Me and Andrew, Down by the Schoolyard

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Andrew writes something here about our tumultuous relationship that is very true:

We're colleagues and friends but we fight hard intellectually. This can be a rough game at times, and sometimes an elbow can need stitches in one's lip. But I do think I can say one thing we agree on very very clearly that is sometimes obscured in our jockeying over how to deal with Iran.

There is no daylight between us on the foul, deeply dangerous and disgusting regime in Tehran. I don't need to document this. Many of you will remember our coverage of the Green Revolution. We covered it that way not because we wanted to gain more readers, or traffic or kudos - but because we cared passionately about the Iranian people, their astonishing dignity and endurance, their vitality and culture, their right to be free of these thugs and torturers who oppress them. I know Jeffrey feels exactly the same way.

The reason he knows this is because we actually are friends, which makes these arguments -- in which I think he misrepresents my arguments, and he thinks I misrepresent his arguments -- very painful. It will come as no surprise that I think Andrew's stunning conversion on the Middle East (this Jon Chait piece explains the conversion best) is leading him to some very dark conclusions, and into some ad hoc intellectual alliances with some very bad people. He thinks that I support an attack on Iran (which I don't) and that I fake left on Netanyahu but actually move right, which I also don't think I do, but that's open to interpretation. I've stated my positions on such issues as settlements pretty plainly over the years, but I've also come to the conclusion that the Obama Administration got the sequencing wrong in its Middle East strategy, a conclusion Andrew has quite obviously not reached.

But let's not go down that rabbit-hole now. If I'm most upset that Andrew refuses to interpret these Wikileaks documents with intellectual rigor (simultaneously accusing me of engaging in "preposterous" analysis), he's most upset with me for accusing him of singling out Jews ("neocons," "Likudniks," "Aipac" are his preferred terms, and no, Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney are not neocons), accusing them of trying to instigate what he sensationalistically predicts will be World War III. I believe that he grossly oversimplifies the reasons various people -- Jews and non-Jews -- are so frightened by Iran, and I think he spends an inordinate amount of time dallying with certain unpleasant tropes about the "Jewish lobby" and its aims. And one more thing -- I think he's sometimes not aware of the power of his words, or the power of his anger, or the ways in which his angry words make many Jews (I hear from them, believe me) think that he's singling out Israel and its friends for special excoriation. I'm fully open to the idea that my close reading of Jewish history has made me especially sensitive to certain tropes -- whether deployed in a premeditatively malicious way or not. I would just like Andrew to realize that the Jews, and their friends, who see his words as hyper-aggressive and unfair may not be reading him inaccurately.

And he does, by the way, write thoughtful sentences, like these:

I want to see Ahmadi in jail for crimes against humanity. I want to see Netanyahu as the prime minister of a secure Israel, side by side with the most promising prospect for Arab democracy in the region - something that would do more to isolate Hamas and Tehran than any sanctions and any sabre-rattling..

And one last thing: I also believe that he still passes the Anne Frank test.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/12/me-and-andrew-down-by-the-schoolyard/67312/