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Goldberg, reinvented, asks Clinton zero questions about Israel

Media Analysis
on 10 Comments

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.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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10 Responses

  1. scott9854958 on October 9, 2018, 2:08 pm

    Nicely put sarcasm. It is revealing that the Atlantic, which used to have a robust commenting section, scrubbed it. They want “respectful, intelligent discourse,” or so says Grundleberg.

  2. Marnie on October 9, 2018, 8:11 pm

    Off topic, but I just looked at Canary Mission’s website and the voluminous reporting on Mondoweiss and Phil in particular. It’s nauseating. I then looked under ‘Individuals’ and under the caption ‘If you’re racist , the world should know’ there are page after page of individuals of young, attractive men and women with scary surnames, beards (or not) and hijabs (or not) and the first thing that came to mind was how would the jewish establishment respond to a website that categorized them, their businesses, academics, etc., as ‘racist’ and ‘the world should know’?It wouldn’t last for a week, if even that long.

  3. yogurt on October 9, 2018, 9:48 pm

    I don’t have a problem with optimism, but I find Phil’s articles to be overly optimistic. He’s saying that Goldberg will likely become an anti-Zionist because it’s becoming trendy on the left. However, there is a difference between explicit and inexplicit support for Anti-Zionism. Goldberg’s variety seems to be veering towards the latter, and this will be very slow or perhaps ineffective when it comes to influencing other mainstream media outlets and the public. Hopefully I’m wrong. Btw, what is a non-Zionist?

  4. wondering jew on October 10, 2018, 4:57 am

    Oh, please. The raising of the topic of Israel would have been totally out of left field in this softball interview of Clinton and the fact that Goldberg did not do so is not a sign of the new Goldberg, only a sign of a competent interviewer. Because Goldberg for many years was Netanyahu’s defense attorney and advocate of attacking Iran (just shy of Dershowitz in obnoxiousness) it is no surprise that he is attacked by mondoweiss. But this “he didn’t mention Israel, this is a sign that Israel is toxic” is just bush league bushwa. As is the “anti Zionism is next for Goldberg”, this is amateur hour. There is little question in my mind, that if another Rabin would take lead in Israel, Goldberg would follow his lead through thick and thin. In fact, another Rabin will not take lead in Israel and Goldberg will be stuck with the contradiction: support for the idea of a Jewish state and aversion to the form that the right wing rulers and predominant zeitgeist will continue to give to the Jewish state.

    Weiss speaks much more kindly of Beinart (and as Yakov Hirsch points out Beinart has a totally different outlook deserving of this kindlier attitude), but also regarding Beinart Weiss has predicted that he will announce some day soon that he rejects Zionism. Because Beinart even moreso than Goldberg is caught in the discomfort of supporting Zionism despite its contradictions to his general liberal spirit, because of his embrace or acceptance of the burden of Jewish history, contradicted further by the right wing rulers and zeitgeist of Israel, Beinart will be in a difficult spot for the foreseeable future. But these predictions about “someday soon he will announce that Israel is an anachronism” are just some amateur daydreaming, not a real understanding of the complications of accepting Jewish history. Weiss, who only accepts Jewish history, when he can turn it against Zionism, should cease and desist imagining how those who in fact accept the burden of Jewish history will react over time.

    (There are those like Brant Rosen and Marc Ellis who accept the burden of Jewish history, yet still turn against Zionism, so such a phenomenon exists. Still Weiss’s “soon they will change their tune” musings are amateur hour and reflect the fact that he himself always rejected Jewish history in his youth and only accepts it now in his advanced years, so as to use it as a weapon against Zionism.)

    • joycejamie on October 10, 2018, 10:11 am

      Zionism will become an anachronism only after worldwide pressure against it.

    • Misterioso on October 10, 2018, 10:32 am

      @wondering jew

      “Oh, please. The raising of the topic of Israel would have been totally out of left field in this softball interview of Clinton…”

      Au contraire. Discussing the relationship between the entity known as “Israel” and the U.S. would have been entirely relevant and of considerable interest to thinking Americans.

      A couple of reasons spring to mind:…
      “Congressional Research Service, U.S. Foreign aid to Israel, Jeremy M. Sharpe, Specialist in Middle East Affairs, April 10, 2018.”
      “Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $134.7 billion (current, or non inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance and missile defense funding. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although in the past Israel also received significant economic assistance. At a signing ceremony at the State Department on September 14, 2016, representatives of the U.S. and Israeli governments signed a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on military aid covering FY2019 to FY2028. Under the terms of the MOU, the United States pledges to provide $38 billion in military aid ($33 billion in Foreign Military Financing grants plus $5 billion in missile defense appropriations) to Israel. This MOU replaces a previous $30 billion 10-year agreement, which runs through FY2018.”
      If Americans Knew Blog, Sept. 23/18
      “Sheldon Adelson spending $100 million to keep control of U.S. policies on Israel”
      “Casino billionaire’s total contributions on behalf of Israel in 2016 & 2018 reported to surpass $100 million, possibly making him the largest single donor in American politics today”
      By Amir Tibon, reposted from Ha’aretz

      WASHINGTON – “Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson is reportedly spending at least $55 million during the upcoming midterm elections in order to keep Republicans in control of Congress. Adelson’s spending commitment was first reported on Saturday by the New York Times, in an article describing how Adelson has become the most influential donor in the Republican Party during U.S. President Donald Trump’s time in office.

      “According to the report, Adelson’s total spending on behalf of the Republicans in the 2016 and 2018 election combined, will surpass $100 million, probably making him the largest single donor in American politics today. Adelson had previously spent tens of millions of dollars during the 2012 election in a failed attempt to help Mitt Romney, that year’s Republican nominee, oust Barack Obama from the White House.”

  5. CigarGod on October 10, 2018, 10:59 am

    Clinton could again be running for Prez, and Israel not a relevant interview topic.

  6. Mooser on October 10, 2018, 12:12 pm

    “God bless him, this is what you’re allowed to do in America, reinvent yourself, and Goldberg has reinvented himself as a non-Zionist.”

    Gosh, the things they can do with gene-splicing therapy these days.

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