The Evolution of Jeff Goldberg: From Prison Guard in the West Bank to Lobby Poster Boy

Jeff Goldberg of the Atlantic is a little young for the "oy, the goyim are coming to kill us" disease. Marty Peretz didn't contract the disease until his early 50's, while Ed Koch and Alan Dershowitz didn't become afflicted until fairly recently.

None of those guys would have dreamed of enlisting in the IDF in their early twenties. Koch was in the American army and came home to reform the Manhattan Democratic party. Peretz was anti-Vietnam war organizer at Brandeis and then Harvard. Dershowitz was hard at work becoming an expert on the US Constitution. In other words, they were fairly typical Jewish liberals who became reactionary and parochial as they aged. Like 99.9% of American Jews, they did not consider joining the Israeli army (Why? Because they are Americans? In fact, until the late 1960's, joining a foreign army resulted in loss of US citizenship).

But Goldberg is another breed of cat. Not comfortable in this country, Goldberg emigrated from the United States to Israel in his early 20's, and joined the Israeli army. There he served as a prison guard, inflicting punishment on, in Goldberg's words, "so-called [Palestinian] administrative detainees. They had been put in jail without charge and without trial, by military order, for a six month term, renewable at the discretion of a military judge, who did what the Shabak [Shin Bet security service] told him to do."

Unlike other right-wing defenders of the occupation, Jeff Goldberg didn't just talk the talk. Goldberg walked the walk.

He enforced the occupation which he now defends in his writings.

There is nothing wrong with Goldberg's devotion to Israel, although he did take it a bit far when he enlisted.

But the odd thing is not so much his ardor for Israel as for the Israel lobby. He is obsessed with it.

I shouldn't criticize him for an obsession with AIPAC. I share it. Although I spent four years happily working there, I subsequently experienced (as a Congressional aide for 15 years) their pressure tactics first hand. I know what it does and how it does it. As an American, I find its manipulation of the levers of power to be appalling.

As a pro-Israel Jew, I find its obstruction of Israel's chances to achieve security to be monumentally damaging to Israel's long-term survival.

But Goldberg is passionate about the lobby, as if it embodies Jewish continuity.

In fact, nothing drives him nuttier than people like former President Carter and Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, the latter two in particular. He hates them -- hates them like poison -- because they wrote an expose of the lobby which dealt it such a serious blow that its defenders became unhinged and stayed that way.

Read Goldberg's column about John Mearsheimer, which appeared this week. And remember this, he is attacking a college professor for writing an academic study of an interest group. And for saying, in the book and in a speech last week, that if Israel retains the occupied territories but refuses to enfranchise the Palestinians who live there, Israel will become an "apartheid state" and its defenders will be "new Afrikaners."

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak said the same thing.

As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.

I am not going to deconstruct a Goldberg column. His biography tells you everything you need to know about him. Of course, Israel is always right. Of course, criticizing AIPAC is anti-Semitic. Of course, the Palestinians want all the Jews dead.

And, of course, the Iraqis had WMD's and the US had to go to war.

It's who he is. The sad thing is that he is only 45. Imagine how ethnocentric and terrified he will be at 60.