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

The House at the End of the Road

In the culture of Israeli settlements, stealing land has become invisible, unnoticed.

A Palestinian boy from the village of Beit Ijza in front of the security barrier that surrounds Sabri Gharib's house. (Gershom Gorenberg)
Dror Etkes picked me up in front of the bank, next to the convenience store, on a normal Jerusalem street where nothing slows the morning commuters except normal traffic jams. I wanted to visit the Palestinian village of Silwad. To that, Etkes added a couple of other stops on our tangled route through the West Bank. The day's task was to examine how to take someone's land for settlement -- via stealth, strong-arm tactics, or legal maneuvers. Only at the day's end would I understand what my real goal had been: to remind myself that the main street, the bank, the apartment buildings, the buses taking kids to summer day camps -- the whole normal city day flowing according to sensible rules -- is an enclave of illusory sanity. Once upon a time you could get from Jerusalem to Silwad easily. You drove north on the main mountain-ridge highway. After Ramallah you turned right. On the other side of the country road from Silwad stood the wooden sign marking the entrance to the Israeli...

Publicity Over Peace?

Let's hope the private discussion between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu moved policy closer to peace than their public display showed.

President Barack Obama, right, walks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Benjamin Netanyahu is smiling. Barack Obama is smiling. Forgive me; I'm not smiling. Either the news photos from this week's White House meeting are hiding something, or the odds of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement have just dropped again. The smiles were expected. The Israeli prime minister's Washington visit was billed in countless Israeli media reports as a sulha -- the Arabic and thus the vernacular Hebrew for a ceremonial reconciliation. For Obama, the most obvious goal was a short-term domestic political win. Four months before the U.S.' midterm elections, the president seems to have accepted the conventional wisdom that tension with Israel over settlements and peace negotiations alienates pro-Israel donors and voters from Democratic congressional candidates (as if all pro-Israel voters were pro-Netanyahu hawks). Meeting with the press , both Obama and Netanyahu pointedly avoided answering questions about extending the Israeli freeze on settlement building, imposed last...

Winners and Losers in the Gaza Conflict

Netanyahu has eased the Gaza siege. A look at who won and who lost in the latest battle for Middle East peace.

As befits the son of a historian, Benjamin Netanyahu loads his speeches with references to the past. He talks about 3,000 years of Jewish history in Jerusalem; he conjures up the Holocaust when he discusses Iran's nuclear program; he recalls the Arab rejection of partitioning Palestine in 1947 to show who's at fault in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet the prime minister's short-term memory seems to be vanishing. Otherwise, it's hard to understand his comments to a Knesset panel this week, explaining his decision to ease the Israeli siege on Gaza. The new policy of allowing free import of civilian goods, he said, was entirely in Israel's interest. It would "eliminate Hamas' main propaganda claim" and allow Israel to focus on its real security problems. In itself, this is really quite sensible. Much more sensible than refusing to allow chocolate and coriander, not to mention building supplies, into war-ravaged Gaza. But from Netanyahu's words, one might think he had just taken...

Two State Dissonance

Even apart from the Gaza flotilla attack, Jews can't reconcile the real Israel with some of their deepest assumptions.

(AP Photo)
Meyer Landsman lives in the Hotel Zamenhof. Landsman is the hero of Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union , in which the Jews lost the 1948 war in Palestine and have taken refuge in a Jewish autonomous region of Alaska. The run-down hotel is named for L.L. Zamenhof, the Russian-born Jew who invented Esperanto in order to bring world understanding and peace. In other words, Landsman's residence is a liberal Jewish dream that has seen much better days. I remembered this while reading Chabon's New York Times article , "Chosen, Not Special," a response to the Israel Navy's ill-considered raid on the flotilla to Gaza last week. The article describes the shock that Jews feel when they discover that Jews can act as stupidly as other people. The novel, in my view, alludes to more basic kinds of American Jewish surprise with the State of Israel, including half-repressed disbelief in its very existence. I'll get to the novel in a moment. First, let me note that Chabon's Times article...

A Brief History of the Gaza Folly

The flotilla attack is just the latest in a series of bad decisions Israel has made about Gaza over the past five years.

Palestinian flags wave in Gaza port a day before a flotilla of aid ships was to arrive. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
At first, reports of the number of dead fluctuated by the hour. After Israeli naval commandos landed on a Turkish ferry heading for Gaza, rumors said that Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the radical Islamic movement among Israeli Arabs, had been killed on board. The rumors turned into news items in the Arab media; the sheikh was then reported alive and well. Descriptions of what actually happened on the crowded deck of the Mavi Marmara have, predictably, been wildly at odds. Activists who were on board say the Israeli commandos fired before being attacked; the Israeli military says the soldiers were defending themselves from a mob. Both sides present film clips of the nighttime struggle to back up their case. Out of this blurred picture, one thing seems agonizingly clear: The raid was a link in a chain of premeditated folly. Let's follow that chain, from the news reports backward. To deflect criticism, Israeli army sources have told the press that the commandos faced a "lynch" when they...