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.

  • Do You Really Need a Silencer to Kill a Deer?

    Silencers have their legitimate uses. But hunting Osama bin Laden is one thing; hunting "varmints" is another.

    As Goldblog readers know, I believe, quite strongly, that Americans have the right to defend themselves with arms, provided that the aforementioned Americans are screened, vetted and trained by the appropriate authorities. What I'm not for is handing out silencers to gun owners. I missed this Mother Jones piece when it came out, but I think it is worth noting, as frequently as possible, that the silencer industry -- yes, there is a silencer industry -- is trying to loosen the laws that restrict sales of their product:

    In 2011, frustrated by the silencer's image problem, (Silencerco CEO Josh) Waldron, along with Advanced Armament Corp., Gemtech, and other silencer manufacturers helped founded the American Silencer Association. Their goal, Waldron told me, was "to get more people and legislators to understand that silencers are actually safety devices and not what everybody thinks they are because of Hollywood."

    The ASA and the NRA, which receives financial support from Waldron's Silencerco, are pressuring state legislatures to ease up and let people own and use silencers for hunting. Several states have obliged recently, including Wyoming, and Montana and Georgia are in the pipeline, too. The NRA touts the health benefits of sparing hunters' hearing. It also plays the Roosevelt "varmint hunting" card, arguing that silencers enable ranchers to kill rodents without scaring the livestock.

    Silencers have their legitimate uses. I would never want to tell SEAL Team 6, or some other special-forces unit, that they could not use devices that suppress the noise made by their weapons. But hunting Osama bin Laden is one thing; hunting "varmints" is another. Silencers, in civilian life, have an important purpose -- to help criminals commit violent crimes without drawing too much attention to themselves. A person defending his or her home from a violent criminal does not need a silencer. Quite the opposite -- the sound of a racked shotgun (as Joe Biden will attest) is often enough to scare an intruder out of your house, without a shot being fired.

    It is true that guns are loud, and that hunters who don't wear ear protection may eventually damage their hearing. The solution is to wear ear protection. No silencer needed. It is also true that livestock can be scared by sudden sounds. But as a person who worked in a big dairy operation for a time, I can tell you that everything scares livestock. And what are the consequences of scaring livestock? Not much. They usually just calm down.

    The campaign to broaden the market for silencers is just another example of needless extremism among some gun advocates, and some manufacturers (obviously, the manufacturers are motivated by money, more than ideology). For more on this sort of extremism -- extremism that gives responsible gun owners and manufacturers a bad name -- please read this National Journal piece by Ron Fournier, who outlines the lies and exaggerations of the gun lobby, and then argues that its tactics "undermine reasonable efforts to protect gun rights:"

    It is understandable that many Americans don't trust the federal government, especially when the White House is controlled by a Democrat. Some members of Obama's party are virulently antigun.

    But rather than serve pro-gun Americans, the gun lobby and its GOP co-conspirators are exploiting their fears. If they overreach and lose credibility with the public, their actions today may be more threatening to the Second Amendment than anything Democrats want to do.
  • Remembering Michael Kelly

    I miss Michael a lot, not least because he was one of the few funny people in Washington, but also because I miss what he would have written over the past ten years.

    Today marks the tenth anniversary of Michael Kelly's death in Iraq. Michael was once the editor of this magazine, which he shaped in lasting ways (Here's a very good obituary from Jack Shafer).

    The day doesn't feel much different than any other day without Michael, but I thought it would be worth noting today, for the sake of people who didn't know him, that he is missed very much. Like Jim Fallows, and everyone else who knew Michael, I won't ever forget the moment I learned of his death. I was in northern Iraq; a group of us had just returned from covering an operation Michael would surely have liked to cover -- U.S. Special Forces and Kurdish guerillas -- the peshmerga -- had just routed an Islamist terror cell near the Iranian border -- when Chris Chivers, of The Times, got the news somehow that Michael had died several hours earlier, outside of Baghdad. He passed the news on to me, and I called my editor at the time, David Remnick, to confirm. From David's voice, I knew that it was true. Our whole gang of reporters in Sulaymania was shell-shocked. So was everyone else.

