By Isaac Butler
Corey Robin has a good roundup of a recent twitter kerfuffle involving the Atlantic's resident Israel-censor Jeffrey Goldberg. Goldberg, for those who don't know, is a columnist for the Atlantic, a former prison guard for the Israeli Defense Force during the First Intifadah, and a Zionist concern troll who is faster than just about everyone to label rhetoric that questions Israeli action as anti-semitic. He even used his perch at the Atlantic to beat up Theater J for daring to stage Caryl Churchill's "Seven Jewish Children."
(He also claimed the invasion of Iraq was "an act of profound morality," but that's less relevant here.)
One thing that really stands out about Goldberg's writing about Israel is how personal it is, in the worst possible sense. Goldberg has appointed himself some kind of arbiter of what is and is not acceptable for people-- especially his fellow American Jews-- to say and do with regard to Israel. And, in true tyrant fashion, the only evidence he needs that something is unacceptable is that it feels unacceptable to him. For example, his piece on "Seven Jewish Children" begins this way:
Against my advice -- and the advice of others -- my friend Ari Roth has decided to stage two readings of Caryl Churchill's "Seven Jewish Children" at hisTheater J, in Washington.
Roth's crime, in other words, is not staging the play, but instead not kissing Goldberg's ring with enough enthusaism.
Robin has a much more detailed account of Goldberg's attempts to dictate the way that Jews talk about Israel, an act of such monumental hubris that Goldberg appears to believe he gets to say who is and isn't a Jew based on their Zionist bonafides after Goldberg threatened to stop "defending" J Street's place in the Jewish Tent after one of their employees argued with him on twitter:
Zionists like Goldberg like to style themselves as open, hip, and pluralist. They think what distinguishes them from the Black Hats is their embrace of secular modernity. But as you can see from this incident and the one I discuss below, Zionism has not only made these types intolerant and anti-pluralist; it has turned them into Popes and Inquisitors, enthralled with their imagined power to exile and excommunicate.
Under their watch, one of the most important questions that lies at the heart of the Jewish tradition—What does it mean to be a Jew?—gets taken off the table. Because we already know the answer: support for the State of Israel. If you do, you’re a Jew in good standing; if you don’t, you’re not.
That’s what nationalism—especially nationalism hitched to a state—does to people. It makes the Goldbergs of this world think they can give Jews a passport or take it away. Well, guess what, Rabbi Goldberg: you can’t. I don’t need you defending my right to be in the Jewish tent because that’s not within your, or any other Jew’s, power to decide.