After writing a very negative review (online behind a paywall) of Max Blumenthal’s new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, for the upcoming edition of The Nation magazine, Eric Alterman wrote some additional thoughts on Blumenthal’s book in a separate post at the website of the magazine. Those thoughts are a lot more revealing than the review itself.
According to Alterman,
I expected to disagree with its analysis. I did not expect it to be remotely as awful as it is. Had the magazine not published its excerpt [from Goliath, ig] it would have been easy to ignore. It is no exaggeration to say that this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed) without a single word change once it’s translated into Arabic. (Though to be fair, Blumenthal should probably add some anti-female, anti-gay arguments for that.) Goliath is a propaganda tract, not an argument as it does not even consider alternative explanations for the anti-Israel conclusions it reaches on every page. Its implicit equation of Israel with Nazis is also particularly distasteful to any fair-minded individual. And its larding of virtually every sentence with pointless adjectives designed to demonstrate the author’s distaste for his subject is as amateurish as it is ineffective. As I said, arguments this simplistic and one-sided do the Palestinians no good. There will be no Palestinian state unless Israel agrees to it. And if these are the views of the people with whom Israelis of good will are expected to agree, well, you can hardly blame them for not trusting them.
This over-the-top indictment of Blumenthal and his book is more reflective of Alterman’s impassioned devotion to Israel than the contents of the work under review. Anyone familiar with Alterman’s copious writing on Israel would know that he would react angrily to the arguments presented by Blumenthal.
One wonders why the magazine would ask its liberal Zionist columnist to review Goliath, especially since it was published by its own book publishing arm, Nation Books. And this same forthcoming issue features a lengthy featured article adapted from the Blumenthal book.
I imagine that presenting Alterman’s negative review will hopefully serve to defend the magazine from charges of anti-Israel bias by pro-Israel lobbying groups that will surely be a result of publishing what Max Blumenthal has to say about Israel. The intimidation by those very people is the reason that the mainstream media has refused to review Goliath or interview its author, despite the success of his first book and the mainstream access he was given at that time.
So why would Alterman agree to writing the review when he “likes to be a team player” and he “has known the author’s parents since he was a little boy, and whatever the quality of the book, I expected that my honest views of it might threaten three decades of friendly relations?”
Alterman finally decided to write the review because he did not “want people to have the impression that the reflexive anti-Zionism of some of its [the magazine’s] contributors is its only voice on the issue— one that is as important to me as any.”
Goliath is not reflexive anti-Zionism, but rather a well-researched and documented critical view of Israeli society. It is a view of Israel that many Americans never confront, in no small measure, because of people like Eric Alterman.
You can judge for yourself by reading the over 50 pages of free text provided at Amazon.
Here is one of Alterman’s objections to Goliath:
Here is his [Blumenthal’s, ig] argument in favor of the Arabs’ right to discriminate against Jewish Israelis: When a Haifa café is told by the municipality that it has no right to discriminate against Israeli soldiers in uniform by refusing to serve them, Blumenthal tells us it was “officially sanction[ing] a mob campaign” against it.
Here is a brief summary of “Leaving Haifa,” Chapter 29 to which Alterman’s objection refers:
This part of the book is about a Palestinian-owned bar in Haifa whose customers are young progressives, both Arabs and Jews. The owner instituted a rule which banned those in uniform from entering. The owner asked, “Why should we allow people to bring guns inside and wear uniforms that we identify with our own oppression?”
A uniformed soldier who was refused service later returned in uniform with his well-connected father and they called the police. The police informed them that the bar had the right, as a private club, to refuse service to customers, as is common practice in Israel. Ironically, the private club designation permits Jewish clubs and bars to refuse entry to Palestinians.
Within hours, reports of the incident appeared on Israeli TV. Someone organized a Facebook campaign to boycott the bar. Thousands of Israelis signed up on the page, adding many racist comments.
The next month, “a mob of Israeli students and soldiers, including members of the Likud-linked Im Tirtzu rallied outside the café ….” Hundreds of Israeli Jewish protesters marched outside the bar, singing the national anthem, draping Israeli flags over the front sign and blocking patrons view of the street. The police stood by watching.
Then according to Blumenthal, “… the Haifa municipality officially sanctioned the mob campaign (see Alterman objection above) against Azad (the name of the bar) issuing an order to shut down.” The order was appealed to the court and a judge struck down the order, citing no evidence of discrimination. After the court ruling, the soldier sued the bar owner in civil court. The judge ruled that the bar owner was liable for over $4000 in damages, although he did not cite any law that was broken.
The bar closed months later. The owner, disillusioned, told Blumenthal she planned on relocating to Ramallah in the West Bank. She felt that she would rather live in the occupied territory than live in Haifa, which is also occupied, but everyone is afraid to admit it.
This is what Alterman describes as Blumenthal’s argument for the Arab’s right to discriminate against Jewish Israelis.