Goldberg and the Daniels: Of Sewage Pipes, Lethal Narratives, and DurahJournalism
by Richard Landes
A recent spat in the blogosphere raises issues worth considering. After Jeffrey Goldberg informed his ample readership that President Obama believed that Israel did not understand its own best interests – a belief that I think it’s safe to say he shares – Lori Lowenthal Marcus quoted Dan Senor tweeting that two American officials had admitted that Obama, via Goldberg, was trying to influence the elections in Israel. In other words, the “Israel” that doesn’t know its own best interests was a reference to Bibi, whom Obama specifically dissed in Goldberg’s account, and reportedly Obama makes these kinds of remarks frequently to those around him.
Senor’s tweet drew response tweets, among others from both Goldberg and Beinart, while Dan Friedman at The Israeli Front Line, posted a far more aggressive comment in introduction to Marcus’ article about Goldberg, chiding Marcus for her too-subdued a depiction of the journalist who reported Obama’s thoughts to the public.
In her Jewish Press piece today Lori Lowenthal Marcus asks a legitimate question: Will Congress Investigate Obama’s Attempt to Derail Bibi? First, the answer is no. But Marcus yaws way off-course when she gives short shrift to Goldberg, describing him as “a centrist liberal Jewish writer.” Indeed that’s his “cover” and an image Goldberg carefully cultivates, but it is no accident that he’s one of the few errand boys Obama uses to get his poison delivered to Israel and the USA Jewish community. The plain truth is Jeffrey Goldberg is a Jewish sewer pipe for Obama. And he’s loving every minute of it because, like T. Friedman, Beinhart and the J Street crowd, he wants to “punish” Israel. – Dan Friedman
Related coverageJune 30, 2016 3:51 pm
This apparently got up Goldberg’s nose, and he responded in kind:
We here at the Goldblog glass-enclosed nerve center have been called many things by extreme leftists and rightists, but this one, from a website calld “Israeli Frontline,” which I’m guessing is part of the Jewish right wing love-Israel-to-death crowd, stands out for its unknowing echo of a familiar Nazi trope:
The plain truth is Jeffrey Goldberg is a Jewish sewer pipe for Obama. And he’s loving every minute of it because, like T. Friedman, Beinhart and the J Street crowd, he wants to “punish” Israel.”
… I would like to offer a defense, not of myself, but of sewer pipes. Civilization could not exist as we know it without sewer pipes. They make our cities and towns livable, aesthetically pleasant and healthful places. (I would also note that Israel, a country those at “Israeli Frontline” ostensibly love, also utilizes sewer pipes.)
For whatever reason, the far-right, Jewish and Nazi alike, despise sewer pipes. When I read this post above (it was motivated, obviously, by my recent column noting that President Obama, according to my sources, believes that Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are), I was struck by its use of the sewer pipe metaphor, which is so often used by anti-Semites, rather than Semites, to describe the perfidious role Jews play in debasing Christian society. One of my regular Nazi interlocutors recently e-mailed me this gem of writing, apparently lifted from some sort of fascist website: “Drive these trash cockroaches out of your community in any way you possibly can. Above all CANCEL YOUR CABLE TV, and get the jewish sewer pipe of pornography and kikesickness out of your life completely. Boycott businesses owned by trash jews, like Home Depot, a kike-owned company that loves to promote homosexuality to children. Shop at Lowe’s instead.”
Now that is something close to breathtaking. First of all, no one that I know of has a hang-up on sewer pipes, and the Nazis never used the image of Jews as sewer pipes (as rats coming out of the sewers perhaps, but not as sewer pipes. The statement “For whatever reason, the far-right, Jewish and Nazi alike, despise sewer pipes” should go down in the history of polemic as one of the sillier things anyone has ever claimed (certainly – and I’ll bet on this one – without doing any research whatsoever). I dare you, read it again with a straight face: despise sewer pipes?
What difference — at this point — does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.
Not surprisingly, Goldberg’s “prooftext” for the Nazi quality of “despising sewer pipes” makes no mention of sewage, much less its piping.
None of this stops Goldberg from invoking his invented Nazi proclivity for sewage pipe hatred to attack a pro-Israel critic with the Nazi-Jewish meme: “the far-right, Jewish and Nazi alike.” Thus, the “love Israel to death” crowd unknowingly echoes a “familiar [sic] Nazi trope.”
Daniel Greenfield pointed out two aspects of Goldberg’s comments deserving note.
First, one might better apply the expression “love Israel to death crowd,” to Goldberg and his friends, who have the luxury – unlike the Israeli voter – of misunderstanding the situation. (As a Jewish Jerusalem-based correspondent for a major US newspaper put it to me: “It’s really too bad that suicide bombing pushed Israel to the right.”) The folks who think “the settlements are the problem, and the 67 border is the solution,” folks like Goldberg and Beinart and Friedman and Sarkozy and Walt and Mearsheimer and J-Street and my journalist interlocutor and so many others of his guild (and, Goldberg now informs us, the POTUS), believe that those “right-wing” Israelis who refuse to make the necessary concessions, are actually hurting – nay, killing! – the country they claim to love.
