Eric Alterman on Palestine and Israel, part 2: Alterman vs. ‘Goliath’ (Updated)

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 34 Comments

This is a two-part study on Eric Alterman’s questionable statements on Palestine and Israel. Part one reviewed some of Eric Alterman’s statements that undermined his self-proclaimed status as a conscientious critic of the Israeli occupation.

In this second part, I address the careless and false accusations that Alterman makes against Max Blumenthal’s book Goliath, and thus demonstrate that Alterman is an unreliable commentator on Palestine/Israel.

Ali Gharib has already refuted Alterman’s claims about Netanyahu and Iran, Jerry Haber has addressed Alterman’s depiction of Yeshayah Leibowitz, and Corey Robin has already responded to Alterman’s impression of Blumenthal’s encounter with David Grossman. Here, I will investigate Alterman’s follow-up article, which was posted on the Nation website and cleverly titled “The Israel-Hater’s Handbook, Continued…” In that post, Alterman listed four additional criticisms “about the book I did not have a chance to make in [the previous] column.” As I demonstrate below, Alterman’s four criticisms consist of false attributions, misquotes, and meaningless arguments.

Accusation #1

Quoting from Blumenthal’s book, Alterman writes:

1) Here, I kid you not, is the definition Blumenthal quotes of the substance of Israel’s “fascism”:

“What it really is, is a feeling that you have sitting on a bus being afraid to speak Arabic with your Palestinian friends. It’s a feeling when you are sitting there having dinner—what you feel when you’re alive here. It’s the essence of what this society is. And the closer we get to the brink—and everyone is feeling that we’re getting to the breaking point—the worse it gets.”

Yep, that’s “fascism” alright. You can look it up.

So I looked it up. This is actually a portion of a conversation that Blumenthal has with Israeli journalist and filmmaker Lia Tarachansky, and those are Tarachansky’s words. The statement is made after Blumenthal expresses skepticism about the use of the word “fascism.” The full context is as follows:

“Fascism” was a word the leftists used almost invariably as they told me about having their homes defaced with graffiti death threats by right-wing thugs or about being summoned to interrogations by a Shin Bet agent named “Rona,” then finding out that the police had been monitoring their every move for years. On the bus ride back to Jaffa, the “F” word came up again as Lia gave me her impressions of the rally we had just covered. I challenged her to define what she meant by the term. How could she claim fascism was in the air when anti-Zionists like her were still allowed to conduct their journalism and activism without being jailed or simply eliminated? Wasn’t Israel at least a semi-open society?

“To explain the fascism in Israel, it’s not that easy,” Lia said, “because honestly I don’t let myself think about it that much. It’s so depressing and so terrifying that I usually repress my thoughts about it. But if you really want me to define it, then I’d tell you that it’s not just the anti-democratic laws, it’s not the consensus for occupation, it’s not the massive right-wing coalition government, it’s not watching the people who ask questions and think critically being interrogated by the Shabak [Shin Bet]. What it really is, is a feeling that you have sitting on a bus being afraid to speak Arabic with your Palestinian friends. It’s a feeling when you are sitting there having dinner—what you feel when you’re alive here. It’s the essence of what this society is. And the closer we get to the brink—and everyone is feeling that we’re getting to the breaking point—the worse it gets.”

Eric Alterman is a “distinguished professor of journalism,” so surely he knows that in Goliath, in which Blumenthal documents his interactions with locals and quotes them at length, he is not taking personal ownership of every quote. Instead offering the reader glimpses into the characters of the book and into their senses of living in the region. Alterman falsely suggests that Blumenthal is defining the word “fascism” for his readers.

Alterman also ignores Tarachansky’s references to “anti-democratic laws,” “consensus for occupation,” “the massive right-wing coalition government,” and the Shin Bet’s interrogations of dissenters. Tarachansky ultimately sets aside these existing technical components of fascism—while acknowledging their existence—in favor of a visceral description, which Alterman selectively pounces upon.

Finding of accusation #1: Alterman misrepresents the author’s conversation with an Israeli and mistakes Goliath for a dictionary.

Accusation #2

2) Here is [Blumenthal’s] 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.

