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Jeffrey Goldberg's Middle East Memoir

The New Yorker's former Middle East correspondent has written a memoir: Prisoners: A Muslim & A Jew Across the Middle East Divide. Goldberg won the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 2003 for his coverage of terrorism.

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Other segments from the episode on October 11, 2006

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, October 11, 2006: Interview with Jeffrey Goldberg; Review of Scritti Politti musical group's "White bread black beer;" Review of the television program "30 Rock."

Transcript

DATE October 11, 2006 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Jeffrey Goldberg talks about his book "Prisoners,"
about the friendship he engendered while a prison guard in an
Israeli prison for Palestinians, and his youthful idealism
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

My guest, Jeffrey Goldberg, was the Middle East correspondent for The New
Yorker before becoming its Washington correspondent. His first experience in
the Middle East was as a young Zionist from Long Island who had gone to Israel
to join the military. In 1990, at the start of the intifada, Goldberg was a
military policeman in Ketziot, Israel's largest prison for Palestinians.
Goldberg says Ketziot was a city of barbed wire, moldy tents, machine gun
towers, armored personnel carriers, sullen Arabs and embittered Israeli
soldiers. During this time, Goldberg says, the prison held more than 6,000
Palestinians, many of whom were the intifada's foot soldiers, squad
commanders, generals and propagandists.

Goldberg's experience in the prison, which altered his views on the Middle
East, is the subject of his new memoir, "Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across
the Middle East Divide." It's partly about the friendship he formed with one
of the Palestinian prisoners.

Jeffrey Goldberg, welcome back to FRESH AIR. The prison where you worked as a
guard was nicknamed "Revolutionary University." How did it get that name? Why
did it get that name?

Mr. JEFFREY GOLDBERG: Well, it was--first of all, it was as large as a
university. It had, the time I was there, roughly 6200 prisoners. And the
culture of the place was that the Israelis were in charge of security,
obviously, and if you tried to escape, you would be shot. But inside the
wire, if you will, the Palestinians were given a lot of autonomy. And they
used that autonomy to go defect. They used it to set up classes, basically,
all day long. They would run in the tents, and they would take the younger
generation of intifada activists, meaning the kids who were picked up for
throwing rocks by the Israeli Army, and they would take them and they would
put them into this school, essentially, where they would teach them to become
educated and hardened Palestinian activists.

So you had a situation in which Israel was working itself in a kind of way.
In exchange for peace and quiet, the Israelis granted the Palestinians this
autonomy. They used the autonomy to turn unstreetwise kids into very hardened
intifada activists.

GROSS: When you describe this as a university, were there actual, like,
classes and lectures in the prison?

Mr. GOLDBERG: They had, yeah, it was actually amazing to watch. They
didn't--and they didn't hide this, because we acquiesced to it. They would
gather in a tent and sit around in a circle and a senior figure in the PLO or
Hamas, whichever group was organizing this particular lecture, would talk for
an hour and they would take questions, and they weren't allowed to have
notebooks, but they frequently did anyway, and they would take notes. And it
was remarkable, actually.

I mean, there wasn't this sort of academic freedom that we're used to in
America. It was more pedantic than that. The lectures, from what I could
glean, were propagandistic in nature.

There were also, though, very interesting courses, if you will, on how to
resist interrogation techniques and how to identify someone in your community
who might be collaborating with the Israelis. So it was sort of a trade
school, on the one hand. Trade school for future uprising leaders. And it
was also more academic program in the sense that they were teaching
Palestinian history and Israeli history from a Palestinian perspective.

GROSS: When you were a guard in the Israeli prison during the first intifada,
most of the prisoners were affiliated with Hamas or Fatah. And what was the
power structure like between those two groups within the prison?

Mr. GOLDBERG: Well, Fatah was entirely in charge. Hamas was a minority.
They probably had 25 percent or 20 percent of the prisoners. Fatah was--it
took charge of every sub-block. And there were frequent fights between
them--sometimes they even became physical fights--over what you and I would,
what we would consider mundane issue. The distribution of food, the
distribution of work details.

If you were Fatah, if you aligned yourself with Fatah when you came into the
prison, you would get the best jobs. You would get to work in the kitchen,
which was considered a plus, because there was a hot shower. You would get to
even be on the garbage detail, which sounds like no fun, but it let you out of
your cage, in a sense, and let you wander around the prison, pick up garbage.

So Fatah was in charge. And not only that, Fatah was complicit in a kind of
way with the Israeli authorities who ran the prison. In exchange for letting
Fatah be in charge, the Israelis--we expected Fatah to keep a lid on things.
So if another group--Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine--decided that they wanted to kill a guard or riot, it was up to
Fatah to try to stop it before it happened.

GROSS: Now you were a guard at an Israeli prison because...

Mr. GOLDBERG: Right. Actually, my title was--yes...

GROSS: Yeah?

