Is Richard Goldstone an anti-Semite?

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.

Daniel Luban

Daniel Luban is a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. He holds a PhD in politics from the University of Chicago and was formerly a correspondent in the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service.



  1. “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.”

    Daniel, perhaps you don’t understand the Anti-semitism charge, it arises from an inability or unwillingness to engage in actual points. Maybe you find it tacky, but ask a Jew to explain religion or race the answer is Anti-semitism.

    When asked, do you accept Joshua as a guide for the Zionist project? the answer, Anti-semitism. How can you not hate a sophist? The Anti-semite charge is a self fulfilling prophecy. I think those who run to the refuge of this ultimate ad-hominem charge do foresee the dichotomy they are struggling to avoid. They won’t be pinned down, they have no integrity, no honor, sophism is their core.

    I reject exceptionalism no matter who uses it. For the first cousin of Anti-semite is Communist, or Un-American. Challenge a mindless hawk about our nations ideals, and how we square these with our foreign policy you get the love it or leave it speech. I suppose this charge would be different if we were still trying to dispossess the natives of this land.

    Since population is vital, Zionists won’t tell you to leave, they want you counted in the census, they just want to marginalize you by labeling you mentally ill. (for the charge of anti-semite is a charge of mental illness)

    I don’t intend to limit this charge to Jews, Americans or any other group, this is an ugly aspect of human nature that is the retreat of sophists.

  2. Well-written piece, I particularly enjoyed your employment of sarcasm with a light hand.

    Goldberg and others like him use what Ayn Rand (someone I generally can’t stomach, despite the fact that I’m a “small L” libertarian) called “the argument from intimidation.” This involves attempting to discredit an argument by ignoring the facts and instead attacking the person making it. You don’t like what someone has to say about Israel. you call them an anti-semite — even if, in this case, the person you’re attacking is a Jew and a Zionist. It’s pathetic. But there’s a certain class of person who will not hesitate to stoop so low. Goldberg’s one, and he has plenty of company.

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