Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Max Blumenthal's Goliath Ignored by Liberal Zionists, Mainstream Media

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Max Blumenthal's Goliath Ignored by Liberal Zionists, Mainstream Media

Article excerpt

In 2009-during Israel's "Cast Lead" assault on Gaza-Max Blumenthal was on a book tour promoting his highly successful Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, an examination of right-wing activism in America. Five years later, speaking at Alwan for The Arts this past Jan. 19, Blumenthal recalled how he had been enraged to read about picnicking Israelis watching and cheering from a hill near the Gaza border as F16s and drones bombed the densely populated strip, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni's expressed pride that Israeli soldiers "behaved like hooligans." Even the leftish Meretz party supported Operation Cast Lead. In May 2009, Blumenthal went to Israel on an extended reporting trip to gather material for a book on contemporary Israeli society: Goliath: Fear and Loathing in Greater Israel (available from the AET Bookstore).

Ari Shavit's My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel was published at about the same time. As Blumenthal observed, both books make the same point: it's not only about the 1967 occupation, Jewish Israelis are deeply threatened by any discussion of the Nakba. For Shavit, what happened in 1948 was unfortunately necessary for the creation of Israel. For Blumenthal, the Nakba was a crime and is ongoing. Quoting Israeli historian Ilan Pappé, he said, "not a day goes by in Israel without some form of ethnic cleansing,"-an eviction, a permit denied, a home demolition, settler violence.

The two books have had very different receptions. Shavit's has been heavily promoted, extensively reviewed, and praised by liberal Zionists like David Brooks and Thomas Friedman. Other than Eric Alterman, who in The Nation dubbed Goliath the "I hate Israel Handbook," Blumenthal said, "the liberal Jewish establishment won't even discuss Goliath." Rather than review it, the mainstream press mostly ignores it. People like Terry Gross of PBS's "Fresh Air" who were eager to interview Blumenthal about Gomorrah now shun him. Further to the right, John Podhoretz, the neocon editor of Commentary, called Goliath "the year's most disgusting book," and it garnered Blumenthal ninth place on the Wiesenthal Center's annual list of top ten anti-Semites. Blumenthal quipped that, being an ambitious Jew, he aspires to displace the Ayatollah in the number one spot.

Blumenthal warned that repressing discussion leads to actual anti-Semites wearing anti-Semitism as a badge of honor, and argued that Israel is the real beneficiary of anti-Semitism. Moreover, on his nationwide book tour, in spite of pressure to cancel about a quarter of his talks, Blumenthal has had large audiences eager to learn, which has taught him that there is more political space than people think.

Goliath details how Israelis, especially younger ones, are becoming more nationalistic and more committed to Jewish racial purity. This is translated for the American public as concern for Israel's security, which shapes the decades-long U.S.-led peace process in which the real goal is to avoid a just resolution. Blumenthal concluded by describing the recently deceased Ariel Sharon on a feeding tube as the perfect metaphor for Israel. The U.S. is the feeding tube, he said, preserving the status quo.

Rami Khouri Discusses Arab Revolutions, Failed Peace Process

Rami Khouri is director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. Under the auspices of Churches for Middle East Peace-New Jersey, he presented two talks at Nassau Church in Princeton. In the first he discussed "Three years of Arab revolutions and counter-revolutions." Because of the mediocre nature of the mainstream media, Khouri began, Americans see the region only as chaotic and violent. The reality, he said, is more complicated and optimistic. Khouri sees a major historical development underway, where for the first time 350 million ordinary Arab citizens are insisting on their rights, defining the limits of power, writing their own constitutions, and demanding accountability from their governments. …

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