Mr. GOLDBERG: My title was, it was almost comical in its translation. It
was prisoner counselor, which meant that I wasn't a guard, I wasn't actually
armed during the day. My job was to see--look after their health needs and
look after their eating and their religious needs and trying to stop them from
rioting and a whole range of things. But I was in direct, close contact with
them. Guards were generally people in the towers with machine guns.

GROSS: This also gave you the opportunity to talk with prisoners?

Mr. GOLDBERG: Oh, all the time. They were the only people around to talk
to.

GROSS: Why did you want to serve in the Israeli military, just to back up in
your story. You're an American, you grew up in Long Island.

Mr. GOLDBERG: Yeah.

GROSS: But you wanted to go to Israel and you wanted to serve in the Israeli
Army, and that's how you got your position in the prison. It was a military
position.

Mr. GOLDBERG: Right.

GROSS: Why did you want to serve in the Israeli Army?

Mr. GOLDBERG: When I was a kid--there are a couple of things. When I was a
kid, I grew up in a mostly non-Jewish area. I had a problem, for a while, as
a young kid, with let's call it schoolyard anti-Semitism. And I felt quite
alienated from my surroundings. And in searching around for an answer to this
problem that I was having, I discovered there was a country in the Middle East
with Jews who carried guns. And so that was a very attractive idea to me as a
young man, as a teenager. And so I fell in love with the idea of a Jewish
armed force.

And, you know, of course, back then, what were we thinking about when we
thought about the Israeli Army? We were thinking about the miraculous
victory, 1967. We were thinking about the raid on Entebbe in 1976, which was
also a miracle and also proof that some Jews don't take violence lying down.
And so I had, as a model for manly Jewish behavior, if you will, the Israeli
Army. So that was my initial attraction to it.

And then I developed an ideological program, if you will, that took me on this
course. And that was as follows: The lesson of the Holocaust to a lot of
people is `those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.' The lesson that
I developed for myself was that `Armed Jews are harder to kill than unarmed
Jews.' And therefore, I wanted to be one of these armed Jews.

GROSS: Would you ever have wanted to join the American military?

Mr. GOLDBERG: Yes, absolutely. In fact, in my first year in college, I
joined ROTC because I wanted to get that training. In retrospect, I wish--in
some ways, in retrospect, I wish that I had joined the American Army. But at
the time, I felt as if, really, as if I was an Israeli, that I was born in the
wrong place, that I was meant to be an Israeli; that I was meant to be in
Israel.

I only really discovered my American-ness, if you will, by moving 6,000 miles
away to this Middle Eastern country.

GROSS: What made you feel more American in Israel than you did in America?

Mr. GOLDBERG: I'll tell you a story, which will maybe explain it a little
bit. When I was in the prison, we often used collective punishment against
the prisoners. There was a day--I'll give you an example--there was a day in
which a prisoner threw a rock that hit a guard in the head and he started
bleeding. And it became a big crisis and, you know, it's the Middle East, so
even when everything is calm and cool, everybody's yelling anyway. So you can
imagine what it sounds like when there's an actual crisis.

And everybody's screaming and yelling, and my commander comes over to me--I
was in charge of that block at the time--and says, `Take the guy who did it
and put him in the isolation tank'--you know, in solitary. And I said, `I
don't know who did it.' There's thousands of Palestinians all over the place;
I don't know who did it. He said, `It doesn't matter; just take anyone.' And
I didn't even understand the order. I mean, `What do you mean, "take
anyone"?' And he said, `Just take anyone. Just grab a Palestinian and put him
in isolation.'

And the thought that I had at that moment was, `Well, that's a very
un-American idea. I mean, you don't punish innocent people because somebody
in their group did something. You find the guilty party and you punish him.'
And so collective punishment struck me as--and it's really true. The term
that came to my mind was "un-American." And that was the beginning of a
process where I saw that I was not of the Middle East in a kind of way. That
I was, in ideological makeup and in temperament, more of a liberal American
Jew.

GROSS: What were some of the other things that you were called on to do while
working in the Israeli prison within the military that put you in an
uncomfortable position?

Mr. GOLDBERG: Well, almost everything, I think. I disagreed with the entire
premise of the prison in the following sense: The first uprising that started
in 1987 was an uprising against the occupation of 1967, and I disagreed with
the occupation. I disagreed with the settlement policy most strongly. And I
realized very early on, if I was Palestinian, I would be behind these fences,
behind this barbed wire.

I was called on to do things that I didn't agree with. I never--I think I can
say this--I never lost myself in the prison. One of the things that prisoners
did and still do, and this is universal, is they try to goad you into
violence. They try to goad you into hitting them or beating them or punishing
them. It's a form of power. And I never hit a Palestinian. I never hit a
Palestinian who wasn't already hitting me, let's put it that way. And I
always tried to behave in a way that would bring credit to--I mean, this is
going to sound funny, but bring credit to Israel. I wanted the Palestinians
to see that Jewish people, even in these unfortunate circumstances in which we
all found ourself, that Jewish people can behave in a humane way.