    I miss Michael a lot, not least because he was one of the few funny people in Washington, but also because I miss what he would have written over the past ten years. It's a bit of parlor game to guess what Michael might have made of the aftermath of the Iraq war (and of everything else to come). I tend to think he would have turned on the Bush Administration for its incompetence and negligence (I have a feeling Donald Rumsfeld, in particular, would have been the unhappy, and deserving, recipient, of Michael's righteous anger), but I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have repudiated his support for the idea of toppling Saddam Hussein. He hated Saddam, and what he did to the people of Iraq, too much, to disavow his overthow.  Here's one passage from Michael, written in February of 2003, shortly before the invasion was launched, that helped shape my thinking on this:

    I understand why some dislike the idea, and fear the ramifications of, America as a liberator. But I do not understand why they do not see that anything is better than life with your face under the boot. And that any rescue of a people under the boot (be they Afghan, Kuwaiti, or Iraqi) is something to be desired. Even if the rescue is less than perfectly realized. Even if the rescuer is a great, over-muscled, bossy, selfish oaf. Or would you, for yourself, choose the boot?

    We'll never know what he would have thought, of course, and we, his friends and loyal readers (including those readers he regularly drove mad), are the poorer for it. HIs sons, who were so young when he died, should know, and should be told regularly, that their father is a hero to many, many people.

  • Happy Passover

    Celebrating the holiday that provided the world with what long ago became its most important, and metaphor-ready, story of human liberation

    No holiday embodies the essential tension at the heart of Jewishness like Passover does. The story of Passover is the story of a particular people moving from a specific land of slavery to a particular land of freedom (President Obama, on his trip last week to Israel, seemed to understand very well the -- you should pardon the expression -- Zionism at the heart of the Exodus story).  Passover is also the most universal of Jewish holidays. It provided the world with what long ago became its most important, and metaphor-ready, story of human liberation. It also inculcated in Jews a restless and eternal urge to upset the status quo. The tug between the universal and the particular plays out in Jewish life in all sorts of ways, most notably on the Middle Eastern stage. I'm in the camp that still holds that Israel can have its particularlity while still becoming a light unto the nations. We're not there yet, but that's one point of Passover, to remind us of the work we still have to do.

    The Goldblogs are getting on a plane for the other Jewish homeland, Miami (the homeland in which two peoples, the Jews and the Cubans, have figured out a way to co-exist peacably) so I must cut short this Passover post. Chag kasher v'sameach, happy Passover, and a Happy Easter as well.

  • If Obama Had Given That Speech at AIPAC ...

    ... quite a few people in attendance would have booed him.

    If Obama had delivered the speech he just gave in Jerusalem to the annual AIPAC convention, he might have been booed. No, check that, he definitely would have been booed. Not by everyone, of course, but by quite a few people. (I've been to enough of them to know.)

    He would not have been booed for his vigorous endorsement of the Zionist idea, of course; nor for his promise to stand by Israel though thick and thin; not for his expressions of admiration for Jews and Judaism; and not for the promise to maintain Israel's qualitative military edge; but for asking his audience to sympathize with ordinary Palestinians, who have lousy lives in good measure because of the occupation. He definitely would have been heckled for that one. And I'm sure of one other thing: His endorsement of a Palestinian state, as an answer to the existential dilemma of the Palestinians, and as an answer to the question of whether Israel can maintain itself as a Jewish-majority democracy, would have been met at AIPAC by a combination of tepid applause, silence, and scattered heckling. It's obvious to me that from now on, Obama should deliver his pro-Israel speeches at the Jerusalem Convention Center, not the Washington Convention Center.

    The speech was, overall, quite eloquent and strong, and very moving from the Jewish perspective (there were bits that were too naive for me, but more on that later). It is the setting, though, that made it brilliant: Standing ovations from young Israelis for an endorsement of a Palestinian state by an enthusiastically Zionist African-American President whose middle name is Hussein. How, exactly, did he pull that one off?

  • Quick Reactions to the Obama Speech in Jerusalem

    For one thing, the President answered the kishka question -- the gut question -- pretty well.

    I'm off to do a couple of interviews, but I thought I would just jot down a few early reactions to the president's speech in Jerusalem. It was a very strong speech -- there were a couple of flat, campaign-like moments -- but overall it was strong. The President was a bit more blunt than I thought, but his bluntness was rewarded by loud cheers from his youngish audience when he talked about the need to create a Palestinian state. (On the other hand, I was sitting near the head of the settlers' council, who seemed ready to explode with anger.) I'm imagining that the Israeli reaction to Obama's call will come as a pleasant surprise to at least some Palestinians.

