Jeffrey Goldberg is the Israel debate’s ‘official therapist’ — and its ‘Jekyll and Hyde’

o13-iconWilliam McGowan writes: Bloomberg View columnist Jeffrey Goldberg has been called the “official therapist” of the US-Israel “special relationship.” He also functions as a referee or a cop in the debate about that relationship, enforcing acceptable standards in a discourse fraught with semantic landmines and political ill will. Temperamentally, the two Goldbergs couldn’t be more different. It’s almost like he’s journalistically bi-polar — the Israel debate’s Jekyll and Hyde.

Therapist Goldberg is the Good Jeffrey. As almost everyone who has known or met him will attest, he’s witty, genial and funny — a mensch. This is the side of him we see on Charlie Rose, on the Sunday morning newsmaker shows and on CNN. It’s also the side we see in most of Bloomberg columns and, before he joined Bloomberg, in most of his magazine work for the Atlantic and the New Yorker. He’s plugged in and well informed, on a first name basis with sources that are often unavailable to others in the insular, incestuous world of Israeli politics — and often privy to developments in the Mid-east that other journalists only learn about through him. The time he spent in Israel after dropping out of college in the 1980’s has served him well, providing a platform for a journalistic career that has focused on Middle Eastern politics—Israel and the Islamic world both — for the last 20 years.

Goldberg’s analysis of the Iranian nuclear negotiations has been marked by a command of technical and diplomatic detail, even if he has favored the cynical view held by Israel, which sees the Iran nuclear negotiations less in terms of the opportunities it offers for avoiding war than in terms of the room it offers Iran to manipulate world opinion. Goldberg’s Washington access has been impressive too: His Bloomberg interview with Obama two weeks ago made global news when Obama told him that it was basically time for Benjamin Netanyahu to get with the John Kerry peace program or risk Israel’s international isolation.

Goldberg the debate “cop” however is the Bad Jeffrey. Underneath the network prominence and national headlines, he’s a bully and a smear artist with a very long history of making gratuitous accusations of anti Semitism and using dishonest straw-man argumentation to distort the views of those who challenge his ideas about Israel in a way that can only be characterized as demagogic. He flashed this side of himself, regularly and egregiously, when he was blogging for the Atlantic, which he has stopped doing, apparently finding blogging too “glandular.” But the toxicity still leaches into his Bloomberg columns and into his Twitter feed, as well as into the book reviews he on the side. Goldberg the cop personifies the nasty edge that characterizes the broader American debate on Israel, as well as the drive to demonize and expel those who challenge the sacred cows and taboos that make the debate so dysfunctional or make criticism of Israel that its American supporters find offensive or threatening. [Continue reading…]

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