My old buddy Jonathan Mark at the Jewish Week tipped me off this morning that I’m mentioned by name in an on-line Special Bulletin published yesterday (November 2) by Memri, the Middle East Media Research Institute. The bulletin features translated excerpts from a column about J-Street that was published the previous day in Al-Ittihad, a government-owned, Arabic-only daily newspaper in the United Arab Emirates. I was pretty excited to hear about this. There’s nothing a writer likes better than to see his name in print (other than Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy, of course).
Imagine my disappointment, then, when the column turned out to be quoting somebody else, one J.J. Goldenberg. Weirdly enough, he’s also a journalist, and he seems to have written a book with the exact same title as mine (my lawyer will hear about this!). The thing is, the quote in the column is something I never said and wouldn’t say in a million years, so it must be somebody else. Here’s an excerpt from the excerpt:
A prevalent view in the U.S. and outside it is that the Jews determine and control America’s Middle East policy, mostly through [the Jewish lobby] AIPAC. But since President Obama’s July 13, 2009 address to the leaders of the Jewish-American organizations, [in which he] set out his Middle East policy, there have been accusations from Jewish circles that Obama is being manipulated by two of his Jewish aides who have renounced [the usual pro-Israeli views] - Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod. Journalist J. J. Goldenberg, author of Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment, thinks that one of the goals [of these aides] is to restrain the Jewish-American community by means of two organizations that attack Israel, namely ‘Americans for Peace Now’ and ‘J Street.’
Huh? Emanuel and Axelrod trying to “restrain the Jewish-American community”? Americans for Peace Now and J-Street “attack Israel”? I keep getting attacked, from both right and left, for not saying that stuff. One piece just the other day called me “a cranky old Yid,” essentially for my reluctance to draw those sorts of connections.
My first thought on reading this was that they had confused me with another J.J. Goldberg. So I Googled my name (try it — it’s way cool) and found two other J.J. Goldbergs, neither of whom seems a likely candidate. One is indeed a writer, but his expertise is cow teats (I’m not kidding). He has written such groundbreaking works as “Evaluation of a 1% Iodophor Postmilking Teat Sanitizer,” published in 1994 in the authoritative Journal of Dairy Science, a journal I’m familiar with from my Kibbutz Gezer days but never actually wrote for. I don’t see this Goldberg weaving conspiracies out of Rahm Emanuel and J-Street.
The other lives in Salt Lake City and has a Facebook page with a photo of himself and a woman in a wedding dress, presumably his bride. Again, possible but unlikely.
So then I looked up the columnist, identified as Dr. As’ad ’Abd Al-Rahman. I was thinking he might be a homeopath (not that there’s anything wrong with that) or a podiatrist, but a quick check on the Web showed that he is a political scientist, an “independent member” of the PLO executive committee and head of its refugee-affairs negotiating team. My on-line source, Palestine Who’s Who, gives his last known place of employment as the University of Amman, but the entry seems uncertain whether or not he’s still active or even alive. My guess is that if he had a column in Sunday’s paper, he’s probably still alive, but based on the column’s content, his current residence is Dreamland.
In the end, I must confess that I have no idea where that quote came from or what it was that ’Abd Al-Rahman or Al-Ittihad or Memri thought they were seeing. But it sure didn’t come from me.
As you can imagine, this is pretty upsetting stuff. If word gets around, it could damage my reputation, perhaps even to the point where I would no longer get my regular table at Deli Kasbah in the corner near the washing stand with the excellent view of the TV monitor showing nonstop videos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s speeches in Yiddish. I would hate for anything to come between me and their outstanding shwarma.
On the other hand, “cranky old Yid”? I kind of like the sound…
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).