    The President answered the kishka question -- the gut question -- pretty well. Some people won't be satisfied, but the president conveyed, over and over again, that he stands with Israel, he believes in Israel, and so long as there is a United States, there will be an Israel. He spoke well about the Jewish connection to the land, and made it abundantly clear he believes that Zionism is a genuine and justified national liberatlon movement rooted in ancient history and tradition. And he spoke well of his appreciation for Judaism, exploring its relationship to his own tradition (though the mention of tikkun olam -- "repairing the world" -- would have gone over better in the U.S, where it has become the core idea of progressive Judaism. The way Obama understands tikkun olam is not the way many Israelis understand it).

    I spoke to several members of the audience, who confirmed my impression that Israelis just wanted to know that he liked them. It's hard to understand this from the U.S., but the idea really did take hold here that Obama genuinely hated Israel. So this whole trip is a bit of a revelation for ordinary Israelis.

    On the other hand, I've run into people who were surprised President Obama took it too strong to Bibi (one conservative-leaning Israeli I just ran into suggested that Obama was interfering in Israeli politics as payback for Netanyahu's alleged meddling in the American election). Obama pleaded with his audience to challenge their leaders on the question of peace and compromise. I guess the whole Bibi-Barack love festival has an expiration date.

    One more note: the President spoke most feelingly, I think, when he asked Israelis to imagine the lives of Palestinian children, and asked Israelis to put themselves in the shoes of Palestinians. This seemed reasonable to me, but it probably caused Netanyahu, watching on television, to say, "Well, yes, but first the Palestinians have to understand what it's like to be an Israeli." I've very seldom run into Palestinians and Israelis who can imagine what life is like on the other side without quickly resorting to demands that the other side do so first.  Which is part of the problem.

    More to come.   

  • Operation Desert Schmooze, Hi-Tech Edition

    Is this the most expensive Birthright trip ever staged?

    President Obama's visit to Israel strikes me -- and others -- as the most expensive Birthright trip ever staged. Except that this one isn't paid for by Sheldon Adelson.

    At this moment, he's touring an ad hoc hi-tech fair that was set up with the express purpose of ruining the aesthetics of the Israel Museum. So far, it's been tree-planting and Iron Dome-watching, and tomorrow he'll be at Yad Vashem and Mt. Herzl. This is a good time to reiterate that this is not what he actually wanted to do on a visit to Israel (here's my idea of what he actually would have wanted to do).

    It seems pretty clear, based on the wall-to-wall Israeli media coverage, and several conversations with people who might be called average Israelis (as if there is such a thing), that  Obama's charm offensive is working well. The big test comes this afternoon, when he speaks to a large group of young Israelis, and challenges them to think about the future of their country, and about their relations with the Palestinians.

  • There's a War Criminal at My Gym
    Super Crimson/Shutterstock

    There's a War Criminal at My Gym

    Our advice columnist to the rescue

  • What Obama Will Tell Young Israelis Tomorrow

    Tomorrow's speech could be the moment he pivots to the challenges of the peace process.

    The key moment in President Obama's Operation Desert Schmooze comes tomorrow, when he addresses a gathering of young Israelis at Jerusalem's convention center. This will be the moment, I think, when he actually pivots publicly to the challenges of peace process (today, it's all about stressing how much he loves Israel). My half-educated guess going in is that he will, in the first part of the speech, repeat some themes he discussed at his arrival ceremony earlier today -- he will stress the ancient Jewish connection to the land, and promise that the American alliance with Israel is "unbreakable." (Unbreakability is a theme of this visit; I'm sitting at the prime minister's residence, looking at Chuck Todd across the table from me, and his press pass reads, "Unbreakable Alliance." We also got mugs that read "Unbreakable Alliance," which, of course, we are tempted to try and break.)

    After the extensive throat-clearing, I understand that Obama may use the upcoming Passover holiday -- which appears to be his favorite holiday (he holds a seder in the White House every year)  -- to begin to raise questions about Israel's overall direction. (He will praise the Passover story, of course, and mention both its universality -- and especially its resonance among African-Americans --  but also its particularity, which is to say, that it is the story of a specific group's liberation in a specific place.) But what interests Obama a great deal about Passover is the questioning that is embedded in the Haggadah, the retelling of the Passover story that is read during the seder.

    Questioning, and doubting, are integral to the Jewish tradition, and it would certainly be clever of Obama to use this tradition to his advantage. He has been trying for years, without success, to encourage Israelis to ask themselves how exactly the West Bank settlement project squares with their desire to maintain Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy. This speech, this visit, and this holiday, ally provide him with the opportunity to raise the question again.

