Censored by the Huffington Post and Imprisoned By The Past: Why I Made ‘Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem’

Israel/Palestine
on 330 Comments

By Max Blumenthal

On Wednesday, I walked around central Jerusalem with my friend, Joseph Dana, an Israel peace activist who has lived in the country for three years. We interviewed young people on camera about the speech President Barack Obama planned to deliver to the Muslim world the following day in Cairo. Though our questions were not provocative at all – we simply asked, “What do you think of Obama’s speech” – the responses our interview subjects offered comprised some of the most shocking comments I have ever recorded on camera. They were racist, hateful, and incredibly ignorant, and were mostly couched within a Zionist context – “this is our land, Obama!” The following day, we edited an hour of interviews into a 3:30 minute video package and released it on Mondoweiss and on the Huffington Post.

Within a few hours, I received an email from a Huffington Post administrator informing me he had scrubbed my video from the site. “I don't see that it has any real news value,” the administrator told me. “For me it only proves that one can find drunk people willing to say just about anything.  Especially drunk, moronic people.” For the first time, the premier clearinghouse for online news and opinions had suppressed one of my posts. 

Other bloggers and commenters criticized the video on similar grounds. Their complaints generally went like this: In order to advance an agenda, Max Blumenthal exploited the wild remarks of a bunch of drunk Jewish frat-boys innocently showing off in front of their friends. The footage contained in his video in no way reflects what the Israeli public thinks. If Max went to a bar in any college town in the United States he would find the same level of ignorance and racism. Ron Kampeas at the JTA has written that I need “to grow up and put [my talents] to good use.” (While Kampeas praised some of my other video reports exposing right-wing Christians, this latest video revealing the extremism of some Israeli and American Jews seemed to hit too close to home.) 

The criticism of my video raised an interesting journalistic issue: Is reporting any less credible when interview subjects are drinking alcohol? Of course not. Journalists interview people at bars all the time, especially in broadcast packages. Beer does not, to my knowledge, contain a special drug that immediately infects drinkers with white supremacist sentiments, violent rhetoric, and anti-democratic tendencies. I get drunk as much as any social drinker and I have never called for “white power” or declared, “fuck the niggers!” as one of my interviewees did. No amount of alcohol could make me express opinions that were not authentically mine. If anything, alcohol is a crude form of truth serum that lubricates the release of closely held opinions and encourages confessional talk. 

The notion that the racist diatribes in my video emerged spontaneously from a beery void is a delusion, but for some, it is a necessary one. It allows them to erect a psychological barrier against acknowledging the painful consequences of prolonged Zionist indoctrination. And it enables them to dismiss the disturbing spectacle of young Jews behaving like fascist soccer hooligans in the heart of the capitol of Israel and the spiritual home of the Jewish people. 

The people in my video were not white trash, nor were they the “extreme right-wing fringe” as some bloggers have called them. They were the college-educated sons and daughters of middle and upper class American Jews from cosmopolitan metropolises and genteel suburbs. Some had come to Israel on vacation, some had made aliyah, and some told me they were planning to move to Israel in the near future. Many were dual citizens of America and Israel. They may have behaved in a moronic way, but they will not grow up to toil in the custodial arts. Many of these kids will move into white-collar jobs and use their influence to advance Israeli initiatives. Programs like Birthright Israel  — a few of those in my video were on Birthright tours — exist for the exclusive purpose of indoctrinating American Jews into unyielding, unthinking supporters of Israel. Thus the kids in my video represent at least one aspect of the Zionist project’s future base of political sustenance.

I do not and have never claimed that the characters that appeared in my video were representative of general public opinion in Israel. They reflect only a slice of reality, which is reality nonetheless. On the other hand, a new Yedioth Aronoth poll finds a vast majority of the Israeli public holds a negative opinion of Obama and believes he is biased toward the Palestinians. A top minister in Israel’s government has compared Obama to Pharaoh, claiming his call for a settlement freeze is like casting Jewish children into the river. A group of rightists have launched a campaign against “the anti-Semitic Obama,” apparently convinced they can make inroads with the general public. 

