US gov’t official: Israelis ignore everyone in the US except Tom Friedman and Jeffrey Goldberg

Israel/Palestine
on 47 Comments

Just had a Jerusalem meeting with a US government official. Inevitably, as our group is a delegation from Churches for Middle East Peace, someone asks, “What can we do back home to most effectively advance the peace process?”  To persuade Israel of the desirability of the two state solution? This time the question came after we had been given a sophisticated analysis of Palestinian prime minister Fayyad’s state-building actions, an acute explanation of how narrow his window was, and a well  informed explanation of how the Palestinians have done more or less everything anyone could reasonably  ask to make themselves “state-worthy”.   

So how to push Israel to precipice of saying, well, yes, we actually  have a partner, we don’t want to be an occupying power, let’s go for it?

The answer would be laughable if the official wasn’t extremely well informed, and if Akiva Eldar hadn’t responded pretty much the same way to the same question two days ago.

Try to influence prominent centrist American Jews, ones with strong Zionist credentials, Eldar had said,  Israel listens to them. Our government official was even more concrete: When Jeffrey Goldberg or Thomas Friedman writes something, Israelis take it seriously.  Everything else they feel they can ignore.   

I want to follow up and ask if they would ignore a more comprehensive BDS and government abetted BDS campaign, but that isn’t part of our group’s dynamic. Next year, maybe.  

I should add that Eldar did raise the possibility of something measured, pointed and sophisticated that isn’t on the BDS continuum but would surely get the attention of many Israelis. Europe, he noted, has it in its power to require Israelis to secure visas before traveling there, and could quite easily put on the visa application “Have you ever served in the occupied territories? Please elaborate.”  And grant visas accordingly.  A mild and elegant little proposal.

 In the meantime, forget about petitioning Congress or Obama, they don’t really matter

About Scott McConnell

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of the American Conservative. The former editorial page editor of The New York Post, he has written for Fortune, The New Criterion, National Review, Commentary and many other publications.

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47 Responses

  1. eee
    January 7, 2011, 12:09 pm

    But Jeffrey Goldberg and Thomas Friedman are urging against the settlements and for a two state solution. So apparently Israelis are not listening to them also. This article does not make sense and requires much more clarification.

    • Kathleen
      January 7, 2011, 1:18 pm

      Goldberg and Friedman have recently shifted. These are relatively new stances. They see the writing on the wall. No way to put this BDS cat back in the bag

      • Donald
        January 7, 2011, 2:55 pm

        “Goldberg and Friedman have recently shifted”

        I’m not sure about Goldberg, but Friedman has favored the two state solution for a very long time. He’s usually eager to blame the Palestinians first for the conflict, but he does get irritated by the Israeli right, and they in turn are obviously irritated by him.

      • hophmi
        January 7, 2011, 3:35 pm

        “I’m not sure about Goldberg, but Friedman has favored the two state solution for a very long time. ”

        Such subtlety is lost here.

      • Kathleen
        January 7, 2011, 4:13 pm

        “he does get irritated by the right” this is a relatively new development

      • Psychopathic god
        January 7, 2011, 5:48 pm

        off topic

        Isaac Luria of J Street is vexed.

        In the Knesset, Israeli Jews are calling OTHER Israeli Jews nasty names.
        “germs”
        “traitor”

        WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MY PEOPLE, Luria wants to know:

        Yesterday, in a move ripped from Joe McCarthy’s playbook, the Israeli Knesset voted to establish a committee to investigate left-of-center Israeli human rights and civil society organizations – several of whose leaders will be featured speakers at J Street’s upcoming National Conference.

        During the debate over the investigation, MK Michael Ben-Ari of the right-wing National Union referred to these groups – our friends – as “traitors who must be persecuted at any cost,” “germs” and “enemies of Israel.” [1]

        What is happening to Israel? Every day, it seems, the right wing in Israel, and the current government of Israel which it controls, takes another step that doesn’t reflect my values or the values I believe Israel should embody as the national home of my people.

