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Jeffrey Goldberg, Kahane Disciple

Tikkun Magazine Jeffrey Goldberg screenshotLast week, Yasha Levine sent me an amazing post he wrote about the intellectual influences of Kahanism on Jeffrey Goldberg.  Yasha did something few of us had–he actually read Goldberg’s book, Survivors.  In it, he discovered that Goldberg had been a disciple of Meir Kahane.  And though he writes in the past tense about his flirtation with Kahanism, it’s clear that even at the ultra-nationalist’s death, he retained admiration for Kahane.  In fact, in a sort of eulogy for the Jewish shahid, he told Kahane’s grandchildren that their grandfather was “profound.”  In fact, I call Goldberg, ironically, a hasid (“disciple”) of Kahane.

I’m gratified that the editor of Tikkun Magazine thought my piece was worthy of publication there.  I hope you’ll read it too.

I’m especially grateful to someone I don’t name in this piece.  He is Dr. Bill Maliha, a boyhood friend from my hometown, New City, NY.  Bill is an Arab-American and  Maronite (Lebanese) Christian.  We used to play touch football on his street during cool fall days after school.  Bill told me a story recently that I was completely unaware of.  That when I came to play, the neighbor boys didn’t want to play with a Jew.  Bill had to actually fight them to allow me to play.

At the time, I wasn’t even aware that Bill was Arab-American.  All I knew was that he was American like me.  Perhaps we were naive then.  Perhaps it was only me.  Perhaps I was clueless to ethnic hints of which others were aware.  At any rate, I remain grateful to Bill for his dignity, self-respect, and for honoring traditions of justice as he saw them.  If only there were more like him and less like the Irish Catholic boys who tormented Goldberg, the world might be different.

But it’s important to add that Goldberg makes a mistake in extrapolating (as Kahane did too) from the hate of one small suburban enclave to the eternal anti-Jewish hate of an entire religion or culture.  There are of course many Catholics who hated Jews then, and probably still do.  But where both Kahane and Goldberg fail is in recognizing that Jewish hate is just as intense and prevalent.  We don’t need to focus on this hate as the sole or primary defining feature of a religious tradition.  We need to focus on the points we have in common, on the best that our traditions have to offer.  Not the worst.

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • David November 6, 2012, 3:35 AM

    Great story, right conclusion.

    • Carl November 6, 2012, 3:59 AM

      true that

  • Nimrod November 6, 2012, 3:55 AM

    In the last paragraph you said “There are of course many Catholics who hated Jews then, and probably still do. But where both Kahane and Goldberg fail is in recognizing that Jewish hate is just as intense and prevalent.”
    Could you please give some example for how the Jewish hatred towards Catholics, of similar intensity, is or was expressed in actions?

    • Richard Silverstein November 6, 2012, 1:40 PM

      I didn’t say what you claim I said. I talked about “Jewish hate” but didn’t specify who was the target of the hate. Use your noggin & I’m sure you’ll figure out who I was associating as the target.

  • pabelmont November 6, 2012, 6:36 AM

    Perhaps these various hatreds (against Jews and by Jews against others) (including of course the well justified feelings of the still-being-displaced and dispossessed Palestinians, the selected whipping-boys of the Jews who could not defeat Europe or its anti-Semitism but could, as it happened, easily defeat the Palestinians) — perhaps these various hatreds could be put to one side (for the foreseeable very-long duration) as part of (or as leaders of) a world-wide attempt to move away from human-against-other-human violence of fossil-fuel burning and other manufacturing processes of the universal curse of global warming.

    What Israel (and everyone else presently fighting and threatening wars) is doing is like slapping annoying mosquitoes on the eve of the Holocaust. Global Warming is the universal holocaust which needs to be fought by all (indeed, in a sense, by all against all, since we are all — presently — aggressors through use of fossil fuels and otherwise).

    • Bob Mann November 6, 2012, 4:22 PM

      The Jews who could not defeat Europe? When did the Jews try to defeat Europe? What are you talking about?

      • Elisabeth November 8, 2012, 10:15 AM

        It’s pretty clear pabelmont is talking about the fact that the Jews were helpless against European anti-Semitism, and that the Palestinians in turn were helpless against them.

  • pabelmont November 6, 2012, 7:13 AM

    As I wrote as a comment to the excellent and fascinating Silverstein article in Tikkun:

    Richard Silverstein tells us the he (and Jerry Haber) are Zionists — albeit Zionists who criticize elements of Israeli practice and philosophy. I’ve often wondered what on earth I mean when I say, as I sometimes do, that I am not anti-Israel but only condemnatory of its crimes. Of course, most people will tell you that they condemn crimes.

