By Daniel Luban
When last we checked in with Jeffrey Goldberg, the Atlantic reporter was drumming up hysteria about the Iranian nuclear threat — much as he did in the runup to the Iraq war — and approvingly citing a Netanyahu advisor’s claim that Iran is the new Amalek. If we’ve failed to provide updates these last few months, it’s because following his rantings has become increasingly exhausting: a constant stream of ugly innuendos and allegations against betes noires like Stephen Walt, Chas Freeman, Roger Cohen, Human Rights Watch. Rather than wade through all this vitriol, readers would be better served by reading Glenn Greenwald’s typically thorough takedown of Goldberg’s reckless accusations of anti-Semitism. Frankly, at this point there is not much separating Goldberg from Abe Foxman.
Still, I have to admit that I was surprised to read Goldberg’s reaction to the release of the U.N. report detailing Israeli and Hamas war crimes during the recent Gaza conflict. The U.N. commission was, of course, headed by Richard Goldstone, the South African former chief prosecutor of the international criminal tribunals for the Balkans and Rwanda — and also, as Daniel Levy notes, a Jew and a Zionist with a long history of involvement with Israeli causes and a daughter who made aliyah herself. One would think that this biography would inspire confidence in those “serious liberals” who profess their passion for human rights.
Instead, Goldberg seems to have decided to double down on the accusations of anti-Semitism. Read his whole response here — in the span of two short paragraphs, Goldberg calls Goldstone “the chief of the hanging party” whose “mandate…was to find Israel guilty” (in spite of the fact that Goldstone himself insisted on broadening the commission’s mandate to include Palestinian war crimes), casually attempts to link Goldstone with Norman Finkelstein, and claims that Goldstone’s report is a product of the “undying disease” of anti-Semitism.
As usual, Goldberg does not come out and say explicitly that Goldstone is an anti-Semite (or in this case, I suppose, a self-hating Jew), instead hiding behind innuendo and guilt-by-association. Still, there is no mistaking his implication. And as usual, Goldberg is quick to protest that “I don’t support everything that Israel did in Gaza,” holding up his faint and timid reservations about the war as if he expects to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for them. But since he has spent the last nine months smearing anyone who expressed genuine qualms about the war, his self-presentation as an apostle of peace is unlikely to fool anyone at this point.
If Goldberg wants to be taken seriously again, he might want to grow up, stop flinging around these reckless (and increasingly ineffectual) accusations of anti-Semitism, and start engaging with his opponent’s actual positions.