GROSS: Yet you--let me paraphrase something you say in the book. You say you
didn't want the prisoners to think that Jews were cruel by nature.

Mr. GOLDBERG: Right.

GROSS: Perhaps a bit of thoughtfulness, a gentle word here or there, might
make the Palestinians see the humanity of the Jews. So now there's two ways
of looking at your point of view, is that Palestinians would see the humanity
of the Jews in your humanity, with a kind word or, you know, a bit of
thoughtfulness. But I know other people might argue that it just would make
them think you're weak. You know, that in a power situation like that, that
any--that kindness is often misinterpreted as weakness.

Mr. GOLDBERG: Oh, I'll give you a perfect example of that. They had, in the
prison, they had Ping-Pong tables, which were provided by the Red Cross. And
one of the things they would do--I mean, this is a small example, but I think
it's very telling. One of the things they would do is they would constantly
hit the balls over the fences and make us, the soldiers, chase after their
Ping-Pong balls and then bring them back. And the first time I did this--I
did this about four or five times before I realized that, `Wait a second,
they're just playing with me.'

And finally one of the guards who was with me who had been in the prison for a
while, the next time that they hit the ball over the fence, he went over and
crushed the ball with his boot and said, `No more Ping-Pong.' And, you know,
and what his lesson--it was a lesson designed for my benefit. The lesson was,
you know, don't think that these people are saints. They are trying to goad
you and work you and they hate you. And so you can go fetch their Ping-Pong
balls all day; they're still going to hate you.

GROSS: My guest is Jeffrey Goldberg, the current Washington correspondent and
former Middle East correspondent for The New Yorker. His new memoir is called
"Prisoners."

We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Jeffrey Goldberg. He's the
Washington correspondent for The New Yorker and before that, he was the Middle
East correspondent for the magazine. He's written a new book called
"Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew across the Middle East Divide." And it's about
the period in the early '90s when he joined the Israeli military and worked in
an Israeli prison housing Palestinian prisoners.

When you worked in the prison, you established a kind of friendship with a
prisoner and your book revolves around this. And his name was Rafiq Hijazi.
You describe--one of the words that you used to describe him is "charming."
What did you find kind of charming about this Palestinian who was your
prisoner?

Mr. GOLDBERG: First of all, he was bookish and studious. I mean, literally
bookish. We had--believe it or not--we had a library cart that would come
through the prison and he was always taking books off the library cart and
swallowing them, basically, and returning them at night, like I was a kid who
spent a lot of time in the library. I liked to read. And so I found some
sort of--I noticed his behavior early on.

There was something else about him that I noticed when we started speaking
regularly, which was that he had a kind of un-Middle Eastern-like detachment
from the reality that surrounded us. Meaning that he also saw--like I saw, he
saw the absurdity of the place. And he also, like me to some degree, was a
bit of a critic of his own people. He's a loyal son of his people, as I think
I'm a loyal son of my people. But he also said things to me that made me
think that he believed the Palestinians were also less than perfect. And so
we had a kind of joking, funny relationship. I mean, it was a constricted
relationship. He was on one side of a barbed-wire coil and I was on the
other. But I would go over to him sometimes and we would just chat about the
various stupidities that we saw during the day.

GROSS: Like what? What would you agree was stupid?

Mr. GOLDBERG: The pettiness. The terrible pettiness of the place. The
behavior of some of our commanders, who took Palestinians out for punishment
for minor offenses. On the Palestinian side, I guess it would be the
sometimes ridiculous arguments between Hamas and Fatah and the PLO. He was in
the PLO, Rafiq. And just laughing about the arguments the Hamas guys would
start. I mean, the Hamas guys would start arguments about anything, including
how much bean stew their guys were getting as opposed to the PLO guys. Or who
had the access to the Ping-Pong table at what time. I mean, it's amazing how
petty things can get when you have nothing else to argue about.

GROSS: What was Rafiq's position within the prison power structure?

Mr. GOLDBERG: Well--I only learned this later, of course--but he was quite
high in the prison power structure. He was a young guy, but he was very
smart, obviously, and he was the head of the security committee, the internal
security committee, which was meant to ferret out collaborators.

GROSS: Did talking with him while he was in prison help you understand
Palestinian positions that you hadn't understood before?

Mr. GOLDBERG: Well, I understood very little about Palestinians. I'd never
met a Palestinian before this in any sort of meaningful way. I'm from Long
Island, you know. We didn't have huge numbers of Palestinians on Long Island.
So I think when I got to--look, I had some book learning, if you will. I'd
read everything there is to read about the Middle East. But what I began to
see was--I began to understand his perspective a little bit. When he spoke
about how his parents had to flee the town in what's now Israel--Esdraelon is
the name of the town--when they had to flee that town in 1948 as the Egyptians
and the Israelis were fighting over it, and he talked about the pain that his
parents felt, I actually began to understand it in a personal way.

