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.

34 thoughts on “Jeffrey Goldberg laments the Jewish “Cossacks”

  1. During Vietnam, most dissenters that I knew were afraid of being drafted, and liked music, dope, counter-culture.

    There were many that adopted disciplined Marxist logic, surrendering their own free will to the historical imperative. To bad the historical imperative didn’t end up to be what they thought it was.

    There were others that were genuinely humanistic. “I won’t serve because I am unwilling to kill or even participate in any support manner for an unjust cause, if at all.”

    I like that Goldberg appealed to that sentiment in the above piece on his “Kossacks” line.

  2. I agree with Goldberg, but then again, coming from a centrist position–I always thought neocons got a bad rap. 🙂

    These kinds of barbaric acts go on too easily in a situation of heightened tension. There is either lack of supervision–or an intentional blind eye.

    It’s unacceptable. And Israel is better than that.

  3. “There is either lack of supervision–or an intentional blind eye.”

    Or a coarsening of the spirit, and a dehumanization of the neighbors living right next door…

  4. Teddy

    The Israelis have been accused of a coarsened spirit and dehumanization for decades–and it’s probably reached the point where they are fed up with the one-sidedness of their critics, and the ongoing jihad that expresses itself in violent attacks etc etc

    I don’t feel it’s my place to examine a soldier’s spirit. It’s enough for me that they adhere to a high standard–and that others make sure they do.

    I’m not really sure why they took the Gaza assault so far. Could it be because Lebanon ultimately achieved their goal with Hezbollah and they were hoping for a similar outcome? (that seems doubtful, but they must’ve had something in mind)

  5. The “excesses” by the IDF in Gaza were the inevitable product of the “peace process” fiasco. “Peace lovers” like A B Yehoshua in addition to the snake-oil politicians like Shimon Peres promised the following “once we pull out of Judea/Samaria/Gaza we will have proven to the world our desire for peace, we will have the support of the entire world, so that if the Arabs try anything we will bomb the hell out of them and the whole world will accept it”. YES, A B Yehoshua and many other “doves” said this. Well, it didn’t work out that way. Not only have we earned the oppobrium of the world, it didn’t even work.
    The problem is the violence. Mass violence by Israel simply antagonizes a lot of people, especially the Arabs. The “peace process” made this mass violence inevitable, by strengthening and legitimizing the most radical factions like HAMAS and Dahlan’s FATAH which he assures us never wants peace with Israel either.

    In any event, it must be asked that if in addition to the inevitable “collateral damage” that results from the use of massive firepower (everybody says Barak is supposed to be some sort of genius yet his war plans were moronic and in spite of that Netanyahu is inflicting Barak on Israel for yet another term as defense minister-heaven help us!) it must be asked if Israeli soldiers are not as disciplined as in the past. I don’t think that is true. Read Benny Morris’ book “1948” to see what the IDF was like in its “glory days” of the War of Independence when the officer corps was almost totally dominated by “progressive, humanist Marxist socialists”.

  6. Now that is a twisted reasoning.

    You insult my dear Abraham by such logic. “If there are ten righteous in the community will you spare them….”

    I’ve personally met far more than 10 righteous Palestinians. Thankfully, I’ve met far more than 10 righteous Israelis.

    Rationalizing a generalization about the “other” is not a characteristic of righteousness.

    You can fight Hamas. You can rationally fight their reasoning. You can rationally defend and oppose their actions.

    To the extent that you confuse “the Palestinians” with “the enemy”, then you’ve flipped to the dark side.

    A Jew is a specific human, NOT a new species. If we are anything of spiritual merit, we are the best of human + additional specific responsibility.

    NOT, specific responsibility instead of being humane.

  7. Yacov,
    Israel has not left the occupied territories (as Israel). Your experiment has never been tried.

    If you are testing “what happens to water at 31 degrees f?”, and only evaluate at 33 degrees (before the water changes to ice), and conclude “well, I’m close” “See, I told you so.”

    In that situation, you’re the one that is fostering a superstition.

    Two superstitions. One is that the objective world is the way you imagine.

    The second is that YOU are unable to change ice to water.