        Our conference in February – where we’re going to give voice to OUR values – is becoming a more important event with every passing day. This is our opportunity to answer the chorus of anti-democratic, racist and extremist forces that is growing stronger every day and to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those defending liberal democracy in these worst of times.

        Where has Luria been hiding? He never noticed how Israelis treat Palestinians? Are you implying that ONLY bad treatment of other Jews “doesn’t reflect your values?”

        Our conference in February . . .

        Is there an inherent contradiction within the phrase, “national home of MY people?”

        Our conference in February . . . Register now; rooms are going fast . . .

        Why does Isaac Luria feel the need to tag Israeli bad behavior with “McCarthy; has “Hitler” lost its market value? Not sufficiently articulate to describe the situation more specifically and in a less inflammatory and (to Americans) insulting way?

        Our conference is in February . . .
        Conference and Gala Dinner Ticket ($500)

        Click here for more information on sponsorship opportunities.

      • RoHa
        January 7, 2011, 7:17 pm

        ‘Is there an inherent contradiction within the phrase, “national home of MY people?” ‘

        To decdie that, we’ll first have to work out what “national home” means, and then what “my people’ means.

      • Kathleen
        January 9, 2011, 6:33 pm

        “Where has Luria been hiding? He never noticed how Israelis treat Palestinians? Are you implying that ONLY bad treatment of other Jews “doesn’t reflect your values?”

        Hiding behind the lies and myths.

        One more example of the racism that exist deep in the psyches of Aipac, J Street…the I lobby

    • sherbrsi
      January 7, 2011, 3:19 pm

      But Jeffrey Goldberg and Thomas Friedman are urging against the settlements and for a two state solution

      Too little too late.

      There is no rewind button on the settlements or the two-state solution.

      Israel thinks it can force Palestinians to the negotiations table, imposing the settlements as facts on the grounds and pushing for a state to be built around the colonies. It’s never going to happen, probably for the better for Israel’s image because no amount of PR could ever change the fact that Israel is selling Bantustans as a Palestinian state.

      • Kathleen
        January 7, 2011, 4:14 pm

        And this is often Mearsheimer and Finkelsteins point

      • pabelmont
        January 7, 2011, 6:21 pm

        What? BLATANT fund raising by J-Street during a period of “McCarthyism” of HIS people? Mr. Snow-won’t-melt-in-my-mouth-J-Street-HIMSELF? And (as far as I’ve ever seen) the very soul of anti-democracy in how he runs his organization. (Must be steering an old-fashioned ship among ice-bergs).

        Jeeze Louise.

  2. eee
    January 7, 2011, 12:12 pm

    As for your suggestion regarding the visas to Europe, it won’t happen because Europe has no good answer as to why the same procedure will not be done with Americans asking them if they served in Iraq and what they did there.

    • Woody Tanaka
      January 7, 2011, 12:41 pm

      ” it won’t happen because Europe has no good answer as to why the same procedure will not be done with Americans asking them if they served in Iraq and what they did there.”

      LOL. If you don’t think the Europeans are capable of generating an entirely satisfactory reason for not doing this to 300 million Americans (and all the economic and political things that go with it) as compared to the Israelis, you aren’t thinking hard enough.

      • rosemerry
        January 7, 2011, 5:05 pm

        Nowhere near 300million USans even have a passport, and certainly would not travel all the way to Europe. It is not necessary anyway, but the rule for Israelis would be great, but unlikely, especially with the craven following of the US by Europe.

  3. hophmi
    January 7, 2011, 12:21 pm

    I also found this article a little silly. I don’t think Israelis listen to any particular American journalist, and if there is anybody they do listen to, it ain’t Tom Friedman.

    I do think Israel listens to centrist American Jews, who make up the lion’s share of the leaders of major American Jewish organizations.

    They are, virtually all of them, proponents of the two-state solution. They will not, however, take disagreements with Israel into the public sphere, because disagreements tend to misused by the antisemites of the world.