In the first part of this accusation, Alterman falsely claims that a Haifa café, Azad, was “discriminat[ing] against Jewish Israelis.” But here’s what Blumenthal wrote:

To cultivate the café as a sanctuary of equal coexistence, [the café’s] owners insisted on enforcing a policy that defied Israeli society’s culture of militarism: “No uniforms allowed” read the sign on its door. The policy applied not just to soldiers, but also to boy scouts and security personnel—to anyone identified with the state’s exclusive institutions.

When an armed Israeli soldier entered the café, one of the café’s owners told the soldier that

“we have a policy against uniforms, so if he comes back in civilian clothes I will be happy to serve him and I’ll give him the best service he’s ever had.”

This is clearly not a depiction of “discriminat[ing] against Jewish Israelis.” In the second part of the accusation, Alterman actually misquotes Blumenthal and thus changes the context. Alterman claims that, according to Blumenthal,  the Haifa municipality “officially sanctioned a mob campaign”—the indefinite article suggesting a campaign that did not yet exist but could following the municipality order. What Blumenthal actually wrote was that “the Haifa municipality officially sanctioned the mob campaign” by “issuing an order to shut down the café.”

The definite article refers to a mob campaign that had already begun. Blumenthal:

In March, a mob of Israeli students and soldiers, including members of the Likud-linked Im Tirtzu student group, rallied outside the café, waving flags and holding signs that read “Don’t discriminate against soldiers” and “Soldiers keep us safe.” After a raucous rendition of the Israeli national anthem, protesters climbed atop the roof of [the café] and draped Israeli flags over the café’s sign, while blocking the view of the patrons inside with an even larger Israeli flag. A few police officers stood by and watched without doing a thing. Images of the scene recalled images from Shuhada Street in Hebron, where violent Jewish settlers living under the protection of Israeli soldiers have forced hundreds of Palestinian shops to close, marking the triumph of each store driven out of business by spray-painting a Star of David on its front door, or by planting an Israeli flag on its roof.

The episode shook the local Palestinian community.

Protesters drape an Israeli flag over the sign to the Azad café and surround patrons, Haifa 2010.

Protesters drape an Israeli flag over the sign to the Azad café and surround patrons, Haifa 2010. (Image: YouTube)

And contrary to Alterman’s claim that Blumenthal was arguing “in favor of the Arabs’ right to discriminate against Jewish Israelis,” Blumenthal quotes a Haifa court judge as determining that

“The alleged discrimination … was not supported by even a shred of evidence when the motion was submitted to the court.”

Moreover, the claim that was dismissed alleged discrimination against soldiers, not against “Jewish Israelis.”

Finding of accusation #2: Alterman misleads the reader by claiming “discriminat[ion] against Jewish Israelis”—an accusation that he invents. He then misquotes Blumenthal.

Accusation #3

3) Blumenthal describes Yoram Kniuk’s book about a Jewish violinist who forced to play for a concentration camp commander and then quotes a Palestinian saying “Our enemy’s existence in this Arab region was justified and is still justified[,] by our suffering[;] by Jewish violinists in the camps.” Nowhere does he mention that Kniuk was a novelist. He wrote, um, fiction.

First, Alterman omitted punctuation in his excerpt (restored here in brackets), which changes the meaning of the quote.

Second, Alterman attributes the quote to “a Palestinian.” In fact the quote belongs to Yoram Kaniuk. This is clearly stated in the book, as well as in Blumenthal’s source.

Third, Alterman faults Blumenthal for not mentioning “that Kniuk was a novelist. He wrote, um, fiction.” Um, so what? The quote does not derive from one of Kaniuk’s novels, but rather from an opinion piece that appeared in the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

Finding of accusation #3: Alterman misquotes, misattributes the misquote, and then follows it up with a non sequitur. No argument is made and none is supported.

Accusation #4

4) He nastily and condescendingly mocks Time editor Rick Stengel for “marketing” Bibi Netanyahu as a “potential peacemaker.” Isn’t Netanyahu obviously a “potential peacemaker”? Isn’t every war-maker a potential peacemaker? Wasn’t Begin before he ended Israel’s occupation of Sinai and signed a peace agreement with Egypt? Wasn’t Sharon before he ended Israel’s occupation of Lebanon? Wasn’t Nixon before he went to China? Blumenthal is also apparently capable of reading Stengel’s mind, even when he’s not present: (“Rick Stengel arrived at his doorstep eager to relay a heavy dose of Bibi-think to the American public.”)

