Jeffrey Goldberg

Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. Author of the book Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, Goldberg also writes the magazine's advice column. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. Previously, he served as 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.

His 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. Goldberg rthe recipient of the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism. 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. He is also the recipient of 2005's Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize.

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.

  • Questions and Challenges for Obama on Foreign Policy

    Here are a few of the questions the president should have to answer tonight.

    Here are a few of the questions I'd like to see President Obama asked in tonight's debate (from my Bloomberg View column; I'll post some questions for Romney later):

    The U.S. successfully contained the Soviet Union, which possessed a nuclear arsenal sufficient to kill all U.S. citizens. A nuclear Iran would not have that capacity. Why have you ruled out containment and threatened to use military force to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon?

    Neither the Israeli prime minister nor the Palestinian president trusts you to be an effective broker in what is now a comatose Middle East peace process. How did this come to pass?

    Why have you not visited Israel once in four years as president?

    Why do you spend so little time building friendships with foreign leaders, especially leaders of allied countries?

    You've promised to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by 2014. What would you do if U.S. intelligence informed you at the end of 2014 that the Taliban was poised to capture Kabul and once again assert control over most of Afghanistan?

    Drone strikes you've ordered against targets in Pakistan have killed, by some estimates, several hundred innocent civilians, including many children. Is this a moral strategy to defeat terrorists?

    I would also point you to this essay by Walter Russell Mead on what he calls "The Great Extrication," the effort by the president to lower America's profile, and reduce its responsibilities, in the Middle East. It ain't easy, as Walter notes (and as I noted in this essay a couple of weeks ago):

    The first problem, and it is a big one, is that the Great Extrication doesn't seem to be working. Part of this is Iran; getting a nuclear deal with the mullahs has always been critical to Obama's grand design, but the mullahs so far have been unresponsive. Vital allies in the region and beyond are terrified by Iran's nuclear ambitions. In order to gain time for his diplomatic strategy to work, President Obama has had to issue an increasingly unambiguous commitments to take military action against Iran's nuclear drive if the Iranians don't negotiate an agreement. As the clock runs down, the likelihood of yet another major Middle Eastern conflict involving American forces looms much larger; it is hard to base your policy on withdrawing from a region in which you seem increasingly committed to a dangerous and unpredictable war.

    Beyond that, the assassination of Osama bin Laden is looking less like VQ Day (Victory over al-Qaeda) as time goes by. The brand survived the founder, and while the specific organizational apparatus around the man who inspired the 9/11 attacks has been severely degraded, the collection of loosely organized affiliates and copy-cats who embrace the al-Qaeda name and at least some of its ambitions and tactics is a growing not a shrinking concern. The murder of the four Americans in Benghazi poses a political problem for the administration partly because it undercuts the idea that al-Qaeda, as former Vice President Cheney might have put it, is in its death throes and ironically, the death of bin Laden set the stage for a return to the global war on terror approach the administration hoped to bury.

    It is far from clear that the President's planned withdrawal from Afghanistan will pass off without serious problems, and it is abundantly clear that the strategy of reconciling the Islamic world to the United States by pressuring the Israelis to make major concessions to the Palestinians blew up in the President's face.

    But there's more. The Arab Spring has sucked the Obama administration back into the quagmires it was hoping to leave. In Libya, the administration launched its own war for regime change; the chaotic and bloody international mess that resulted--clearly never envisioned by the White House idealists who with Rumsfeldian confidence thought taking Qaddafi out would be a consequence-free "cakewalk"--has once again put the United States in the position of nation building in an anarchic and violent Arab land.
  • Did Joe Biden Just Go Soft on Iran?

    In his debate with Paul Ryan, the Vice President seemed nonchalant about the challenges posed by Iran's nuclear program.

    In my Bloomberg View column, I made the observation that Barack Obama's foreign policy record is far from flawless. On Syria, he is AWOL; he has helped create a situation in which both the Palestinian leader and the Israeli leader don't trust him, and so on. On Iran, of course, I think he's been generally stalwart, but I took note of the fact that Joe Biden, in his debate with Paul Ryan, seemed very nonchalant about the challenges posed by Iran's nuclear program. Here's an excerpt:

    "Biden attempted to portray Representative Paul Ryan as a hysteric on the subject, even though Ryan's seriousness on Iran matches the president's.

