Is "pundit" actually Israeli military officer?

CNN, CBS and others use an analyst who appears to be in the foreign military on which he is commenting and yet don't divulge this fact.

Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew and a former journalist.

Alison Weir
Published on
January 13, 2009

It appears that one of the media's major "Middle East experts," Jeffrey Goldberg, is a member of the Israeli military. If so, news outlets should identify him as such whenever he speaks or is cited in reports or analyses -- which is often.

Here is what is known:

  1. After college, Goldberg – who grew up a self-identified passionate Zionist – traveled to Israel to become an Israeli citizen. He served in the Israeli military (the IDF), and worked as a prison guard at one of Israel's cruelest and largest prisons, Ketziot, during the first intifada – when Palestinians were being killed, maimed, and imprisoned in massive numbers.
    • Many of the over 2,000 Palestinians incarcerated at Ketziot (as at other prisons) had never even been charged with a crime; in effect, it is a large concentration camp. Prisoners were frequently tortured then and now. On at least one occasion (this may or may not have been during Goldberg's tenure), the prison warden killed two Palestinians in cold blood in full view of the entire camp – including its prison guards. [See our 4-minute video, "Jeffrey Goldberg: Pundit for Israel," to learn more ]
  2. Israel requires its citizens to remain in the Israeli military reserve until they are about 50 years old. Since Goldberg was born in 1965, it would appear that he is now 43 years old, and therefore still in the Israeli military.
  3. Goldberg returned to the US and became a journalist. As I said above, he is all over the media as a Middle East commentator – CNN, CBS, the Washington Post, New Yorker, Atlantic (his current post) -- you name it, he's there. In addition, numerous reporters, columnists, etc, cite him in pieces on Israel-Palestine. He is the journalist who, by happenstance, wrote the Washington Post's review (i.e. hatchet job) of Jimmy Carter's book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid. He also smeared Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer's book The Israel Lobby.

Today, Goldberg comments on the Gaza situation and, as usual, he gives many of the Israeli talking points. Goldberg's comments, typically, decontextualize the situation. He focuses on Hamas as a "terrorist" organization, fails to give the very revealing statistics of the dead and wounded, and consistently posits Palestinians as the aggressors, despite the actually chronology of events.>[?

The situation in Gaza is considerably different than Goldberg's analyses would lead people to believe. The reality is that Israel has made Gaza into the largest concentration camp on earth, and for years has been restricting its 1.5 million inhabitants' access to food, medicine, clean water, etc., to the extent that researchers began to find malnutrition among children. With the election of Hamas in 2006 Israel increased its closures, using, as the relief agency Christian Aid stated, "food and medicine as weapons." Numerous humanitarian groups warned of a growing, "potentially catastrophic" humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

In June, a truce agreement was brokered that contained three points: (1) Israel would drastically reduce its military blockade of Gaza, (2) Israel would end its violence against Gazans, and (3) Hamas would end its violence against Israel. (To put this in context, in the first 11 months of 2008, Israeli forces killed 452 Palestinians, and Palestinians killed 31 Israelis.**)

Israel violated the first term of the truce almost immediately, refusing to allow sufficient food and medicine in for the huge, desperate population, and then violated the second on Nov. 4th and Nov. 5th, when it killed seven Palestinians and injured six. The Palestinian resistance resumed its rocket launchings following Israel's initiation of violence. In seven years of use, Palestinian rockets have killed a total of 28 people. In the last 16 days Israeli forces have killed approximately 900 Gazans, the majority of them civilians. During this same period, the Gazan resistance has killed approximately 13 Israelis, all but three of them soldiers.

Unfortunately, the media enable Goldberg's misinformation, positioning him as an expert on the Middle East, a neutral journalist, and unbiased commentator. The fact is that Goldberg is a partisan with a clear track record of devotion to Israel. If he is currently an Israeli military reserve officer, as appears extremely likely, then journalistic ethics and standard practice would require the media to state this clearly and frequently. It would also require that he, as a partisan, be balanced with an equally articulate commentator representing the other side.

How can we learn for certain whether Goldberg is still in the IDF?

This should be easy, but is not. I phoned CNN last week after he appeared there (once again, giving Israeli spin) and asked them. I also asked why CNN was not disclosing his IDF connections. After many phone calls I finally spoke with a CNN media relations person who told me she would find out.

She eventually phoned me back and said that when Goldberg had appeared on CNN, the network had included an identifier with 3 points: (1) author of the book Prisoners* (2) Atlantic magazine staffer, (3) former member of the IDF. I had watched this segment and, apparently, had missed this third point. I asked how long this 3-part bio had been on. She said a few seconds.

Regarding whether or not Goldberg was still in the IDF, she said she thought so. She said that people had told her that after you serve in the Israeli military you remain in the reserves for many years, and that therefore they assumed that this was the case for him. I asked her if she would find out for sure. She said she couldn't spend any more time on this but suggested I contact the Atlantic.

I found it a bit disconcerting to discover that CNN uses an analyst who appears to be in the foreign military on which he is commenting and yet doesn't investigate or divulge this fact.

I then phoned the Atlantic to try to ascertain Goldberg's status and spoke with their press person, Kate Cristol. Cristol told me she didn't know whether or not Goldberg is in the IDF but said she would find out for me. I phoned her again a few hours later, and she still had no answer, but said she would get back to me with the information soon. I'm still waiting several days later. I've left several voice mails, but so far she has not returned my phone calls.

It would be appropriate for others to ask this question every time Goldberg appears on screen or in print. People may wish to contact each news organization and point out that it appears that Goldberg is in the Israeli military. Ask whether this is the case, and, if so, why they have not disclosed this extremely important fact to their viewers/readers.

Being a member of a foreign military is a clear conflict of interest for a journalist whose job is to give unbiased information on the country he is serving and compromises his position as an analyst.

Even in the midst of a major financial crisis, American taxpayers give Israel $7 million per day – and sometimes considerably more. It is essential that we receive factual, unbiased information on Israel-Palestine. Misrepresenting officers in a foreign military as journalistic analysts damages the public's ability to understand this urgent, life-and-death issue. We need better.


* Norman Finkelstein has an excellent commentary on Goldberg's book

** From the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, which has not yet posted the numbers for December 2008.

Israel-Palestine Timeline

Israel-Palestine Timeline: The human cost of the conflict records photos and information for each person who has been killed in the ongoing violence.

History of the Israel Lobby

Alison Weir's book Against Our Better Judgement: How the U.S. was used to create Israel brings together meticulously sourced evidence to outline the largely unknown history of U.S.-Israel relations.

Buy it on Amazon, and visit the book website for reviews, more ordering options, and upcoming author events.

Information largely missing from U.S. news reports. Read the Blog

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Video – Gaza: A humanitarian implosion

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Additional Resources

Documentary – Jenin Jenin

Amnesty International – Shielded From Scrutiny: IDF Violations in Jenin and Nablus

Report – The Jenin Inquiry

The Gaza Strip: A humanitarian implosion

Back to a Routine of Torture – Torture and Ill-treatment of Palestinian Detainees during Arrest, Detention and Interrogation – September 2001 - April 2003

Amnesty International – Israeli Settlers Wage Campaign of Intimidation

Booklet – ‘No Exit’

Amnesty International – Under the Rubble


Public Committee Against Torture in Israel

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