    • annie
      January 7, 2011, 12:30 pm

      i think they have an obsession w/friedman

      • hophmi
        January 7, 2011, 12:32 pm

        Why? Most of them don’t especially like Friedman, particularly on the right.

      • annie
        January 7, 2011, 12:38 pm

        i read some article or op ed about how vile they think he is and the nasty liberal israel hating nyt. the comment section was over the top. apparently tom friedman is just completely radical in their book. granted it was a rightwing perspective but still. it was so absurd i couldn’t believe it. no one said ‘tom who?’ they all knew him who he was.

    • Kathleen
      January 7, 2011, 1:25 pm

      “centrist American Jews”

      link to politico.com

      You must mean these “centrist American Jews” How absurd

      link to haaretz.com
      The Superman (or woman) strikes a winning blow against the claim of the “defeatists” that it is impossible to conduct negotiations over a piece of land while building on it at the same time. This figure proves that Israel can block U.S. efforts to advance negotiations toward the establishment of a Palestinian state, and then block the efforts of the international community to recognize such state. Our current Superman sells the illusion that the Jewish and Democratic state can exists indefinitely in the Middle East without bringing the violent conflict to an end.

      This Superman is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Howard Berman. This Jewish Democrat from California – with the help of Jewish Representatives Garry Ackerman, Eliot Engel and Shelley Berkley – got a resolution passed late last week, which demands that the administration veto any proposal at the UN Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state that is not the result of an agreement with Israel.

      The resolution, cobbled together at the offices of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), reproaches the Palestinians for their refusal to return to negotiations and demands that they cease efforts to gain recognition from other countries. There is not a single word about Israel’s refusal to freeze the settlements during the negotiations. And nothing about Netanyahu’s evasiveness in putting forward his position on the issue of permanent borders.

  4. Jim Holstun
    January 7, 2011, 12:32 pm

    hopmhi–that’s right: no squabbling in front of the goyim, because the important thing is Jewish solidarity, not justice for the sons of Amalek.

    • hophmi
      January 7, 2011, 12:36 pm

      Well, considering that the “goyim”, as you put it, have a history of playing divide and conquer with us, yes, like every other small minority group, we try to avoid public squabbling.

      And I’m not sure where you get “the sons of Amalek” from, but it’s not an appropriate term here.

      • Kathleen
        January 7, 2011, 1:04 pm

        Divide and conquer has been used by many…including Israel

      • Potsherd2
        January 7, 2011, 1:17 pm

        You’ve never hear the Arabs called Amalekites?

      • Donald
        January 7, 2011, 3:54 pm

        “Well, considering that the “goyim”, as you put it, have a history of playing divide and conquer with us, yes, like every other small minority group, we try to avoid public squabbling”

        Which side were you on when people were discussing the Gaza youth manifesto? Some said that Palestinians shouldn’t criticize their own, or not in public. I thought you disagreed with that. But I guess it would be consistent with your line of thought to say that Palestinians should be self-critical in public, but Jews shouldn’t. And you’re implicitly lumping all the “goyim” into the same category. Amnesty International and the neo-Nazis are both critical of Israel, so they’re both the enemy, I guess.

        I think the idea of self-censorship on human rights issues is a really bad one. People might claim they need to be quiet in order to avoid giving ammunition to the “enemy”, but it usually just makes them look like hypocrites.

  5. Kathleen
    January 7, 2011, 1:00 pm

    As Mearsheimer and many others are saying the possibility for a two state solution is over.

  6. Kathleen
    January 7, 2011, 1:02 pm

    Goldberg and Friedmann would support the elimination of the Palestinians if they thought they could get away with it. The tide has turned and they know it.

  7. Jeffrey Blankfort
    January 7, 2011, 2:30 pm

    The Israel Lobby’s power depends on Israel’s continuing belligerency and its refusal to accept any agreement after which it could no longer claim to be a “victim” living in “a bad neighborhood.” That also goes for both Friedman and Goldberg who have built their reputations through their non-stop bloviating on the the subject.