    In so doing, Biden downplayed the importance of confronting Iran. Biden said that when Ryan "talks about fissile material, they have to take this highly enriched uranium, get it from 20 percent up. Then they have to be able to have something to put it in. There is no weapon that the Iranians have at this point. Both the Israelis and we know -- we'll know if they start the process of building a weapon. So all this bluster I keep hearing, all this loose talk -- what are they talking about?"

    Biden's statement represents a mostly unnoticed, but dramatic, deviation from the administration's line on Iran. It was also technically inaccurate.

    A country must do three things to have a deliverable nuclear weapon: Enrich uranium; design and make a warhead; and build a delivery system. The Iranians are already enriching uranium, and are moving their centrifuges underground. They already have ballistic missiles. They could design and manufacture a warhead in as little as six months.

    "Biden made it sound as if we shouldn't worry, we have tons of time," David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security, told me. He said weapons manufacturing can also be done more surreptitiously than uranium enrichment. "You only need a very small facility," Albright said. "It poses a greater challenge for intelligence gathering."

    In response to this column, Zack Beauchamp, writing on the Think Progress security blog, writes:

    Goldberg worries the United States, Israel, and other allies would not be able to track Iran's progress in enriching uranium to the purity needed for a nuclear weapon and quotes non proliferation expert David Albright saying, "You only need a very small facility [to make weapons]. It poses a greater challenge for intelligence gathering." But a recent report, which Albright coauthored, highlights the difficulty for Iran to "breakout" and enrich to 90 percent levels for weapons without getting caught, and so it wouldn't in the near term:

    Although Iran's breakout times are shortening, an Iranian breakout in the next year could not escape detection by the IAEA or the United States. Furthermore, the United States and its allies maintain the ability to respond forcefully to any Iranian decision to break out. During the next year or so, breakout times at Natanz and Fordow appear long enough to make an Iranian decision to break out risky. Therefore, ISIS assesses that Iran is unlikely to break out at Natanz or at Fordow in the near term, barring unforeseen developments such as a pre-emptive military strike.
    International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors also routinely inspect Iran's nuclear facilities, which would make it very hard for Iran to leap towards a bomb without getting caught red-handed -- a key point which was highlighted at a recent CAP event on U.S.-Israeli cooperation on Iran.

    Beauchamp inaccurately describes my complaint about Biden's statement. Biden was talking specifically about warhead design and manufacture, which can easily be done in secret. He wasn't talking about the enrichment process. And neither was I. The enrichment process is becoming truncated, but nuclear break-out would still be noticed (unless it was being done in a facility not yet discovered by inspectors or by Western intelligence agencies). My worry is that the Iranians get all the other components of a nuclear weapons program in place -- a working warhead, a reliable delivery system -- and only then move to 90 percent enrichment of uranium. There would still be time for a strike, unless, of course, the West decides that it needs more time to contemplate a strike..

  • The Benghazi Embarrassment

    The embarrassment of the attack on the consulate in Benghazi is not that it happened. It's that our political culture makes it impossible to have an adult conversation about it.

    The embarrassment of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi is not that it happened. America has its victories against terrorism, and its defeats, and the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three American security personnel represents one defeat in a long war. The embarrassment is that political culture in America is such that we can't have an adult conversation about the lessons of Benghazi, a conversation that would focus more on understanding al Qaeda affiliates in North Africa, on the limitations and imperfections of security, and on shortfalls in our intelligence gathering, than on who said what when in the Rose Garden.

    What we've got now is a discussion about who needs to be fired, and which candidate is in a better position to score cheap points. Does Mitt Romney actually think that Barack Obama doesn't believe that what happened in Benghazi was an act of terror? A larger question: Does anyone seriously believe that Barack Obama, a president who is at war in more Muslim countries than any president in American history, is soft on al Qaeda? And one other question: Does Barack Obama believe that Republicans somehow aren't allowed to raise serious questions about the Administration's response to the attack? Again, I wish the Republicans would frame these questions not to raise doubts about the commander-in-chief's innermost feelings about terrorism, but to ask what specific actions do we need to take, quickly, to try to prevent follow-on attacks? Whatever happened to that whole notion of politics stopping at the water's edge?

