Gershom Gorenberg refused my request that he correct the record in his American Prospect post about J Street, in which he linked to a critical blog post I wrote about the group’s second national conference. He called my criticism of J Street typical of “the grim anti-Zionist left.”
Yesterday here, I accused him of payback for critical pieces I’ve written about his work in the past, notably his Palestinian Gandhi essay in The Weekly Standard. Today, Gorenberg replied that he gives little thought to what people write about him and that he could care less about anything I’d said about him. The upshot being payback was the farthest thing from his mind.
But in the blog post I wrote about the J Street conference, I said this about the roster of speakers for the gathering:
I’ve reviewed the speakers and generally (with a few exceptions) I find the American speakers are standard issue liberal Zionist fare including figures like Dennis Ross, Peter Beinart, Gershom Gorenberg, Bernard Avishai, Ken Bob, Daniel Sokatch, Daniel Levy, and David Saperstein. [UPDATE: a characteristically thin-skinned Gershom Gorenberg writes to complain that he is Israeli, though interestingly doesn’t reject the “liberal Zionist” label. The fact that Gorenberg was born in the U.S., retains U.S. citizenship and earns a considerable portion of his living in and from the U.S. seems to have been lost on him. But I promise I’ll call him an Israeli-American liberal Zionist next time.]
Now, you tell me: payback or no payback?
Gorenberg adds that the “implications” of the views I expressed in my recent essay at Israel Reconsidered about the Right of Return and Nakba were “anti-Zionist.” This is the desperate act of someone who can’t actually find any real evidence to support his claim, since I’ve never called myself anti-Zionist or even supported any overtly anti-Zionist position. Thus he calls the “implications” of what I wrote anti-Zionist.
So why is it important whether or not I’m anti-Zionist? And why does Gorenberg relish throwing me out of the Zionist camp? Most American and Israeli Jews are Zionist. They may have differing definition of what this means, but most feel comfortable under this rubric. If you define yourself as anti-Zionist or allow someone else to define you in such a way you almost automatically become “damaged goods” in the eyes of 90% of the world’s Jews. That is why Gershom Gorenberg needs to label me anti-Zionist. If I weren’t, then he’d have to actually deal with my views. By dismissing them so cavalierly he uses shorthand that allows his audience to automtically discount them as being beneath contempt (and beneath analysis).
Speaking of analysis, Gorenberg in his reply to me offered none. You’d think that when someone takes you to task in the way I did, that you’d at least attempt to support your claim with some evidence. I’ve challenged him to offer any.
I’ve also asked the web editor at TAP to correct the record. I await word from him though I’m not holding my breath since a regular contributor would almost always trump an aggrieved victim.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.