There is a ridiculous canard that American Jews who speak out against Israel are “courageous.” These days, it requires no bravery to say almost anything you want to say about Israel in a public forum (unless, of course, you are a politician, or an official in a mainstream Jewish organization). But what Jeffrey Goldberg just said on Shalom T.V. is extraordinarily gutsy. He said it to a nationwide Jewish audience, most of them –from what I can gather from the general run of programs on Shalom TV– leaning to the right.
Sometimes Goldberg is a darling of the neocons. Not this time. Here are some snippets:
We’re moving toward a very huge crisis, not just in the Middle East, but in American-Israel relations because responses to the same threat might diverge to some degree. The main thing holding back Israel (in the future) from attacking Iran or Iranian nuclear sites would be America’s unwillingness to see this happen….You have 130,000 American troops in Iraq, right next door to Iran. Their lives would be in danger if Israel attacked Iran.
…The $64,000 question is: Would he [Bibi Netanyahu] risk the relationship with the United States of America in order to deal with the existential threat from Iran?
For years, we in the American Jewish community have been able to say to ourselves [that] Israel’s interests and America’s interests overlap so much that we never have an internal conflict. If you’re being intellectually honest with yourself, you have to say that what’s good for Israel in this case might not be the best thing in the world for America. You have to be open to that discussion…
I’ve decided in my life that I’m an American Jew. I love Israel, I want Israel protected and I want it safe. [But] do I want America to do things that possibly endangers its own national interest in order to protect Israel? I don’t think so. Israel hasn’t faced a situation in its 62-year history in which an avowed enemy that–rhetorically, at least–seeks its destruction has been a nuclear power. That poses a set of unique challenges to Israel and it poses real questions to American policy makers and the American public [since] the level of threat to each country is different. And that’s why we’re heading into a very difficult moment when interests might diverge.
I hereby admit that I have been thinking these same thoughts. So, I am sure, have other American Jews. I also admit that I have been afraid to write them, afraid of the implications, afraid of how this rhetoric could be snatched up and emblazoned over the Web by those who want America to desert Israel entirely. But this cat is out of the bag now. It was allowed to escape by someone whose views on Israel’s critics –Charles Freedman, Walt/Mearsheimer–are welcomed by the gang at the New Republic. It has already scampered around the Shalom TV studios in Fort Lee, and it is too late to bring it back.
What an amazing, scary, confusing moment!