Jeffrey Goldberg assails NYT’s David Kirkpatrick for describing Israeli attitude as ‘ugly’

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The other day, Jodi Rudoren did an excellent piece on the degree to which Israelis regard the bloodshed and tumult in their Arab neighborhood as good news, because it makes the conflict in Israel/Palestine look like small potatoes. Chemical weapons in Syria and slaughter in Egypt are “a confirmation of a common Israeli view that their Arab neighbors are unready for democracy,” Rudoren wrote in the lead.

And she reported of her interviews with two dozen Israelis, all evidently Jewish:

There were repeated invocations of Ehud Barak’s infamous statement that Israel is a “villa in the jungle,” which caused controversy in 2006 but now is gaining traction even among liberals most sympathetic to the Arab cause.

David D. Kirkpatrick is the widely-admired Cairo bureau chief for the Times. His twitter feed has a periscope-like character; and he tweeted Rudoren’s piece, with a comment:

Amid Chaos, Israelis Take a Stoic View, Israelis with an ugly view of Arab democracy.

That tireless advocate for Israel, who once wore an Israeli Defense Forces uniform, Jeffrey Goldberg responded:

Ugly, maybe, but analytically correct?

Goldberg has many friends. Daniel Schwammenthal (he works for the American Jewish Committee’s global initiative) took Goldberg’s side:

If analytically correct, and it largely is,then reality is ugly, not Israel’s view.Shooting the messenger?

Kirkpatrick stood up for himself:

it depends on the aesthetics of the phrases “not ready for democracy” or “villa in the jungle”

Then Kirkpatrick seemed to blink:

I am not taking a position on true or false; just ugly

More backing and filling by Kirkpatrick, a minute or two later, responding to Goldberg:

I am not taking a position on that

Goldberg got highhorsical– but doesn’t want to offend the Times:

No offense, but “ugly and true” and “ugly and false” are morally quite different things.

Kirkpatrick rallies– a beautiful line:

even if I thought ‘my country is safe because of chaos and bloodshed around it,’ I would feel that was ugly

Kirkpatrick, still on the defensive, responds to Goldberg’s moral lecture:

an Israeli quoted in Jodi’s excellent story says as much, I think

Goldberg tells Kirkpatrick not to judge Israelis:

I don’t disagree with you on that, I’m simply saying that I wouldn’t judge someone who reached that conclusion too harshly.

Daniel Rubin, a lawyer in the Goldberg camp, puts Kirkpatrick in stocks:

So you shortened “correct, if worded without sugarcoating” into “ugly.”

Hat’s off to Kirkpatrick and his idea of universal human dignity.

This is a hugely important conversation. In Rudoren’s story, an Israeli says that the troubles in Israel’s neighborhood have put a nail in the coffin of the left there. I.e., who cares about making peace with Palestinians, when Arabs are slaughtering each other? I don’t think it’s a good argument. In fact, it’s degrading. But that’s where Israel’s advocates have to go.

(In 1958, Jacques Derrida, the leftwing philosopher, served in the French colonial army in Algeria and wrote in despair (as quoted by this biography) to a friend that Algeria “has never known democracy, has no tradition of it, offers no centre of resistance to a dictatorship of colonists.” But that was no justification, Derrida said, for the fascism he observed around him. Algeria gained independence 5 years later.)

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seafoid “Neither can anyone suspect that most Israelis who support an attack – 67 percent, according to a survey by the daily Israel Hayom – are motivated by concern for the well-being of Syria’s citizens.” I agree with Zbig “But in the long run, a hostile region like that… Read more »


Well, it`s true that 65 years of hatred and terrifying slogans (we shall throw you into the sea), a terrible suicide-bombing Intifada, a sequence of bloody wars, an infinite stream of violent threats, etc., etc., has done something to the “Israeli soul”. The world has always been about symmetry –… Read more »


Because it’s Israel’s fault that the Arab Spring isn’t doing well, right? The Arabs are never actually responsible for any of their own actions.

K Renner
K Renner

“Chemical weapons in Syria and slaughter in Egypt are “a confirmation of a common Israeli view that their Arab neighbors are unready for democracy,” Rudoren wrote in the lead.” This is ugly. Anyone who actually is interested in the Arab states and the people within know that it’s not a… Read more »


Main Street is de facto defenseless against what OWS called the 1%, which controls jobs and media narrative, and similarly in the Middle East, the Arab Street is controlled by the international 1%. Main Street everywhere in the world is the avenue for cannon fodder and indentured servitude.