The Dangerous Fantasies of Jeffrey Goldberg

So, the American liberal says he's 'taking a break' from Haaretz. The Palestinians are far more tired of the occupation. They’d also like a break.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg at the Zionism 3.0: Israel’s Place in Tomorrow’s World Conference, hosted by Oshman Family JCC and Haaretz on November 22, 2015 in Palo Alto, California.
The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg at the Zionism 3.0: Israel’s Place in Tomorrow’s World Conference, hosted by Oshman Family JCC and Haaretz on November 22, 2015 in Palo Alto, California.Credit: Courtesy
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Jeffrey Goldberg has a fantasy. Like every fantasy, it’s only loosely connected to reality. But don’t dare try to spoil it – he’s enjoying it too much.

Goldberg is an enlightened liberal, representing progressive American Jewry. He’s liberal, intellectual, Zionist (of course), a friend of Israel (of course), close to U.S. President Barack Obama and a highly regarded journalist. He is critical of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who isn’t?) and has liberal, enlightened Israeli friends just like him.

In Goldberg’s fantasy, Israel is as enlightened as he is: liberal, democratic and just. Don’t you dare try casting doubt on that – Goldberg’s liberalism won’t tolerate it. He will praise freedom of expression in Israel, as he did at a Haaretz conference in Palo Alto last November, and will say that Israelis' freedom of the press and lively public debate is what makes Israel so popular in America. But from now on, it will have to be without Haaretz and the lively public debate it fosters about Zionism among Jewish Americans.

According to Goldberg, Haaretz is doing something unforgiveable: it’s shattering his fantasy. Because of an op-ed piece in which two American-Jewish historians explain why they’ve abandoned Zionism, as well as a piece of my own (“Yes, Israel is an evil state,” July 31), the liberal Goldberg has decided he’s had enough of Haaretz. He tweeted to his 107,000 Twitter followers that these sort of pieces make him sick. Neo-Nazis, he said, have been distributing my op-ed, so he was going to have to “take a break” from Haaretz.

I would love to know who those neo-Nazis are. After all, neo-Nazis and the radical right are now some of Israel’s best friends. Did Goldberg mean to say that BDS advocates are neo-Nazis? And besides, I’m not sure I understand. What, the pieces are true, but it’s only the way they’re used that angers Goldberg? Should they not be published because neo-Nazis disseminate them? Or are the articles not actually true?

Behind this lies the greatest boorishness of all: the rather primitive idea that Israel’s critics are the ones giving it a bad name, not its actions and policies. That criticism of Israel was born of articles in Haaretz, not the crimes of the occupation. The video footage released Tuesday showing a Border Policeman throwing the bike of a terrified Palestinian girl into the bushes in Hebron did more damage to Israel than all of my pieces in Haaretz combined. Goldberg probably thought it should never have been posted, because of the neo-Nazis.

You’re tired of Haaretz, Jeffrey? The Palestinians are far more tired of the occupation. They’d also like a break.

And now to the essence. Goldberg thinks a country that’s oppressing four million human beings is an enlightened state implementing the liberal values of the West. That a country that in its own backyard is maintaining one of the most brutal and tyrannical regimes that exist today – certainly in the Western world – and has been running an apartheid regime for nearly 50 years, is a democracy. Would Goldberg call his country a democracy if there was racist discrimination in the south?

No one is denying Goldberg his right to deceive himself and his readers. But the Goldbergs bear a heavy burden of guilt, because the occupation also continues because of them – those who spread the lie of Israeli democracy and its liberal nonsense. The smokescreen that Goldberg spreads in America allows it. He wants to continue enjoying Israel as long as it doesn’t harm the Reform movement or the Women of the Wall, while ignoring everything it does to the Palestinians.

Haaretz will manage without Goldberg, but Israel would be a different country without this newspaper. It would be a country that even propagandist Goldberg would be ashamed of, without journalism of substance and without real oversight. Who will cover the occupation? Channel 2? Or the asylum seekers – Yedioth Ahronoth? Who will write about the undermining of democracy? Israel Hayom?

That’s the country Goldberg would like to continue to fantasize about in Washington. Thanks, but we’re not interested.

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