  • Operation Desert Schmooze Commences

    The president's mission, to charm the pants off Israelis, seems to be working -- so far.

    President Obama has arrived in Israel, and he and the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, are "thrilled" to have this opportunity to meet. I'm sitting in a holding area outside the prime minister's residence, where the two leaders will hold their discussion shortly. It will be a "frank" and "candid" and "businesslike" discussion, no doubt. The president's mission, to charm the pants off Israelis, seems to be working so far -- his opening remarks at the arrival ceremony at Ben-Gurion airport could not have been more pro-Israel. He actually sounded like my rabbi. Actually, my rabbi might bring a bit more nuance to the subject:

    I'm so honored to be here as you prepare to celebrate the 65th anniversary of a free and independent State of Israel.  Yet I know that in stepping foot on this land, I walk with you on the historic homeland of the Jewish people.

    More than 3,000 years ago, the Jewish people lived here, tended the land here, prayed to God here.  And after centuries of exile and persecution, unparalleled in the history of man, the founding of the Jewish State of Israel was a rebirth, a redemption unlike any in history.

    Today, the sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah are fulfilling the dream of the ages -- to be "masters of their own fate" in "their own sovereign state."  And just as we have for these past 65 years, the United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend.

    Tomorrow, he will undoubtedly deliver more complicated remarks, and I'll write about those in a few minutes.

  • The Modern King in the Arab Spring
    David Degner

    The Modern King in the Arab Spring

    Amid the social and political transformations reshaping the Middle East, can Jordan's Abdullah II, the region's most pro-American Arab leader, liberalize his kingdom, modernize its economy, and save the country from capture by Islamist radicals?

  • What Obama's Ideal Day in Israel Would Look Like, vs. the Dispiriting Reality

    If the president had the time to himself, this is how he might spend it.

    President Obama, in an interview with Yonit Levi of Israel's Channel 2 last week, expressed a desire to visit Tel Aviv and sit in cafes. This will not happen on his trip this week; he's going to be a prisoner of Jerusalem, and only official Jerusalem. It's a shame, because the Israel he's not seeing is actually quite enjoyable. I thought I would design a day that might conform to Obama's actual desires:

    1. Wake up late, in the American Colony Hotel, one of the Pasha rooms, preferably (trust me, they're very nice). It's not that he would prefer the American Colony -- a couple of short streets inside Arab East Jerusalem -- for political reasons; it's just an aesthetically pleasing place, and the breakfast, for someone who does not keep kosher, is delightful. The King David Hotel breakfast is also fine, if you like herring and cucumbers (I do!).

    At the King David, though, he would stand more of a chance of running into a delegation of Jewish National Fund leaders from Chicago, who would then need at least 10 minutes of his time. This would keep Obama from doing what he wants to do, which is to read Haaretz quietly in a corner. And no, not The Jerusalem Post. He's more of a Haaretz guy.

    Then, from the Colony, he would take a long walk through the Old City, alone, from the Damascus Gate, tracing the Via Dolorosa down to the Holy Sepulchre, then through the Muslim Quarter, into the Jewish Quarter. Then he would walk through the souk to the Jaffa Gate. Eventually, he would find himself at Mishkenot Sha'ananim, the artists' colony just down from the Montefiore windmill, where he would meet the novelist David Grossman for coffee. They would talk for two hours about Philip Roth. Also, the Shoah. And the Palestinians.

    Obama would then get in a taxi to the Israel Museum, where James Snyder, its ebullient and erudite director, will provide him with a map, and a few minutes of suggestions, and then set him off through the galleries, which are astonishingly catholic for the national museum of the Jewish state. Obama, after walking alone for an hour or two, would meet Snyder for mezze at the museum restaurant, Modern. Then he would grab a taxi outside the museum and head down to Tel Aviv.

    He would sit for a while at Tolat Sfarim, a literary cafe on Rabin Square, where Amos Schocken, the owner of Haaretz, would be sitting, and Obama would tell Schocken that he likes his newspaper, but it's just slightly too left for him (okay, that's my fantasy). Or maybe Obama would have coffee at Ahat Haam, a smart-crowd cafe, and then meet Yonit Levi and her writer friends in the vibrant Flea Market section of Yafo for dinner. He would stay the night at Montefiore, a boutique hotel near Rothschild Boulevard, where he would spend a couple of hours reading Grossman's "To the End of the Land," and the bound galleys for Ari Shavit's forthcoming book, "My Promised Land."

