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

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...

The Road to Injustice

How Palestinians lost access to a main West Bank highway.

A Palestinian protester at Highway 443 near the West Bank village of Beit Urr, Friday, Jan. 11, 2008. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)
Arriving home in Israel after a semester teaching in New York, I got in a taxi at Ben-Gurion Airport and asked the cabbie to drive me to Jerusalem. "Take the main road, not Route 443," I said. Route 443 runs through the West Bank. When it was transformed from a country road to a highway in the 1980s, Palestinian land was expropriated under the legal fiction that the project's main purpose was to serve Palestinian residents of the area. Since 2002, however, the Israeli army has barred Palestinians from using it. I take 443 only when I must to cover a story. "I don't like 443 either," the cabbie said. "It's dangerous now that the Supreme Court made them let Arabs use it. " He pronounced "Supreme Court" like a curse. Such antipathy is common among Israeli right-wingers, who regard the Court as a club of bleeding hearts. I prefer a calm driver, especially on a road into the mountains, so I didn't argue politics with him. Nor did I point out his factual errors: The army hadn't yet opened...

After 43 Years, a Divided City

Most Israelis now ignore Jerusalem Day. It is time for some truth-telling.

An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish man looks at the Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem's old city. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Lest it be said that I never agree with anything that Benjamin Netanyahu says, I actually concur with one clause -- not a whole sentence -- in the speech he gave Tuesday evening. "The struggle for Jerusalem is a struggle for the truth," the prime minister of my country said. The rest of his speech consisted of the usual quarter-truths and myths that make up most statements about "eternally united" Jerusalem -- by Netanyahu himself, by other Israeli officials, and by often-naive American supporters. Nobel Peace Prize Winner Elie Wiesel's open letter , published as a full-page ad last month in The New York Times and other U.S. papers, is a good example of the art form. Netanyahu was speaking at the start of the celebrations for Jerusalem Day, the sundown-to-sundown national holiday marking Israel's conquest of East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967. (The anniversary is set according to the Hebrew date, rather than the civil date of June 7.) The venue was Merkaz Harav yeshivah, the...

Brokering With Bibi

The administration aims to change what Netanyahu does, rather than what he says. Is that enough?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
A worldly colleague of mine once complained that with the demise of the Soviet-era Pravda , the intellectual joy went out of newspaper reading -- the satisfaction of examining photos for who wasn't on the dais, of studying statements for what wasn't said, in order to reason out the real news. He was too quick to mourn. Reading the text of the State Department's daily press briefing provides nearly the same pleasure and even sheds some light on what Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is up to. At both Monday 's and Wednesday 's sessions, Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley emphatically refused to comment on reports that Netanyahu has imposed a de facto freeze on building in annexed East Jerusalem. "I'll refer to the Israeli government to enunciate its own policy," Crowley said. Of course, the policy that Netanyahu has publicly enunciated is that Israel will continue to build anywhere it wants in Jerusalem. And Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat denies there's a freeze. Crowley...

The Whistleblower's Story

A young Israeli soldier leaked documents alleging that generals broke the law. The whistleblower will pay. The brass probably won't.

Anat Kam (Flickr/
Now that the Tel Aviv District Court has lifted its gag order on the Anat Kam affair, Israelis don't need foreign news sites to learn about the ex-soldier who allegedly leaked digitalized reams of classified documents to a reporter. That makes life easier for those whose English is weak, but the difference in public awareness probably isn't significant. The gag order had already insured intense curiosity. What the increased access should do is stir a serious debate about balancing freedom of the press and whistleblowing with secrecy and security -- a debate every democracy needs regularly. What's reliably known is this: Kam is 23. (In news photos, she looks 15 and terribly innocent -- possibly an image designed by her lawyers.) During her required army service, she worked as a clerk in the office of Gen. Yair Naveh, then-head of the Israel Defense Force's Central Command. When she completed her service, she took home CDs to which she had copied many classified documents. Later she...