    The “two-state solutions” they support would not end the conflict but simply shift the Palestinian resistance into another stage with the new “Palestine” bantustan being subservient to Israel even more so than either Jordan or Egypt.

  8. Jim Holstun
    January 7, 2011, 3:02 pm

    Oh, come now, Hophmi, don’t be coy. Anyone whose impulses are as tribal as yours knows what happens to the Amalekites (1Chron. 4:42-3). See Shulamit Along in Haaretz: “I recall the essay by the late Rabbi Israel Hess, the rabbi of Bar-Ilan University, who wrote in the university newspaper that ‘we are all obligated to carry out genocide,’ because he did research and discovered that the Palestinians are descendants of Amalek, the tribe that the Torah commands us to destroy (and that has become a symbol of evil for Jews). Rabbi Prof. Emanuel Rackman, who was then president of the university, brought about his dismissal. It’s no coincidence that in the settlements the Palestinians are called ‘Amalek,’ and the intention is obvious to everyone” (link to haaretz.com).

    The crazy-ass rabbis quote the bloodthirsty bits of the Hebrew scriptures; the kinder, gentler liberal Zionists shoot down old Palestinian men and say “boo hoo, we’re so sorry, stop making us kill you, please!” (link to haaretz.com).

    • hophmi
      January 7, 2011, 3:34 pm

      “Anyone whose impulses are as tribal as yours knows what happens to the Amalekites (1Chron. 4:42-3).”

      Stop with the name-calling, bigot. I am familiar with what am Amalekite is. It is not a reference used outside of the far-right religious.

      The vast majority of rabbinic opinions hold that the Amalekites are not identifiable today.

      • Potsherd2
        January 7, 2011, 4:24 pm

        Israelis use “Amalek” to refer to anyone they don’t agree with . It’s common usage.

      • tree
        January 7, 2011, 4:31 pm

        Stop with the name-calling, bigot.

        Classic.

      • syvanen
        January 7, 2011, 5:12 pm

        Very good of you to admit that you know who the Amalekites are and are aware that religious WB Jews use that term to refer to Arabs. They are a very significant element in Israeli society. In fact, they are so significant that Netanyahoo cannot agree to a settlement freeze because his government would fail. We are talking about a group of people (about 15% of all Jewish Israelis) that determine WB policies. Your majority government is accommodating an extremely racist and potentially genocidal political movement. You are either being deceptive or extremely naive if you can’t see this (Your insinuation that you did not know who the amalekites are, suggests deception).

      • ahmed
        January 7, 2011, 7:52 pm

        So you’re saying Netanyahu is far-right religious?

        Netanyahu Sees Iran as Amalek, Advisor Says
        link to israelnationalnews.com

      • MRW
        January 8, 2011, 12:42 am

        Stop with the name-calling, bigot. I am familiar with what am Amalekite is. It is not a reference used outside of the far-right religious.

        B.S. It was used in the IDF in 2008/2009, and everyone who has been here longer than you and prefers the truth remembers it.

        Anyone who goes back and reads about the military rabbis, and the non-military rabbis, who walked around and met with the troops just before Operation Cast Lead and who talked about a holy war and who handed out booklets in which the enemy was described as Amalek [the Hebrews’ biblical nemesis whom they were divinely enjoined to destroy], those who thought that this well of motivation would be relegated only to the war against Hamas, will be given a stinging slap to the face.
        link to coteret.com

        Also:
        link to haaretz.com

        link to nytimes.com

      • hophmi
        January 8, 2011, 7:55 am

        It is not a term frequently heard outside the far right.

      • Potsherd2
        January 8, 2011, 9:14 am

        And since Israeli society is far-right, it is heard there constantly.