    With Israel, the question is [1] whether it can exist independent of its past crimes (as I think of its armed explosion into being, its 1945-48 usurpation of Palestine) and [2] whether it can shake its mental-set of the need and correctness of perpetual violence against its neighbors and thereby somehow exist without continuing to newer crimes (such as the post 1948 attacks on Egypt, Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon, threatened attacks on Iran, the settlements, the siege of Gaza, the unfair taking of Palestine’s water). If the freely-chosen violence Israel’s birth has coalesced into a psychology that requires and accepts perpetual (criminal) violence, then my saying that I can accept Israel apart from its crimes is rather vacuous.

    I wonder where Silverstein and Haber stand on these points.

    POSTSCRIPT: In saying that the Israel of N’yahu (and I would say Begin and Shamir and Sharon before him, and A. Lieberman after him or with him) is a faux-genteel version of Kahane’s vision, Silverstein seems to accept much of what I’ve said above but to express it in a less abrasive verbal wrapping. Perhaps it’s because he was brought up Jewish and I was brought up secular. Perhaps his friendship with his Lebanese-American childhood friend was less formative for him than my marriage to a Palestinian-American was for me. And perhaps it’s because the “the end justifies the means” argument which might possibly justify (and in many minds de-criminalize) the creation of Israel (which his Zionism presumably embraces) has left him in the difficult position of defending the creation of Israel but not defending the sequel (apparently either a necessary consequence of the creation, or at least springing from the same Kahanist and Jabotinskyite ethic). Something I hope he’ll write about.

  • Therese November 6, 2012, 6:32 PM

    “With Israel, the question is [1] whether it can exist independent of its past crimes …”

    The truth is, many nations have a history of appalling crimes. That is certainly the case of my own country, Australia. One cannot change the past, one can only acknowledge it, and move in a better direction.

    • Dave Terry November 6, 2012, 11:11 PM

      Well spoken Therese! After reading your words, I was struck by the notion that it is coming to terms with one’s own faults and our ignominious past is how one defines a ‘noble’ society. The United States, like Australia also has a past of terrible injustice and brutality to our aboriginal natives, and as we, in turn, view our Jewish brothers committing the same crimes in Israel; the challenge, for us, is to challenge them to reconsider their crimes, by NOT preaching from a position of superiority, but as ones who have traveled this terrible path ourselves.

      • Nimrod November 7, 2012, 1:45 AM

        What about crimes which your country is committing right now? Are they inferior to the ones that Israel is committing?

        Both you and Therese compare the Israeli-Arab relations to the ones Europeans had with the natives of Australia and North America – where in both cases, they were pretty much wiped out, in a manner that today would have been considered a genocide.
        In Israel/Palestine this was not the case.
        In 1947, a war broke between the newly created Israel and the sounding Arab states and the local Arab militias, and that war ended in a cease fire. War crimes were committed by ALL SIDES, but the local Arabs (who we nowadays call Palestinians) lost most than everyone – they didn’t only loose men and material, but some also lost their homes.
        My point is, that a genocide never occurred, and with all do respect to your past crimes – Israel has never repeated them.

        I don’t think either the US or Australia have the moral high-ground to preach Israel or “challenge them to reconsider their crimes”. Especially today, when their own armed forces are knee-deep in Afghanistan, where in the past ten years, more Afghans where killed there than Palestinians were killed in Israeli/Palestine in the past 100 years.

        • Richard Silverstein November 7, 2012, 3:07 AM

          This is OFF-TOPIC and ancient history. Keep your comments directly related to the post on which you’re commenting. So many hasbarists before you have tried this ploy of deflecting discussion from the topic at hand to every other ethnic injustice or massacre in the world. It won’t work. So give it up. Stay on topic or you’ll wear out your welcome here.

          As for the content of your comment, the claim that “genocide never occurred” is an intellectual non sequitur.

          Which is worse? Genocide or ethnic cleansing? Is there a difference? If someone put a gun to my head I’d say that murdering those 1 million Palestinians rather than “merely” expelling them would be worse morally. But does that make ethnic cleansing more morally appealing on any scale of ethical action?? Hardly.

          • Nimrod November 7, 2012, 11:22 AM

            Not much of an ethnic cleansing when 20% of Israeli’s population today are Muslims, is it?

            And I disagree with you. I think that expelling is not as terrible as murdering. The descendants of the 800,000 Jews who were expelled from Arab countries would probably agree with me.

            Excuse me for being off topic. I think that my replay was relevant to the previous two comments by Therese and Dave.

          • Richard Silverstein November 7, 2012, 1:58 PM

            Is that supposed to be a scientific empirical statement or just total horse manure. Because there are 1 million Israeli Palestinian citizens now this means that 1 million couldn’t have been expelled in 48? Or because there are 1 million now that means the original expulsion wasn’t such a crime?

