Jeffrey Goldberg is Jewish

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Tablet has published an attack on my piece about Jeffrey Goldberg’s ascension to the editorship of the Atlantic, in which I pointed out that the Atlantic announcement cleanses Goldberg’s resume, leaving out his moving to Israel to escape American anti-Semitism and serving in the Israeli army, his publication of a memoir about serving as an Israeli prison guard, his disastrous support for the Iraq war, his failed promotion of an Iran war, and his Jewishness. Tablet says my assertion that the Atlantic is leaving out Goldberg’s Jewishness is a proof of my anti-Semitism; why does it matter whether Goldberg is Jewish or not? Jews shouldn’t have to wear a yellow star. The ADL has now joined in, calling us an anti-Semitic site. 

The attack is absurd first because I mentioned Goldberg’s Jewishness in the very context that he has mentioned it again and again: We Jews support Israel. More important, it is hard to think of a writer in this world who has so identified himself as Jewish, and as a spokesperson for Jews. Goldberg’s one book put Jew in the very title: Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide (later changed to, A Story of Friendship and Terror).

Goldberg has repeatedly put himself forward as a spokesperson for “Jews and the Jewish lobby,” as he described his brief at this 2007 panel attacking the book The Israel Lobby at the Center for Jewish History:

this book represents the largest challenge to Jewish political enfranchisement we’ve seen since the days of Charles Lindbergh…. It is not up to a white person to tell a black person what is racist and what is not. And it is not up to a non-Jew to tell a Jew what is anti-Semitic. I think that cultural, political autonomy means that we get to define what we think is anti-Semitic.

This Washingtonian profile of Jeffrey Goldberg a couple of years ago noted Goldberg’s role as the judge of all things Jewish in one of its headlines: “Who died and made him Moses?” The piece emphasized that Goldberg had made his career through asserting his Jewishness:

Goldberg, as a matter of personal and professional identity, is proudly and insistently Jewish. This is, after all, a fellow who used to hang a paper on his office door at the Atlantic with the words the misunderstood jew, a sly reference to what certain irreverent wags call Jesus.

“I think journalism is a very Jewish profession,” he says in a podcast, “Life as a Jewish Journalist,” recorded for the Partnership for Jewish Life & Learning. “Jews are very interesting. I think pound for pound we are the most interesting people in the world.”

In that piece, Leon Wieseltier called Goldberg a Mashgiah, or supervisor of what is kosher:

He sees Goldberg not as gatekeeper to the pro-Israel tent but as a would-be, journalistic equivalent of the mashgiah. That’s the Hebrew word for the supervisor—a rabbi or someone else of impeccable credentials—who makes sure everything going out of the kitchen at a kosher restaurant is truly kosher. “Goldberg is a little bit in the business of deciding who is kosher and who is not,” Wieseltier says. The problem, he explains, is that Goldberg fails to qualify for the role: “He’s a blogger. He’s not an analyst, he’s not a scholar.”

Just a few years ago, it was in his role of mashgiah that Goldberg said of Tony Judt, Tony Karon, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, MJ Rosenberg, Naomi Klein, Sara Roy, and myself, that we are “part of a tiny minority of Jews who believe that the destruction of Israel will bring them the approval of non-Jews, which they crave.” Later in the same role, screening Jews, for that “very Jewish profession” of journalism, he declared in the Atlantic that I am not a Jew; a group of bloggers are “anti-Zionists-with-Jewish-parents.” What kind of person does that? A jerk, yes. But a jerk who regards himself as a Jewish leader.

Now I state that Goldberg’s Jewishness is central to his career, at a time when Goldberg is trying to pivot from that role; and I’m evil. As I said, it’s laughable.

Rosenberg also made something of my Jew-counting. How many Jews are at the tops of publications. Sorry, folks, that’s the price of power. People are allowed to notice how many Catholics and Jews are on the Supreme Court (3, and 3-plus-Merrick-Garland) and even criticize it, if they want to. Peter Beinart made the same observation in Haaretz a couple years ago.

As a force in American journalism, we certainly have [arrived]. Jews edit The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Weekly Standard, The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Vox, Buzzfeed, Politico, and the opinion pages of The New York Times and Washington Post.

The insinuation of the attacks is that I’m saying a Jewish person should not have been hired for that job or that it makes Goldberg unfit. As Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL said, “thanks @Mondweiss, bc your attack on @jeffreygoldberg 4 his faith is a window into the warped pathology of #antisemitism on the xtreme Left.” That’s very unfair. I don’t care about Goldberg’s faith, but I do insist on talking about the politicization of faith, whether that’s Christian evangelicals or Islamic state supporters or expansionist Zionists like Goldberg. You might say that Goldberg’s whole career has been about politicizing faith. Now he shrewdly understands that his parochialism will not serve him in his new role; and so he is pivoting from that Jewish, pro-Israel self-description. That’s news; and that’s what I wrote about.

Discussing the constitution of power is as American as cherry pie, and as Jewish as an esrog. Yair Rosenberg is just going in for thought control and blacklisting. It won’t work with us.

Thanks to Yakov Hirsch. 

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People who fight for Palestinian rights are always going to run the risk of being called anti-Semitic. Because that charge, if true or even plausible, can do much harm to the movement, it is always wise to avoid even the appearance of anti-Semitism. But, as we all know, entirely unfounded smears of anti-Semitism will be hurled at any time. The old standby of automatically screaming “bigotry” at Israel criticism no longer works, and people like… Read more »

Jew counting is something that stirs reactions, and it is a “walking on thin ice” reaction that it stirs in me. Phil Weiss does not walk on eggshells, but stomps on as many toes as possible. P. Weiss did not begin his jew counting with the issue of israel, but as cited in the tablet article, was knee deep into jew counting, when the jews were defending bill Clinton and Phil Weiss was attacking him.… Read more »

“anti-Zionists-with-Jewish-parents.”

Genius! The best, most measured characterization for secular, non-tribal people who happen to have names like, say… Goldberg.

Call me just that, I can live with it. We won’t cavil at one parent being an atheist.

Q: What is Jeffrey Goldberg’s definition of antisemitism? Q: What is the Jonathan Goldblatt/ADL definition of antisemitism? Q: What is Mondoweiss’ definition of antisemitism? Secular Americans will be prevented from becoming full participants in the war of ideas in the Middle East unless a clear, rational and non-privileging definition of this central term is legitimated. Can we not see that the charge of antisemitism, weaponized as never before, is only effective in the absence of… Read more »

“Now he” (Goldberg) “shrewdly understands that his parochialism will not serve him in his new role; and so he is pivoting from that Jewish, pro-Israel self-description.”

Don’t worry. I am sure that Goldberg will be just as observant of Jewish ritual as he ever was. Maybe more.