  9. Jeffrey Blankfort
    January 7, 2011, 3:13 pm

    The Israel Lobby’s power depends on Israel’s continuing belligerency and its refusal to accept any agreement after which it could no longer claim to be a “victim” living in “a bad neighborhood.” That also goes for both Friedman and Goldberg who have built their reputations through their non-stop bloviating on the the subject.

    The “two-state solutions” they support would not end the conflict but simply shift the Palestinian resistance into another stage with the new “Palestine” bantustan being subservient to Israel even more so than either Jordan or Egypt. Friedman, Goldbug and the Lobby would still be in business, as would be the Democrats who are seriously, if not terminally, addicted to their money.

    • hophmi
      January 7, 2011, 3:35 pm

      “That also goes for both Friedman and Goldberg who have built their reputations through their non-stop bloviating on the the subject.”

      I, Jeff Blankfort, have built my reputation through – non-stop bloviating on the subject.

      “The “two-state solutions” they support would not end the conflict but simply shift the Palestinian resistance into another stage with the new “Palestine” bantustan being subservient to Israel even more so than either Jordan or Egypt.”

      So it is as we say – we shouldn’t make peace because the Palestinians are not interested.

      • lareineblanche
        January 7, 2011, 4:10 pm

        So it is as we say – we shouldn’t make peace because the Palestinians are not interested.

        Clearly, there are many different definitions of the word “peace” here.
        Clearly, the definition you’re adhering to is that of a subservient, powerless collection of “bantustans” (or how about fried chicken?), as Blankfort says. It would be the “peace” of a population still with a boot on its neck.
        Or, the “peace of the graveyard”, as they say.

        I think you mean rather “peace and quiet”. It’s quite different.

        I think it’s scary that Israeli policy (if it’s true) can be influenced by such mediocre journalists and thinkers. That’s a problem.

      • MRW
        January 8, 2011, 12:51 am

        I think it’s scary that Israeli policy (if it’s true) can be influenced by such mediocre journalists and thinkers. That’s a problem.

        Shouldnt surprise you. Neuroscientific research in the first decade of this century discovered that anger reduces the IQ. So that’s breaking out all over Israel/WB. Can see it in our own Tea Partiers and Christian Zios. (And the trolls here.)

      • lareineblanche
        January 9, 2011, 11:12 am

        Neuroscientific research in the first decade of this century discovered that anger reduces the IQ. So that’s breaking out all over Israel/WB.

        Do you have any links about this? Just curious, not challenging your statement. I could google “IQ+anger” etc. but if you have something specific…

        Yes, it’s tragic that as people tend to adhere to their tribal/nationalistic beliefs, certain parts of their brain seem to be unavailable to critical thinking. It’s like certain circuits are closed off. At the same time, anger provides a certain energy that makes some things possible, forcing open certain doors that would otherwise stay closed. It just has to be well directed, I think.
        (Robert Fisk saying, “war is the total failure of the human spirit”)

        One aspect of the anger/nationalism/tribalism/stupidity nexus is that with increasing sophistication of warfare technology one can in a certain sense decimate a large number of people without being “angry”, so to speak. There is an increasing disconnect between one’s actions and the results on the ground of these actions. With a couple pushes of a button in Arizona, one can demolish an entire village, for example.
        link to cryptome.org

        Now, more powerful and rich states have the resources and technology which allow them to control and possibly assassinate members of weaker populations without needing a real logic or rational behind it – but simply because they CAN. US/Israel, for example. They can also harness the dumb resentment and anger of their populations (which is often justified) and direct it toward imaginary enemies. So, anger is a force which can be harnessed and used by politicians to their own ends (Palin, Gingrich, etc.).

        The worst part is that, if what you say is true, part of the plan of the Israelis, by keeping the region in a perpetual state of warfare and alert and aggression, seems to be the dumbing-down of the population, making Palestinians (and others) so occupied (pun intended) with their problems, grievances and anger that they have less time to fully express themselves as human beings. “Keeping them down”… The fact that many do so in spite of all the difficulties is impressive.