But there are those, like the two Daniels above and so many others who pay attention to the way Palestinian attitudes and refusals to make concessions are far more belligerent and worrisome, who have come to the conclusion that if the US were to force Israel into making concessions to the Palestinians, it would bring not peacebut war. And these folks – however they feel about the settlements – have every right to point out that the J-Street crowd, even as it loudly proclaims its love for Israel, is the real “loving Israel to death crowd.”
Second, Greenberg noted that Goldberg completely missed the point about sewage pipes. Their job is to carry sewage away from human habitation not dump the sewage into the lap of the civilization it serves:
Oh I think most people like sewer pipes. The problem is broken sewer pipes. A working sewer pipe carries waste away. A broken sewer pipe carries it to.
A civilization depends on working sewer pipes. But when the media goes into “sewer pipe revolutionist” mode and begins carrying its own waste into civilization, instead of away from it, then civilization is endangered and needs to replace the broken sewer pipelines with sewer pipes that carry away waste, instead of manufacturing it and spreading it.
I think this gets to the heart of the problem, the DurahJournalism that systematically pumps into the public sphere poisonous lethal narratives as if they were news. (I might prefer the metaphor of the MSNM as a kidney or dialysis machine that filters out the poisonous, war-mongering narratives from the information circulation system of peace-oriented democracies, but for the sake of following Goldberg’s lead, I’ll stick with sewage pipes.)
Indeed this controversy takes place at the same time as, from a number of sources, the public sphere in the West was filled with the rhetoric of Jihadi Jew-hatred, or, to use the current metaphor, sewage being dumped in our midst.
Most obviously the revelation that in 2010 the hopefully moderate president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, made remarks so heinous that with Goldberg’s notable encouragement, eventually even the NYT found it “fit to print” (including an op-ed by Ayaan Hirsi Ali about the pervasiveness of these attitudes in the Muslim world):
No reasonable person can expect any progress on this track [negotiations]. Either [you accept] the Zionists and everything they want, or else it is war. This is what these occupiers of the land of Palestine know – these blood-suckers, who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs.
Morsi’s response was to double down and blame the Jew-dominated media for distorting his really unoffensive remarks.
But International Holocaust Remembrance Day yesterday (January 27) brought out lethal narratives from Western sources, indeed from prominent, seemingly mainstream sources. LibDem MP David Ward compared Israeli behavior to the Palestinians to Nazi behavior towards the Jews, apparently a bit put off that anyone objected to such an obvious comparison. (Rather, he compared his willingness to speak out against inhumanity with that of the Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel.) And the Sunday Times of London ran a political cartoon – again on Holocaust Memorial Day – that depicted a Sharon-anti-Christ-like Bibi Netanyahu building a massive wall using blood for mortar, in which he immured Palestinian victims of his malevolence.
Now, both Ward’s words and this image (brought to us, alas, by Gerald Scarfe, who did the cover drawing for Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” 1979), represent the grand Palestinian lethal narrative: innocent Palestinians ground to death by Israeli malevolence which is, itself, part of the substitution theology in which Israelis are the new Nazis.
All of this illustrates the lethal narrative frame that DurahJournalists have adopted, and to which they adopt their evidence. Don’t let Palestinian genocidal hatreds and depraved attacks on Israeli civilians get in your way of blaming Israel for not making the “necessary concessions for peace.” And just hope that no one notices the profound prejudice against all Semites – Jews and Arabs – embedded in your combination of hysterical moral accusations against Jews and mulish silence about Palestinian sins. Since this is a terrible conflict – who made it that? – and there must be a good guy and a bad guy, let Israel stand accused of the sins the Palestinians wish fervently they could commit.
I’d say Goldberg qualifies for an honorable mention in Durah Journalism, not because, as Dan Friedman puts it, he’s Obama’s sewage pipe into the Jewish community (a bit over-stated), and not because he partakes of the more unhinged variety put forward by Ward and Scarfe (which he notably opposes), but because he feels so strongly that he (and Obama and so many others) know what’s best for Israel, that he can use statements in which Nazis and “right-wing” Jews mingle effortlessly. It’s one of the more striking examples of how, since al Durah, the patron saint of substitution theology, it’s become acceptable to compare Israel to the Nazis.
As Melanie Phillips points out, Ward’s comments echo widely held beliefs among the British intelligentsia, and had he only spoken of Israel and not “the Jews,” there would have been little uproar. As a result few are aware of how truly grotesque these comments were, even if only directed at Israelis:
For the really terrible thing here is not the grotesque misuse of the Holocaust, nor the vicious suggestion that ‘the Jews’ are guilty of behaviour that is somehow analogous to the Nazi genocide inflicted upon them, nor even the sickening insult that they have to ‘learn the lessons’ of their own suffering. [All of which is pretty terrible – RL.]
No, the true venom of these remarks is the way they reverse the position of today’s Jewish victims – the Israeli survivors of the Holocaust and their children and grandchildren — and their current would-be exterminators – the descendants of Hitler’s Nazi collaborators in Palestine during the Holocaust.
These are not healthy signs. Inversion of reality with the necessary auto-stupefaction involved, aggressively dished out by public sphere bullies, is not the way progressive values will prevail in the coming generation.