Here, Alterman resorts to meaningless pedantry after quoting three words outside of the sentence they appear in. This is what Blumenthal actually wrote:

Having convinced one of the American media’s most influential figures to market him as a potential peacemaker, even as he rattled off violent threats against Iran and authorized thousands of new settlement units in the West Bank, Netanyahu and his inner circle celebrated the sensational public relations score. [emphasis mine]

In other words, Blumenthal points out the irony of a “potential peacemaker” who was moving in the opposite direction of peace and who was promoting greater conflict. It should not be that difficult to understand, especially for a “distinguished professor of English and journalism.”

As for “nastily and condescendingly mock[ing] Time editor Rick Stengel”—to the extent that it is even true, it is arguably warranted. Blumenthal is accurate when he reports that Time magazine

compared the prime minister to Moses, imagined him arguing with God, and dubbed him, “King Bibi.”

Blumenthal also correctly points out that Time recycled a cover theme for its feature story, in which Netanyahu was once again marketed as a potential peacemaker (“Can he make peace?” / “Will Netanyahu make peace?”).

Time 1996: “Can he make peace?” Time 2012: “Will Netanyahu now make peace?”

Time 1996: “Can he make peace?” Time 2012: “Will Netanyahu now make peace?”

For Alterman, a celebrated media analyst, to not understand why someone would find this problematic calls into question Alterman’s ability to interpret the media.

Finding of accusation #4: Just plain stupid and petty.

And this is not the only time that Alterman criticizes Blumenthal’s word choices and gets it totally wrong. In his first piece criticizing Goliath, Alterman writes that

[Blumenthal] credits Zionist pioneer Berl Katznelson, whom he calls “the Labor Zionist movement’s chief ideologue”—a title that exists exclusively in the author’s imagination… [my emphasis]

“Exclusively”? Here’s how some prominent Israelis and academics described Berl Katznelson:

  • Shimon Peres: the “principle ideologue of the Labor Zionist movement.”
  • Former Labor party politician Shlomo Ben-Ami: the “main ideologue of the mainstream Labour movement.”
  • Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld: “the Mapai ideologue in chief.”
  • Oxford University Professor of Israel Studies Derek Penslar: “the chief ideologue of mainstream Labor Zionism.”
  • Israeli writer Amos Oz: “the ideologue and leader of the labor movement.”
  • Haaretz journalist Anshel Pfeffer: “the [Mapai] party’s chief ideologue.”

If we take away all the falsehoods and debunked accusations in Alterman’s criticisms of Goliath, this is what we’re left with:

  • “fanatical anti-Zionist extremists”
  • “Al Qaeda”
  • “Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club”
  • “anti-Israel conclusions”

And assuming that Alterman approved of the titles of the articles in question, if he didn’t in fact conceive them himself:

  • “The ‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook”
  • “The Israel-Hater’s Handbook, Continued…”

Alterman6In other words, it reads like a book review you would expect to see in Commentary or FrontPage Magazine. Instead it appeared in the Nation, initially under the banner of “Two Views on Israel.” I eagerly await the Nation’s future cover stories: “Two Views on Labor,” “Two Views on Homosexuality,” “Two Views on Neoliberal Globalization,” and “Two Views on Obama’s Birthplace.”

In the meantime, I hope the Nation and Alterman take stock of the false accusations and misquotes and issue corrections, if not a complete retraction.

Unless, of course, this is Eric Alterman’s way of exposing the myth of the liberal media.

Update:

I failed to note that there is an additional misquote in accusation #3. Not only did Alterman change the meaning of the quote by removing essential punctuation and misattributing the source, he also changed a word in the quote, replacing “Our entire existence” with “Our enemy’s existence.

Here is the original quote as printed in Goliath and properly credited to Israeli author Yoram Kaniuk:

Our entire existence in this Arab region was justified and, is still justified, by our suffering; by Jewish violinists in the camps.

