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.

  • 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."
  • An Israeli Denial on the Bus Route Controversy

    A statement from a spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington.

    Aaron Sagui, the spokesman at the Israeli embassy in Washington, e-mailed me this response to my previous blog post:

    Right now, Palestinians wishing to cross legally into Israel (with a working permit) have no direct line to the border crossing. So they either take unauthorized taxis (at expensive fares, since the service is uncontrolled by transportation authorities), or they have to walk or travel to an Israeli city or village (Ariel, for instance) and there take a bus into Israel. The relevant bus company opened two lines that will serve Palestinians, going from their place of residence into Israel, saving them the trouble of going to Ariel first, or taking those taxis. The bus company made it clear, in an official announcement, that no Palestinian shall be shunned or rejected if they choose to travel on the Ariel line.


  • Why the New Palestinian-Only Bus Lines Are Not a Big Deal

    These bus lines are an embarrassment to Israel, but their establishment isn't significant beyond their obvious symbolism.

    Israeli authorities on the West Bank have established a pair of "Palestinian only" bus routes, meant to take Arab residents of the West Bank to their jobs in Israel. The Israelis say this was done for reasons of efficiency -- more and more Palestinians are working in Israel, and their communities are currently ill-served by existing bus lines. Critics say that the lines were established because Jewish settlers who live in neighboring communities don't want to ride buses with Palestinians. Both arguments are probably true.

    These bus lines are, of course, an embarrassment to Israel, but I do not think their establishment is significant beyond their obvious symbolism. Why? Because they represent only one symptom of the real problem, which is that Israel cannot not, and should not, maintain two separate systems -- separate-but-equal, or separate-but-unequal -- for Jewish residents of the West Bank, and Arab residents of the West Bank.

    The actual issue is this: Jewish residents of Hebron, to take a vivid example, are Israeli citizens, and they have the franchise -- they are full citizens of the state that governs their lives. Their Palestinian neighbors -- quite literally neighbors, in the case of Hebron, because  Arabs and Jews there sometimes live within 10 or 15 feet of each other -- fall under a different set of rules. Though the Palestinians in the West Bank have varying degrees of self-government, their lives are still controlled in many ways -- their freedom of movement, most obviously -- by a government that they do not get to choose. This is the confounding dilemma created by the movement of Jewish settlers into the West Bank, and the refusal of Israel to extend voting rights to the Palestinians it inherited after the Six-Day War.

    Remember, the occupation itself was originally justifiable: Jordanian forces fired on Israel from the West Bank, and Israel subsequently took the territory from which it was being assaulted. It was when some Israelis succumbed to messianic temptation and moved to the West Bank, with the help of successive Israeli governments, that the true problem began.

    Israel faces only two choices here: It can offer citizenship to the Palestinians whose lives are affected by its decisions, or it can negotiate an end to settlement, especially the far-flung settlements that project deeply into the West Bank, and then work toward the creation of a Palestinian state. Will Jews be allowed to live and pray in that Palestinian state? I certainly hope so; it would be a crime to deny Jews access to their holy sites. Hebron is Judaism's 2nd-holiest city, Jews lived there for millenia until they were massacred by some of their Arab neighbors (other Arabs played a role in the rescue of the remnant of the Jewish community) and Jews quite obviously have a right to live in all parts of their historic homeland.

    That said, the Jewish state cannot maintain a double-standard in these areas, because it is also a crime to deny people full enfranchisement based on their ethnicity. Most Israelis want to maintain their country as a Jewish state, and as a Jewish haven. Jews, because they are an ancient people, and because they have suffered at the hands of Christians and Muslims for centuries, have earned the right to independence. Having finally earned the privilege of Jewish autonomy, Israelis do not want to become citizens of the world's 23rd Arab-majority state. But eventually, if the Palestinians of the West Bank aren't freed from Israeli domination, that is what they will become.

  • 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: 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.


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