My response to Jeffrey Goldberg's claim that "Jewish supporters of the Obama administration are beginning to feel scapegoated."


In The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg today questioned whether President Obama truly understands “Jewish anxiety” about the Iran deal. He did so despite Obama’s clear acknowledgement of the Iranian regime’s anti-Semitism and unequivocal validation of the fears some Jews have about the deal.
So what sparked Goldberg to question Obama’s “understanding” of such fears? He believes the Obama administration’s advocates are “empower[ing] actual anti-Semites” by singling out AIPAC and Israel-lobby hawks for their opposition to the deal, and that Obama doesn’t see how targeting “Jewish special interests” might lead to an increase of anti-Semitism in America.
As a result, Goldberg writes, “Jewish supporters of the Obama administration are beginning to feel scapegoated” – at least, according to some people showing up in his email inbox.
I’d like to tackle both of these notions Goldberg puts forward, and as a Jewish Obama supporter, hopefully put them to rest.

Obama Doesn’t “Understand” Jewish Concerns
Early in his exploration of President Obama, Goldberg quotes the President extensively, showing that Obama clearly understands why a minority of American Jews opposed to the Iran deal might have significant anxieties:

“I take what the supreme leader says seriously. I think his ideology is steeped with anti-Semitism, and if he could, without catastrophic costs, inflict great harm on Israel, I’m confident that he would. But as I said, I think, the last time we spoke, it is possible for leaders or regimes to be cruel, bigoted, twisted in their worldviews and still make rational calculations with respect to their limits and their self-preservation.”
“The anxieties of the American Jewish community are entirely understandable. Those are amplified when there appears to be across-the-board opposition inside of Israel, not just within Likud, but among other parties. And some of that is emotional – in a legitimate way. You don’t like dealing with somebody who denies horrible things happening to your people or threatens future horrible things to your people. Some of it is based on legitimate concerns about what an economically stronger Iran could do to further enhance their support of Hezbollah.”

However, these words from Obama do not seem to convince Goldberg that the President truly understands why some Jews might be nervous about the deal. Here Goldberg explains why:

“Why does it seem to a growing number of people (I count Chuck Schumer in this group) that an administration professing – honestly, from what I can tell – to understand Jewish anxieties about the consequences of anti-Semitism in the Middle East does not appear to understand that the way some of its advocates outside government are framing the Iran-deal fight – as one between Jewish special interests, on the one hand, and the entire rest of the world, on the other – may empower actual anti-Semites not only in the Middle East, but at home as well?”

Goldberg’s logic for feeling uneasy about Obama echoes that of Elliot Abrams, who recently accused the President of promoting anti-Semitism for calling out AIPAC’s warmongering. Rather than accuse Obama of directly promoting anti-Semitism, though, Goldberg instead accuses the President of not seeing how his administration’s “advocates” are promoting anti-Semitism by calling out pro-Israel groups very publicly spending $20-40 million to kill the deal.
Goldberg’s mistake, whether made intentionally or unintentionally, is the same egregious one Abrams made when accusing Obama of anti-Semitism, which is to conflate groups like AIPAC with American Jews. See, Goldberg seems to have a problem with how the administration’s advocates are targeting “Jewish special interests.” But organizations like AIPAC are not “Jewish” lobbying groups, but rather “pro-Israel” lobbying groups. As I’ve stated previously, conflating Israel and all Jews, something Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, likes to do as a way to shield Israel from critique, is itself an anti-Semitic trope vile bigots use to attack innocent Jews for the actions of Israel. Even worse is to conflate the hawkish side of the Israel LOBBY with all Jews by calling them “Jewish special interests.”
Now, perhaps Goldberg is simply uncomfortable, as I am, by Iran-deal supporters who are calling out and solely critiquing “Jewish” interests rather than “pro-Israel” ones. However, if such were the case, one would expect Goldberg to make such distinctions clear, particularly given his deep concern about anti-Semiitism.
As it is, I wonder if Goldberg truly understands Jewish anxiety about anti-Semitism, given his seeming conflation of AIPAC and American Jews, his calling the hawkish Israel lobby “Jewish interests.”
Jews feel “scapegoated” by Obama?
Whether Goldberg feels scapegoated by the President, I cannot say. However, his citing an invisible inbox to declare that American Jewish supporters of Obama feel scapegoated by the President seems to indicate, at the very least, he sympathizes with such sentiments.
It’s a patently ridiculous notion. Why? To feel ‘scapegoated’ by Obama for his rejection of AIPAC’s lobbying efforts and warmongering is to conflate the Israel lobby and the Jewish community. Meaning: only by viewing AIPAC as representing all Jews (which it doesn’t) or the Jewish community (which it doesn’t) might one feel scapegoated by Obama.
Do I feel scapegoated, as a Jewish supporter of Obama and the Iran deal? No. Have I heard from any Jewish family members or friends supporting this deal who feel similarly? No. But that’s because most American Jews understand AIPAC for what it is: a political lobbying group currently aligned with Likud’s interests.
Does Goldberg feel scapegoated? Perhaps someone has received an email with the answer.