  8. Changing ice to water to adding only a little heat, not a lot, but enough to make a qualitative change in the relationship.

    What is enough? “When ice turns to water”.

    You’ve got enough fuel.

  9. Richard-
    Israelis are not prepared to just give up everything and then “wait to see what happens”. That is simply suicide. This is not mere speculation. It is based on what the Arabs were telling their own people at the height of the so-called “peace process”. Arafat said very clearly a few days after the signing of the Oslo Agreements in Johannesburg that the agreements where like Muhammes treaty of Hodeiba (sp?) with the Quraish of Mecca which was a temporary respite to be honored until he was strong enough to break it. So the idea was to do somehting incremental and see if the Palestinian took advantage of what they were being given and using it to build up the infrastructure of a state. They didn’t, and the rest is history.

  10. Risk is what you are describing.

    The ways that business manage risk, is that they TEST. They put a moderate amount of money, time, exposure at risk to determine information with which to consider feasibility of a goal, noting that in achieving that goal, there will be other consequences as well.

    You’ve NOT performed a test, but you have concluded already.

    Its failed logic.

    If you stated and thought “if”, or “might”, then your reasoning would make sense.

    If you permanently regard peace as undesirable, not worth considering/pursuing, that is something else to argue for, probably with not that many takers.

    Don’t forget Abraham. He didn’t say, “if there are 10 enemies in the town, burn the whole town”. He said, “if there are 10 righteous in the town, save it”.

  11. Richard-
    The people in Sedom were not trying to kill Avraham Avinu.
    Your talking about “taking risk” may work in business, but taking a “risk” with people who have for decades said quite openly they want to eradicate you is simple foolishness.

  12. Of course its not foolishness.

    Is everyone that you’ve ever argued with STILL not speaking with you?

    Ever see a marriage border on collapse, even after verbal abuse, then get repaired?

    It didn’t happen without risk.

    You keep your eyes open is the point. You are closing yours, and stating that that is your permanent condition.

    How many years, centuries, had it been that Jews were invisible in the regions in which they lived. Invisible, ignored, dismissed.

    You express anger. If you bothered to investigate the internal construction and support for that anger, you’d find that it depends on adopted behaviors stimulated by objective conditions. The behaviors are looking for the stimuli.

    You’re wrong to dismiss the parallel between your willingness to generalize about Palestinians and Abraham’s attitude.

    If it weren’t for the explicit description of the covenant as conditional, then it might be in conformity with Torah to adopt the logic that Joshua was asked.

    But, that is not the case. The covenant IS conditional, and requires that Jews (if religion is of any merit) refrain from “Coveting thy neighbor’s possession” for example.

    You are gambling, and if you are religious at all, you would consider that you are gambling with the spiritual integrity of the Jewish people, with not insignificant consequences for generations.

  13. It’s not your responsibility to defend Mr. Goldberg, but, respectfully, I can’t help thinking how much more productive it would have been had someone like you come to Goldberg’s aid in the midst of the fury over Freeman. Unfortunately, now more folks on the American left walk away with the view propounded by MJ and challenged at the time by the likes of teeny ole me, that guys like Goldberg deserved to be lumped together with all those other irrational and intransigent Jewish neocons. Perhaps your book will help to dispel this false but ugly and lasting logic.

  14. Bruce-
    I don’t know if you are aware of it, but MJ banned me. In fact, I am banned entirely from commenting anywhere on the TPM site. Obviously, he finds it hard to take criticism. However, I am really distressed to think that the TPM management is simply willing to accept his word for whom is an “extremist” because there are people who regularly comment there who are far more incendiary than I ever was.

    Sorry to use this thread for this personal comment but I didn’t know of any other way to communicate this message.

  15. YBD:

    I am very much aware of the most unfortunate fact that you, as both the lone rational voice on “your end of the spectrum” and as a gentleman, were banned by MJ at TPM Cafe. It was a hypocritical move, in light of the fact that each day there are dozens of actual haters from the extreme left who say things that would cause my grandparents of blessed memory to twist in their resting places.