I hope that when we spoke about, let's say, the Holocaust, that he also began
to absorb the idea that Jews, too, felt pain. I mean, this is the signal
problem in the Middle East. It's not--the signal problem in the Middle East
is that one tribe is completely incapable of feeling the--of understanding the
pain of another tribe. And if you can reach out beyond the boundaries of your
tribe and at least recognize the humanity of the other person, that's one
basis for hope.

GROSS: During the first intifada, when you were working at the Israeli
prison, you thought that if the Palestinians had taken up the nonviolent civil
disobedience concepts practiced by Gandhi and Martin Luther King that they
might've broken the occupation in a week. Rafiq, the Palestinian prisoner who
you had a lot of conversations with, completely disagreed with you. What was
his point of view on that?

Mr. GOLDBERG: Yeah, I made quite a spectacle of myself, arguing the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference position on nonviolence in the Israeli desert
by the Egyptian border. My naivete still stuns me sometimes.

Rafiq argued that--he argued a couple of things. He argued, one, that the
Israelis are too brutal to have responded in a humane way to passive
resistance, and I disagreed with that, obviously. I think the Israelis, of
all peoples in the world, because it's a democracy, because it's an open
democracy, I don't think Israel could've taken more than a week or two of
passive nonviolent resistance from the Palestinians.

There's another aspect of this. It wasn't only Rafiq who said this. I
would--I mean, it's almost embarrassing to talk about how naive I was, but I
would go to these Palestinian leaders, leaders of even Hamas and say, you
know, talk about Gandhi and the salt march and Martin Luther King and the
sit-ins at Woolworths. And I would explain, in my incredibly naive, very
American way that the moral force of sitting there and taking a beating
defeated the enemies of equality. And the answer, inevitably, from many
different Palestinians, was `You expect us, Arab men, to sit there and let
ourselves be beaten by Jews?' It--the Middle East is a different place and
there're different standards of what makes a man.

And there also is another phenomenon, which is that it's very, very painful
for Muslims to be dominated by Jews. And by Jews in particular, because
unlike Christians--Muslims and Christians have been fighting and warring for
1400 years--but Jews have always been docile and subordinate to Muslims, until
the rise of modern Zionism. And it's very, very hard--this is something I
learned in the prison--it's very, very hard for Palestinian men to reconcile
themselves to the fact that Jews are in charge of their lives. It was a very
painful thing for them.

GROSS: Jeffrey Goldberg's new memoir is called "Prisoners." He's the
Washington correspondent for The New Yorker. He'll be back in the second half
of the show.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: Coming up, we continue our interview with Jeffrey Goldberg. Ken
Tucker reviews Scritti Politti's first album since 1999, and David Bianculli
reviews the new NBC sitcom "30 Rock" starring Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, and Alec
Baldwin.

(Announcements)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with Jeffrey Goldberg, the former Middle East correspondent for The New
Yorker and its current Washington correspondent. His new memoir, "Prisoners,"
is about his experiences in the early '90s when, as a young Zionist, he'd left
the US for Israel and joined the military. In the early part of the first
intifada, he was a military policeman at an Israeli prison that held thousands
of Palestinians, many of whom were active in the intifada.

How did you decide to leave Israel and the Israeli military?

Mr. GOLDBERG: I have a weakness for oversimplified idealism. And so when I
was growing up, I thought of Israel as a Utopia. And, I mean, it was to the
point where the first time I saw somebody litter in Israel I was shocked. I
couldn't believe that anybody would throw garbage on such holy ground. And
you know? Here's the thing: No country can match that hope that I had. I
mean, Israel's not a Utopia. It's a real place with real people and real
problems. But when I got of the prison, I thought to myself, `Well, this is
not the country that I imagined and this is not where I want to be.'

Like I said, in a way, I discovered my American-ness when I was there. I felt
suddenly like Thomas Jefferson in the prison. I always felt, when I was
growing up in America, like David Ben-Gurion. I had to go to Israel to feel
like Jefferson. And so I decided that I couldn't live there because it didn't
meet my expectations, which was unfortunate, because nothing could meet those
expectations. And so I decided to try life in America again.

I was helped by a couple of things. One was ambition in journalism. I could
not have functioned in Israel as an English language journalist and achieved
what I wanted to achieve. The other is that I met a woman who became my wife
who did not want to live in Israel, who spent a year in Israel and thought
that that was quite nice and quite enough. And so I had a lot of reasons to
leave.

GROSS: You know, listening to you talk, I can't help but wonder, if you'd
worked at a prison in America whether you would've felt you had to leave
America.

Mr. GOLDBERG: I can't imagine a scenario in which I would've worked in a
prison in America, I have to tell you that.

GROSS: Right.

