American foreign policy Israel Israeli occupation Israeli settlements Mearsheimer and Walt

Jeffrey Goldberg laments the Jewish “Cossacks”

Jeffrey Goldberg appears to be the new punching bag of left-leaning bloggers and Walt/Mearsheimer realists who focus on Israel and the American Jewish community. After Goldberg opposed the Chas. Freeman nomination, my dear friend and fellow-traveller MJ Rosenberg (who wrote the Foreward to my breathlessly anticipated, long-awaited book) lumped Goldberg into the same category as Steven Rosen, Marty Peretz and other reflexive supporters of Israeli policies, claiming “The only issue that gang has in common is defending the occupation and opposing the peace process.” Not true, Goldberg responded, pointing out that, in fact, he has been a longtime opponent of the settlements and the occupation. Last year, Glen Greenwald lumped him into the same category as the gang at Commentary and other “neocons.”

I often disagree with Goldberg. But it isn’t helpful to consign him to narrow ideological categories or to presume that because he sometimes agrees with Jonathan Chait or Steven Rosen, it is never appropriate to concur with him. When Goldberg is right, he deserves credit, and he never seems to get any from critics of the Israeli occupation or America’s passive acceptance of it. The following, splendid post by Goldberg on the IDF’s behavior has not gotten the attention it deserves:

The Times reported that the Israeli government believes it must spend more money on “hasbara,” a Hebrew word that falls somewhere between propaganda and information. It is true that the world media, generally speaking, doesn’t like Israel very much, and stacks the deck against it, but good hasbara starts with not allowing soldiers to vandalize Palestinian homes and shoot Palestinian women. Public relations isn’t a morally relevant category, in any case: The crucial question is, how should a civilized country behave when confronting barbarism? With barbarism? Or with respect for innocent life? Pardon me for saying so, but the Jewish people didn’t struggle for national equality, justice and freedom so that some of its sons could behave like Cossacks.

Please don’t get me wrong: I’m not equating the morality of the IDF to that of Hamas. The goal of Hamas is to murder innocent people; the goal of the IDF is to avoid murdering innocent people. But when the IDF fails to achieve its goal, and ends up inflicting needless destruction and suffering, it sullies not only its own name, but the name of the Jewish state. It risks making a just cause — Jewish nationhood — seem unjust, and it ultimately endangers what it is supposed to protect.

If those are the sentiments of a neocon, then I’ll plead guilty to being a neocon, too.

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