    Please take solace that good and decent commenters of all political stripes were critical of the decision to ban you, including but not limited to, Dan K and lally. I am so sorry this happened to you YBD, but in the grand scheme of things it says far more about MJ than it does about you.

    I will pass on this message over at the Cafe (and Dan in doing so I will give yet another pitch for your website over there). YBD, as reflected in Dan’s current post, even Dan, a good friend and colleague of MJ’s, must recognize that their are two sides to the representative of the IPF, an organzation that has directly solicited my support, and which I have pledged to help (for the moment).

    Keep making us think YBD, and tell your crazy extremist friends that’s wha you do this! 🙂



  16. Please substitute “there” for there” in last sentence of first paragraph, and “why” for “wha” in last paragraph.

  17. arrrghhhh! I just had to quickly comment.

    Charlie Gibson just ran a report on ABC about Israeli soldiers coming forward and reporting incidents of targeting Palestinian civilians.

    One of them talked about how a group of soldiers spotted a lone elderly Palestinian woman walking on a road–and they took her out for the hell of it. Shot her down from a building.

    That did it for me.

    I guess I’ve been skeptical because Palestinians and the anti-Zionist left have a record of lying.

    But when soldiers and mainstream media come clean about it…I have to listen.

    I know Arabs and Israelis don’t love each other….but this is totally sick. 🙁

  18. Suzanne-
    I suggest you suspend making final decisions about whether you are going to “write off” Israel until
    (1) These events are confirmed by other sources, and if it is indeed true
    (2) It has been proven that there were more of these types of incidents than in the past, something which I am sure is NOT the case.

    If you read the article by Ethan Bronner in the New York Times a few days ago (an article which disappointed by because the Times usually tries to bring balance to its report, which they didn’t this time), you will note that these stories were not first brought to light because of some concern about decline of discipline in the IDF, but as a POLITICAL weapon against religious soldiers. There are Leftist elements, apparently including this Zamir fellow who believe there are too many religious soldiers and officers and he was using these unconfirmed reports as a way of pushing his claim that there are too many “undesirable” elements in the officer corps.

  19. Actually the oppossite is true Yacov.

    Zamir is not considered a leftist in the slightest. And, the points about religious participation in the IDF is that it distorts the chain of command. An officer cannot then tell if a soldier is primarily obeying his orders or the orders of a neo-rabbi.

    Its a prospective disaster for Israel. If you are a patriot, you would acknowledge that an army can’t function without a functional and responsible chain of command.

    Its a CERTAINTY that violations of the published rules of engagement occurred. The only question is of the extent and accountability of cases.

  20. Yaakov

    I am most definitely NOT writing Israel off. Just acknowledging a very dark moment.

    I agree these reports need to be confirmed–and an investigation done to see how widespread these incidents are.

    In any case, it still turns my stomach. The US military has had its own dark moments in Iraq and that was of great concern as well.

    Of course, I wish Israel could combat guerrilla warfare without involving civilians…through advanced technology and intelligence etc.

    Also, I’ve read that 20% of Palestinians want to commit to peace with Israel–and about 60% will sway whichever way the wind blows (leaving 20% of dedicated warmongers). I wish Israel would find a way of reaching out to that 60% in some way…especially the 20% for peace.

  21. Sorry Suzanne but your consistent slandering of all things “left” really puts me at such an unease. I personally don’t like sweeping statements that conflates so many into one ideological pigeonhole, similar to what Dan specified here about Goldberg and the “left’s” use of him with neoconservatives. It must just be me but I really don’t like being called a liar, just like I don’t like being called an anti-Semite or others here like being called a racist because they support Zionism. Maybe I shouldn’t take it as an offense myself since I don’t identify to what is termed “left” by many here at all.

    As for Goldberg, he seems to turncoat so many times, too many times to my liking. To me, he seems conflicted to what he really wants Israel to be; both expansionist and also fully democratic, he laments the situation but yet wants to continue the commitment to what made this situation in the first place. He also supported the Iraq war (but so did many idiot liberals too). That to me really is an alarm bell and his book did not do any favours for me. I also don’t like how he is so confident about the goals of both the IDF and Hamas; it seems so biased that it really could make many roll their eyes. Even Ethan Bronner in his own mixed up way stated that civilians were always going to be a casaulty; if so then the IDF knew what it was going to do and did so anyway. Lebanon-mania revisited.