Mr. GOLDBERG: But I mean, you know, this is actually, it's a very
interesting point you make. I transferred all this idealism to America. When
I left Israel, I transferred this sense of idealism to America, both as a Jew
and as an American. As a Jew, I thought to myself, `Well, America might
actually be the promised land.' I mean, look at this country. Jews can do
anything in this country. And there's really no anti-Semitism to speak of.
And then I became newly-enamored of the American ideal and the American dream
and the American idea. And, you know, it's...

And then, in a way--it's not as neat as this, but then Abu Ghraib happened,
and I thought to myself, `Wow, that would never have happened in an Israeli
prison.' I always thought that the Israeli prisons were cruel and mean places,
but then I saw what happened in that prison in Iraq, and I thought to myself,
`We would never have done that.' And "we," I meant "Israel." So I become--as I
said, I have this tendency toward oversimplified idealism.

GROSS: We were talking before about the prisoner in the Israeli prison who
you kind of befriended, Rafiq. What's he doing now?

Mr. GOLDBERG: Rafiq now is a professor of statistics in the United Arab
Emirates. And he is not living in Gaza. And I think that's interesting
because I'm always thinking about why did we become friends or why did we
become friendly. And one of the things that we shared, I think, was
disappointment in our own peoples. And this is a limited kind of
disappointment. I love Israel. It's the Jewish homeland and I believe that
it's a moral necessity. But I can't help but being disappointed at some of
the things Israel does. I think, with Rafiq, it's sort of the same thing. He
wants to be a top academic and a top professor of statistics. God knows why,
but that's what his interest is, statistics. And he felt very strongly that
he could not achieve the academic success that he wanted to achieve in Gaza in
the universities in Gaza, and therefore he's not in Gaza. And we're both, in
a way, self-exiled from our dreamlands, if you will.

GROSS: You know, he got a scholarship to American University in Washington,
DC.

Mr. GOLDBERG: Right.

GROSS: And you wondered how he could be educated in the West and yet dislike
it so much. And he says to you, `Do you think they educated me out of
goodness? They have a goal. They want to change the world according to the
way they want.' And by that he meant, you say, a world receptive to
consumerism and secularism.

Mr. GOLDBERG: Right.

GROSS: I thought that was interesting, that he would accept the scholarship
to American University and at the same time feel used and manipulated by it.

Mr. GOLDBERG: Rafiq had a difficult time in America for any number of
reasons. It was a combination of political and cultural. You know how
there's this debate, `Do they hate us because of what we do or who we are?'
And I always think that's a self-limiting debate. It could be both.

And I think with Rafiq, he came to dislike America for a couple of reasons.
One was a culture of rampant consumerism and a culture that treated women's
bodies as objects of lust and desire. He also didn't like the politics. He
didn't like the fact that America was supporting Israel in its fight against
the Palestinians. He didn't like the fact that, in his view--and I found this
very interesting--in his view, America was taking the Shiite side in Iraq over
the Sunnis because he's a Palestinian and all Palestinians are Sunni Muslims.

So he did feel resentment toward the scholarship. And this is where we had a
breakdown in our relationship, because I thought this was a suggestion of--I
thought he was being ungracious toward his hosts, in a sense. And we argued
about this, and I said, `You've gotten this scholarship because you're a good
student and they want to train you and they want you to go out into the world
and do good things.' And his belief was that American universities and America
itself brings Muslims to America in order to make them into Americans. And to
Rafiq, being American is not a good thing. It's all those things that you
talk about: secular and consumerist and materialistic. And America, in a
way, to him, is a place that draws Muslims away from God. And he was very
upset by what he saw in America.

GROSS: My guest is Jeffrey Goldberg, the current Washington correspondent and
former Middle East correspondent for The New Yorker. His new memoir is called
"Prisoners."

We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Jeffrey Goldberg, and he's the
Washington correspondent for The New Yorker magazine. And he's the magazine's
former Middle East correspondent. His new book, "Prisoners: A Muslim and a
Jew across the Middle East Divide," is a memoir focusing on the early '90s,
when he moved to Israel, joined the Israeli Army and worked in an Israeli
prison housing Palestinian prisoners.

Your latest trip to Gaza was in August of this year. And this was during the
Israeli war with Lebanon. And you met with several people there. There's a
few, like, really fascinating things in The New Yorker article you wrote based
on the trip. One of the people you met with was a leader of the Qassam
Brigades in Gaza, Abu Hussein. First of all, just tell us briefly what the
Qassam Brigades are.

Mr. GOLDBERG: The Qassam Brigade is the self-described military wing of
Hamas. They're the ones who do the rocket launching and the suicide bombing.

GROSS: So Abu Hussein has a son who was in ninth grade when you were
visiting. And the father said about him, `I want him to finish his studies,
but if he happens to die, I don't have a problem. So long as he dies as a
martyr, and on the condition that he takes Jews with him when he dies. I will
be happy if he dies this way.' First of all, I want to say, your being Jewish
and his knowledge of the fact that you were Jewish obviously wasn't inhibiting
him from...

