A few weeks back I wrote that there are too many Jewish Israelis in the American press, and Lisa Goldman, a writer in Tel Aviv, called me an anti-Semite. I’ve been working on a big post responding to her charge, but in the meantime I was back at it again last night, when I said that the New York Review of Books should stop hiring so many Israeli writers.
How do I justify such national prejudice? Especially when I’m here in Israel, where I’m meeting a lot of amazing Israeli journos and intellectuals who have walked their talk and are trying to change their country?
I admit that it is a national prejudice on my part. It reflects these feelings: after the Iraq war, I woke up to the incredible conflation of American and Israeli interests that the neocons were pushing in the U.S. discourse. I found it extremely confusing when everyone from Tom Friedman to Bill Kristol was saying that a suicide bomber in Tel Aviv was a reason for us to invade Iraq. Those guys were themselves confused about which country they cared about more. At this time, too, Jeffrey Goldberg emerged as the most important Jewish journalist in the U.S., in some measure because he had spent time in Israel and served in the IDF. He has been replaced, or is starting to be replaced, by Gershom Gorenberg, an American-cum-Israeli, who has written for the New York Review of Books and the Weekly Standard too. Meanwhile the New York Times began printing Zev Chafets, a former Israeli gov’t spokesman, on American political trends, and the American Enterprise Institute was paying Dore Gold $98,000 a year as a scholar, notwithstanding the fact he is a former Israeli ambassador living in Jerusalem and churning out Islamophobia.
It never ends. Rahm Emanuel, who volunteered at an IDF base, became the White House chief of staff, and another Obama appointee announced that Israel is her homeland, and Harvard names as the new dean of the Law School, Martha Minow, who has published an article with an Israel co-author saying that Israel’s treatment of detainees is a model! (Sorry if that irritates; I just returned from a demonstration for Jamal Juma, who has been detained on flimsy grounds because he’s a human rights worker, and I’m reading the Goldstone report, which says that 750,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned during the Occupation, and Omar Barghouti told me at the demonstration that imprisonment has touched every Palestinian family–something Dean Minow didn’t mention.) Oh and after the Gaza war, the New York Review of Books offered itself as a forum for Israelis to hash over the war. Not a Palestinian in sight. The New York Times has an Israeli reporter in its Jerusalem bureau, and lately the Washington Post announced that its next Jerusalem correspondent would be someone who had worked at the Jerusalem Post. Then there’s the New Republic, which really is the new republic–of US and Israel. It has featured Benny Morris and Michael Oren, both Israelis, one an ambassador, explaining why Israel is so cool.
Can you see why I’m confused?
It is true that my real objection is to Zionism in the American discourse, but not all of these folks wear their Zionist ribbons on their chests, and it’s hard enough sorting out American writers’ agendas let alone Israelis’.
So yes, on this score, I admit, I’m a bit of a nativist. I apologize here to all my Israeli friends and promise to work on my issues. But the special relationship has hurt America in the Middle East and part of the price of disentangling that relationship may be some discrimination against Israelis in the American discourse. Separation, partition; call it what you will. But the U.S. and Israel need to be two states, not one.