‘The Nation’ should stage a debate between Alterman and Blumenthal

Israel/Palestine
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Ericalterman-330Max Blumenthal has responded to Nation columnist Eric Alterman’s criticisms of his book with a piece in The Nation, saying:

When stripped of distortions and mistakes, Alterman’s commentary on Goliath is reduced to crude insults.

Meantime, Eric Alterman has now criticized Blumenthal’s book Goliath for a third time in the Nation, and this piece is his longest one yet, evidently because it involves his favorite subject. Titled “Despicable Me,” it describes a series of attacks on Alterman from Blumenthal’s allies.

Alterman lays claim to a long history of criticizing Israel going back to the Lebanon war in the 1980s and says that conservative Jewish organizations have the power to undermine a writer’s ability to earn his living. An important statement:

I suppose the major difference between the attacks of the conservatives who fund and control the professional Jewish organizations and those of Blumenthal and company is that the while the former have the money and power to interfere with my career and undermine my ability to earn my living as a writer and a scholar, the latter have only Twitter accounts.

Excellent point. This explains why liberal writers defer to conservatives on this question (see Samantha Power kissing Shmuley Boteach’s ring).

Alterman also accuses Blumenthal of issuing not one word of criticism of Hamas, but having a “big meanie” hypothesis about Israel.

The “big meanie” hypothesis is, sadly, the foundation upon which all of Blumenthal’s reporting rests. And despite cries of “censorship,” it is also, I imagine, the explanation as to why the book has been so resoundingly ignored in the media.

Alterman has used the same big meanie analysis against the Nation itself, when it opposed the attack on the Mavi Marmara. Alterman said the Nation “consistently demonizes” Israel.

This editorial, like most Nation editorials on the topic, simply assumes that Israel is 100 percent at fault in this conflict, and that whoever opposes it is 100 percent correct.

But my business is not to take Alterman on. (And I don’t agree with everything Blumenthal says.) What’s amazing to me is that a Nation columnist/Nation Books author is slamming another Nation Books author, at some great length, over a very important question: The place for Palestinian solidarity inside the left. That argument is now boiling over in the pages of The Nation and roiling the larger Nation community. As well it should. I imagine that Alterman’s co-author Mark Green, who is as PEP as they come (progressive except for Palestine), is a player in this debate too.

This should be a public debate. Blumenthal says that Robert Wright asked Alterman to go on bloggingheads with Blumenthal and Alterman refused. I’d be scared to debate Blumenthal myself. He’s brilliant, fluid and forceful, as Ian Lustick discovered last week. So maybe Alterman can have a second, and Blumenthal too.

But the debate really must take place, and it should be public. I urge The Nation or one of Alterman’s scholarly institutions, CUNY or Brooklyn College, to set up a debate format that would be amenable to Alterman. (For his part, Blumenthal would show up on a park bench.) They could sell tickets. This would be a big and important event. These guys should stop brawling in ink and have it out in the moment. The issues are too important not to do so.

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