And here is Alterman’s misquote, which he incorrectly attributes to “a Palestinian,” with brackets indicating the modifications:

Our [enemy’s] existence in this Arab region was justified[] and is still justified[] by our suffering[] by Jewish violinists in the camps.

Thanks to Mondoweiss commenters “tree” and “German Lefty” for noting this.

About Phan Nguyen

Phan Nguyen lives in New York and has a Twitter account: @Phan_N

Other posts by .


Posted In:

34 Responses

  1. W.Jones
    October 21, 2013, 10:20 am

    Make sure you share your interesting article with the editors of the Nation, Phan! You can fax and mail it.

    Peace.

    • Philip Munger
      October 21, 2013, 2:52 pm

      If prior experience along these lines – though not with the same author – is any indication, we won’t have Alterman defending his inaccuracies, or The Nation forcing changes in their error-ridden front-pager.

      Back in early September 2003, Mother Jones published a long article by Newsweek Jerusalem correspondent, Joshua Hammer, that purported to definitively cover the last days, death and aftermath of Rachel Corrie.

      link to motherjones.com

      Very soon after its publication, Phan Nguyen wrote a response (September 18, 2003) to the article’s inaccuracies and plagiarisms (my claim, not Phan’s). Here’s his article’s concluding paragraph:

      Hammer’s style of investigative reporting utilizes unattributed sourcing, indiscriminate surfing of right-wing websites, unquestioning reliance on hearsay and authority figures, skimpy fact-checking, misinformed speculation, artistic license, and a contrived melodramatic thesis. What’s most amazing is how he is able to consolidate all these flaws into a single article. Ironically the cover story of this Mother Jones issue deals with environmental protection. Perhaps Mother Jones could have spared a few trees by omitting the Joshua Hammer article, and instead providing us with links to the websites where Hammer took his information from. Then we could judge the credibility of his sources ourselves.

      link to counterpunch.org

      I then decided to contact both Hammer and the MoJo editors, to confront them with Phan Nguyen’s research. No contact. Editors were never there, never returned my calls. Nor did Hammer respond to my fairly kind email approaches.

      Additionally, I got in touch with a couple of the right-wing bloggers Hammer seems to have stolen from. None had had any contact with Hammer, so the issue of permission was not there. What blew them away most was that they had been quoted (albeit, without attribution) in “a leftwing rag like MoJo!”

      • LanceThruster
        October 21, 2013, 3:39 pm

        Truth is like Kryptonite to the Z-team.

        Thanks for your efforts, Phan and Philip.

      • W.Jones
        October 21, 2013, 3:59 pm

        Thank you for sharing, Philip. Perhaps you could write an article about your surprising and interesting research.

        Also, I hope Phan will consider putting her article elsewhere as well, like on Counterpunch.

        Regards.

      • Philip Munger
        October 21, 2013, 5:11 pm

        WJ:

        I wrote and talked about that experience back in 2004 (scroll down to “3.”)

        link to xferstoothers.blogspot.com

        I’ll be hosting Max on November 2nd at firedoglake’s Book Salon, from 5 to 7 pm EST. As part of pre-coverage, I posted a diary Saturday that looks at Alterman’s inexpert hit job:

        link to my.firedoglake.com

        As I’m finishing reading Goliath, I’m trying to keep track of how the media is reacting to the book and its important message. The best place to get an accurate, full assessment of that is right here, at Mondoweiss.

  2. weindeb
    October 21, 2013, 10:29 am

    I am a subscriber to THE NATION and several times have requested them, in vain, to discontinue my subscription. I have long suspected that this magazine, like almost all our media (including MSNBC) and our politicians of whatever persuasion, despite the magazine’s nearly impeccable progressive reputation, fears Israel and such supporters as AIPAC as a third rail- period. I am shocked every time I see in THE NATION a full-page hasbara ad by FLAME (Facts & Logic About the Middle East), an Islamaphobic, truth-twisting, truth-denying, war-mongering propaganda organization. They, THE NATION, pompously declare that, as believers in the 1st Amendment, of course they accept such ads. I wonder if they would do so, say, if the KKK were to purchase an ad justifying slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, segregation, and the second-class citizenship of African Americans? That Eric Alterman writes as he does surprises me not at all; he is simply another Israel-über-alles shill.