    Four quick points:


    1) Because the conversation around Benghazi is so stupid, we're going to end up with more mindless CYA security "improvements" that will imprison American diplomats in their fortress compounds even more than they are already imprisoned.
     
    2) It would be good if at least some of the blame for the assassination of Chris Stevens was apportioned to his assassins. Both candidates would do us a service if they would re-focus the debate on ways to defeat Islamist terrorism.

    3) Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can both take the blame, or the responsibility, for this attack if they want, but the truth, quite obviously, is that neither one of them is in charge of assessing the security needs of individual American embassies and consulates. The job of leaders is to hire well, supervise their hires to the degree possible, and then, if something goes wrong, spend the time and energy to figure out how to fix the problem. It is unrealistic to believe that either leader could have known about what is ultimately a small problem in a large war. We should spend more time judging them on how they respond to defeats then on blaming them for the defeats. (By the way, I would hold George W. Bush to the same standard re:  9/11, and Bill Clinton to the same standard when it came to his Administration's unsuccessful efforts to stop the spread of al Qaeda in the late 1990s.)

    4) As Blake Hounshell put it, "Amb. Chris Stevens was a big boy and he made his own decision to go to Benghazi despite the risks. If he thought it was too dangerous, he should not have gone." We've lost thousands of American government employees over the past 10 years in the Middle East and in Afghanistan. Nearly all of them were in uniform, but Foreign Service officers know the risks as well. We need to treat the loss of these four men in Libya as a battlefield loss. That would require people such as Darrell Issa, who chaired a House Oversight committee hearing on the Benghazi attacks, from saying foolish things, like he did the other day. I wrote about this in my Bloomberg View column:
    What Republicans shouldn't do is make statements like the one Issa made on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Oct. 14. Issa argued that if security officials had repeatedly requested reinforcements for U.S. diplomatic outposts in Libya "and that's not being heard, then it isn't just Ambassador Stevens who is now dead -- it's everybody who works throughout the Middle East is at risk."

    Eleven years after the Sept. 11 attacks, and 12 years after the fatal raid on the USS Cole in Yemen, and Issa has just realized that assignment to the Middle East might pose risks for American government personnel!

    Here's the problem with Issa's stunning insight: In his desire to cast the administration as incompetent, he does an enormous disservice to the cause of forward-leaning diplomacy and engagement. American embassies are already fortresses. Issa would dig a moat around them. After a point, there's simply no reason to dispatch diplomats to hostile capitals if they can't engage with actual citizens. Risk is inherent for U.S. diplomats posted to the Middle East.
  • So Who Exactly Is the Archetypal Long Island Voter?

    Talking to Chuck Schumer about the Baileys

    I had completely forgotten about a 2007 piece I wrote for Talk of the Town about Chuck Schumer until Dylan Byers at Politico kindly resurrected it in advance of tonight's debate at Hofstra, on Long Island. For the piece, I took Schumer to the dumpy Chinese restaurant on Capitol Hill he prefers, and it was there that he told me about his imaginary friends, the Baileys, who, to his mind, are the perfect expression of Long Island middle-classness:

    Schumer says that he is accompanied everywhere he goes by two imaginary middle-class friends, who advise him on all manner of middle-class concerns. Their names, until recently, were Joe and Eileen O'Reilly. "For the book's sake, we wanted them to be more national," Schumer said, "so they became the Baileys." The Baileys live in Massapequa, in Nassau County, a town that is invariably known on Long Island as "Matzoh-Pizza."

    The Baileys are both forty-five years old: Joe works for an insurance company, Eileen is a part-time employee at a doctor's office. They worry about terrorism, and about values, and they are patriots--"Joe takes off his cap and sings along with the national anthem before the occasional Islanders game," Schumer wrote. He elaborated, "They're not ideologues. They're worried about property taxes. It's the tax they hate. And that's what Democrats don't get." He has also drafted the Baileys in defending the C.I.A.'s human-intelligence program: "Had Joe and Eileen been in the room after the hum-int screwup, they would not have indulged in the blame game, gutted the human-intelligence program, or weakened America."