            800,000 Jews weren’t “expelled” from Arab countries. And we’ve been through this Likudist-hasbara myth before here so don’t even go there. And you’re continuing to veer off topic by bringing up the faux Jewish Nakba.

          • Nimrod November 7, 2012, 10:59 PM

            Hi Richard,
            When you call the exodus of 800,000 to a million Jews from Arab bountries in the late 40’s and early 50, you are no different than the extreme-rightisits in Israel that claim that the Nakba never occurred and all 800,000 Arabs who fled Israeli in the 1948 war did so by choice.

            Denouncing the suffering of the scores of Jews who suffered no less than the Palestinians by calling it a “Likudist-hasbara” or “faux” is despicable.

          • Richard Silverstein November 8, 2012, 1:35 AM

            You are no historian. You know nothing of the period in question nor of the history…other than what you’ve read in Likudist, ultranationalist shmatehs.

            So this is your last comment on this subject. When I tell you we’ve discussed the subject here already that doesn’t mean: go right ahead and repeat things others have alread said before you. It means I don’t want you to rehash hasbara that’s been offered here well before you came along.

            Saying that Arab Jews did not face anything like the Nakba that Palestinian Israelis faced is not “denying their suffering.” It is being precise about the historical record. I have in no way denied that Jews suffered in Arab lands. They did. But very few were physically compelled to leave. They faced discrimination of course. There were acts of violence against Jews. But they sometimes faced deliberate acts of sabotage fomented by Israel to create a stampede of Arab Jews to Israel.

            That’s well more than I intended to write. And the subject is closed for you in this thread.

          • Nimrod November 8, 2012, 12:53 PM

            Just for the record, I never read any “Likud” material.
            I’ve been a Avoda (labor) voter most of my life, and a Avoda Youth activist for 4 years as a teenager.

            If you think that anything that doesn’t hold an anti-Zionist political views is a ultranationalist Likudist, than you know less about Israel and Israeli politics than you think.

          • Richard Silverstein November 8, 2012, 1:40 PM

            The claim that there was a Jewish Nakba in Arab lands is not a view held by the Labor Party. I don’t know or care much about how you vote. There are probably lots of Labor voters who share the ultranationalist-hasbara narrative regarding the events of 1948. It doesn’t make you enlightened or the view correct. But you simply don’t know your history of that period as it relates to what happened to these Jews.

          • Deïr Yassin November 8, 2012, 8:11 AM

            “Not much of an ethnic cleansing when 20% of Israel’s population today are Muslims”

            Haha, that’s another Israeli right-wing caracteristic: to call the Palestinians who managed to stay in their homeland ‘Muslims’, that some are them are Christians doesn’t matter.
            More than 80% of the indigenous population was exiled i.e. fled and was prevented from returning home or expelled manu militari. 80% – and to Nimrod that isn’t much of an ethnic cleansing. I think about 50% of world Jewry was killed during the Holocaust. I guess to Nimrod that wasn’t much of a genocide either….

            And then we have the new hasbara talking point: “800.000 Jews expelled from Arab countries”. This is simply a lie, and everybody outside the Ziocained bubble know what this is about: trying to make a symmetry with the Nakba. There was some kind of ‘population transfer’ like in India/Pakistan and blahblah.
            Yehudah Shenhav has a great article on that:
            There’s also a petition by Iraqi Jews from Ramat Gan opposing that the Israeli government misuse their plight in it’s propaganda.

          • Elisabeth November 8, 2012, 10:21 AM

            “Not much of an ethnic cleansing when 20% of Israeli’s population today are Muslims, is it?”

            That depends: What percentage would it have been WITHOUT the ethnic cleansing? More than half of the Palestinian population was expelled so you so the math.

            You sound like someone arguing that nuclear bombs are not really unhealthy because “there are plenty of Japanese left today”.

          • Nimrod November 8, 2012, 12:49 PM

            Elisabeth, regarding the Arab population in case the “Nakba” did not occur, I imagine that without the exchange of populations i.e. 800,000 Palestinians leaving Israel’s territory to the surrounding Arab territories, and 800,000-1,000,000 Jews leaving Arab countries and moving into Israel as a secondary result to the war, than Israel would probably become a binational state.

          • Richard Silverstein November 8, 2012, 1:41 PM

            There was no population “exchange,” which makes it sound like an orderly transfer of willing individuals switching their homes from one jurisdiction to another. On the Palestinian side it was forced expulsion. BTW, Jews who left Arab lands did not do so “as a result of the war” as you claim. Another historical misstatement on your part.

  • mary November 8, 2012, 7:58 AM

    Good piece, and reminds us all that prejudice is taught in childhood.

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