Gershom Gorenberg

Gershom Gorenberg is a senior correspondent for The Prospect. He is the author of The Unmaking of Israel, of The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977 and of The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount. He blogs at South Jerusalem. Follow @GershomG.

Recent Articles

Prime Minister Non Grata

Benjamin Netanyahu's meeting with Obama was a disaster, and Israel's other allies are growing increasingly weary of the prime minister.

And your friends, Bibi, they treat you like a pest. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)
Mr. Netanyahu wanted badly to go to Washington. He wanted to warm himself in the worship of thousands of delegates at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual convention, far from the cacophony of his unruly ruling coalition. He knew that if he didn't get White House time during his visit, the media back home would report, chorally, that he'd caused a rift in relations with Israel's essential ally. To end the spat with the administration over Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, he made some half-publicized promises to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and got his invite to meet President Barack Obama. And perhaps during this meeting he learned (if Benjamin Netanyahu ever learns) that you should be terribly careful what you wish for. For the Washington visit has only made it more obvious that he has managed to estrange himself from Israel's friends. Support for Israel, the nation's allies are telling him, does not mean even begrudging acceptance of continued...

A Fresh Take on the Jewish Faith

A new community of American Judaism is embracing religious traditionalism and social liberalism.

Halfway through the Saturday morning service, it struck me: A transcript of the service would be no different from that of a standard Orthodox Jewish service. We were faithfully adhering to the unamended, centuries-old traditional Hebrew liturgy. A transcript, however, would not show that men and women were sitting together, without the physical divider that separates them at an Orthodox synagogue, or that women were leading parts of the service -- another blatant egalitarian break with Orthodoxy. For that matter, a transcript wouldn't show the fervor of the singing -- by the congregation, not just the leader -- in the rented church basement on New York's Upper West Side. It wouldn't indicate that nearly everyone there was between 20 and 35 -- precisely the demographic that professional leaders of established denominations of American Judaism ritually complain they have trouble getting into synagogues. But this congregation, known as Kehilat Hadar ("community of splendor") doesn't...

Imagined Israel

A new book makes sense of why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeats his errors.

An Israeli man carries his daughter on his shoulders on their way to the Tomb of the Patriarchs, a shrine holy to Jews and Muslims, in the West Bank city of Hebron. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
By all accounts, Benjamin Netanyahu devoted very little thought to the two final sites added to a list of designated heritage sites set to benefit from a large government restoration budget. Never mind that the Tomb of the Patriarchs, known to Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque, is located in the West Bank town of Hebron. Likewise, Rachel's Tomb is in Bethlehem -- also occupied territory. Just before Sunday's Cabinet meeting, rightist ministers noticed that the two shrines, regarded as the burial places of the biblical ancestors of the Jewish people, were missing from the list. They leaned a bit on Netanyahu, he added the tombs, and the Cabinet unanimously approved the plan. From there, the reaction followed as if part of the playbill. Palestinian protests in Hebron turned into confrontations between demonstrators and troops that have grown larger each day. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat described the heritage designation as a "unilateral decision to make Palestinian sites in Hebron...

Free Speech and Funding in Israel

Attacks against a major left Israeli philanthropic organization are symptomatic of the complex role foreign money plays in political debates.

Jewish right-wing activists dressed as Arabs demonstrate against the New Israel Fund (NIF). "Thank you Naomi Chazan, the New Foundation, Friends from Gaza." (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
Ronen Shoval caught me off-guard. I'd phoned the newly prominent rightist to listen to him repeat his allegations that the New Israel Fund, the major philanthropic backer of Israeli human-rights groups, was "aiding Hamas." But I wasn't expecting him to say that the NIF was "serving communist interests." He's not actually an Israeli neo-McCarthyist, I realized. He's an authentic, original McCarthyist -- cut loose in both time and space, in free fall, looking desperately for his mother ship. For a few seconds I felt sorry for him. My moment of lost-kitten pity didn't last. Anachronistic as he sounds, Shoval is quite dangerous. With politicians and major media figures helping to arouse hysteria, his Im Tirtzu movement has enjoyed very quick success in its campaign against the NIF. At the end of January, Im Tirtzu ("If You Will It") issued a study portraying the NIF as the hidden force responsible for war-crimes allegations in the Goldstone Report on the fighting between Israel and Hamas...

Willed Amnesia

Israel's new amnesty law only perpetuates the narrative that the only people hurt by settlement in Gaza were the settlers, whose ideal communities have been lost forever.

Israeli security forces attempt to reach the rooftop of the Kfar Darom synagogue, where settlers barricaded themselves to resist forced evacuation on Aug. 18, 2005. (AP Photo/Yossi Zamir, GPO)
The amnesty law is impressive in its brevity, in its focus, and most of all in its terrible audacity. Passed by Israel's Parliament this week, it is barely two pages long. It wipes clean the criminal records of one very specific group of political protesters: those arrested while trying to block Ariel Sharon's unilateral evacuation of Israel's Gaza Strip settlements in the summer of 2005. The legal system will forgive and forget the young ultra-nationalists who insisted that the divine imperative to settle the Whole Land of Israel trumped other law, and who in some places turned the pullout into a mob confrontation with Israeli police and soldiers, televised globally. The amnesty, I need to note, does not cover those convicted of the most serious offenses, such as aggravated assault, or those sentenced to actual jail time. Nonetheless, it reportedly applies to 400 of 482 people charged for their role in the anti-pullback turmoil. It does, for instance, cover those who entered the Gaza...

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