    Sounds pretty nice.

    Instead, he's visiting the grave of Theodor Herzl and having dinner with Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu. But, whatever. At least he gets to bypass Ben-Gurion Airport security.  

  • Greatest Hidden Detail in a New York Times Story of the Past Week

    Here at Goldblog, we are keen to find the court records for this particular case.

    This is from a story about a New York State assemblyman named Stephen M. Katz, who was arrested earlier this week on marijuana possession charges, after he was stopped by police for speeding:

    Mr. Katz has had previous troubles. A veterinarian by trade, he was once accused of illegally disposing of a dead German shepherd, and another time of allegedly attacking a Chihuahua he was treating. Both times, he said, he was exonerated. (Emphasis mine.)

    Here at Goldblog, we are keen to find the court records for this particular case. We imagine that the indictment, if nothing else, is very amusing.

  • Three Reasons Obama Is Traveling to Israel

    President Obama heads next week to Israel, with a side trip to the West Bank and an overnight visit to Jordan. He will not be going to oversee peace negotiations, nor will he be bringing a specific peace plan with him. Instead, he's going to reintroduce himself to the region. Specifically, he's going to speak directly to the Israeli people, over the head, if necessary, of the prime minister, with whom he generally sees not eye-to-eye.

    (Which is not to say their relationship is all contention: On the matter of Iran, Obama was actually quite appreciative last September when Netanyahu suggested, at the United Nations, that he would cease contemplating a preventive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities until well after the American election. In a phone call shortly after that speech, Obama thanked Netanyahu for giving him "time and space" on the nuclear issue. On the matter of settlements, and the continued occupation of much of the West Bank, Obama has repeatedly expressed his frustration with what he might term -- and I would term -- Netanyahu's myopia on the subject).

    There are several reasons Obama is going now to Israel:
    1) The president is said to have grown tired, during the campaign last year, of hearing the question, "Why haven't you visited Israel yet?" Of course, many presidents did not visit Israel while president, and some had gone late in their term. Obama is held to a bit of a double-standard on this question -- it was a Republican strategy to suggest to Jewish voters, in particular, that he was hostile to the Jewish state -- and he has seemed annoyed, at times, when his commitment to Israel is questioned. Late last year, after he won reelection, he suggested, in a White House meeting, that he make Israel an early stop in his 2nd-term foreign travels, in part to quiet this meme.

    2) During the first term, Administration thinking held that there was no point in sending the President to meet with Israelis and Palestinians on their home turf unless there was real progress in negotiations. Last year, this thinking shifted: Visiting the region while it was relatively quiet, without carrying a specific political agenda, grew to seem like a smart idea, in particular because many Israelis had grown suspicious of his intentions and would therefore benefit from direct exposure to the man, rather than his caricature. The caricature developed in part  because they were told by the Sheldon Adelsons of the world (and more subtly, by Netanyahu himself) not to trust him. This also happened because the President had created the impression, in his famous Cairo speech to the Muslim world in 2009, that he didn't fully understand the rationale for Israel's existence.  In my Bloomberg View column this week, I discuss this speech, the fallout from which illustrates, if nothing else, how complicated it is for a president to navigate the Middle East:

    In the speech he gave there, which the White House titled, "A New Beginning," Obama made a powerful statement in support of the Palestinian cause: "The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable," he said. "America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own."

    Notably, he didn't avoid the touchy subject of the U.S. bond with Israel, which he called "unbreakable." He said this knowing that such a statement would not fill his Muslim audience with joy. "Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust," Obama said, by way of explaining U.S. support for the Jewish state. "Six million Jews were killed -- more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant and it is hateful."

    Obama's statement came at a moment when many Israelis believed he was preparing to dismantle the special relationship between his country and theirs. His aides hoped his words would serve to allay Jewish fears of a new president whose middle name is Hussein.

    It didn't work as planned. Why, you ask? Why would a moving declaration of sympathy for the victims of the Holocaust -- and a robust denunciation of Holocaust denial -- alienate Israelis, and many of their friends in the U.S.? Well, welcome to the Middle East, where every tribe and creed has its own code, and mastery of these codes doesn't come easy....

    How did Obama leave this impression? At home, this view was cultivated partly by cynical Republicans who have been eager to turn support for Israel into a partisan issue.