    The Baileys, Schumer said, sometimes dine out--not often, because of the cost--and they like Chinese. Which raised the question: What would the Baileys eat, if they were here at Hunan Dynasty? "The more conventional stuff," Schumer said, "but they're with it."

    They're with it?

    "I mean, they're not not with it." Schumer looked at a plate of steamed chicken and vegetables, and said, "They wouldn't order that. They would order kung pao chicken."
    It was suggested to Schumer that he is a little bit weird. He acknowledged this to be true. "They're real for me," he said. "I love the Baileys."
  • Fidel Castro: I Was Wrong to Tell Khrushchev to Obliterate the U.S.

    This week marks the 50th anniversary of Cuban Missile Crisis, during which humankind almost murdered itself, and I will be posting more on this subject later, in particular on lessons that might be derived from the crisis that would help us understand a way out of the current nuclear crisis, between the West and Iran. I interviewed Fidel Castro on this subject in Havana a couple of years ago, and I thought I would re-post his answer to the most important question I could think to ask:

    We returned repeatedly in this first conversation to Castro's fear that a confrontation between the West and Iran could escalate into a nuclear conflict. "The Iranian capacity to inflict damage is not appreciated," he said. "Men think they can control themselves but Obama could overreact and a gradual escalation could become a nuclear war." I asked him if this fear was informed by his own experiences during the 1962 missile crisis, when the Soviet Union and the U.S. nearly went to war other over the presence of nuclear-tipped missiles in Cuba (missiles installed at the invitation, of course, of Fidel Castro). I mentioned to Castro the letter he wrote to Khruschev, the Soviet premier, at the height of the crisis, in which he recommended that the Soviets consider launching a nuclear strike against the U.S. if the Americans attack Cuba. "That would be the time to think about liquidating such a danger forever through a legal right of self-defense," Castro wrote at the time.

    I asked him, "At a certain point it seemed logical for you to recommend that the Soviets bomb the U.S. Does what you recommended still seem logical now?" He answered: "After I've seen what I've seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn't worth it all."

    Read the full story here.

  • Utterly Charming News About the Continued Non-Death of Yiddish

    Delightful evidence of the language's endurance.

    Really, just delightful:

    "Yiddish intrigues me with its majesty and its enigmatic, refined musical tone. I have no explanation for the fact that I have always felt a connection to this language."

    Contrary to what you might expect, the speaker of these lines is not a Polish poet or German philosopher. He is Yusuf Alakili, 50, from Kfar Kassem, currently investing much effort in his studies for a Master's degree in literature at Bar Ilan University's Hebrew. Alakili studies Yiddish on the side for his own enjoyment.

    How did this affair start? "In the 1980s, I worked with a Jew of Polish origin who lived in Bnei Brak, and Yiddish was the main language there. I was captivated by its musical tone and decided to study it in earnest. My dream is to read Sholom Aleichem's Tevye the Dairyman [the inspiration for Fiddler on the Roof] in its original language."

  • An Open Letter to Sarah Silverman

    This is the best thing I've read in two hours.

    This is the best thing I've read in two hours:

    Your name is Silverman. My name is Rosenblatt. We both have Jewish ancestors; I am not sure what else we share. You are good at what you do - comedy - and I try to be good at what I do - being a husband, dad, rabbi, and manufacturer of kosher meat. My wife and I are blessed with six children and my day is spent earning for the brood.

    Read on.

    UPDATE: To those lunkheads who have written me about this in the past three hours -- I don't actually agree with this rabbi. It's called sarcastic posting.

    UPDATE UPDATE: Sarah Silverman's father apparently doesn't like it when fundamentalists go after his daughter. Here is one his comments:

    Hey asshole: Daughter #1 is a rabbi. Not by your standards. She's reform. How dare she, a lowly woman think god wants her to be a rabbi, created from a mere rib. Her hubby, three times nominated for a nobel peace prize was listed by the Jerusalem Post as the 49th most influential jew in the world built the worlds largest solar field in israel. By the way, Sarah was also on the list. I missed your name. Oldest granddaughter is serving in the Israel Defense Forces. I'm sure you also served.Oh I forgot the orthodox don't do that. You don't fuck with my family.
  • A Cairo Riot

    Total anarchy breaks out in front of the Egyptian Museum.