Mr. GOLDBERG: No, no, I think he was fairly blunt about his desires.

GROSS: And then his son was there, and what did his son do after his father
said this?

Mr. GOLDBERG: His son did a couple of things that I found very distressing.
I mean, I'm a father, so, of course, I found this distressing. One was, he
got for me his martyr photo. A lot of the boys in Gaza have a picture taken
of them with AK-47s or other weaponry and dressed in military clothing. And
they actually refer to it as their martyr picture. And this is to be used
when they die as martyrs, it's to be put on posters and newspapers, and it's
to show how they looked as valiant fighters. And I found it just so
distressing that they would have this picture taken in advance of their own
deaths, even if their deaths weren't planned. They just wanted to have
it--the way people in America would have their resumes handy in case a job
opportunity arose. They would have their martyr photo handy in case they died
fighting Israel.

And then the second thing he did was say, after his father had made kind of a
speech about how he would like his kid to finish his studies, but you know, if
he dies blowing himself up, well that's also OK. He looked at me, the kid
looked at me, and said, laughing. He said this laughing, he said, `And I'm
his only son.' And the perversity of that moment has stayed with me. It's a
very depressing idea. And so I was very depressed by that moment.

GROSS: Now you also met with Rafiq Hamdouna, a former Fatah leader who heads
an organization of Palestinians who have served time in Israeli jails.

Mr. GOLDBERG: Yeah.

GROSS: And I want to compare what he said about his son. And I'll read the
quote. He said, "My son Basel came to me one day and said he wanted to be a
martyr bomber. I had to keep calm. I said to him, `Basel, do you know what
happens when you blow yourself up? You don't go to heaven. You go into a
hole in the ground and you get covered up with dirt.'"

Mr. GOLDBERG: This, by the way, is the reason that I'm not without hope. I
think I'm the only person who left Gaza this summer more optimistic than when
I went in. And it's one of the reasons why I'm not a total pessimist. And
the book is not ultimately a pessimistic book. It's because there is this war
going on inside Palestinian society and inside Muslim society at-large. It's
a war between--not to be too melodramatic about it, but between the forces of
death and the forces of life.

And, you know, we talk about this clash of civilizations. This is where the
clash of civilizations is taking place, inside Muslim society. And I met a
lot of people like Rafiq Hamdouna, the one who is telling his kid, `Don't
become a martyr bomber. Make your life good on this earth. Don't think about
heaven. Let's think about what we can do here to make life better.' I met a
lot of a lot of people like that. A lot of them, by the way, and this is in a
way a point of my book as well. A lot of those people were people who had
spent 10 or 15 years in Israeli prisons and now wanted for their sons what
they didn't have, which is to say, innocent youth and an uninterrupted
education and calm and quiet and peace.

And so each place I went this summer, I met both these kinds of fathers, let's
say: the father who would be happy to see his son sacrifice his life in order
to get revenge against the Jews and then the father who wants to make a
compromise with the Jews so that his son might live. And that's why I'm not
without hope.

GROSS: How do you think the recent war between Israel and Hezbollah is going
to affect the future of Middle East peace or war?

Mr. GOLDBERG: I think the problem of this past summer's war is that neither
party won. Hezbollah recognizes that it did not win this war. Israel
certainly recognizes that it did not win this war. And what I'm afraid of is
that there's going to be, as we used to say as kids, a do-over war sometime in
the future.

I think--look, I have hopes and then I have analysis. My hope is that this
taught Hezbollah that it could not, in fact, destroy Israel. One of the
differences between Hezbollah and Hamas is that both parties, both groups say
that they want to destroy Israel. Only Hezbollah, it seemed to me, believed
that it was actually possible. I don't think that Hamas actually believes
that to be possible. And I'm hoping that the lesson Hezbollah took away from
this episode is that it might not be possible to physically destroy Israel.
Israel's not as weak a state as Hezbollah ideology would have it be. And so
that would be a positive.

But I am afraid that there's going to be a second war to settle this because
the energy in Hezbollah is a jihadist energy. And the desire to hurt Israel
sometimes trumps the desire for self-preservation.

GROSS: You described yourself, when you went to Israel, as having been a
dewy-eyed ideologue. Does the fact that you're neither dewy-eyed or an
ideologue anymore also leave you with some hope that other people who are
ideologues might at some point stop being ideologues?

Mr. GOLDBERG: Yes, that's the message of my book, I think, which is that
there are people on both sides of this conflict who will accept an imperfect
peace. And that's the key thing here, is to recognize that not all dreams can
be fulfilled. And the Israeli dreams can't all be fulfilled and the
Palestinian dreams can't all be fulfilled. If we have enough people on both
sides who recognize that, then we have a chance for peace.

GROSS: Jeffrey Goldberg, thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. GOLDBERG: Thank you.

