What was Benjamin Netanyahu’s erstwhile partner in crime Jeffrey Goldberg up to this weekend with all the excitement going on on his Jewish/Israel beat?
Last week, the most influential Jewish journalist in America was trying to lose the nickname his journalism over the years had won him– “Netanyahu stenographer” — by calling Netanyahu a bad name. He gratuitously called Netanyahu “manipulative” in one of his articles, thus distancing himself from the prime minister as well as announcing his availability as a stenographer to Ehud Barak, Moshe Ya’alon and maybe most importantly the upstart Israeli politician Yair Lapid.
Then the news hit. Netanyahu’s “No Jews” video dropped Friday, and ethnic cleansing charges flew in all directions. In Haaretz, Barak Ravid wrote that this Netanyahu video might even be a game changer. White House and State Department officials were “livid.” They viewed Netanyahu’s remarks as “targeting them.” The prime minister might have antagonized Washington one time too many and pushed Obama “to the Security Council.”
J Street leaped on the video, while Donald Trump’s adviser on US-Israel relations, David Friedman, in an interview with Haaretz, took great umbrage at the Obama administration’s statement. Friedman did one better than “No Jews” or even “ethnic cleansing.”
“Prime Minister Netanyahu makes exactly the right point. The Palestinians…..their so-called ‘state’ is required to be, as the Nazis said, Judenrein (devoid of Jews).”
And every article written about this video expressed the same bewilderment: why did Netanyahu do it? The video made sense to nobody. Ravid quoted some Washington official wondering why Netanyahu would “spit in their faces” when they’re trying to be so nice to him and to Israel. William Booth in the Washington Post said: “Why did Netanyahu issue this video now?” And what about the fact that Netanyahu was repeating the Republican pollster Frank Luntz “almost word for word”?
There is no one more suited than Jeffrey Goldberg to explain to Americans how to understand these events.
After all, one of Goldberg’s claims to fame is his unique gift in understanding the personal/political nuances that elude everyone else. Recall that just a couple of years ago, Goldberg chastised Andrew Sullivan for not understanding Netanyahu:
“The politics, contradictions and motivations of Netanyahu’s approach to Obama do not interest Andrew. Netanyahu’s apparently self-evident evilness is what interests [Andrew]”…
Now that is exactly what the whole world was waiting for Jeffrey Goldberg to explain. What exactly were the “The politics, contradictions and motivations of Netanyahu’s approach to Obama” with his video that all of Washington and Jerusalem were talking about?
But Goldberg’s tweets reveal something very surprising: there is no mention of Netanyahu. No mention of the “no Jews” video, or the State Department rebuke, or even Trump’s adviser’s “Judenrein” reach. Why is Jeffrey ignoring these major stories?
The answer could be that Goldberg was holding firm to his one journalist ethic, that he never compromises on, no matter how big the the story. And that is (as Gideon Levy noted): to never write anything that would make neo-Nazis happy.
Certainly Goldberg would be right to think so. All this craziness coming from Netanyahu, and the back and forth with Washington and the Trump campaign– it is sure to make a few neo-Nazis somewhere very happy.
I don’t think that’s what’s going on. There is now a lot of news coming from Israel that Goldberg hasn’t explained. His non Nazi twitter followers are beginning to wonder, why isn’t he commenting. Yes, we have received guidance already from Goldberg on many important stories: that BDS=ISIS, and J Street=Hamas, and the British Labour Party= Nazi party c 1938.
But there is other news in the world besides those Israel haters, and lately his followers might have been getting a sense that Goldberg is withholding something. That he has been keeping secrets from them about Israel/Palestine.
I think what is actually preoccupying Goldberg and keeping him silent is not the fear of giving comfort to the neo-Nazis, but concern about non-Aryans, including himself.
With each new story from Israel that Goldberg ignores he knows he is jeopardizing his reputation as the go-to Israel expert for the US establishment. But alas Jeffrey has no choice. Because until Jeffrey Goldberg discovers the words, the language, the spin, the narrative, that changes the relentless “bad for the Jews” news coming from Israel, the voluble Goldberg will find silence a virtue. Until he figures out for himself the “words that work” (to quote Frank Luntz), his vow of silence about all things Israel must continue.
This weekend was no exception. Jeffrey Goldberg is in trouble. What is the right hasbara for the execution of a Palestinian lying incapacitated on the ground and the trial of the Israeli killer-sergeant that is now dividing Israel’s establishment with some saying the society has become fascist? It doesn’t exist. But that is on the test! It is happening in real life, and Goldberg can’t figure out what to say. He still can’t think of any spin to change the recent Zionist reality.
And when Jeffrey Goldberg is stumped about what to say about Israel, he finds it most comforting to talk about neo-Nazi Trump supporters and the antisemitic British Labor party for good measure. And that’s exactly what he did again this weekend.
The eyes of the world are on Jeffrey Goldberg. He has told us so much, but we are still greedy for more. We know what he thinks about Donald Trump. We know what he thinks about David Duke. We know what he thinks of Walt & Mearsheimer. We know what he thinks about BDS. We know what he thinks of the self hating Jews at Haaretz.
But it’s not enough. We would love to know what he thinks of the Elor Azaria execution video that is now the focus of Israel and the General Yair Golan Holocaust memorial speech that said that Nazi trends were recurrent in Israel, and Netanyahu’s replacing Defense Minister Ya’alon with Avigdor Lieberman and Ya’alon warning about fascism.
We would even be happy if Jeffrey just shared his thoughts on ex Mossad head, Ephraim Halevy. Goldberg must have seen his interview where he mocked the notion that Iran was an existential threat to Israel? (“maybe in a thousand years”) And when he told Al Jazeera viewers “a secret”– that every Israeli commander on the border with Gaza believes Israel should negotiate with Hamas. Or what about his belief that there “is a link between Israel’s occupation and Palestinian violence” and that Israelis should “expect” that Palestinians feel they “have to fight against it?”
We trust Goldberg understands the situation in the Middle East better than the ex-Mossad chief does. We know Goldberg doesn’t agree with self-hating Jews like Halevy. We are just waiting for him to enlighten us.