    Two things about the riot video below struck me. The first is the presence of the Egypt Museum in the background. The museum, which is probably my favorite on earth, is the repository of a great civilization. And look what happens on the streets around it. The second is the total absence of any police or security. These are scenes of total anarchy. One main worry about the future of Egypt is that every day of continued instability means another day when the economy can't lift itself out of its hole.

     :

  • Unbelievable

    This is what it must be like to be a Cubs fan.

    I have no words for the Nationals' meltdown. This is what it must be like to be a Cubs fan.

    On the other hand, the Nats had a much better season than anyone could have imagined.

    Shabbat shalom.

  • Winners and Losers of 10/11/12 (Special Jayson Werth Edition)

    Biden, Bibi, the entire continent of Europe, and more

    Winners:
    1) Joe Biden. Political polarization means you either adore Joe Biden or you find him unbearably grating, my colleague Gabriel Snyder just noted to me. I think this is generally true, but in my case, I actually find Biden both grating and adorable, at the same time. Maybe last night he was more grating than usual, but he certainly has filled my more partisan Democratic friends with a kind of provisional joy (unadulterated joy comes, if it comes, after the Hofstra debate next week).

    2) Paul Ryan. Ryan held his own against the histrionic and condescending Biden, and I thought he was more fluent on foreign policy matter than I expected him to be, given that this is not his area. I thought the Iran discussion was muddled and disconcerting (because Biden was going soft -- at least that's what it seemed like to me -- while Ryan's "tough" position simply mimicked President Obama's tough position on Iranian nuclearization.

    3) Bibi Netanyahu. All across the globe, 200 foreign leaders are asking their advisers, "How can we get mentioned in an American presidential debate the way Bibi gets mentioned?" It is remarkable, these two men fighting over who agrees with Bibi more, and who knows him better.

    4) Martha Raddatz. She's being compared, of course, to a guy who slept through the last debate, but she did a fine job even when compared to some Platonic ideal of moderation.

    5) Foreign policy wonks. Thanks, in part, to Raddatz, we got more foreign policy in this debate than we otherwise would have, which is a good thing, because this is what presidents, and what the sitting vice president, do much of the time.

    6) Jayson Werth. The Nationals-Cardinals game last night have been the greatest baseball game I ever attended. The feeling in the crowd when Werth capped off his already mythical at-bat with that line-drive homer was something I won't forget, and the junior Goldblog who accompanied me to Nats Stadium will remember this game, thanks to Werth, his whole life.

    7) Europe, for getting the Nobel Peace Prize because it gave up genocide, or something.

    Losers:
    1) Lance Lynn, who gave Werth the perfect pitch.

    2) The "ayatollahs," as Ryan referred to them. They can't seem to catch a break, can they? 

  • What Netanyahu Has Cost Israel

    How the prime minister has blown it on one of the existential issues facing his country.

    Ari Shavit argues that Netanyahu has done important work focusing the world's attention on the danger of a nuclear Iran. But on other key issues -- including the other existential issue, the two-state solution, he has blown it:

    Netanyahu's government failed to deal with Israel's basic problems. It did not take advantage of the peaceful years in the West Bank to make progress dividing the land. It did not leverage the broad unity government to change the system of government and regulate relations with the ultra-Orthodox. It did not rebuild the state apparatus or give the people a sense of solidarity and hope. It ground Israel's international legitimacy and internal enlightenment to dust. Netanyahu's government wasted three and a half precious years on maneuvers, survival and foot-dragging without progressing toward some better future.

    But Shavit turns around and asks, why has the Israeli center-left been so utterly ineffective in offering a counter-vision to Netanyahu's. Read the whole thing.

  • Big News About the Libya Attack

    Susan Rice got one very important fact wrong during her appearance on Meet the Press after the Benghazi attack.

    So when Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, went on Meet the Press last month and announced that the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi came under cover of a spontaneous demonstration against an offensive video about the Prophet Muhammad, she was right except for the part about there being a demonstration at all. This is what Rice told David Gregory:

    (O)ur current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of-- of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video.  What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding.  They came with heavy weapons which unfortunately are readily available in post revolutionary Libya.  And it escalated into a much more violent episode.

