The Internet is breaking down the tribalism, and ignorance, of the past

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As a contributor to the film Cruel but Necessary: Israeli Opinions about the Settlements and Obama, I wanted to add some perspective on the debates that have developed on Mondoweiss.

Joseph Dana conducting an interview in Jerusalem.

With an afternoon of filming interviews, we had to exclude a higher percentage of those that had what most would identify as a "Zionist" perspective compared to perspectives critical of Zionism (but this should be obvious, no?). The two critical perspectives you see in this video come out of a total of three that we heard – and these were the only responses that lacked qualifications, i.e. usually pro-Zionist catches or exceptions. We had three responses by hippies, as one might call them, and they were excluded because they’re nonsensical and often contain qualifications. That being said, we have more Zionist responses sitting in the film bin – if a second video was made of unaired footage, it would be even more unevenly Zionist.

Those who find the interviews unfair seem to fit into two categories: the first disagree that the views shared in the video are representative of Israelis, and the second agree that they are, but think these perspectives should be kept private. I want to respond to both of these.

With respect to the first group, I think these people need a wider education, perhaps more experiential, or their arguments are just failing to win me. As someone who has worked with Americans in Israel who have been exposed to the reality and begun to change their minds, I’ve noticed the hermetic character of the information bubble most American Zionists hold. Barely anything else gets in besides self-supporting arguments and where there exist openings on fundamental issues of justice that force American Jews to ask questions about Zionism, there is a fudge-ton of "team sport" type propaganda, imagery, and mythology that fills in.

I’ve toured American Zionists throughout Palestine and I’ve found that seeing the reality is very traumatizing for them because of the total righteousness their false justifications had given them. Sometimes it’s painful to learn you were lied to and I believe for some this series of films has been pushing that button.

As to those holding the "keep this stuff private" view. It is impossible. Networked society has seen an explosion in communication channels that fall outside of the predominating restrictions and influences. Legitimation in a networked society is a much more difficult task for those who wish to peddle untruths. Networked communication has spawned a very real and immanent sense of universalism amongst human beings. This is why, in part, while fully functional, but perhaps archaic tribalisms seem so absurd and offensive on the internet.

I believe that those who simply want to keep this private are still relying on tribalism. It’s very clear from the outtakes and editors cuts of Max’s videos as well. People will speak for a bit and when they realize that this is the outside world, questions get asked. I’d say 50% of the interviews, more with Israelis behind the mic, Max or Joseph or Antony will be asked if they’re Jewish – asking him details and assessing his acceptability. Following this the result is: (1) comfort and more spouting of tribalisms or (2) further questions as to either the intent or perspective of the interviewer (Interviewee: "Well, what do you think?" Interviewer: "I’m a journalist asking people here what they think.") These are met with a continuance of the perspective, perhaps with reservations, or an attempt to end the conversation. Max had a brilliant moment when a guy realized he’s Jewish and tried to take him aside, ex camera, to tell him "what’s really going on". This isn’t at all an uncommon experience for journalists covering the issue amongst Israelis.

Even those who support Israel need to see that the world as it exists will support neither of these tactics. Education on issues is becoming more accessible and the tribalisms and us/them dichotomies have been increasingly challenged on a number of fronts, with humanism taking a greater hold.

Our website,, is not up yet, but as TDN develops we will be producing video and hope to continue the conversations about them on Mondoweiss. Chief among the questions right now are: If these perspectives are so prevalent, where is it that they’re coming from? Max and TDN are currently in production of a mini-doc "Siege on Dissent" that explores these questions, here is the trailer:

About Max Blumenthal

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

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