    I would actually highlight what Y.Ben-David stated about the “leak” of the recent testimonies: they did have a purpose. It seems that it was a way to pin the blame on the civilian losses on the religious “nuts”, as they would call them. It really is another scapegoat to escape what was a failure of policy and a failure of strategy (as well as of ideology personally). This war was not started because of religious reasons and there aren’t odious shirts being printed with Abraham in mind either. For more, I would link Jeremiah Haber and his take on it over at his blog. It was a way to pass the buck. Additionally, how was all of this different to everything that was stated in previous wars and “operations” in the past, re: Breaking The Silence.

  22. Goldberg:
    “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.”

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

    Not only a neo-con, but a willfully blind one!!
    And that goes for the rest of you hand-wringers as well!

  23. Joshua

    I qualified my statement by saying anti-zionist leftists…

    regardless, grow some thicker skin. Your camp has made sweeping generalizations about zionism–and neoconservatism–and you don’t see me whining over it. If I observe you extending the same courtesy, I’ll consider tempering my language.

    As for the radical left…I think it is a rather dangerous element. I think the movement/ideology is responsible for various Jews becoming antagonistic towards their own lineage and ethnicity–and by extension, working against Israel. This is apparently going on inside and outside of Israel….starting with Israel Shahak as the grandfather. Phil Weiss appears to be a recent member of that “cult.”

    That’s what happens to idealogues.

    And, to my mind, the problem is more than Jews and Israel. I’ve been around a lot of the left–and their agenda for America and Western values stinks on ice too. It always has.

    Basically because radical leftists are not about reform but a complete makeover that no one in this country is interested in. Thus the parasitical leeching onto anti-Western movements in other places.

    Maybe some people on the Left are altruistic but I don’t trust the movement on the whole. And the anti-semitism of the fringe Left is undeniable. It’s plastered all over Weiss’s site for anyone who doubts my pov.

  24. I wouldn’t call it “whining”; after all the times you have derided the left this is the first time I have spoken about out and how you were doing a routine disservice which Fleshler spoke of about Goldberg. I didn’t call for your comment to be expunged or for you to be blocked like other people might have done. Comparitively, to me it seemed along the same lines and it should be called upon. Now that you know, I won’t speak of it again.

    Trust me, this syndrome of “tough skin” is one we all have. Why on Phil’s blog a commentor who was an anti-Zionist even called for a bullet for myself (and another who shares the same name).

    Skepticism should be directed at all camps of ideology. There are reasons for your suspect view of the Left, as there should be many for those on the right if anti-Semitism is something that troubles you over their objectives and agendas. With extensive study, I have found that those who cry wolf over anti-Semitism want to focus that charge mainly on those who are anti-Zionists or fierce critics of Israel. The rest really seems to pass on by without a fuss because the one thing that really should not be contested is Israel’s right to do what it wants in the name of Zionism or Judaism.

  25. Joshua

    We’ve gotten pretty contentious with each other. Perhaps a knee jerk reactions on both of our parts at this point.

    I generally don’t find you too wacked out on the issue of Israel.

    I’ve simply gotten so used to the litany of bs from the anti-Israel camp that I tune it out and pigeonhole a small handful who probably don’t deserve it. Although frankly…I have pretty much surmised that anti-Israel and anti-Zionist are almost ALWAYS the same thing.

    Also, most Israel haters are so vehemently disproportionate in their blaming Israel (which is not blameless)–that one wonders where it’s coming from.

    There IS anti-semitism (about 50% of Phil’s regulars are obsessed with Jewish character and “Jewish world dominion” and “exceptionalism”)–and one can’t help but think the depth of emotion against Israel is more than just about Palestinians. Especially when most of these people have little to do with Palestinians in every day life.

    I just find it rather curious.

    For the record, I don’t like it when people talk that way about America either. I can tell the difference between contempt and tough love.