  3. Woody Tanaka
    October 21, 2013, 10:31 am

    Is anyone surprised that the likes of Eric Alterman would abandon the tenets of journalism to serve the zio state? His kind (PEPs, “liberal” zionists and the like) regularly dispatch their supposed “liberalism” — as if they’re firing a gunshot to the back of liberalism’s neck — whenever zionism requires them to. Who would expect something like professional ethics would halt Alterman?

  4. RudyM
    October 21, 2013, 10:46 am

    The advent of the Internet–particularly the blogosphere–has changed all that. Now, not only are the things pundits say and write preserved for posterity; there are legions of folks who track pundit pronouncements, fact-check their statements and compare them with previous utterances on the same and similar topics.

    link to newsbusters.org

  5. W.Jones
    October 21, 2013, 10:56 am

    I do think Blumenthal could have worded the part about the cafe better. The order to shut down the cafe was in line with the goals of the mob campaign against the store that wanted to shut it down.

    But I doubt it is correct to say that the decision sanctioned the mob campaign itself. (I could give some analogies to show this.)

    I think if you wrote a long book about any topic you would likely have places in it that should be worded better even if they reflect real facts. In fact, I expect that if I went through Blumenthal’s book, like those of others, I could find occasional mistakes, maybe “awkward syntax”, etc.

    Generally his book is anecdotal, and the anecdotes in it prove his general point that there are deep problems in the society and system. Also you are making good points too, Phan, and I hope you will mail your article to The Nation, and perhaps some other places.

  6. Castellio
    October 21, 2013, 11:06 am

    If Alterman has integrity, he needs to either: 1) defend himself in an article specifically responding to Nguyen’s piece and proving it wrong, or 2) resign.

    • Krauss
      October 21, 2013, 12:10 pm

      If he had any decency, he wouldn’t have written the smear attack on a genuine liberal to begin with. Israel forces him to recognize that he isn’t as liberal as he thinks, and that the so-called ‘tension’ between liberalism and Zionism is made-up; Alterman and people like him have made up their mind a long time ago.

      Funnily enough, this reminds me of John Mearsheimer’s speech during 2010 at a think tank in Washington – which got attacked by the usual liberal Zionists. It was prescient, I think. In the speech, he basically said that there would, going forward, be three main categories in the Jewish debate over Israel.

      The biggest, initially, would be the hardline caucus. These people will back Apartheid until the very end, convinced that the world is preparing another Holocaust for not allowing the Jewish state to permanently occupy millions of people in violation of international law for decades and decades and perhaps into centuries. This, to them, is proof that the world is anti-Semitic. He listen people like Abe Foxman, Jeff Goldberg and Alan Dershowitz among others, as well as the heads of major Jewish organizations like Malcolm Hoenlein.

      The second category, which Mearsheimer predicted over time would replace the hardline caucus would be the indifferents, people who get alienated from the Jewish state and just don’t want to deal with it, and the troublesome implications of defending an apartheid state.

      The third category, initially small but that will grow over time, is the true liberal Jews. Mearsheimer predicted that because of inherently Jewish humanistic values, this category would win out in the end, becomming bigger and more forceful than the hardliners, but that this process would take years, perhaps even decades.
      Some would convert to this from the hardline caucus, but Mearsheimer also spoke that some of this camp, who never really belonged here, would travel to the hardliners and their support of Apartheid, no matter what. We can see where Alterman fits in here.

      The thing that I thought that Mearsheimer missed was that due to the massive military presence in the Middle East, more and more Americans have been forced to get involved in Middle Eastern issues simply to understand why we’re spending so much time, treasure and blood on that region. As they do, more young liberals have gotten an understanding of Israel/Palestine, much more so, than even 10 years ago. These people, a young, multiracial coalition, will become a key going forward. They already are.

      As Khalidi said recently, when he goes to speak to pro-Palestinian groups on campus, most of them are not Palestinians and many of them are not Jews either. How many gentiles do ‘StandWithUs’ have?

      • bilal a
        October 24, 2013, 8:08 am

        Alterman, like Mddow, is but one example of a totalitarian streak in modern corporate liberalism that permits the defamation of opponents, or as in Egypt, their murder and incarceration.

