream pro-Israel community; of the right-wing Zionist Organization of America; the Likud Party; and the governing body of the West Bank settlement movement.

    In a column published in 2003, Shapiro explicitly endorsed the idea of forcibly expelling the Palestinians from the West Bank. This was the position of the extremist Meir Kahane, who was banned by the Israeli Supreme Court from participating in Israeli politics because of his racist views. Here is an excerpt from one of Shapiro's columns, entitled "Transfer is Not a Dirty Word," which, to the best of my knowledge, he has never renounced, not that it would matter particularly much:

    The Jews don't realize that expelling a hostile population is a commonly used and generally effective way of preventing violent entanglements. There are no gas chambers here. It's not genocide; it's transfer. It's not Hitler; it's Churchill.

    After World War II, Poland was recreated by the Allied Powers. In doing so, the Allies sliced off a chunk of Germany and extended Poland west to the Oder-Neisse line. Anywhere from 3.5 million to 9 million Germans were forcibly expelled from the new Polish territory and relocated in Germany.

    British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was pleased with the result. In 1944, he had explained to the House of Commons that "expulsion is the method which, so far as we have been able to see, will be the most satisfactory and lasting. There will be no mixture of populations to cause endless trouble ... a clean sweep will be made. I am not alarmed by the prospect of the disentanglement of populations, nor even by these large transferences, which are more possible in modern conditions than they ever were before." Churchill was right. The Germans accepted the new border, and decades of conflict between Poles and Germans ended.

    Arab-Jewish conflict is exponentially more volatile than German-Polish conflict ever was. And the solution is far easier. If there was "room in Germany for the German populations of East Prussia and of the other territories," as Churchill stated, there is certainly room in the spacious Muslim states of the Middle East for 5 million Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. If Germans, who had a centuries-old connection to the newly created Polish territory, could be expelled, then surely Palestinians, whose claim to Judea, Samaria and Gaza is dubious at best, can be expelled.

    It's time to stop being squeamish. Jews are not Nazis. Transfer is not genocide. And anything else isn't a solution.

    Shapiro has argued that Jews who support Barack Obama (the majority of American Jews, in other words) are, in essence, self-haters and "Jews in name only." But Shapiro is the one who seems completely divorced from Jewish values. His leadership role in the dump-Hagel movement reflects well on Barack Obama.  

  • Will Saudi Arabia Get the Bomb If Iran Gets the Bomb?

    President Obama believes that if Iran crosses the nuclear threshold, the Saudis, the Turks, and perhaps others, would almost immediately try to do the same. Benjamin Netanyahu believes as Obama does, and so do many European officials, and certainly many Arab officials. Different Saudi officials have, from time to time, signaled such an intention. But Colin Kahl, a former Pentagon official who has carefully studied the Iranian nuclear program and its ramifications, thinks that the conventional wisdom is wrong. I happen to agree with the conventional wisdom -- it is prudent, if nothing else, to assume that an Iranian bomb would trigger a nuclear arms race in the world's most volatile region -- but Kahl is a serious guy, and his new report, from the Center for a New American Security (and written with Melissa G. Dalton and Matthew Irvine, is worth reading. Here's a brief summary of their argument:

    The Saudis would be highly motivated to acquire some form of nuclear deterrent to counter an Iranian bomb. However, significant disincentives - including the prospect of worsening Saudi Arabia's security environment, rupturing strategic ties with the United States, damaging the country's international reputation and making the Kingdom the target of sanctions - would discourage a mad rush by Riyadh to develop nuclear weapons. And, in any case, Saudi Arabia lacks the technological and bureaucratic wherewithal to do so any time in the foreseeable future. Saudi Arabia is more likely to respond to Iranian nuclearization by continuing to bolster its conventional defenses against Iranian aggression while engaging in a long-term hedging strategy designed to improve civilian nuclear capabilities.
     