Behind the Israeli view of Obama lies a climate of extremism that exploded into the open when the country attacked Gaza. Today, extremist sentiment hovers well above the surface. A groundbreaking study of Israeli attitudes published in the wake of the Gaza war by the Tel Aviv University political psychologist Daniel Bar-Tal, who I recently interviewed, found that “Israeli Jews' consciousness is characterized by a sense of victimization, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanization of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering.” Bar-Tal commented to me that the army is the primary vehicle for stoking the nationalism of young Israelis. “Some countries are states without armies,” he said. “But Israel today is an army without a state. There is no civilian institution capable of restraining the army’s influence.” 

In an interview with me two days ago, the famed Israeli author David Grossman echoed Bar-Tal’s findings, remarking, “The country is trapped in one legitimate narrative: that of the government, which is of paranoia, and every event serves this narrative. Those events that don’t are simply overlooked.”

I have been in Israel for over a month; almost every day I hear expressions of paranoia about Arabs, historical delusions, and the constant refrain that “the world is against us.” I hear this even from some close friends — young, cosmopolitan Israelis living the good life in the so-called “bubble city” of Tel Aviv. Last week, a friend I play basketball with in a working class suburb of Tel Aviv (he is a high-tech worker from a fifth generation Israeli family) calmly informed me while we sat in the shade by the court: “I’m a Zionist, so of course I prefer the bloodshed on the other side.” While sitting at a bar with an elegant and otherwise charming young woman, she described to me while sipping a mixed drink how she arbitrarily shot at Arabs while serving in the army because “they want to come and steal my house.” On a leafy Tel Aviv street, a friend of a friend who splits time between spinning at local hip-hop clubs and patrolling the streets of Gaza City told me if Israel has to kill 800 Palestinians to save one Israeli Jew, then so be it. “If we wanted to, we could completely wipe Gaza out,” he said. “But we don’t because the IDF is pure.” 

Since Gaza, vocal opponents of the Occupation have found themselves increasingly marginalized and are hounded by the authorities (see the New Profile raid, Ezra Nawi, Sami Jubreir, and on and on). Meanwhile, Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteynu party’s unapologetically racist campaign has taken the form of a stream of bills working through the Knesset that would criminalize observance of the Palestinian Nakbah, ban public discussion of a bi-national state, and allow towns to ban people from entering their limits who do not subscribe to Zionist ideals. The bills keep coming like a flood; already, the Nakbah ban has passed a committee vote. 

A straight line can be drawn from the rhetoric depicted in my video to the rise of Lieberman, a proto-fascist who draws a startling degree of political strength from Israel’s youth by channeling their innermost fears and resentments. In fact, the author of the Nakbah ban is a 28-year-old named Alex Miller – the youngest ever member of the Knesset and the chairman of Beiteynu’s youth wing. In an interview, Miller told me he introduced the bill simply because, “the Israeli public believes in loyalty.” He added, “Since the founding of our party we have grown in strength. We have never changed our platform and we are seeing increasing support from the public.”

Despite the Huffington Post’s rejection of my video report, it has exploded across the blogosphere. Even the rapper 50 Cent posted it prominently on his official website. It two days it has garnered 100,000 views. I hope those who have watched it, especially those predisposed to dismiss it as anti-Israel propaganda or shock video with “no news value,” will at least ask how vitriolic levels of racism are able to flow through the streets of Jerusalem like sewage, why the grandsons of Holocaust survivors feel compelled to offer the Shoah as justification to behave like fascist street thugs, and how the sons and daughters of successful Jewish American families casually merged Zionist cant with crude white supremacism. The willful avoidance of these painful questions by self-proclaimed supporters of Israel is setting the stage for the complete delegitimization of the country they claim to love. As Obama said, “any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it.” 

About Max Blumenthal

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author.