  7. W.Jones
    October 21, 2013, 11:09 am

    This re-quote by Alterman does not make sense:

    “Our enemy’s existence in this Arab region was justified and is still justified by our suffering by Jewish violinists in the camps.”

    I recommend citing the full passage from Blumenthal’s book to compare it with.

    • German Lefty
      October 21, 2013, 12:18 pm

      “Our enemy’s existence in this Arab region was justified and is still justified[,] by our suffering[;] by Jewish violinists in the camps.”
      I don’t understand the quote either.

      • tree
        October 21, 2013, 1:55 pm

        I don’t understand the quote either.

        That’s because Alterman changed a word, not just punctuation. He turned Kanuik’s word “entire” into “enemy’s”, besides falsely claiming the quote was from a Palestinian. This can only be explained away in one of two ways. Either Alterman had serious reading comprehension skills (perhaps related to his overweening Zionism clouding his vision), or Alterman deliberately mis-quoted in an underhanded attempt to smear Blumenthal.

        See my extended quote from Goliath below.

        Phan, great work, but you missed the important word change that Alterman made in his piece.

      • German Lefty
        October 21, 2013, 2:05 pm

        That’s because Alterman changed a word, not just punctuation. He turned Kanuik’s word “entire” into “enemy’s”, besides falsely claiming the quote was from a Palestinian.

        Yes, I just noticed this too and was going to write a comment about it. It’s really interesting that Zionists can’t defend Zionism and badmouth anti-Zionism without lying.

    • tree
      October 21, 2013, 1:15 pm

      The quote occurs at the end of the chapter entitled “These Things That Were Done to Us”, which deals with the Israeli indoctrination toward the Holocaust, and discusses the high school tours of Aushwitz as depicted in “Defamation”, the “shooting and crying” of IDF soldiers, comments from the renown Israeli sociologist and pollster, Daniel Bar-Tal, and an interesting army study that found that the same trip to Aushwitz by career IDF officers had the opposite effect on the officers than it did on the high school students. lessening their commitment to the Jewish state and army and increasing their commitment to universal democratic values. Its a great chapter, but then I’d say that all the chapters I have read so far are very well told. Max has a gift for tying incidents together in a narrative.

      Here is the last paragraph fully quoted:

      And when a few soldiers manning a checkpoint outside Nablus ordered a local Palestinian man named Wissam Tayem, to remove his violin and “play a sad song,” no soldiers intervened to stop the humiliation. Instead, they gathered around Tayem and mocked him while he played. Thanks to Machsom Watch, an organization of mostly middle-aged Jewish Israeli women who monitor and videotape checkpoint abuses, Tayem’s humiliation was one of the rare incidents of cruelty that penetrated the Israeli army’s information cordon. Yoram Kaniuk, a famous Israeli author who had published a book about a Jewish violinist forced to play for a concentration camp commander, wrote that the soldiers who abused Tayem should be punished “not for abusing Arabs, but for disgracing the Holocaust.” He explained,”Our entire existence in this Arab region, was justified, and is still justified, by our suffering; by Jewish violinists in the camps.”

      • Woody Tanaka
        October 21, 2013, 1:33 pm

        Yoram Kaniuk, a famous Israeli author who had published a book about a Jewish violinist forced to play for a concentration camp commander, wrote that the soldiers who abused Tayem should be punished “not for abusing Arabs, but for disgracing the Holocaust.”

        To which one must reply to Kaniuk, “No, no, goddamn it a thousand times, no. It is not always all about you and your people. The punishment to be meted out this “soldier” MUST be for abusing Arabs. Otherwise you are reinforcing a very, very racist doctrine: that making a Jew think an unwanted thought (which is all “disgracing the Holocaust” is, if it is in fact anything at all) is more important than the denial of an Arab’s human rights. THAT racism that is inherent in and inextricable from zionism is the poison, the cancer at the heart of this evil.

      • eljay
        October 21, 2013, 2:41 pm

        >> To which one must reply to Kaniuk, “No, no, goddamn it a thousand times, no. It is not always all about you and your people. The punishment to be meted out this “soldier” MUST be for abusing Arabs.

