Jeffrey Goldberg, surely the most powerful Jewish print journalist in the country right now, wrote a vicious review in The New Republic last fall of Walt and Mearsheimer's book, The Israel Lobby that I never blogged about because I found it so unpleasant. The piece said that the two scholars were anti-semites who had purposely put themselves in the tradition of Father Coughlin and David Duke. The tone was supercilious, the name-calling was unrelenting and sophomoric. They were "tourists" in the area of Israel policy, knew nothing about Washington, on and on and on. A Nazi reference or two. And always putting himself forward as sager...
Well, we are all Keynesians now. We are all Mearsheimerites.
Today on the Times Op-Ed page, Goldberg adopted Walt and Mearsheimer's line. He said that the only thing that can save the Jewish state is the two-state solution, and the only thing that can save the two-state solution is if the stranglehold of the Israel lobby is broken.
what’s needed now is a radical rethinking of what it means to be pro-Israel. Barack Obama and John McCain... should be able to talk, in blunt terms, about the full range of dangers faced by Israel, including the danger Israel has brought upon itself.
But this won’t happen until Aipac and the leadership of the American Jewish community allow it to happen.
This is the same Goldberg who last fall said W&M were crazy to ascribe such stupendous power to the lobby. And here he states that the lobby licenses what our most powerful politicians are "able" to say. His target is "The leadership of the American Jewish community" What does that mean? Is he attacking the Jews? The same vagueness that he denounced last fall as Jewish conspiracy theory in Walt and Mearsheimer, Goldberg employs in the Times:
These Jewish leaders, who live in Chicago and New York and behind the gates of Boca Raton country clubs, loathe the idea that Mr. Olmert, or a prime minister yet elected, might one day cede the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem to the latent state of Palestine.
And he does so necessarily. For it is no easy thing to pin these Greater Israel types down. It is an easy thing to say, Aipac, but another to describe the spidering network behind Freedom's Watch with any precision.
I welcome Goldberg's new line, and his stark opposition to the lobby. It is a sign of hope for the Jewish community, a sign that the monolithic orthodoxy is splintering, as I say here so often. So why did Goldberg change? Here are my reasons:
--Israel is truly in crisis. This is, Olmert says, the last gasp for the 2-state solution. After this comes a binational state or apartheid. But Olmert needs to communicate this to American Jewry. Ergo, Goldberg.
--The lobby itself is splintering. J Street and MJ Rosenberg and Dan Fleshler and IPF have been saying in anguish for months that now is the time to push a 2-state solution and defy the lobby--well, weeks in J Street's case. Rosenberg spoke of a "seismic shift" in the Jewish leadership a few months back. Now Goldberg, the most powerful Jewish journalist and a true believer in the necessity of a Jewish state, has shifted into the anti's camp...
--Nakba commemoration has shadowed the 60th birthday stuff the way that Tibetan protesters have shadowed the Chinese Olympics, and has scared Zionists. The Nakba narrative, of ethnic cleansing and landgrab in '47-'48, has gained traction, even among progressive Jews here, because that narrative is proved on a continuing basis by Israel settlement policy, the unending landgrab and cleansing. In this piece, Goldberg is angry about the settlements, saying they have "entangled Israel unnecessarily in the lives of West Bank Palestinians..."
--The Obama Effect. Obama's example is a rebuke to all states with lousy records on minority rights. The zeitgeist is about to change, and make Israel look very very yesterday.
--Walt and Mearsheimer really have changed the discussion. I say that the MSM has tried to marginalize them. And it has. But it hasn't succeeded. Influential people have read the book, many of them surreptitiously, and it has given permission to criticize Israel. There has been a great awakening, for which W&M deserve credit. They paved the way for Daniel Kurtzer, who is Obama's adviser, and Aaron David Miller to write books showing that Nothing is going to happen in Israel till the power of the Israel lobby is stanched.
Not that Goldberg will give W&M credit. No, he spent last fall smearing them. So even here he must distance himself from W&M, saying they were wrong to say that the lobby is not in America's best interest--it is not in Israel's best interest! This is misrepresentation. One of W&M's big themes is that the lobby doesn't act in Israel's best interest. They say so in the introduction of their book, on two or three occasions in the text, and here in the LA Times, a piece on "Israel's False Friends" in which they argue that the presidential candidates "see a significant political payoff in backing Israel to the hilt, even
when it is pursuing a policy -- colonizing the West Bank -- that is
morally and strategically bankrupt." W&M like Israel and are for a 2-state solution. They are Goldberg's natural allies; Goldberg needs them.