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330 Responses

  1. Shirin
    June 8, 2009, 11:20 pm

    In number one You are confusing two issues: 1. Your unsupported claim that Islam does not recognize any of Moses' words, which, after being challenged you changed to 1) "Muslims accept some of Moses' words", and upon further challenge to 3) "all the words of moses are not included in the koran, only some of his words. and those words are not directly quoted either", and finally to 3) "[Muslims] do not recognize the claim on the land made by moses". Four different arguments in just a few exchanges. You consistently engage in "argument creep" in which every time you are challenged your story changes. Further, so far you have not offered up anything to substantiate any of the four different versions of your argument. 2. Your implied assertion that your ancient claim based at least partly on religious myth and the unverifiable words of a largely, perhaps entirely mythical prophet constitute a valid claim to land, and that your claim negates the claim of the contemporary inhabitants of that land. As for your number two, not that it is all that substantive, but please share your sources for how the Palestinians pre-1948 would have referred to themselves, or whether they would have called themselves Palestinians? For the record, my point is that it is incorrect to refer to the Palestinians either pre-1948 or post-1948 as Arabs regardless of what the Mufti and his committee called themselves, and it is generally a propagandistic ploy intended to negate their identity to do so. Irrespective of what they might or might not have called themselves, they were, at least by the time of the British Mandate, Palestinians, and that is what they should be called.

  2. Shirin
    June 8, 2009, 11:25 pm

    PS Where did I say that I don't care "what it mentions in the Qur'an", please? "What it mentions in the Qur'an" is a completely separate question from the validity of a claim based on the unverifiable words of a prophet who, assuming he ever existed at all, turned to dust many centuries ago.

  3. yonahred
    June 8, 2009, 11:32 pm

    no palestinians called themselves palestinians, yet it is disrespectful not to call them what they themselves never called themselves. okay. good. do i have to call jesus a palestinian too?

  4. yonahred
    June 8, 2009, 11:33 pm

    and since when do you accept the british mandate?

  5. Shirin
    June 8, 2009, 11:56 pm

    This is a very weird question. Are you suggesting that I should pretend the British Mandate never existed?

  6. Adam
    June 9, 2009, 12:08 am

    I'm curious what's on the entire footage? Why not post all of it in the name of objectivity?

  7. yonahred
    June 9, 2009, 12:38 am

    no, you are suggesting that the people who were ruled against their will by the british should be referred to by a name they didn't use. the jews called themselves palestinians during the mandate period, the arabs did not.

  8. Shirin
    June 9, 2009, 12:41 am

    What is your source for this, please?

  9. Shirin
    June 9, 2009, 12:53 am

    Source, please?

  10. v...
    June 9, 2009, 12:58 am

    Yes, there were other issues that made me angry about this Haaretz "response," as I have posted elsewhere – Lets look a little further at this same sentence, this apologetic "pearl" from Haaretz, apparently this author thinks he is terribly clever: "Forty-eight hours later, the video has gone viral, linked from a hundred political blogs, and is circling the internet at a critical velocity on a mission to humiliate the Jewish people." Note, that it is only "political" blogs that would reference this video. As if only the politically inclined would be upset that these individuals called Obama a "nigger," and that they want to "eat watermelon" with him. Like the racism displayed in these statements, and the racist activity against the Palestinians is merely a "political" matter, and therefore can be dismissed with a wave of a hand or the turn of a phrase. Of course, no one is trying to raise journalism in general from the mire, especially since from major sources it is usually from the cheering galery of the oppressive status quo. Can't you hear all of the worthless arguments for "balance" in this swift boat piece? However, what else can you expect coming from a "country" that uses all of its institutions to cover up and lie about its murderous activity? That has courts that dispossess the owners of property because they are not of the right race or religion? That teaches anything but what happened during the Nakba in the schools of the formative years? That even takes part of its population (self-proclaimed) and makes them no-class citizens? I mean, what else can you expect?