What Do You Buy For the Children
David Harris-Gershon is author of the memoir What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife?, published recently by Oneworld Publications.
Follow him on Twitter @David_EHG.

29 thoughts on “My response to Jeffrey Goldberg's claim that "Jewish supporters of the Obama administration are beginning to feel scapegoated."

  1. Wow David, way to miss the point entirely. One need not look farther than the other blog where you regularly post to see the dual loyalty canard freely used with respect to Jews who oppose the deal.
    And singling out Schumer for vilification, especially since he has been — by and large — a steadfast supporter of the Administration’s agenda on other issues, is troubling. Isn’t it possible that Schumer’s disagreement with the Administration is heartfelt and in good faith? Finally, the White House could have shown more sensitivity by not tweeting references to the antisemitic Mondofront website in support of its position on the Iran deal.
    The White House is 100% right on the merits, but those who are not blinded by anti-Israel zealotry can easliy see that it could be more sensitive in dealing with Jewish opposition to its position. It’s too bad, but not surprising, that you are incapable of seeing that, David.

    • .
      For those unable to immediately tell, this is not Jeffrey Goldberg, but a random commenter with an email address.
      Carry on.

    • Here’s a question directly to Jeffrey: by “Mondofront,” do you mean “Mondoweiss”? If so, please provide details on how it is “anti-Semitic.” Maybe I’m just missing something!

      • Counting the number of Jews in the Senate, accusations of dual loyalty, and broad brush assumptions about the Jewish establishment, for starters.

  2. I` understand that Senator Schumer might well feel, the way he does, in good faith. But I don’t feel President Obama is insenaitive to American Jewry because he does not more forcefully express his understaning of the anxiety of some Ameriocan Jews. He Did express his understanding, and he IS President; I don’t think he has to extend himself fuirther.
    Secondly,, I think the first respondent has been insensitive to a considerable portion of American Jewry who do not agree that Mondoweiss is anti-semetic. Though it differs with the resondent, it is because they differ as to what is in the best interests of both Israel and American Jewry.

      • Thanks to Jesse and Jeffrey for information on Mondoweiss. My initial (admittedly superficial) visit to the site, inspired by remarks in these posts, didn’t turn up the kind of tripe you have shown, but I am grateful to you for pointing it out.

      • Hi again Jesse,
        Thank you very much again for the links with information that Mondoweiss is an anti-Semitic hate site, but do you also know of, and can you post links to, material from Mondoweiss itself, not Mondoweiss as it is discussed on other sites? From the links you provided to the DailyKos, Mondoweiss certainly looks ugly, but I am looking for evidence linked from Mondoweiss itself (not people posting on it, or on its Facebook page, because–as is the case with these posts–they could be from anyone). I want to be able to demonstrate to friends why they should not be getting any information from Mondoweiss, but exploring their site myself I have not (yet) found any anti-Semitic material. Could it be that they have recently tuned it down in response to criticism?

          • Hey Fred! Was beginning to miss you! Really! No, I didn’t see any criticism of Palestinians. But I wasn’t particularly looking for that. But I was looking hard for any explicit (and non-ironic) anti-Semitism. Maybe Mondoweiss decided to turn down the volume on that, having begun to receive negative comments–it’s hard to believe people are just making that up. I will say that the overall tone of the Mondoweiss site is a bit flip compared to Tikkun. So I was wondering if our co-poster who had kindly provided the links to Daily KOs could provide some links to unequivocally anti-Semitic utterances from Mondoweiss–primary source, rather than secondary source or commentary? I like to hear all sane and considered opinions (including yours) but for me any kind of racialist hatred is beyond the pale (i.e., I don’t care what else they think and stay away from their site).

        • Those links are chock full of examples of the Jew-hating filth that drips from Mondofront. If that isn’t enough for you then the problem is all on your end.

