This is remarkable: Jeffrey Goldberg interviewed Hillary Clinton last week for the Atlantic festival and did not ask her anything about Israel or Trump’s rightwing policy shift on Israel. He had nearly 40 minutes with her and Jerusalem never came up. Because he knows, the brand is toxic on the left.
Time was when Israel was Goldberg’s calling card. He got important interviews with President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry as an advocate for the Jewish establishment, to press them on the subject — Do you love Israel in your kishkes, he asked Obama? Aren’t you indifferent to the Holocaust and Jewish fears as you negotiate this Iran deal, he asked of Kerry. When Kerry warned that Israel would face boycotts, Goldberg said he felt “queasy.” He was the Long Island boy who cared so much about anti-Semitism he had moved to Israel and put on the Israeli uniform to work in a prison filled with Palestinians.
But now Goldberg’s job is being editor-in-chief of the Atlantic, and he knows the mood of the age. He asked Clinton about racial issues, feminist issues, partisan issues, Russian influence over the election; but not a word about the Middle East, even though she was secretary of state and did everything Israel wanted not long ago. Goldberg is shrewd. The base of the Democratic Party doesn’t like Israel, and he loves Israel, so he has to keep his mouth shut, because he’s in the footsteps of Atlantic predecessors, James Russell Lowell and William Dean Howells and William Whitworth, and Emerson too. So he’s changed his stripes entirely. He’s a leading American editor. He doesn’t talk about parochial Israel any more. There are assistant editors of his who are for boycott and he can’t admit feeling queasy anymore.
Happily, we have Yakov Hirsch’s pieces on Goldberg to remind us of Goldberg’s achievement. The rightwing political culture of Israel is a product of the discourse Goldberg once policed, in which no real criticism of Israel was tolerated because of an ethnocentric “sacred macho victimhood” understanding of the moral universe: the rules don’t apply to Israel (and Jews), and no one can confront that because of “anti-Semitism.”
That moral universe is very different world from the liberal values Goldberg needs to represent to succeed as a tribune of the center-left. Goldberg MUST escape Israel. I say God bless him, this is what you’re allowed to do in America, reinvent yourself, and Goldberg has reinvented himself as a non-Zionist. That’s good for everyone, from the Atlantic to the Democrats to the next Congress. And just watch, anti-Zionism is next for Goldberg. It’s not long before he says that a Jewish state is an anachronism. He can only battle Trumpism by throwing Jewish nationalism under the bus.