  11. Shirin
    June 9, 2009, 1:04 am

    And not only do you offer not a jot of support for any of your (constantly shifting) claims, this in no way addresses the question I asked, so I will repeat the question: Where did I say that I don't care "what it mentions in the Qur'an", please? "What it mentions in the Qur'an" is a completely separate question from the validity of a claim based on the unverifiable words of a prophet who, assuming he ever existed at all, turned to dust many centuries ago.

  12. yonahred
    June 9, 2009, 1:33 am

    i apologize for making claims that i cannot back up with sources. i will try to limit my statements to my areas of knowledge. ami isseroff has an essay on the mideast web, in which he says, "During mandatory times in fact "Palestinian" referred at least equally to Jews and Arabs (more often to Jews). ” target=”_blank”>http://www.mideastweb.org/palrevolt.htm this is far less sweeping than my statement, but nonetheless this is the info that i have heard.

  13. Mountaingoat
    June 9, 2009, 3:15 am

    Why does Max want to take guns away from Americans? If I were a Palestinian, I'd want have a gun. And it looks like Palestinians and Americans both are up against the same people. Max censors his youtube videos, I know this for a fact.

  14. Shirin
    June 9, 2009, 3:23 am

    In fact, in the piece you referenced Ami, who is an old friend of mine, directly contradicts your assertion in his piece. "The info that I have heard" is a very poor basis on which to make the kind of assertions you have made, particularly when "the info you have heard" is highly biased, and in fact more likely than not propaganda.

  15. JES49
    June 9, 2009, 4:28 am

    As usual Shirin, you come up short with your ad hominem attacks. Stone cites other opinions, yet you cite – absolutely none. And I don't recall anyone of any note questioning Julius Stone as being anythijng but "soooo" objective (well anyone, perhaps except for you and certain people who pronounce "corpus seperatum" as "corbus sebaratum"). A while back, you asked me what I meant by demagoguery. Well your last sentence is a perfect example.

  16. JES49
    June 9, 2009, 4:39 am

    Relevence? Strahl you are rationalizing here about your idiotic post above. So what if it's about racism in the Jewish community? We all have racists in our communities. And why specifically about Ashkenazim? From what I've seen, there is at least as much of a tendency for Mizrahim to be racists. (Did you ever hear of Rav Ovadia Yosef?) But back to the initial question. Max Blumenthal may have spoken out after the fact about the context of his "interviews". He may have been satirical. At best, it's entertainment – not journalism. But had he taken his "satirical" talents (which I think are minimal) and looked at, say, the Palestinians with an equally satirical slant, then I'd say they are not propaganda. As it stands, Maxie is simply continuing in his father's footsteps, doing propaganda for white liberals, and that ain't journalism.

  17. Shirin
    June 9, 2009, 6:46 am

    JES, it is not an ad hominem attack to point out that Julius Stone was never unbiased in his opinions when they concerned Israel, it is a simple fact. He never seemed to have found a situation in which he could not find in Israel's favour even when it required him to turn international law, not to mention logic, on its head. In the matter of Jerusalem, as in so many others concerning Israel he was in a distinct minority. The fact that only two very small and insignificant countries, Costa Rica, and El Salvador, have chosen to put their embassies in Jerusalem – oh wait! didn't one of the move its embassy to Tel Aviv a few years ago? Has the followed suit since then? I haven't been keeping up – pretty much says it all.

  18. JES49
    June 9, 2009, 2:05 pm

    No Shirin, it is ad hominem because you don't substantiate with facts that Julius Stone was biased or cases where he "turn[ed] internation law [something that he, presumably, knew much more about than you!], not to mention logic, on its head.” Now, as to your "proof" that Stone was in the "distinct minority" concerning the status of Jerusalem, may I point out to you the following. First, that the UN, following the armistice of 1949, actively participated in the delineation of the border between Israel and Jordan in Jerusalem (i.e. that, at the time, the UN recognized that neither party wanted a corpus separatum, and that both wanted sovereignty). Second, that while no state currently has their embassy in Jerusalem (up until 1980, BTW many more states did maintain embassies in Jerusalem than the two you mentioned), all ambassadors to Israel do present their credentials to the President of the State of Israel at his official residence in Jerusalem. Third, while “most” states may not recognize a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, they do recognize West Jerusalem as clearly being under Israeli sovereignty. Finally, the fact that a country places its embassy in Tel Aviv does not make Tel Aviv the capital of Israel (as you suggested above). It is up to Israel to decide where its capital is, whether or not you agree.

