Jeffrey Goldberg has a great interview with Joe Klein on his blog, remarkable for a few things. First you see Klein unbound. He's really smart. He stands by his criticism of Jewish neocons as having dual loyalties and then sounds the realist when he says that Iran is seeking nukes as a deterrent against western threats:
[M]y reading on the nuclear issue is, given the level of threats that they've been getting from the United States, and from Israel, it's a logical thing for Iran to want nuclear weapons as a deterrent. I don't think they'd ever actually use it. First of all, they don't actually have it, but if they did have it, they'd contaminate at the very least the third most holy site in Islam, and they'd kill a hell of a lot of Muslims.
Brilliant. Klein also opens up the essential conversation that I have been calling for for years, for non-neocon Jews to dime out the neocons' religious agenda in the Middle East.
JG: You seem very angry at people who you specifically identify as Jewish neocons. And you're using the word "Jewish" in ways that we haven't seen Jewish reporters and Jewish columnists use.
JK: It's about time. I think everyone else is too afraid to do it. Let me just make something very clear that you already know about me. I am a strong supporter of Israel. I think Israel had a perfect right in 2002 to go into the West Bank and kick the shit out of those people who were making suicide bombs. I think if they wanted to now go into Gaza and take out the people who were hitting Sderot, they would have a perfect right to do that. I am not a Walt-Mearsheimer guy. I think Jews have a perfect right to have a lobby. I do believe that there is a group of people who got involved and had a disproportionate influence on U.S. foreign policy. There were people out there in the Jewish community who saw this as a way to create a benign domino theory and eliminate all of Israel's enemies.
JG: Is that such a bad idea if it would work?
JK: But I think it is a bad idea and I think it wouldn't work. I think it represents a really dangerous anachronistic neocolonial sensibility. And I think it is a very, very dangerous form of extremism. I think it's bad for Israel and it's bad for America. And these guys have been getting a free ride. And now these people are backing the notion of a war with Iran and not all of them, but some of them, are doing it because they believe that Iran is an existential threat to Israel.
Fabulous. Klein's kicker is that rightwing Jewish networks "seem to have the power
to hurt people's careers" in their effort to stifle criticism of Israel.
A few things should be said about this dialogue. It's extremely revealing of the level of Zionism in the mainstream press. Here's Goldberg saying that it's a good thing for the U.S. to set up a benign domino theory to knock off Israel's enemies--a line you may have missed in Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech. Klein in turn proffers his bona fides as a Zionist; he says he supported the invasion of the West Bank in 2002, with all the destruction of homes and innocents, etc. He indicates that his parents are Zionist too. And neither man says a word about the fact that Goldberg actually moved there and served in the Israeli army in the conviction that Jews are unsafe in the west. The inevitable question here is, Do these guys feel they have a right to talk about Jewish neocons because they have good Zionist credentials? What about the people to the left of Klein, non-Zionists who disapprove entirely of the Israeli occupation? What's their place in the U.S. discourse?
And what about non-Jews? In criticizing Klein for injecting religion into the argument by attacking Jewish neoconservative policymakers, notice how Goldberg injects religion himself, when he says that no Jewish reporter or columnist has said this. As if to say, We expect this talk from the goyim, but in Jewish media workers it is not pardonable. And instead of dismissing the distinction, Klein plays along with it by assuring Goldberg, I'm not a Walt and Mearsheimer man, I think the Jews have a perfect right to have a lobby. (As if Walt and Mearsheimer said that. They didn't; they said just what Klein said, that anyone who likes Israel has a right to a lobby their heart out.) I must say that both Goldberg and Klein have gone out of their way lately to take public swipes at Walt and Mearsheimer, and this is because it is increasingly difficult today to distinguish their own positions, as Zionists who are critical of the lobby, from Walt and Mearsheimer's position. Jeffrey Goldberg's critique of the lobby's actions re the West Bank is virtually indistinguishable from Walt and Mearsheimer's. And Klein's assertion that Jewish neocons fomented the Iraq war is also virtually indistinguishable from Walt and Mearsheimer's argument about Iraq. The only difference I can see is that Klein just knew it to be true and was lying in the high grass as they took arrows for two years. And now we have Klein saying the same goddamn thing re Iran and nukes as Mearsheimer. (As does Fareed Zakaria; the realist center grows by the day.)
What seems to make Klein not "a Walt and Mearsheimer man" is the religious issue that pervades the interview. He's Jewish, they're not. Nah Nah! Klein and Goldberg happily play their Jewish cards in this interview. But what if you're not Jewish and don't care for Israel? Or you're an Arabist, or you're a Jewish non-Zionist? Well, you're not really invited to have an opinion that will be taken seriously. Imagine if only Christian evangelicals got to call the evangelicals out on their political agendas! We'd be nowhere today on gay marriage or abortion rights.
Still it's a good interview. You see Klein's mind moving freely on important questions: Jewishness in foreign policy, in neoconservatism, and Zionism as a force in media life. More light, as Goethe said.
Though Goldberg's wrong when he says that Klein is the first Jewish reporter or columnist to say such things. Jim Lobe has been an intellectual leader. Glenn Greenwald has done some very good work, so has John Judis in TNR (an entry that remains inaccessible at TNR but available at the Carnegie site). So has Eric Alterman. Jews Jews Jews. I have called the neocons out for dual loyalty for years, and Zionists at the Observer wanted the blog gone. I think I'm still Jewish.
So, let the soul-searching about the neocons' religious agenda continue. But on this democratic condition: You don't have to be Jewish to join in.
(Thanks to Brad Greenberg for the heads up. And to Ed Miles.)