        Agreed. It’s no less demeaning to the Arab than it is to the Jew to be forced to perform, so the injustice merits its own accounting. Injustice committed against Jews do not matter more than similar ones committed against non-Jews.

  8. Krauss
    October 21, 2013, 11:52 am

    Brilliant work. Alterman’s basically performed a classic smear attack.

    The funny thing is, this is exactly the same kind of smear attack you saw against the book The Israel Lobby. We can argue about specific chapters or words within the book but the overall theme of that book was and remains sound – which is precisely why the book’s arguments have reached such a mainstream currency in these past 6-7 years.

    Something similar is done here. Alterman is reduced to take small words out of context in order to desperately ‘prove’ a hilariously delusional conclusion.
    At heart, this debate is between a man who believes in democracy versus a man who’s willing to trample almost any notion of it in favour of violent nationalism and ethnic chaunivism – as long as it is Jewish nationalism. Blumenthal’s the consistent liberal here, Alterman’s being exposed for the fraud that he is.

    One last point. Which person do you think is more in touch with younger liberals? Blumenthal talks to young campus students on a whole range of issues.

    Alterman, on the other hand, wrote this:
    link to forward.com

    He dresses it up as a show of compassion for the other side(just like he tries to portray himself as the Palestinian’s Great White Hope who knows best what is in their interest). But read closer and you see the kind of annoyance with what he calls “lefty” reading lists.

    Phil’s probably right. We’ll see Alterman drift steadily towards the conservative direction while remaining a nominal liberal, much like Dershowitz(who makes a point of shopping diamonds from a blood diamond merchant and a support of ethnic cleansing in the territories), Goldberg or Chait.

    The question is, outside the strict confines of older, upper-middle class white Jewish men, do these people have the weight of their argument on their side with an increasingly liberal democratic base that is more diverse and filled with more people of color? How will they identify with a state that practices Apartheid in the West Bank and something that can at best be described as Jim Crow within the green lines, which is apparent if you actually see how the Arab minority is being treated inside Israel.

    Alterman knows the answer to this question; hence the deep fear in his answer.

    • Krauss
      October 21, 2013, 11:59 am

      By the way, I’ve been surprised at the sparse coverage on this site about the new bills. The Knesset bills that would further erode the Supreme Court’s sway over the Knesset and in some cases allow the Knesset to even overrule the Court’s decision, plus yet another bill that would require 66% of the Knesset to approve of the idea that the Palestinians in East Jerusalem deserve not to be ethnically cleansed and actually get their own patch of land like their Jewish neighbours.

      It’s sad, and at the same time deeply ironic, that this is the Knesset who we were told by J Street’s Ben-Ami and others that showed that Israel had swung back on the pendelum. Notice that Lapid has refused to distance himself from the bill – the supposed liberal. Bibi and Livni have tried to counter it, but they do it from purely tactical/PR reasons. As Blumenthal writes: their overall goal is to have “peace without peace”, a concept Labor pioneered. Endless negotiations as the settlements increase by the thousands or even tens of thousands each year.

      These bills would put an end to the illusion that Israel is serious, and you can’t have that. You need to maintain the illusion. And not just for propaganda purposes, you need to allow people like Eric Alterman to believe something – anything! – in order to stop themselves to draw the conclusions that must be drawn. But while the Alterman’s of the world dither, Palestinians are getting butchered, see their lives being increasingly controlled by a military junta and even inside Israel are being ‘concentrated’ into population centers for at a later date to be dispensed with during a future ethnic cleansing campaign, which Bibi himself already called for in the late 80s.

    • weindeb
      October 21, 2013, 12:05 pm

      Yep, Krauss.

    • seafoid
      October 21, 2013, 12:36 pm

      They went nuts over peace not apartheid by carter and gave Walt and Mearsheimer 2 barrels of the finest anti semitism career napalm but both books were keepers and won in the arena of public opinion. Alterman’s rant has a feel of dien ben phu about it.

      • Woody Tanaka
        October 21, 2013, 12:46 pm

        “Alterman’s rant has a feel of dien ben phu about it.”

        That is one humdinger of a sentence.