          • Jeffrey,
            Yes, no doubt the problem is all mine. To be honest, I can’t tell from the Daily Kos coverage whether there is any real anti-Semitism emanating from Mondoweiss (which I never heard of before yesterday); what we see on the links seems to mix different voices, mostly Kos’s, without much clarity as to where one voice ends and the other begins; it is hard to tell what is a direct quote from Mondoweiss. All I requested was that one of you send me links directly to Mondoweiss showing real anti-Semitism coming from them (not people posting on their site, not someone who interviewed Weiss for his own site). The fact that no one, including you, has done that — combined with the fact I have been all over Mondoweiss and found nothing myself — suggests that the debate is overheated to the point of reasonable people beginning to imagine things. On the other hand, show me one piece of actual anti-Semitism coming from Weiss and Horowitz themselves, and I will never go on their site again. I have no time or excuses for anti-Semites.

          • I still haven’t seen anything overtly anti-Semitic on Mondoweiss, and I’ve been checking it out for several days. They seem thoroughly anti-Zionist, but–while I don’t share that position–I don’t believe it is unthinkable, or necessarily the same thing as anti-Semitism. What I do find, and don’t like, is a “political correctness” that reminds me of certain leftists of the late 1960s and early 1970s that seemed to spend more energy savagely critique-ing other leftists with slightly different opinions than doing anything to further the struggle against war, racism, economic injustice, etc. Just my take on it, but they seem desperate to be accepted by the Palestinian militants and the radical elements of BDS, and believe they need to demonstrate their ideological purity by dismissing many others who might otherwise be their allies in pushing back on Israel’s utterly unacceptable policies and its supporters in the US.

  3. The conflation of Israel and “the Jews” –which seems to be a deliberate tactic of Netanyahu and of Zionists more generally–should be of great concern to Jews in America and elsewhere in the Diaspora. It sets us all up to be held accountable for whatever odious policies the government of Israel chooses to pursue–not the least of which is direct meddling in US politics. I am very grateful to Tikkun for their courage in presenting an alternative view. If Jeffrey Goldberg and others are concerned about growing anti-Semitism in America, they might politely ask Bibi to tone down his public contempt for the elected POTUS and ask AIPEC to stop creating the appearance of trying to use enormous wealth to take over the world for “Jewish” interests–no longer even behind closed doors, but right out there in everyone’s face. Let’s try to remember that we Jews are about 2% of the US population. If the US is dragged into a useless and endless war with Iran) because of a wholly erroneous view of what is good for Israel, we may be inviting a resurgent anti-Semitic nativism of a kind we have unfortunately seen before.

    • Replying to myself… wanting to clarify some possibly confusing language I used above. I do not in any way believe that there is a conspiracy of Jewish interests trying to “take over the world” in a malicious sense — but I have come to understand from the true “hate sites” that there are plenty of people who are ready to believe such things–putting Jews everywhere at potential risk. It would be nice if Netanyahu and AIPEC pursued their objectives a bit more responsibly.

    • 1. There is this thing called the 1st amendment. The POTUS is not above criticism
      2. Your using that old time anti Semitic claim that Jews are trying to take over the world
      You’ve been exposed. God luck defending your views. But I d support your right to express those views. Sunshine makes for a good disinfectant

      • Thank you, Fred, for granting me my First Amendment rights. FYI, I did write a “reply” to myself trying to clarify some language I used earlier that may have led you to the erroneous conclusion that I believe “Jews are trying to take over the world.” What I believe is that lots of other people believe that canard, that the canard is dangerous, and that both the Israeli government and AIPEC ought to take that danger more seriously and perhaps modify their communications style to avoid reinforcing the canard. My point is that we live in a world fraught with real and virulent anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, and labeling those who disagree with Israel’s policies or AIPEC or whatever as “anti-Semites” is being like “the boy who cried wolf.” When the real wolf comes, no one will listen to you.

        • Last year, a loud march tok place in Paris with shouts, “Jews out iof France. it occured durig a defensive war against Gaza. Do you think Israel shod have stiopped dffending itself to turn down the volume of anti Semitism. Anti Semitism finds its way into the conversation no matter what