GROSS: Jeffrey Goldberg's new memoir is called "Prisoners." He's the
Washington correspondent for The New Yorker.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Rock critic Ken Tucker looks at the new Scritti Politti
album, in actuality a solo effort from band member Green Gartside
TERRY GROSS, host:

Our rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of Scritti Politti's new CD, its first
since 1999. When the band got started in the late '70s, it made loud,
clanging political music. The new CD is a solo effort by founding member
Green Gartside, a 51-year-old Welshman.

(Soundbite from song)

Mr. GREEN GARTSIDE: (Singing) "If I held conviction in the palm of my hand,
a day at the start of June, you could see breathing, I could feel blood from a
stone. Oh, you know I could."

(End of soundbite)

Mr. KEN TUCKER: Green Gartside recorded every second of "White Bread Black
Beer" in the bedroom of his house in the Hackney borough of London. He calls
it a Scritti Politti album, but that group, founded in the rubble of punk
rock, no longer exists as such. What remains is Gartside, multitracking his
voice, making the sounds of guitars and keyboards and drums. He sings in a
soft voice about endless romance, into which reality occasionally intrudes.

(Soundbite from "Snow in Sun")

Mr. GARTSIDE: (Singing) "I was getting me down, took a train into town, and
the sun was shining brightly though the snow was falling lightly, too. Made
me think of how brave you were, and how come I have strength so far, and why
everything came apart. In my head and heart...(unintelligible). You will
never be without me. You will never need to doubt me. There'll be something
good about me soon. Like sun in the city snow, like snow in the city sun."

(End of soundbite)

Mr. TUCKER: That's Green Gartside pledging his love on the achingly
beautiful "Snow in Sun." Like a lot of his songs, it includes a few unexpected
details. On that one, in the midst of making hymns to the way snow glistens
in the sun, he inserts the blithe couplet, "Looks like maybe we'll lose our
home, out of pocket and all alone." At first, you're brought up short by this
observation. It's effect is to make you listen more carefully.

There's a lot going on in this deceptively simple music. Small dramas are
played out. Love is tested. Temptations loom. On a long song called "Dr.
Abernathy," the title character seems sinister. There are lines about
methamphetamine and how he's quote "looking for volunteers." But, ultimately,
the jauntiness of the music triumphs over the potential gloom.

(Soundbite from "Dr. Abernathy")

Mr. GARTSIDE: (Singing) "Abernathy called to see if you were here. He
wanted heroin; I gave him beer. Dr. Abernathy called to see if you were in.
He wanted mescaline; I gave him gin. Dr. Abernathy...(unintelligible). So
long did I know. Every second Sunday, I started..."

(End of soundbite)

Mr. TUCKER: If Gartside's music sounds familiar, you may be remembering one
of Scritti Politti's American hits from the '80s like "The Sweetest Girl" or
"The Perfect Way." The latter song so irresistible, Miles Davis did a cover
version of it.

For a guy who founded a chapter of the Young Communist League as a teenager,
and still talks Marxist theory in interviews, Gartside is certainly in touch
with his pop feelings, sometimes sounding like a more reflective Michael
Jackson.

(Soundbite from "E Eleventh Nuts")

Mr. GARTSIDE: (Singing) "Monkey...(unintelligible)...rocking in the kitchen
till the break of day. Monkey and a woman in a uniform, rocking in the
kitchen till the break of dawn. You my baby cow. You my baby cow. You my
baby cow. My mother, will she. You my baby cow. You my baby cow. You my
baby cow. My loving machine. Going to rock you, honey, ready or not, going
to steal your money. Going to rock you, honey, ready or not, going to steal
your money. Monkey and a woman..."

(End of soundbite)

Mr. TUCKER: I think what I like most about Green Gartside is that, for all
of his self-consciousness about what it means to be a pop star, at least in
his homeland, he's not ironic in the music he makes. He's shrewd, he's
knowing, but he's not cynical about the pleasures of pretty melodies and
lyrics about how being in love can make you a smarter, wiser person. He's a
romantic, but he knows that romanticism is a rich, complex form, one that he
tries to present in the most straightforward manner possible.

GROSS: Ken Tucker reviewed the new Scritti Politti CD, "White Bread Black
Beer." Although the CD is a solo effort by Green Gartside, he assembled a new
band for live performances. After several concerts in the UK, the band starts
an American tour at the end of this month.

Coming up, David Bianculli reviews the new sitcom "30 Rock," created by and
starring Tina Fey, former weekend update anchor and head writer on "Saturday
Night Live."

This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: TV critic David Bianculli reviews NBC's new comedy show
about being behind the scenes of a comedy show, "30 Rock"
TERRY GROSS, host:

Last month, NBC presented "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," a new comedy-drama
series created by Aaron Sorkin, offering a behind-the-scenes look at a
fictional late-night live variety show. Tonight, NBC presents another new
series with the exact same premise. It's called "30 Rock." It's a 30-minute
sitcom and its creator and star is Tina Fey, former head writer and weekend
update anchor on "Saturday Night Live." Our TV critic, David Bianculli,
already has raved about "Studio 60." Now he wants to rave about "30 Rock."