      • tree
        January 7, 2011, 4:36 pm

        hophmi,

        Bantustan=Peace to you then I guess. And if the Palestinians aren’t willing to remain forever subservient then why “make peace”? Or do you just believe in might makes right, as long as your affinity group is the one with the might?

        This just seems like another example of the morality warping ability of Zionism on its adherents.

      • syvanen
        January 7, 2011, 5:20 pm

        So it is as we say – we shouldn’t make peace because the Palestinians are not interested.

        If your definition of peace is of total victory over the Palestinians and theft of their land and water resources then don’t bother because all that you will get is continued resistance. We all hope that the resistance continues in the non-violent direction and in order for that to continue the rest of the world will have to support them through BDS.

        If that is the road you choose then that is what will happen.

      • Chaos4700
        January 7, 2011, 8:10 pm

        Stop giving people here the Goldstone character assassination treatment. It’s unbecoming.

      • Potsherd2
        January 8, 2011, 9:16 am

        The Palestinians are not interested in unconditional surrender, which is the Israeli notion of “peace,” in which Israel takes everything, Palestine gets nothing and doesn’t get to object.

  10. Keith
    January 8, 2011, 1:03 pm

    I find the notion that Israel only pays attention to Jeffrey Goldberg and Thomas Friedman to be completely unbelievable. Israel has been, and continues to be, very dependent upon the U.S. for financing, weaponry, diplomatic and economic support. There are multiple factors accounting for the unprecedented level of support, the most visible and obvious one being the Israel Lobby, broadly construed. In fact, the very strength of the lobby is highly correlated with Israel’s dependency on the U.S. Israel needs to maintain a very high level of political influence to insure a consistently high level of support, without which Israel would be required to undergo fundamental changes. They simply couldn’t continue to do what they are doing without massive U.S. support. With this in mind, it is virtually inconceivable to me that Israel does not interact with organized American Jewry and influential American Jews to nurture the relationship which sustains them. I would be astonished to learn that Israel does not pay close attention to the opinions of these people who appear to me to be at least as chauvinistic as Israel’s leaders themselves. If America’s power Jews (Joel Kovel’s useful term) desire Israel to change course, I suspect that their influence would be quickly felt.

    An additional comment. When Jeffrey Blankfort says that “The Israel Lobby’s power depends on Israel’s continuing belligerency….”, he is, in my view, quite correct. As Norman Finkelstein notes: “For Israel’s new American Jewish ‘supporter,’ however, such talk bordered on heresy: an independent Israel at peace with its neighbors was worthless; an Israel aligned with currents in the Arab world seeking independence from the United States was a disaster. Only an Israeli Sparta beholden to American power would do, because only then could US Jewish leaders act as spokesmen for American imperial ambitions.”

  11. MHughes976
    January 8, 2011, 1:19 pm

    Friedman = ‘man of peace’, I suppose, introduced me a few years ago to the argument that time is running out for Israel in the sense that a Palestinian majority is about to arise in the area that Israel governs, so no more democracy. The logic of this position is that making a 2ss offer to the Palestinians is becoming more and more urgent, so he’s all ready to annoy the right wing crowd by demanding action. But it’s always been a strange position, I think, stated as if legitimacy and democracy were unaffected, even pristine, so long as the disfranchised group was less than a majority, even if it was 45%. Also it seems to allow for the moment of truth to be delayed and more delayed, since the demographic definitions and headcounts can be a bit fuzzy. In a way Friedman embodies, even as he seems to question, the fundamental Zionist idea that the rights of Jewish and other people to a share in the sovereignty of Palestine are not equal, and that only when the inequality reaches scandalous levels do things go really wrong. The 2ss, in all the versions canvassed, is only another form of the same inequality.
    Could a couple of journalists really have the power attributed to them? I suppose they might be regarded as bellwethers. But in that case it would be a mistake or a distraction to try to persuade them personally – it would be a question of influencing their constituency. Which I think no one does better than Phil Weiss.

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