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

Skipping the Summit for the Movies

Our Middle East correspondent skips the Netanyahu-Abbas meeting to watch Ajami, a controversial film that shows the courage needed to truly bring peace.

(The Match Factory)
Update: Ajami, the new Israeli film on tense relations between Palestinians and Jews in Jaffa, won the Israeli equivalent of the Oscar -- the Ophir Prize -- for best film at a Haifa ceremony on Saturday night. Ajami's Jewish and Palestinian creators, Yaron Shani and Scandar Copti, also won the prizes for best director, best screenplay and best editing. The film -- in which most of the dialogue is in Arabic -- now becomes Israel's candidate for best foreign film in next year's Academy Awards. The advance publicity accurately predicted that this week's U.S.-Israeli-Palestinian summit would fall short of great historical drama. Despite Barack Obama's efforts, his meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas would not be the denouement of successful diplomacy. Emotionally as well as physically, the get-together in New York on Tuesday would be half a world away from the unsolved conflict. Following updates on news sites would be an exercise in escapism, I concluded. Instead, to stay...

Will the U.S. Stop Treating Settlement as a PR Problem?

George Mitchell's visit to Israel to discuss settlements doesn't mean the U.S. is taking the issue seriously.

In the summer of 1974, the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv received a cable from the State Department. The main office was concerned about press reports that Israel intended to expand settlements in the occupied territories. The cable complained of the "difficulties such publicity generates in U.S.-Arab relations." The reports "were most unhelpful to Middle East peace efforts." Foggy Bottom therefore wanted to know how Israel's Labor government "might be induced to turn off public comments on expanding settlements." Two days later, Ambassador Kenneth Keating cabled back. He'd talked to Foreign Minister Yigal Allon, who said he was about to meet with the editors of the country's newspapers. Allon promised to ask them to play down "sensitive issues" connected to the negotiations that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was conducting between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Allon kindly "volunteered to add settlement to his list" of subjects to hush up, Keating wrote. The secretary could rest...

The Invention of the Body-Snatchers

Take one Swedish journalist, one Israeli politician, add allegations of international organ trafficking, and you've got one international mess.

Lest there be any misunderstanding: As an Israeli and a Jew, I don't believe that the current government of Sweden is quasi-Nazi, that all Swedes are anti-Semites, or that I should boycott Ikea, the Swedish furniture firm. At the same time, to remove all doubt, I solemnly declare that I have never been involved in the international trade in organs for transplant. I do feel exceedingly silly bothering to make these denials. But they seem somehow necessary in light of the current Swedish-Israeli tensions, which are a product of egregiously incompetent journalism in a Swedish paper and equally irredeemable diplomacy by Israel in furious response. Technically speaking, the affair began last week with an article headlined "Our Sons Plundered for Their Organs" that appeared in the back pages of Aftonbladet , a major Swedish paper. Writer Donald Boström began by describing the July arrest in New York of Levy Izhak Rosenbaum on charges of buying kidneys from Israeli donors and selling them in...

Whose Religion Is This, Anyway?

Being an Orthodox dove in Israel is a complicated business.

(AP Photo)
The American Jewish filmmaker told me he was doing a documentary on possible answers to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- one state or two -- and human-rights issues. When he showed up at my Jerusalem apartment on a recent afternoon to interview me, he was wearing a beret. His wife and producer wore a maxi skirt; a scarf covered her hair. Their attire showed they were Orthodox Jews. Hers, in particular, fit the stereotyped look of the Israeli religious right, of settlers and their supporters, including some Jews abroad. I was surprised. Maybe, I thought, I was the token leftist interviewee in a project by settlement backers aimed at showing that there is no exit from the conflict and that Israel must hold the West Bank forever. I was also painfully aware of an irony: My own skullcap identifies me, correctly, as an Orthodox Jew. Countless times, my appearance has also caused people to assume, incorrectly, that I belong to the religious right. One look has been enough for them to...

Jerusalem's Shepherd Hotel Affair

In Jerusalem, where all planning is strategic and all local issues are international, the sale of one property can serve as a political move intended to determine the city's future status.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks up during a session of the plenary in the Knesset, Israel's Parliament. (AP Photos/Tara Todras-Whitehill)
Western communists, it was said in another era, took out their umbrellas whenever it rained in Moscow. I remembered that adage as I read a recent statement from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that arrived in my inbox. The subject was the latest U.S.-Israeli flap over construction in East Jerusalem. No matter that the diplomatic thunderstorm appears artificial -- deliberately engineered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to deflect the Obama administration's pressure to freeze settlement activity. At the Presidents Conference headquarters in New York, the umbrellas were opened with alacrity. The statement is an uncritical repetition of Netanyahu government spin. The locus of the clash is a four-story building known as the Shepherd Hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood north of Jerusalem's Old City. It's an affluent area where foreign consulates are scattered between mansions of aristocratic Palestinian clans such as the Husseinis and Nashashibis...