Oren: No, it wasn’t Jews.
Goldberg: It was Jews.
Oren: It’s all about a portrait of Bibi, which was a very hard section for me to write, as you can imagine. At some point, I realized that I was going to have to portray Netanyahu. So one thing I did was talk about attitudes toward Bibi in the press, particularly among the Israeli journalists. Then I talk about American journalists. And then I talked about how I noticed something about Bibi—the way people describe Jews as “The Other,” Bibi became “The Other.”
Goldberg: Well that seemed to follow right from your Leon Wieseltier section.
Oren: It was the furthest thing from my mind. I’m Leon’s buddy, why would I want to hurt Leon? And I write about him lovingly in the book.
Goldberg: And you have these hard feelings about [New York Times columnist] Tom Friedman—
Oren: I do, I do.
Goldberg: You kind of imply that he’s some sort of disloyal Jew—
Oren: —I have deep differences with how he’s portrayed Israel and how he’s portrayed the Middle East. Deep differences. It’s not personal. I can sit with him and have a perfectly lovely conversation. After a while, I just stopped briefing him because it was not a good use of my time. I could spend an hour with him on the phone, it wasn’t going to have any impact. OK. But I also think he said some things that were very problematic, not the least of which about Jews buying seats in Congress. That’s problematic. And, you know—
Goldberg: OK, but that’s different than calling—
Oren: —I’m hard on Jews who, because they’re Jews, feel morally compelled to be harder on Israel.
Goldberg: Then there was a description of Steve Simon [a former U.S. National Security Council official] as an “apostate” Jew. It’s a heavy word, apostate. It’s one thing to say, “A guy who was Orthodox and has become secular.”
Oren: He became very secular. He became a WASP.
Goldberg: Well, you can’t become a WASP, except if you’re Ralph Lifshitz.
Oren: Steve did his best.
Goldberg: So there are these Jews in your mind who are trying to gain position in broader American society by dumping on Netanyahu when he doesn’t deserve to be dumped on.
Oren: There were many Jews who made it big in public life and didn’t dump on him. What about that?
Goldberg: This concerns me for a couple of reasons: One, we’re talking about people who are our mutual friends, and sitting in judgment of Jews like this is—
Oren: My problem is that the Jews—it’s part of the American Jewish success story—is that they’re very prominent in the media, proportionally. And in government. I don’t expect them to be pro-Israel. My issue is with the Jewish journalists who say, “I’m Jewish, therefore I have greater credibility in criticizing Israel.”
Goldberg: That’s why you bring up [Washington Post columnist] Ruth Marcus.
Oren: Yeah. And Ruth, I very much like her. But she writes a domestic column, she only writes about one other country, and that’s Israel. And that was the issue I had. I’m not expecting people who are Jewish to be more pro-Israel. I am expecting them, if they are members of the Jewish people, I expect them, as I said in the book, to be grateful that we are living in a moment which is totally unique in the history, when we have these two vastly successful, powerful Jewish communities, and we should be grateful. But that’s the whole thrust of that position—it comes down to the question of ingratitude, and what I have a problem with is Jewish journalists who say, “I’m Jewish, but I’m not those Jews.”