Jeffrey Goldberg’s elevation as Atlantic editor signifies that he has more power than anyone to change American policy in the Middle East; and he will take it. In the next five years he will become a non-Zionist and call for equal rights in Israel and Palestine. His change will help bring about a settlement of the conflict because he will take all the air out of the most important factor in the entire conflict: the Israel lobby that sustains Israel’s bad behavior.
Disbelieving readers will ask how a man who has made such a name for himself as a pugnacious vain Zionist polemicist could make such a change. They fail to comprehend the Atlantic magazine’s role and Goldberg’s character.
The Atlantic has signaled clearly that it is done with Goldberg the Zionist operative. Consider: tonight in New York, Temple Emanu-El will host Goldberg for a talk and the first two lines of its bio read as follows.
Jeffrey Goldberg, a native New Yorker, served in the Israeli Defense Forces and once convinced a PLO leader of the moral justification of Zionism.
The Atlantic announcement of Goldberg’s elevation does not mention the IDF or Zionism at all.
The Atlantic has made its interest clear. Goldberg is assuming an august position in American culture. The Atlantic elevated Goldberg and gave him a giant salary not to be a Zionist sniper but to be a literary general. The magazine and the editor have clearly reached an understanding that he will rise above his earlier status, as an Iraq/Iran-war-proponent and Zionist scalptaker. Jeffrey — the announcement says — we have closed the book on your feverish discovery of Saddam’s chemical weapons and his links to Al Qaeda, closed the book too on your attack on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement; you are a great journalist notwithstanding; you are now on a par with the other big editors: David Remnick, Robert Silvers, James Bennet, and Adam Moss. Rise to the occasion.
The Atlantic does not want to author the next Middle East war (as Goldberg did for Remnick at The New Yorker). As Goldberg himself said grandly on National Public Radio the other day:
The Atlantic was founded by abolitionists, in 1857, to bring about an end of slavery. It was not merely a non-racist magazine. It was an anti-racist magazine. It was about advancing the progressive American idea.
No mention of the IDF or Zionism.
Now let us turn to Goldberg. How can he stop being a pugnacious vain Jewish-centric Zionist? It wont be easy for him, but it is keenly in his interest and in his character too.
You must consider that Goldberg is worldly and ambitious and captain of the USS Goldberg. He didn’t become a Zionist because of some deepseated intellectual/religious ideology or observation of the world. He is no Roger Cohen or Peter Beinart. These are sincere committed people, caught up in an anachronistic worldview out of reverence for their ancestors and not opportunistic. Goldberg became a Zionist because Zionism answered his personal condition; he was a provincial kid who believed that in his Long Island community, “Patrick Harrington and his Cossack associates” were picking on Goldberg. He soon turned to the Jewish Defense League and then made aliyah to Israel and put on an Israeli uniform.
But that was all in his 20s. It is a testament to Goldberg’s worldliness and awareness of reality that when he saw Israel wasn’t the right place for the USS Goldberg, he changed course. He came back here and swallowed his pride. He admitted as much in his book.
Today the same worldly gimlet eye sees that Zionism is a dead letter. Repeat, Zionism is a dead letter. It is gaining no adherents among the young. Goldberg himself stated earlier this year that Jewish Voice for Peace is the fastest growing group on his daughter’s campus. Five years ago he said that anti-Zionists have the wind at their back.
The wind is blowing more stiffly today. Goldberg will change because he is intensely competitive, and today his competition is a bunch of other big Jewish editors, most of whom once employed him (a further motive), who are wed to Zionism. How many understand that there is a race on right now to be the first to call for equal rights in one state in Israel and Palestine? “Abolitionist” Goldberg does. Robert Silvers allowed Tony Judt to make this declaration 15 years ago in the New York Review of Books, but Silvers soon undermined his writer out of generational fear for the Jewish people. David Remnick has been brave enough to run Yousef Munayyer, but he is too personally attached to Zionism to call for equal rights. James Bennet is immured in the New York Times bureaucracy, and shackled by a neoconservative cell. He won’t dare lead. While Times Jerusalem bureau chief Peter Baker is a consummate professional who doesn’t have the guts to challenge the orthodoxy that the two-state solution is still alive.
You will say that Goldberg is a race man and has never shown much vision. His ambition and energy will overcome both these limitations. Just as the most important American Zionist in history was a practical man converted to the cause in his 50s by younger visionaries (Louis Brandeis), Goldberg in his shapeshifting 50s will find some gurus. Maybe they will be younger, so he doesn’t have to feel the sting of bringing Yousef Munayyer or John Mearsheimer into the Atlantic. Somebody from #IfNotNow or Open Hillel. But he will embrace these young leaders as if the horde of anti-Zionists crowding the field don’t exist. Or maybe he will rise above his egotism and bring in former rivals.
Peter Beinart got cast out by the mainstream Jewish organizations when he attacked the occupation. Myself I lost two jobs in a row after I became an anti-Zionist. But Goldberg has more status and autonomy than any other Jewish writer; he cannot be smeared by the Israel lobby because he IS the lobby; he has sounded the lobby’s fears about the peace process and Iran for the last 20 years. Goldberg began his pivot a month ago by throwing Netanyahu under the bus, even as he was negotiating his new job at the Atlantic. Yakov Hirsch has said that Goldberg has more power than AIPAC, and he is right. Goldberg will now take that power.
By doing so, he will carve his name in Jewish history and American history too. He will be the abolitionist editor who sliced through the 75-year Gordian knot of Zionist influence over US foreign policy. Anyone with any sense knows that Zionism has failed. Whatever good things it promised, it has ended in racism and occupation. It is incapable of changing its spots. Everywhere around us, liberal Zionists are making the transition to, Let’s have one state with equal rights for all (and let us try and cut a deal with the refugees).
Zionism is hurting the image of Jews and hurting the United States, too. It is not in the Jewish interest, and not in Goldberg’s interest. It was once, and he threw himself into it. It answered his own despairing sense of his condition. Today Zionism is a dirty word and Goldberg’s personal despair is over. He is the editor-in-chief of the Atlantic; he has one of the great seats of journalism. He is not unsafe in the U.S. And anti-Zionism speaks to his condition and ambition. He outstrips his former employers. He surprises his readers and leads the nation. He becomes a great man. He seizes the Jewish future.
How will we know I am right? In the next year or so Goldberg will stop posting nasty tweets about Israel’s enemies and make a bold gesture signaling his change. He will show largeness of spirit. Maybe he will invite Mearsheimer and Walt into the magazine that killed their heroic piece of 10 years ago. Maybe he will publish an interview with Barack Obama saying that the terror war will never end so long as we are killing Muslims and invading their countries.
He will affirm the greatest truth about the conflict, that the road to peace runs through Washington, by taking on the Israel lobby without saying so. Within two or three years he will be running anti-Zionist pieces that try and do what Munayyer has challenged us to do, imagine a combined future in Israel and Palestine. For a hint of what is coming, just look at what Goldberg’s former employer the Forward, which is edited by an ardent Zionist, ran the other day: Mira Sucharov and Joshua Schreier on ways that Jewish cultural life would be preserved without that damned Jewish majority.
The river is running one way today, toward anti-Zionism. And Jeffrey Goldberg knows it, and will claim it for himself, and we will all be better off.