    The Kingdom is also much less likely to illicitly acquire operational nuclear weapons from
    Pakistan than is commonly assumed. Despite longstanding rumors suggesting the existence of a clandestine Saudi-Pakistani nuclear deal, there are profound security and economic disincentives cutting against Riyadh's motivation to seek a bomb from Islamabad - as well as considerable, though typically ignored, strategic and economic reasons for Pakistan to avoid an illicit transfer. Pakistan also faces significant, seldom-recognized imperatives to avoid diverting its strategic attention from India by providing a nuclear guarantee to the Kingdom. Furthermore, even if Islamabad proved willing to extend its nuclear umbrella, a potential U.S. nuclear guarantee would likely "out compete" a Pakistani alternative.
  • Is Palestinian-Israeli Peace the Key to Happiness in the Middle East?

    The realist notion of "linkage," which was once championed by Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel, doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

    Among many Middle East analysts, particularly those of the so-called "realist" school of foreign policy thought, "linkage" is a holy doctrine. It holds that peaceful compromise between Israel and the Palestinians will lead to a generally placid Middle East. But it's a false notion. One of its more famous advocates is Chuck Hagel, President Obama's nominee to be secretary of defense.

    In my Bloomberg View column, I look at Hagel's views, and try to understand how linkage became such a dominant doctrine when it is so provably false:

    "The core of all challenges in the Middle East remains the underlying Arab-Israeli conflict," Hagel said in 2006. "The failure to address this root cause will allow Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorists to continue to sustain popular Muslim and Arab support -- a dynamic that continues to undermine America's standing in the region and the Governments of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and others, whose support is critical for any Middle East resolution."

    As Martin Kramer wrote: "The vocabulary here -- 'core,' 'root cause,' 'underlying' -- is taken from the standard linkage lexicon, which elevates the Arab-Israeli or Palestinian-Israeli conflict to a preeminent status." He continued: "It is this conflict, practically alone, that prompts the rise of terrorists, weakens friendly governments, and makes it impossible for the United States to win Arabs and Muslims over to the good cause."

    In his 2008 book, "America: Our Next Chapter," Hagel wrote that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "cannot be looked at in isolation. Like a stone dropped into a placid lake, its ripples extend out farther and farther. Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon feel the effects most noticeably. Farther still, Afghanistan and Pakistan; anything that impacts their political stability also affects the two emerging economic superpowers, India and China."

    I would love to hear Hagel's views on this subject today, because his theory of linkage -- and his belief that a Middle East freed from the Israeli-Palestinian dispute would be a "placid lake" -- has been utterly discredited by events. It is, of course, vital to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And it is true that some Islamist terrorist groups exploit the conflict as a recruiting tool. But these same terrorists are unalterably opposed to a compromise that would allow two states, Israel and Palestine, to live side by side, because they are opposed to the very existence of Israel. They try to subvert the peace process because they fear it will legitimize the existence of a country they hate.

    Never mind this technical detail. The past two years have proved the theory of linkage to be comprehensively false anyway.

    Come with me on a quick tour of the greater Middle East. The Syrian civil war? Unrelated to the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. The slow disintegration of Yemen? Unrelated. Chaos and violence in Libya? Unrelated. Chaos and fundamentalism in Egypt? The creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank would not have stopped the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, nor would it have stopped the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. Terrorism in Algeria? Unrelated. The Iranian nuclear program? How would the creation of a Palestinian state have persuaded the Iranian regime to cease its pursuit of nuclear weapons? Someone please explain. Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq? The unrest in Bahrain? Pakistani havens for al-Qaeda affiliates? All unrelated.

    You can read the rest of the column here.

  • Ed Koch: 'Being Abashed Is a Waste of Time'

    The irascible, charismatic, patriotic, grandly flawed ex-mayor of New York, died this morning, at age 88

    Ed Koch, the irascible, charismatic, patriotic, grandly flawed ex-mayor of New York, died this morning, at age 88. He brought New York City back to life, and he will be remembered forever for doing so. You can read Ben Smith's New York Sun obituary of Koch here. Smith wrote the obit when he was in the employ of Seth Lipsky, in whose employ you once could have found me. (Most people in journalism seem to have been employed by Seth at one point or another.)