          • Fred,
            I agree that shouts of “Jews out of France” sounds very anti-Semitic and is in fact frighteningly reminiscent of the earlier part of the 20th century. There is still a question as to whether such shouts can be said to characterize a whole demonstration, or whether a relative handful of people were doing the shouting — but still, nonetheless, it is very troubling.
            I myself experienced some anti-Semitism as a child — really name-calling–but I found it quite frightening. Conflating any individual with a whole class of people of whom s/he is inadvertently a part is stupid and evil.
            However, when anti-Semitism finds its way into a conversation in which Israel’s policies are questioned by people who are apparently not anti-Semites (including an increasing number of Jews), it’s often because those who share your opinions put it there. To the extent that Israel is equated with the Jewish people worldwide, the logical outcome is of course that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. How convenient! And to the extent that Israel’s government and its supporters cannot defend their position without resorting to smearing their critics as “anti-Semites,” they only demonstrate the weakness of their position. And they are “crying wolf,” which, per the fable, has its own dangers.
            I hate to follow up on this part of your message, but by “defensive war against Gaza,” could you possibly mean the events last summer when the IDF nearly obliterated Gaza, attacking its civilian population in retaliation against largely ineffectual missiles launched by Hamas? To answer your question: if Israel were really defending itself, no, I wouldn’t want them to be deterred by the possibility of stirring up some anti-Semitic sentiment. However, that’s not really what happened, If Hamas (with whom I have no sympathy whatever, by the way) used the civilian population as shields, it was precisely to provoke such a ham-handed response from Israel, and I was sorry to see that Israel took the bait instead of responding more intelligently. Why does the Israeli government insist on walking directly into a trap? From the perspective of Hamas, the battlefield was world opinion. And Israel lost that battle.

  4. “I hate to follow up on this part of your message, but by “defensive war against Gaza,” could you possibly mean the events last summer when the IDF nearly obliterated Gaza”
    Not even close. Missiles are missiles and by law a country as a right to shut them down,An please don’t forget the tunnels.

    • Of course missiles are missiles, and tunnels are tunnels, but law doesn’t figure as part of this discussion. My point is that Hamas baited Israel, Israel took the bait (no doubt citing the correct passages of law), and lost the battle, which is being fought in the court of public opinion around the world. Invoking the right to take 1,000 eyes for an eye is not going to win that war, either.

  5. “My point is that Hamas baited Israel, Israel took the bait (no doubt citing the correct passages of law), and lost the battle, which is being fought in the court of public opinion around the world. Invoking the right to take 1,000 eyes for an eye is not going to win that war, either”
    When wa the alsty time Israel won n the court of public opinion in a conflict.Gaza got off easy. When teh nazis bombed London, the Brits obliterated every German city. wars are not fought proportionaly

    • World War II was the last global struggle to be fought; all efforts since then have been to prevent anything on that scale from happening again. The comparison with WWII might be made with reference to 1948, or 1967, when Israel was at war with other countries, but the comparison with Gaza — wholly asymmetric– is simply not relevant (unless you want to admit that Hamas and its tiny holdings in Gaza are a national force to be reckoned with). . Here the court of public opinion is of paramount importance– what if the US sharply reduced or ended military aid and resupply to Israel? Having the strength and will to blow innocent “human shields” to smithereens is not seem as virtuous by many people in any situation short of “total war,” and your comment that “Gaza got off easy” shows extraordinary callousness. Nonetheless, if such callous and inhumane actions seemed likely to further Israel’s interests in the long run, perhaps they could be justified. Unfortunately, they are having the same impact on world opinion that Hamas no doubt calculated they would have.

      • When a missile or a hot is fired, it become part of the battelefield. Israel is not at fault when Hamas uses human shields. Had the government not responded to rocket attacks and tunnels, it would have fallen hard. Israelis are sick of having to deal with Hamas every 2 years and wanted a harsh reaction. Don’t forget, israel willingly left Gaza and Hamas seized power. There was no clean way of fighting a foe that fought a dirty war

  6. Fred, you are totally missing the point, so maybe we should just agree to disagree and call it a day. No one cares if Israel has some kind of legalistic right to rain death and destruction on human shields, and certainly no one cares what the Israelis don’t want to deal with or whether the current government falls (I know plenty of people who wish it would, but probably not for want of killing enough Palestinians). The point is that Israel , ever attempting to play both the victim and the tough guy simultaneously, now looks like a bully, and a dumb one at that. That amounts to an enormous loss of moral capital for a tiny country that depends on other countries (like ours) for support.

    • I guess you don’t get the Middle East. Turning the other cheek does not win you respect with your neighbors. And BTW, the only ones wh realy seems to approve of Hamas tacticsin teh regij was Qatar. Even Abbas condemned them. As for the far left Europe and the US, Israel coud do nothing adn get condemned. Israel was condemend wihenit defended itself against a far more lethal Hezbolla in 2006.

  7. Fred, you are totally missing the point, so maybe we should just agree to disagree and call it a day. Nice talking with you though!

  8. I just noticed that I typed “AIPEC” instead of “AIPAC” repeatedly on a few posts here, which is embarrassing. Apologies to all, including AIPAC, for the careless typos–no innuendo of any kind intended.

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