Mr. DAVID BIANCULLI: This summer, when TV critics asked NBC executive Kevin
Reilly why in the world he was scheduling two different shows with the same
basic live-TV concept, he had a good answer. `Both shows came in at the same
time. Both were by very gifted writers. And both pilot episodes showed too
much promise to ignore.' He's right on all counts.

But that doesn't make it any easier on viewers, who already have been watching
or not watching Sorkin's "Studio 60" for four weeks and now have to
differentiate between the two shows. Fortunately for NBC, Tina Fey is not
only writing and starring in "30 Rock," which premieres tonight, she's writing
the network promos for her new sitcom, too, and they're as flip and funny as
the show itself. Here's one that aired very deliberately midway through last
week's "Studio 60," featuring Fey and her "30 Rock" co-star Alec Baldwin.

(Soundbite from "30 Rock" ad)

Ms. TINA FEY: Alec, thank you so much for agreeing to star in my new show
"30 Rock."

Mr. ALEC BALDWIN: Yeah, right. So when do I get to meet Aaron?

Ms. FEY: Excuse me?

Mr. BALDWIN: Aaron Sorkin, the "West Wing" guy. When do I get to meet him?

Ms. FEY: Oh, no, that's not this show. That's the other NBC show about
late-night TV.

Mr. BALDWIN: This is the one with Amanda Peet, right?

Ms. FEY: No, this is me and you and Tracy Morgan.

Mr. BALDWIN: Oh, no, no, no, no. No.

(End of soundbite)

Mr. BIANCULLI: The title "30 Rock" refers to the address of New York's
Rockefeller Plaza, from which "Saturday Night Live" is broadcast live. Where
Sorkin's fictional "Studio 60" show emanates from Hollywood, broadcast by the
equally fictional NBS network, Tina Fey sets her show in the real world, one
she knows well. It's live from New York and supposedly is presented by NBC.

She plays Liz Lemon, head writer of "The Girlie Show," a sketch comedy series
starring Jenna Marone, played by Jane Krakowski, who provides a perfectly
delightful mix of talent, vanity and insecurity.

Tracy Jordan, a loose cannon movie star played by Tracy Morgan, enters the mix
when he's hired by a new NBC executive, Jack Donaghy, to inject "The Girlie
Show" with what he calls a third kind of heat. It's something he knows a lot
about due to his previous executive experience. Donaghy is played by Alec
Baldwin, and as in the promo, he's the supersecret weapon of "30 Rock." Fey,
Morgan and Alec Baldwin all hail from "Saturday Night Live": Fey as head
writer, Morgan as sketch player, Baldwin as a fearlessly funny and
understandably frequent guest host.

Like Steve Martin in the old days and Christopher Walken in the newer ones,
Alec Baldwin is the type of SNL guest host who comes in and not only steals
the show but raises it to a higher level. Baldwin does it with "30 Rock" just
as effortlessly. Here he is in the scene where newly-hired executive Donaghy
has his first meeting with Liz, played by Tina Fey, and her producer Pete,
played by Scott Adsit. He's explaining how he got his job.

(Soundbite from "30 Rock")

Mr. BALDWIN: (As Jack Donaghy) The GE trivection oven cooks perfect food
five times faster than a conventional oven because it uses three kinds of
heat: thermal technology for consistent temperature, GE precise air
convection technology for optimal air circulation and microwave technology for
incredible speed. With three kinds of heat, you can cook a turkey in 22
minutes.

Mr. SCOTT ADSIT: (As Pete Hornberger) Hah! That's so impressive. The
people upstairs think so. That's why they promoted me. That's why they sent
me here to retool your show.

Ms. FEY: (As Liz Lemon) Retool what now?

Mr. BALDWIN: (As Jack Donaghy) I'm the new vice president of East Coast
television and microwave oven programming.

Ms. FEY: (As Liz Lemon) That sounds like you program microwave ovens.

Mr. BALDWIN: (As Jack Donaghy) I like you. You have the boldness of a much
younger woman.

(End of soundbite)

Mr. BIANCULLI: One really amusing thing about that scene is how dead-on it
is, how so many network executives these days come from marketing or
technology, yet feel totally equipped to make creative decisions about dramas
and comedies. One really amazing thing about that scene is that there really
is such an appliance as a GE trivection oven.

"30 Rock" comes to TV tonight as NBC's most polished new comedy series since
"My Name Is Earl" and like "Earl," "30 Rock" belongs on Thursdays. For now,
"30 Rock" is in a much more competitive time slot, leading off Wednesday
nights for NBC. But find "30 Rock" and watch it. Comedy is an endangered
species on prime-time network TV right now, so when something this good comes
along, it has to be supported.

GROSS: David Bianculli is TV critic for The New York Daily News.

(Soundbite of music)

(Credits)

GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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