    It was courtesy of Seth that I had my longest conversation with Koch. I first interviewed him in 1985, as a reporter for The Daily Pennsylvanian. He was the first politician of stature I had ever interviewed, and I flubbed it. I wanted to ask him about the corruption cases that were just then being exposed, but he out-talked me, and I was too young to know that I should have simply forced my way back into the conversation.

    Several years later, Seth hosted a dinner for Koch in Brooklyn, which was, of course, great fun -- Koch on any subject was a joy to listen to, even when he was full of it -- and he offered me a ride back into the city in his police-driven Town Car. I'll never forget one moment of the drive back -- we pulled up alongside a fire engine, and Koch rolled down his window to scream hello to the firefighters, who responded with pumped fists and sirens. They were so happy to see him, and he was so happy to be seen. His desire for attention could not be satiated.

    As we were driving into town, I told him about our first encounter, several years earlier, and I said his filibustering kept me from asking what I wanted to ask. Why didn't I interrupt, he asked. I told him I was abashed. He responded: "Being abashed is a waste of time."

    I'll never forget that line.

  • Netanyahu Will Not Make Peace With the Palestinians

    We here at the Goldblog glass-enclosed nerve center are getting a lot of heat from our right about our assertion that not much has changed on the Israeli political landscape, especially in relation to issues concerning the Palestinians.

    A number of our interlocutors have gone so far as to suggest that Goldblog hates Jews, or hates himself, or hates that aspect of himself that is Jewish, for asserting that, while the Palestinians have an enormous role to play in bringing about compromise, it is actually Israel that occupies, and colonizes, the territory needed to make real that compromise. Well, to this, I say, as I've said before, that it is pro-Israel to be in favor of a settlement freeze, and in favor of jump-started negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. There is no other way out of the trap in which Israel finds itself. Most Israelis, according to the polls, believe in preserving both their country's Jewish character, and its democracy. This is not possible to achieve so long as millions of Palestinians are ruled, against their will, by Israel.

    I am a chronic optimist (which, in the Middle East context, means that I don't believe the world will end tomorrow) but the recent Israeli election results did not fill me with the belief that renewed, meaningful negotiations are around the corner. In my Bloomberg View column, I outline some reasons for pessimism (as well as some reasons for optimism).

    Here are a few reasons to be optimistic:

    1. The inclusion of Lapid in Netanyahu's next coalition government -- which seems like a certainty -- means the prime minister will have to accede to Lapid's demand that he jump- start negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas.

    2. U.S. allies in the Middle East and Europe -- particularly Jordan's King Abdullah II and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron -- are desperate to see President Barack Obama retake the initiative and pressure Netanyahu and Abbas to begin talks in earnest, and they're beginning to lobby Obama intensively.

    3. Senator John Kerry, Obama's nominee to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, is deeply invested in finding a way to restart negotiations. His power is not negligible, and perhaps he has fresher ideas than the previous generation of Middle East peace negotiators, typified by the longtime diplomat Dennis Ross.

    4. The Palestinian Authority still exists. This is something of a miracle. It hasn't yet been replaced by Hamas, or by chaos.

    There are a few more in the column. Here are a few reasons to feel pessimistic:

    1. Netanyahu is still Netanyahu. Under great pressure from the U.S., Netanyahu did endorse, in principle, the idea of two states for two peoples in 2009. But he has done nothing since to advance that goal. He has frozen settlement growth temporarily - - again under intense U.S. pressure -- but he invariably unfreezes the settlements, and his government seems to be devising new ways to prevent the birth of a Palestinian state each day.

    2. Abbas is still Abbas. Netanyahu isn't exactly rejecting the extended hand of a flawless peace partner. Abbas is weak and vacillating, and has proved himself adept at rejecting reasonable offers from Israeli interlocutors.