    With Israelis, it's more complicated. The Cairo speech had a chilling effect because, to Israelis, the Holocaust alone doesn't justify the existence of their state. "The Holocaust doesn't explain why we're here," said Yossi Klein Halevii, a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. "The Holocaust explains why we fight as fiercely as we do to stay here, but it doesn't explain our rootedness."

    In Cairo, Halevi said, Obama failed to acknowledge "Jewish indigenousness in the region," the idea that history -- the uninterrupted Jewish presence in the lands of ancient Israel for more than 3,000 years -- justifies the modern Jewish claim to a state there. "In Cairo, Obama was asking the Arab world to feel sorry for the Jews," he said, "and by doing so, he inadvertently played into the hands of those whose response is, 'Well, if there was a Holocaust, let the Germans pay for it, not the Arabs.' That's a reasonable response if you don't believe that Jews are from here."

    The absence of Zionist thought in the speech was unhelpful, though not thematically inexplicable (after all, it was a speech meant to woo Muslims, not Jews). But Obama is clearly acquainted with the ideas that energized Jewish nationalism. During his first campaign for president, in 2008, I spoke to him at length about the Middle East, and he told me of learning Israel's story early in life, from a Jewish camp counselor who explained to him the "idea of preserving a culture when a people had been uprooted with the view of eventually returning home." Obama went on, "There was something so powerful and compelling for me, maybe because I was a kid who never entirely felt like he was rooted."

    3) One other reason he's going, of course, is Iran. There's nothing like a face-to-face with Netanyahu to keep the prime minister onboard with Administration strategy. President Obama will reiterate to the prime minister something the prime minister doesn't quite believe: That the U.S. has Israel's back, as Obama has said repeatedly. Netanyahu will press the president specifics: At what point, he will ask, does Obama give up and move to consider a military solution to the Iranian nuclear program. Obama will argue that there is still plenty of time. They will not leave their meeting agreeing on all points, of course, but there's a greater chance Netanyahu will remain patient if Obama makes the case for patience in person, and on Netanyahu's turf. Netanyahu frets that Obama doesn't understand Israel's true security situation, and that he doesn't have a feel for Jewish history (we saw this worry evince itself most dramatically in Netanyahu's stunning, and stunningly inappropriate, Oval Office lecture). 

    The conventional wisdom about this trip is that it won't accomplish much. But the upside potential for this trip is great: Israelis will be seeing someone who is actually a friend, and this will allow the friend, over time, to speak bluntly with Israelis about the direction of their country; and Netanyahu will get invaluable face-time with the only person who could truly, and semi-permanently, confront what the prime minister believes to be the most serious threat Israel faces.

    I'll have more later on the Palestinian and Jordanian portions of the trip. But suffice it to say that another reason for this trip is that the President really wants to see Petra. And who can blame him?

  • Samira Ibrahim 'Refuses to Apologize' for Her Tweets

    ...and the State Department and the White House have narrowly averted a moral and public relations disaster.

    Lee Smith reports that Samira Ibrahim, the Egyptian woman whose anti-American and antisemitic tweets have forced the State Department to defer granting her the International Woman of Courage Award -- an award Michelle Obama and John Kerry were scheduled to present to her on Friday -- now seems to admit that she was the author of the tweets in question. She previously claimed that her account was hacked:

    ...Ibrahim herself has spoken, writing in Arabic on her Twitter page. Egyptian democracy activist Mina Rezkalla provides the translation: "I refuse to apologize to the Zionist lobby in America regarding my previous anti-Zionist statements under pressure from American government therefore they withdrew the award."

    Just to refresh your memories, the "anti-Zionist" tweets in question included a celebration of murder: ""An explosion on a bus carrying Israelis in Burgas airport in Bulgaria on the Black Sea. Today is a very sweet day with a lot of very sweet news." In another tweet, she described the leaders of Saudi Arabia as "dirtier than the Jews." (This counts as a twofer, I suppose, because it's hard to imagine America's Saudi allies being very happy about this one.) Then there was this tweet, praising the handiwork of al Qaeda: "Today is the anniversary of 9/11. May every year come with America burning."

    Thanks to Samuel Tadros, at the Hudson Institute, and other Egyptian liberal activists, the State Department and the White House have narrowly averted a moral and public relations disaster. If I were John Kerry, I would be ringing up the American embassy in Cairo, asking who exactly vetted the nomination of Samira Ibrahim for this award.