  26. I’ve seen you over at Phil’s site, Suzanne, and you’re no paragon of virtue. I often think Phil should just remove the comment section entirely if he isn’t willing to enforce his alleged rules. He has an infestation of anti-semites, though many or most of them seem to be of the traditional rightwing element. One of them regularly equates Judaism with Zionism with leftism with liberalism with Stalinism and he imagines some ridiculous past utopia when America was under virtuous rule by wonderful antisemitic Christians like himself. Leftwing critics of Zionism, like me, find people like him sickening and you’ll see some of us saying so. There are also some antisemites whose ideology I can’t categorize, except that it seems to be one of pure hatred. Or maybe it’s mental illness. Then there are the people you find everywhere on online, who think they can demonstrate their superiority or the superiority of their cause by engaging in insults, either crude or supposedly sophisticated or by never giving ground or conceding any legitimate points to the opposition. You’re one of that type, Suzanne, at least at Phil’s place. Anyway, Phil has allowed people like this to flock to his site and while there are also some sensible commenters present, they are often drowned out by the idiots.

    There’s also a fair number of kneejerk anti-Arab pro-Israel racists over there and I haven’t seen you criticize them. Anyone at Phil’s site who only sees the anti-semitism on the one hand or the anti-Arab racism on the other is simply blind.

    As for the emphasis on Israel by lefties, there are different things going on. To a large extent I think it’s a feeling (which I agree with) that because America has been in Israel’s corner and because we’ve heard so much dishonest favorable comment in its favor, it’s our duty to focus on this. A couple of decades back I would have said our role in supporting mass murder in southern Africa and Central America and East Timor was more important, but currently Israel is near the top of the list for me.

  27. Witty’s anonymous critic: are you Leander?

    Can you tell me who the rabid anti Arabs are? Given that there is NOT even a fair amount of Israeli posters on mondoweiss, I have to wonder who you’re talking about. Sword of Gideon?

    I, myself, AM vocal about Islamist radicalism–and I don’t live in some parallel universe where Zionism (even the rabid religious brand of it) is anything close to jihadist ideology.

    If that’s what you’re talking about…no apologies from me. I’m not going to play that game.

    As far as I’m concerned, the Left has collected some pretty odd bedfellows and has attempted to demonize Israel beyond all proportion.

    As I said on one of Phil’s recent threads…when you distort the truth in favor of some ideological principle (namely, defending the “downtrodden” unconditionally) and assigning guilt purely on class status–you begin to lose credibility.

    I suspect I’m not very different from others who share my views when I note that if a friendly critic of Israel says it shouldn’t get a blank check from the US–I am prone to agree.

    It’s all in the tone and intent.

  28. No, I’m not Leander. I generally agree with him though. And also maybe Sin Nombre, though I’m not as familiar with him.

    In answer to your question, Chris Berel is generally pretty sickening. Sword of Gideon is the worst of all, comparable to a holocaust denier (one or two of those show up at Phil’s from time to time). There’s a couple of others too, but I’m not as sure if they’re always awful, so I won’t name them. Richard Witty is the only consistently honorable Zionist over there, IMO–he drives me nuts with his arguing style and I disagree with him all the time, but he never violates posting rules and his ultimate goals are good (i.e., I see them as the same as mine). You, otoh, are just there for snark and insults, as best I can tell, and that just drags the place down further. Though it probably can’t be saved unless Phil steps in.

    Anybody who doesn’t acknowledge that both sides commit atrocities on a pretty regular basis is not being honest. As for jihadists, I think Al Qaeda stands alone, as they don’t have any cause that deserves any sympathy. Hezbollah and Hamas are more “normal” terrorist groups, in that they have some legitimate goals (and some less so) while employing immoral tactics to reach them. I’d equate that with the Israeli right, or for that matter the Israeli government in general. I’d much prefer living in Israel than under Hamas for all sorts of reasons, but that doesn’t mean Israel or any other Western democracy gets a pass when they commit war crimes.

  29. “is the only consistently honorable Zionist over there”

    I have to retract that. I don’t read every thread and can’t keep track of everyone’s opinions, so instead I’ll just say those things about Richard–there might be other honorable people of varying viewpoints at Phil’s blog, but it’s hard to notice them with all the nonsense.

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