    This is what Jonathan Karl is reporting tonight:

  • One Specific Step Romney Could Take on Middle East Peace

    He could hold an honest conversation, as a friend, with the prime minister of Israel about the demographic, security and moral consequences of continued settlement and occupation of the West Bank.

    In his foreign policy speech today, Mitt Romney is planning on saying the following:

     I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel.  On this vital issue, the President has failed, and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew. ... I believe that if America does not lead, others will--others who do not share our interests and our values--and the world will grow darker, for our friends and for us."

    One thing Romney could do as president to help secure Israel as a Jewish state is to have an honest conversation, as a friend, with the prime minister of Israel about the demographic, security and moral consequences of continued settlement and occupation of the West Bank. I can understand why he might not want to announce such a plan a month before the election, but a president who is trusted by the prime minister would be in a great position to have this very hard talk. The talk would open with the following question: "So, Bibi, what's the plan? How are you going to maintain Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy if you're permanently controlling the lives of millions of Palestinians who don't want to be under your control?"

    This would be a helpful conversation to have.

  • The Flashpoint of the World

    The Temple Mount in Jerusalem, perhaps the most contested piece of real estate on the planet, is once again becoming the scene of violent struggle

    I've been working on a long project, so my apologies for the light posting. I wasn't planning on posting at all today, but I thought I could not let pass without comment the fact that the world is about to blow up. The Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the most contested piece of real estate on the planet at the moment, is once again becoming the scene of violent struggle, between Muslims who believe the Mount is solely their possession, and religious Jews who believe they should, at the very least, have a right to pray atop the Mount, which is Judaism's holiest site. This week, a tour of the Mount by the group calling itself the Temple Mount Faithful has once again caused well-meaning Muslims to fear that Jewish extremists are trying to supplant them, and has caused cynical Palestinian leaders to exploit religious sentiment by encouraging these fears.

    Extremist Jewish groups and individuals are pushing for a change in the religious status quo on the Mount. For many years after the Six Day War, religious custom, and the warnings of rabbis, kept Jews off the Mount (the general belief is that walking atop the Mount risks treading on the spot over the Temple's Holy of Holies), but messianic feeling has infected a portion of the religious Jewish population, which would like to see the Third Temple rise on the site. The Goldblog on this issue is simple: Jews, of course, have a right to pray atop their holiest site, but exercising that right in an explosive atmosphere is foolish and counterproductive, and the Israeli government needs to do all it can do to preserve the status quo. I will preempt angry letters by acknowledging that this is not fair -- that if the Palestinian leadership, and the broader Muslim leadership, would simply recognize that Jews have a deep connection to the Mount, much of this fever would dissipate, on both sides. But we also have to deal with the reality we are in, and we also have to face the unfortunate fact that exercising this "right" in the current political and theological atmosphere could get people -- Jews and Muslims -- killed.

    I've been worried for years about the chance that a single extremist could ignite this conflict by trying to speed the arrival of the Messiah by vandalizing the shrine or the mosque atop the Mount, or otherwise upsetting the status quo. Today, the extremists are seeing their theology slowly mainstreamed. This is a big problem. 

  • Through the Blasphemy Looking Glass

    Hussein Ibish on the push for new regulation by a number of Muslim potentates

    Hussein Ibish writes with rising disbelief about the push for anti-blasphemy regulation by a number of Muslim potentates:

    Amazingly, there has been virtually no pushback or reaction to remarks by the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in his recent U.N. speech, which sought to place the blame for the violence entirely at the feet of the authors of the video and implicitly exonerated the rioters and extremist organizations behind them for the deaths for which they were directly responsible. He alleged that "freedom should not cross reasonable limits and become a tool to hurt and insult the dignity of others and of religions and faiths and sacred beliefs as we have seen lately, which regrettably led to the killing of innocent people who have not committed any crime."

    This is a perfect window into the through-the-looking-glass world of blasphemy-ban advocates. In this reality, those who engage in offensive speech (and there's no question that the video is patently Islamophobic and hateful) bear the full responsibility if others cynically exploit their intentional, calculated provocations for their own political and social purposes. If people are killed, that's the fault of the provocateurs, not the killers. These statements implicitly absolve extremist and violent reactions to provocative speech and suggest that the proper response is not to denounce and yet still protect offensive expression, but to suppress it in order to prevent a violent reaction.

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