  • Is Michelle Obama About to Honor an Anti-American Anti-Semite?

    Egyptian activist Samira Ibrahim, who has battled against the Egyptian army's infamous "virginity tests," has a history of inflammatory tweets.

    Tomorrow afternoon, First Lady Michelle Obama and the secretary of state, John Kerry, are scheduled to present the International Women of Courage Award to 10 women who have shown leadership in advocating for women's rights around the world. Among the 10 honorees is an Egyptian woman, Samira Ibrahim, who has battled against the Egyptian army's infamous "virginity tests."

    Ibrahim, according to Samuel Tadros in The Weekly Standard, is also a rather ostentatious anti-Semite who frequently takes to Twitter to excoriate Jews:

    On July 18 of last year, after five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed a suicide bombing attack, Ibrahim jubilantly tweeted: "An explosion on a bus carrying Israelis in Burgas airport in Bulgaria on the Black Sea. Today is a very sweet day with a lot of very sweet news."

    Ibrahim frequently uses Twitter to air her anti-Semitic views. Last August 4, commenting on demonstrations in Saudi Arabia, she described the ruling Al Saud family as "dirtier than the Jews." Seventeen days later she tweeted in reference to Adolf Hitler: "I have discovered with the passage of days, that no act contrary to morality, no crime against society, takes place, except with the Jews having a hand in it. Hitler."

    She has also apparently expressed hatred of America:

     As a mob was attacking the United States embassy in Cairo on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, pulling down the American flag and raising the flag of Al Qaeda, Ibrahim wrote on twitter: "Today is the anniversary of 9/11. May every year come with America burning." Possibly fearing the consequences of her tweet, she deleted it a couple of hours later, but not before a screen shot was saved by an Egyptian activist."

    Egyptian activists apparently alerted the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about Ibrahim's Twitter history. According to museum spokesman Andrew Hollinger, the director of the museum's Initiative on Holocaust Denial and State-sponsored Antisemitism, Diane Saltzman, "alerted the State Department to Samira Ibrahim's tweets" on Tuesday. In an email response to my question, Hollinger also wrote, "On March 6 (yesterday -- Wednesday), we alerted them to some of her blog postings." (Her blog postings, at least the ones I have seen, have a general anti-American tenor, but are not as inflammatory as her tweets.)

    In a follow-up email, Hollinger told me, "The Museum believed it was incumbent upon us to alert the State Department about the Tweets and posts we learned of.  It is now up to them to research and verify them and decide how to proceed."

    This is where the story gets even stranger. Tadros, in The Weekly Standard, wrote on Tuesday Wednesday -- the day after the Holocaust Museum told the State Department about Ibrahim's tweets -- that, "Just today, apparently after having been warned that her vicious tweets might cause her trouble during her visit to the U.S., she has written on twitter: 'My account has been previously stolen and any tweet on racism and hatred is not me.'" Tadros went on to write, "However, in the past she never made any mention of her account being 'stolen.' The record of her anti-Semitic tweets is still available online."

    It is entirely possible that her account was hijacked. These things happen all the time. But the tweets in question appeared over many months, and she is a regular user of Twitter. I've asked a State Department spokeswoman about this, and will report back when I hear from someone. I've also been trying to reach Ibrahim herself. The obvious question: Did the State Department look at Ibrahim's feed before it was decided to give her this award, and did the State Department ascertain that she was indeed the victim of a Twitter hijacking?

    UPDATE: Veteran State Department reporter Nicole Gaouette just tweeted, "State officials tell me they've looked at 1000s of her tweets & believe her account was hacked." Waiting for more information from State.

    UPDATE #2: The State Department has announced that it would be deferring the award until it could investigate Ibrahim's tweets. Which raises the question, why didn't anyone look at her Twitter feed before?

    "...State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday the US would hold off on awarding Ibrahim while officials investigate the tweets, which include support for attacks against US diplomatic installations and praise for a terrorist assault against Israeli citizens in Bulgaria.

    Ibrahim, who has already arrived in the US, says her account was hacked, though the comments stretch back several months....

    "We, as a department, became aware very late in the process about Samira Ibrahim's alleged public comments," Nuland told reporters. "In conversations with us in the last 24 hours, Ms. Ibrahim has categorically denied authorship. She asserts that she was hacked. But we need some time, and in order to be prudent, to conduct our own review."


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