  19. tkn1114
    June 9, 2009, 8:47 pm

    Max, thank you for the courageous work you have done. The impact of which is yet to be felt.

  20. Strahl
    June 9, 2009, 11:32 pm

    His video is entertainment and informative. It's satire like the Daily Show. You are way too dismissive of Jewish power in the West. It's blatantly obvious how money affects the political process. We know there is an Israel lobby. It differs from other lobbies in how it fights back against dissent. Jews are the most prominent ethnic group in Western intelligentsia. There is already the materialist approach to a propaganda model which illustrates the various filters and social pressures that dictate what we see in the MSM. When you factor in this powerful group that is powerful due to the nature of our democracy and economic system as well as it's own tragic history – it makes for a very intimidating political force/pressure. How often is it that we see negative portrayals of Jews in the West? I mean, OTHER THAN Israel of course when it goes on a rampage and kills tons of Palestinian civilians. On the other hand, a book was written on the stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims called Reel bad Arabs or something. It proves something so obvious about our culture in that our intellectuals mostly serve power. So there is collusion amongst A) powerful business interests B) identity politics represented best by the power of the Israel lobby and the affluence/wealth of the Jewish community C) little meaningful dissent in the mainstream towards our government It's just NOT the same when a Jew is caught on tape being a racist. We expect this from a White trash southerner. All groups are not viewed equally at all. This is about socialization and it depends on many factors. So the video is a tactic – in a lot of ways I think it is propaganda but it's very principled. It's to shatter this repugnant image of Jews as eternal victims or inherently good. So it's all part of a process of bringing Jews down to size – like everyone else. In the end too, the studies done on Israeli Jewish youth are much more compelling and worse than this video. Yet, you won't see people read it because it's not reported in the States and people are generally not going to look for it for whatever reason. This video on the other hand got tons of hits. I would ultimately classify the video as satire in the vein of the daily show. not propaganda completely because Israeli Jews are very racist and while the video is obviously of American Jews, it still paints an accurate picture of the attitudes of Jewish youth in general

  21. Mikha'el
    June 10, 2009, 12:08 am

    Re: the young man who said:: “I’m a Zionist, so of course I prefer the bloodshed on the other side.” And? What is your point? That it is inhumane for someone to prefer that more of his enemies are killed than his own people? With every other nation engaged in war, such sentiment is taken for granted. I believe that during WW2, the average Briton preferred that there was more bloodshed among German civilians, and was not dismayed that such was the case. However, Israelis' preference that few or none of their own people suffer is portrayed as an indictment by your set.

  22. Shirin
    June 10, 2009, 3:22 am

    JES, you need to refresh yourself on the term ad hominem. Ad hominem does not mean not substantiated. Yes, Julius Stone is blatantly biased in his opinions regarding Israel, and is often, if not usually well away from the mainstream. A country cannot decide to put its capital in a place that is not legally part of its territory. At the very least whether Jerusalem is legally part of Israel's territory is very much in dispute, with Israel on one side and most of the rest of the world on the other. The fact that only one very small and insignificant country has its embassy in Jerusalem is very telling.

  23. JES49
    June 10, 2009, 3:46 am

    From Wikipedia: "An ad hominem argument, also known as argumentum ad hominem (Latin: "argument to the man", "argument against the man") consists of replying to an argument or factual claim by attacking or appealing to a characteristic or belief of the person making the argument or claim, rather than by addressing the substance of the argument or producing evidence against the claim." Your argument about Julius Stone was (and is) ad hominmen. I suggest that a more stronger approach would be for you to find someone who argues on the facts of the law rather than on Stone's character. It is not up to Shirin to decide where Israel, or any other country, places its capital. Prior to 1980 there were 13 countries that had their capitals in Jerusalem. My other arguments stand.