    3. The Palestinians are still engaged in a civil war. Lest we forget, Hamas, a group that seeks Israel's destruction, is still in control of half of the would-be state of Palestine, and it hasn't made up with the Palestinian Authority, which controls some of the West Bank. It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which Israel would make concessions to a Palestinian Authority that isn't in a position to rule Palestine.

    At this point, I actually do feel pretty comprehensively pessimistic, for many reasons, but in large part because I don't think Netanyahu is prepared to take even the most moderate sort of confidence-building steps -- such as stopping the rapid expansion of settlements on territory that would have to be part of an independent Palestinian state -- needed to set the stage for negotiations. A few years from now, when the two-state idea is dead and buried, I'm afraid we will look back on Netanyahu and curse him for his blindness. Right now, he has time to design an orderly transition out of the West Bank, but he's doing everything in his power to keep the Palestinian state from being born.

    UPDATE: Yair Rosenberg sent this along -- Yossi Beilin, the former peace negotiator, arguing that Netanyahu might be willing to go for provisional borders:

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is willing to agree to the creation of a Palestinian state in provisional borders, even before his conditions for a final-status agreement are met, former minister and veteran peace activist Yossi Beilin said.

    "I don't think that Netanyahu, who is far from being a warmonger -- he's a very cautious person -- [is ready to commit to] a permanent solution. Not because he doesn't want it -- all of us want it -- but because he's not ready to pay the price," Beilin said Monday night. "But to speak about a provisional border with the Palestinians, this is something that I heard from him that we would be ready to do it."

    Speaking in English at a debate in front of Jewish-American leaders visiting Jerusalem, Beilin said that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders are presently not ready to agree to terms for a permanent settlement. Yet both Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would be willing to go ahead with an interim agreement, which would include a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 lines with land swaps, so that major settlement blocs would remain in Israel, Beilin said. The delicate questions of Jerusalem and refugees would not be addressed immediately but held for final-status talks down the line, according to Beilin. 
  • In Other News, Iran Hires O.J. Simpson to Find the Real Bombers

    The government of Argentina is partnering with Iran to find out just who blew up the Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, which resulted in the deaths of 85 innocent people. Argentinean law enforcement authorities have long believed, of course, that Iran is responsible for the attack:

    A "Memorandum of Understanding" including the creation of a "Truth Commission" between the governments of Argentina and the Islamic Republic of Iran and intended to resolve the 1994 terrorist bombing of the Argentine-Jewish Community Centre AMIA in Buenos Aires was signed today according to the Presidential web site.
    The accord, which was signed in the city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in Farsi, Spanish and English by Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman and his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi, consists of ten points:
    Among its most important passages the acoord calls for the "Establishment of the "Truth Commission" composed of international jurists to "examine all documentation submitted by the judicial authorities of Argentina and of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Commission shall consist of five commissioners and two members appointed by each country (...) and they shall not be nationals of either country."
  • A Nuclear Iran Would Mark a 'Turning Point in Human History'

    I could have used this quote, from Henry Kissinger, at my recent Intelligence Squared debate in which I argued, with Shmuel Bar, against the motion that Israel could live with a nuclear Iran:

    "The danger is that we could be reaching a point where nuclear weapons would become almost conventional, and there will be the possibility of a nuclear conflict at some point... that would be a turning point in human history," he said.

    This is the biggest worry of all: That a nuclear arms race in the world's most volatile region leads to a kind of quick-draw, launch-on-warning approach by multiple nations, ending in an accidental conflagration. Kissinger:

    "For 15 years, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have declared that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, but it has been approaching," he said. "In a few years, people will have to come to a determination of how to react, or the consequences of non-reaction.... I believe this point will be reached in a very foreseeable future," he added.

    Here, by the way, is a link to the Intelligence Squared debate, which is worth watching, and not only because my team won. 

  • Is Goldblog a 'Jewish Sewer Pipe for Obama'?