  9. German Lefty
    October 21, 2013, 12:26 pm

    I just saw that some person on the US Amazon website included Alterman’s article in his “review” of the book: link to amazon.com
    By the way, “alter Mann” is German for “old man”.

  10. Nevada Ned
    October 21, 2013, 1:51 pm

    Thanks, Phan Nhuyen.

    Blumenthal and Goliath are vindicated.

    Alterman is toast.

    • German Lefty
      October 21, 2013, 2:47 pm

      Thanks, Phan Nhuyen.

      Ned, the surname is Nguyen. Very easy to remember. Just think of Tila Tequila.

  11. pabelmont
    October 21, 2013, 2:11 pm

    Phan, you out-do yourself. Thanks so much.

    Poor “The Nation”, once so great. I wrote them a why-I-will-not-re-subscribe letter centering on Alterman (before I read your two essays).

    Alterman and Dershowitz should share a cell (or just a long car-ride) someday.

  12. Chu
    October 21, 2013, 5:01 pm

    Further proof of what a sham Left wing Zionism embodies. How one of The Nation’s Zionist gatekeepers can be so easily dismantled in this tactical deconstruction shows they couldn’t handle a debate in the public sphere. He’ll hide in his office and not refute a word of this, because he would only dig his grave deeper.

    Shameful that the Nation keeps these frauds at such high levels. Any semblance of progressive values is undermined by this poisonous sham. I would bet that Rachel Maddow totally respects this guy.

  13. Cliff
    October 21, 2013, 6:12 pm

    Phil or Phan or someone should cover the ‘1 star’ reviews on Amazon.com for Max’s book.

    There are 45 1 star reviews and most of them are a few sentences, to 1 or 2 paragraphs long and consist of the same exact Zionist memes we see here from the trolls.

    I guess Max made an impression on the Jewish fundamentalists. They were clearly eager to ‘review’ his book.

  14. W.Jones
    October 24, 2013, 7:27 pm

    J Street Daily News Roundup 10/22/13
    link to jstreet.org

    If You Want To Be Politically Irrelevant, Support BDS, Open Zion
    J Street Rabbinic Cabinet Co-Chair Rabbi John Rosove wrote that… “I believe it is a serious political mistake for American Jews to support any kind of BDS (even one limited to the settlements) because we risk having our friends and allies in Congress walk away from us as pro-Israel, pro-peace advocates and align themselves with regressive, right-wing forces that do not support two states for two peoples.”

    The ‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook, The Nation
    Eric Alterman reviews Max Blumenthal’s “Goliath.”

  15. chrisrushlau
    October 24, 2013, 7:56 pm

    Dear Ed.,
    Fear is not a virtue. “Evil is the absence of good.” If you take cowardice as the essential fearfulness, with a volitional element, it is good to consider that the word comes from the Latin word for “tail”, “cauda”, so that a coward literally “turns tail”. Now the question is what this gains someone. Either you did not see what you are afraid of, so you should turn and examine it, or you did see it, and you’d better stop pretending it isn’t there. If the WASP has the Jew just as the Jew has the Palestinian, then we all need to pretend we’re the first/last liberal in Israel and start agitating, here in the USA, for an end to arbitrary distinctions in law. Racism, that is.

  16. chrisrushlau
    October 25, 2013, 2:54 pm

    Thanks for printing my query about why you did not print my comment. I suppose the comment is lost forever in cyberspace. But in some weird sense of duty I reprised the main point, about a WASP lobby that has the Israel lobby in the same way the Israel lobby has the Palestinian lobby: organized resistance to racist genocide. But since last night I’ve concluded that the on-going collapse of the Israel lobby (Syria and Obama’s attack being slapped down, Saudi Arabia and its King threatending, by turning down the UN SC rotating seat, to take his wealth and leave for Pluto) in turn places the WASP lobby in an impossible position. It has this huge war economy and war machine which is crushing the life out of it. So it has to come creeping out to the people it’s defined itself by despising and beg them to come into the parlor for a nice cup of tea or even a cocktail. This is the revolution that only Carson McCullers imagined in “Clock Without Hands”.
    I am amazed you didn’t suppress my comment; you just lost it. My stereotype has suffered irreversible damage.

Leave a Reply