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August 24, 2010

Jeffrey Goldberg Still America's Preeminent Propagandist (Part V)

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV (now retracted)

This is by no means the most egregious part of Jeffrey Goldberg's giant article about Israel and Iran, but it's still funny: day next spring, the Israeli national-security adviser, Uzi Arad, and the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, [may] simultaneously telephone their counterparts at the White House and the Pentagon, to inform them that their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has just ordered roughly one hundred F-15Es, F-16Is, F-16Cs, and other aircraft of the Israeli air force to fly east toward Iran...

In these conversations, which will be fraught, the Israelis will tell their American counterparts that they are taking this drastic step because a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people...They will tell their American colleagues that Israel was left with no choice.

In other words, as imagined by Jeffrey Goldberg, Ehud Barak is a shameless liar. Because:

In response to a question about Tehran's nuclear program which Israel has said it sees as destined to produce atomic weapons that could put its existence at risk, Barak said in an interview with the paper: "I am not among those who believe Iran is an existential issue for Israel."

Indeed, Goldberg's article itself quotes Barak as saying that "the real threat to Zionism [from an Iran with nuclear weapons] is the dilution of quality...Our best youngsters could stay out of here by choice."

You'd think an editor at the Atlantic might have flagged this strange contradiction, but as far as I can tell magazines no longer have editors.

P.S. Here's an old insight of Ehud Barak's about Palestinians:

[Palestinians] are products of a culture in which to tell a lie...creates no dissonance. They don't suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture. Truth is seen as an irrelevant category. There is only that which serves your purpose and that which doesn't. They see themselves as emissaries of a national movement for whom everything is permissible. There is no such thing as "the truth."


—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at August 24, 2010 10:51 PM

Now technically, in Goldberg's mind Barak wouldn't be a liar, but someone telling the truth about the grave nuclear threat, at least for the purposes of this article.

Though of course Goldberg must know about what Barak said. However, I have faith in Goldberg to get past these little problems of p and not p contradicting each other. What's true merely because it was revealed in Haaretz doesn't have to be true if it won't fit the point of an article written for the Atlantic. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the news, as Spock used to say and there are many that want to read what Goldberg writes.

The whole theory of bullshit (wikipedia has a good article on it) has come late to my consciousness, but it explains an awful lot of what one reads. These guys operate on a dimension of reality orthogonal to the one dimensional truth vs. falsehood line that confines lesser beings. It gives them lots of wiggle room and allows them to be sincere while saying things that seem remarkably at variance with what they should have the right to assert as true. At last I understand Ronald Reagan. My god, what an epiphany.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at August 25, 2010 01:27 AM

>They don't suffer from the problem of telling lies that exists in Judeo-Christian culture.

And they don't prosper nearly as much as those telling lies in the Judeo-Christian culture either.

But this belongs in the "they don't love their children like we love ours" category of propaganda, which was brought forth in Goldberg's Rantisi article. So I'm surprise Goldberg didn't quote it himself as an example of Ehud Barak's profound wisdom.

Posted by: Paul Avery at August 25, 2010 07:05 AM


Applause from the audience......

A BOW by our own Mr Schwarz!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at August 25, 2010 08:40 AM

Don't forget another of Barak's famous quotes: "If I were a Palestinian at the right age, I would have enlisted to a terrorist organization."

Posted by: Michael Shynar at August 25, 2010 11:23 AM

I share Donald Johnson's interest in bullshit, but I don't see it here. Barak is what I would expect to get by combining a bigot, an ideologue, a politician, and a covert ops officer, but I don't think the contradiction in his statements is so big that a non-extinct editor would have caught it.

In the Haaretz article, Barak is quoted as saying "Israel is strong, I don't see anyone who could pose an existential threat," and then the author of the article notes that "he did add that he viewed Iran as a challenge to the whole world." On the other hand, Goldberg quotes Barak saying something similar: “The real test for us is to make Israel such . . . a cutting-edge place . . . that even American Jewish young people want to come here.” Barak added, according to Goldberg, that "[t]his vision is threatened by Iran and its proxies." Barak certainly didn't suggest that he opposed bombing Iran under all circumstances, or for that matter under any circumstances.

Basically, it strikes me that Barak won't ever concede that Iran could destroy Israel even if Iran had nukes, because that makes Israel sound weak and they're over that. But a nuclear Iran could force Israel to become too militarized for its own good and otherwise be a bad thing, so Israel's interests may justify bombing Iran anyway. Barak's sort of macho strikes me as common from military types. Soldiers really don't need to feel there is 'an existential threat' to the nation to justify a war. (Note, however, that from a PR standpoint talking about an existential threat is good even if you don't believe a word of it.)

Posted by: N E at August 25, 2010 01:18 PM

a nuclear Iran could force Israel to become too militarized for its own good

A ship that has, thanks to four decades of arms peddling, long ago sailed over the horizon.

(Of course Barak's standards for "too militarized" are different from yours or mine...)

Posted by: Nell at August 25, 2010 01:25 PM


The contradiction here isn't between what Barak actually says in the Atlantic article and the Haaretz article. It's between what Jeffrey Goldberg imagines him saying at some point in the future (in the Atlantic article) and what Barak actually does say in the Atlantic article and Haaretz article.

So any lying on Barak's part is purely hypothetical. It's just funny that when Goldberg presents his exciting Bomb Iran fantasy he puts Barak lying through his teeth in the middle of it.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at August 25, 2010 01:26 PM

Don't ask me why my brain works like this but I went looking for a way for Goldberg not to be lying again, or lying in good faith.

It's a stretch, but think I've managed the former. At no point does he mention Barak by name after saying he will be one of the two making the calls, so it is possible Arad will say the disagreeable stuff for him.

I'll eat my hat if Goldberg manages to screw up the chutzpah to say that.

Posted by: LT at August 25, 2010 02:39 PM

I hope the retraction of part IV doesn't take the preemptive strike option off the table. We can't afford for the smoking gun to come in the form of a bullshit cloud!

Posted by: . at August 25, 2010 04:27 PM


Thanks, I see now. Anyway, I have no doubt Barak lies as well as Goldberg and would have no trouble contradicting himself. I also agree with what Nell wrote.

By the way, I notice that Benzion Netanyahu, Bibi's father, is described by Goldberg as the world's foremost expert on the Spanish Inquisition and that, in particular, the old wingnut Netanyahu thinks the antisemitism of the Spanish was spurred by the principle of limpieza de sangre, purity of blood, which Goldberg says Benzion considered a proto-Nazi concept. I wish I could get your grandpa Lewis Hanke's thoughts on that, because he would obviously have had a pretty informed opinion. I'm certainly skeptical about Netanyau's superimposition of Naziism on 15th century Spain.

Posted by: N E at August 25, 2010 06:54 PM

I cannot tell you how impressed I am at the scrupulousness you display in having retracting part IV, and in the extended discussion leading up to the retraction. My hat is off, sir. Lesser men would (and did) let their patience flag. Mr. Caruso, too, deserves plaudits. Scrupulousness shines even where its subject is dun.

Posted by: Nathan Myers at August 25, 2010 11:34 PM