    We here at the Goldblog glass-enclosed nerve center have been called many things by extreme leftists and rightists, but this one stands out.

    We here at the Goldblog glass-enclosed nerve center have been called many things by extreme leftists and rightists, but this one, from a website called "Israeli Frontline," which I'm guessing is part of the Jewish right wing love-Israel-to-death crowd, stands out for its unknowing echo of a familiar Nazi trope:

    The plain truth is Jeffrey Goldberg is a Jewish sewer pipe for Obama. And he's loving every minute of it because, like T. Friedman, Beinhart and the J Street crowd, he wants to "punish" Israel." 

    That would be "Beinart," not "Beinhart," by the way. (Smear artists should know that they undermine the power of their invective by misspelling their targets' names.) Peter and Tom Friedman and the "J Street crowd" can defend themselves. I would like to offer a defense, not of myself, but of sewer pipes. Civilization could not exist as we know it without sewer pipes. They make our cities and towns livable, aesthetically pleasant and healthful places. (I would also note that Israel, a country those at "Israeli Frontline" ostensibly love, also utilizes sewer pipes.)

    For whatever reason, the far-right, Jewish and Nazi alike, despise sewer pipes. When I read this post above (it was motivated, obviously, by my recent column noting that President Obama, according to my sources, believes that Israel doesn't know what its own best interests are), I was struck by its use of the sewer pipe metaphor, which is so often used by anti-Semites, rather than Semites, to describe the perfidious role Jews play in debasing Christian society. One of my regular Nazi interlocutors recently e-mailed me this gem of writing, apparently lifted from some sort of fascist website: "Drive these trash cockroaches out of your community in any way you possibly can. Above all CANCEL YOUR CABLE TV, and get the jewish sewer pipe of pornography and kikesickness out of your life completely. Boycott businesses owned by trash jews, like Home Depot, a kike-owned company that loves to promote homosexuality to children. Shop at Lowe's instead."

  • Just How Far Did the Israeli Electorate Move to the Center?

    Walter Russell Mead, whose writing I consistently enjoy, goes a bit hard on the mainstream media (so-called) for misreading Israeli politics:

    The story as far as we're concerned is the spectacular flop of the West's elite media. If you've read anything about Israeli politics in the past couple weeks, you probably came away expecting a major shift to the right--the far right.

    Mead hints, and Ari Shavit, in a very interesting column, openly argues, that the results of the Israeli election suggest that the right is at least an ephemerally waning phenomenon. I wouldn't go that far, as I'll explain in a second, but first, in (partial) defense of the MSM, what Mead isn't considering is that the rise of Naftali Bennett's far-right Jewish Home Party provoked a counter-reaction among frightened Israeli centrists just before the election, which could account for the fact that most everyone, including most Israeli commentators, thought Bennett would end up with 15 or 16 seats. As it is, his party wound up with 12, which ain't chopped liver.

    On the larger point, it is true that Yair Lapid, rather than Bennett, is the kingmaker of the coming coalition (at least until Shelly Yachimovich brings the Labor Party into the tent -- and talk about a recipe for a stable coalition!). But it is also true that Lapid, and his voters, are not leftists; they are not particularly interested in a preemptive settlement freeze, or even necessarily in an Obama-requested settlement freeze; and they are certainly not interested in "dividing" Jerusalem (which actually would mean establishing a Palestinian capital in the eastern, Arab, neighborhoods of the city).

    And it's reasonably certain that Lapid, while demanding that Netanyahu restart in earnest negotiations with the Palestinian Authority as a precondition for joining the coalition, has other, more important, things on his mind, including and especially the issues that actually propelled him to victory: Ending the subsidies and special treatment of the Haredim, the ultra-Orthodox, in particular. So I'm not expecting much movement on the peace process, even with Lapid as foreign minister (the job people are saying he's been offered.) The good thing about Lapid as foreign minister is that Israel will finally have a foreign minister it can send to foreign countries without embarrassment.