  24. Shirin
    June 10, 2009, 3:57 am

    Julius Stone's positions regarding Israel are biased and usually well outside the mainstream. That is not ad hominem. And I have not decided the legitimacy of Israel placing its capital in Jerusalem, most of the rest of the world has.

  25. JES49
    June 10, 2009, 4:19 am

    Show me where Stone's positions are biased then. Then we can discuss matters on their substance and not ad hominem. And might I remind you that being "well outside the mainstream" is not indicative of anything. Opposition to slavery in early 19th century America was "well outside the mainstream". Most of the rest of the world actually respects Israel's decision to declare its capital as (the Western part of) Jerusalem. That's why ambassadors present their credentials at the official residence of the President and why they attend other official events in Jerusalem.

  26. Peacegeek
    June 10, 2009, 7:17 pm

    Bravo! Max Blumenthal is one of the finest new journalists in America. Max's perspective has been honed by his unique background. Son of one of America's most distinguished journalists, Sidney Blumenthal, Max is now leading the charge against censorship and undue influence of powerful corporate interests friendly to Zionism and the Christian Zionist right. Abandon the Huffington Post, it has reduced its appeal to the toe-curlingly obscene tabloid culture that look the other way when Israel forces assassinate targets, drop bombs on babies and women and strangle over a million people with one of the most repressive military occupations in world history.

  27. tree_
    June 11, 2009, 1:06 am

    "did jews need a sovereign state between the years 1939 and 1945. obviously they did." A bit late to the argument here, but for anyone that knows and comprehends history, its atually obvious they didn't. Poles had a sovereign state, prior to the German invasion. Sovereign statehood did them bubkis. Americans of Japanese ancestry had a sovereign state, the US, that decided during WWII that, because their ancestors came from another sovereign state, Japan, that was at war with the US, that those American ciizens should be locked up for the duration of the war. I could go on with numerous examples during WWII of groups of people with a sovereign state who either failed to benefit from that state, or who were negatively affected by belonging to a sovereign state. Think about it. If a country or entity wanted to kill all Jews the easiest way to do it would be to attack them in one single country.

  28. Democrat4eva
    June 23, 2009, 6:42 pm

    Yes, and this is why the likes of right wing republicans try to subvert foreign policy some openly, and others using underhanded means like this Canadian extremist Brad Kostynuik, AKA "Wharold", a kahanist likudnik from Calgary he runs this with his wife Brandi Dickman, ” target=”_blank”>http://www.rockpaperinternet.com/brad.html Kostynuik creates anti Obama posters and art which he distributes to his bloggers, like other right wing extremists in the hope of turning public opinion. This is Brad Kostynuik’s professional life website in his official persona ” target=”_blank”>http://www.rockpaperinternet.com/brad.html resume of “Wharold” AKA Brad Kostynuik ” target=”_blank”>http://www.defrost.ca/defrosters.php?action=view&… This is his smear site, at WordPress where he smears Obama, and Palestinians, and his xenophobia and racism ” target=”_blank”>http://doosmdayclockradio.wordpress.com He posts in talkbacks and commentaries at various right wing websites using the alias "Wharold".

  29. phillip
    July 9, 2009, 11:22 pm

    I believe the point was in what wasn't said. I would rather their be no bloodshed.

  30. Thomas
    July 18, 2009, 7:57 am

    To write of Jerusalem that it is "the capitol of Israel and the spiritual home of the Jewish people" is just absolute fucking nonsense. I appreciate your courageous reporting, but really – this is just complete bunk. Jerusalem was built by and named after the Jebusites – one of many native Palestinian peoples who were exterminated by the Jews, who then went on to claim the stolen real estate, as well as the stolen cultural capital, as their own. Sound familar? Jersualem is NOT the capital of Israel, despite the mountains of pseudo-mystical drivel barfed up on the subject.

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