Former follower of reactionary Rabbi Meir Kahane and current Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg has made a career out of labeling the most benign criticism of Israel as antisemitic.
In theory, Goldberg’s reactionary posture towards critics of Israel could be the result of an extreme vigilance against ethnically-prejudiced language, but given Goldberg’s recent silence on phenomenally insensitive statements by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Palestinians, it would appear Goldberg’s sympathies are much like Kahane’s—decidedly narrow.
Or so argues writer Yakov Hirsch. Hirsch takes Goldberg to task, both in a post on Mondoweiss, titled, “Jeffrey Goldberg will be silent till he finds a way to spin all the bad-for-the-Jews news from Israel,” and in a recent interview on The Scott Horton Show, for this perceived double standard on ethnic bigotry.
Hirsch argues Golberg’s silence on the highly controversial “No Jews” video makes Golberg’s agenda clear. In the video, Prime Minister Netanyahu accuses Palestinians of wanting to ethnically cleanse Jews because one of their demands for a Palestinian state is the removal of illegal Israeli settlements from the West Bank.
The blatant dishonesty of Netanyahu’s claim in the No Jews video was lost on few, including the Obama Administration, which labeled Netanyahu’s terminology “inappropriate and unhelpful.” Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization dedicated to taking on antisemitism, agreed with the White House and claimed Netanyahu had willfully distorted the meaning of the term ethnic cleansing.
So where was prolific Israeli expert Jeffrey Goldberg on this matter? Nowhere, apparently. Hirsch explains this is because Goldberg is an activist, not a journalist, and he must find the right spin before discussing the events:
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.
The other bad news Hirsch is referring to is a controversy surrounding the video of Israeli Sergeant Elor Azaria executing a disarmed Palestinian. Azaria has been charged with manslaughter for the killing, but many in Israel oppose him being charged at all, including some in the upper echelons of the Israeli government.
The Netanyahu video and Azaria affair play into a larger narrative of Israeli politics moving further to the far-right, perhaps best profiled in the book “Goliath” by Max Blumenthal. The new political dynamics have not been lost on Israelis.
Israeli General Yair Golan reacted to the support for Azaria as being indicative of parallels between the ethnic hatred of Nazi Germany and contemporary Israel. In a speech on Holocaust Memorial Day, General Golan said, “The Holocaust must lead us to think about our public life, and even more so, it must lead all those who can – not just those who want – to bear public responsibility. Because If there is something that scares us about the memory of the Holocaust, it is identifying nauseating processes that occurred in Europe in general and Germany in particular, 70, 80 and 90 years ago, and finding evidence of their presence here among us, today, in 2016.”
If Jeffrey Golberg is, as Hirsch claims, an activist looking for a way to spin these scandals to help Netanyahu and celebrate the status quo in Israel, then Goldberg truly has some difficult work ahead.