  • Quick Israeli Election Reactions

    1) Israelis are most upset by the rising power of the ultra-orthodox (the Haredim). This accounts for Yesh Atid's strong performance. Plus party leader Yair Lapid's hair gel. Also a very important factor.

    2) Yesh Atid is such a Jewish name. "There is a Future." Optimistic, but threaded with melancholy.

    3) Netanyahu could have spent more time focused on social issues.

    4) Kadima. What was that about, anyway?

    5) I'm assuming, for now, a Likud-Yesh Atid-Jewish Home coalition, but anything is possible.

    6) Every television commentator is asking what this means for the peace process. What does it mean for the peace process? Not much.

    7) This election is a reminder that settlers only represent 4 percent of the Israeli population.

    8) Biggest question on my mind: Will Obama and Yair Lapid have chemistry?

    9) Okay, not the biggest question on my mind.

    10) On the one hand, Lapid's victory is a victory for secular Israel. On the other hand, about 40 percent of members of the next Knesset will be Orthodox.

    11) Hamas never fails: A spokesman says that Netanyahu's decision to visit the Western Wall after voting represents a "provocation."

    12) This, from Adam Chandler: "Myth #1: Israelis are disaffected and checked out.
    Counterpoint: The voter turnout in Israel is the highest since 1999 (when Netanyahu was thrown out of office). The most recent numbers released by the Elections Committee show that almost 64% of Israelis have voted. The total may eclipse 70% by the end of the day."

    And this, from my Bloomberg View column:

    A Netanyahu-Bennett-Lapid coalition would be far more likely to take bold action against another of Israel's threats, the rise of the ultra-Orthodox, than to take on the peace process. Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Haredi men don't serve in the army and are on the public dole so that they can pursue full-time religious studies. And Haredi political parties are becoming more radical (ayatollah-like, in some ways), demanding sex segregation on public buses and generally trying to erase the line dividing synagogue from state. Lapid's popularity is derived in large part from his stalwart stance against the privileges accrued by the ultra-Orthodox.

    Belief in the efficacy of the peace process has ebbed dramatically, even among those Israelis who know that Bennett's vision of an Israel in permanent control of the Palestinians is a formula for ruin. The weakness of the Palestinian Authority, which rules the West Bank; the recalcitrance of Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip; and the Arab Spring uprisings, which have left Syria in chaos and Egypt in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood, haven't advanced the cause of a two-state solution.

    One more quote to keep in mind, this from Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who said three years ago (in a statement just unearthed this month) that Muslims should "nurse our children and our grandchildren on hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews." Statements like this, which are also often heard in Palestinian circles, give Israelis pause about pursuing compromise.

    The next coalition -- even if it is center-right, rather than hard-right -- is going to have a hard time selling a revitalized peace process.

  • Jake Tapper's 'The Outpost'

    In his Second Inaugural speech yesterday, President Obama once again referred to the coming end of the war in Afghanistan. This was a bit misleading, the conflation of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan with the war's end. The actual war might be going on for a while longer, between the Taliban and the forces America trained and supported. And if those forces lose, America might one day be back, if the Taliban once again decides to turn Afghanistan into a safe haven for terror.

    There have been many books written on the subject of America's seemingly endless engagement in Afghanistan, but none better than Jake Tapper's "The Outpost," which manages to do three things at once: It provides us with a gripping, ground-level understanding of the fight to hold a single patch of Afghan territory, and it lets us see the absurdity of so much of the American decision-making in this conflict. And finally, Tapper renders beautifully the lives of America's forgotten soldiers -- the ordinary men from dead-end towns who make up the core of America's all-volunteer army, who risk their lives (and, in this story, often give their lives) for an America that was not, for them, a land of opportunity. I sat down with Jake a couple of weeks ago at The Atlantic to talk about his book. (In the interest of full disclosure, I read several chapters of Jake's book in manuscript form, and made a few minor editing suggestions.) (And special thanks to The Atlantic's Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, who produced, directed, scripted, catered and lit this video.)

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