Eric Alterman’s ‘I Hate Max Blumenthal’ Handbook

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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Editor’s Note: The following is Max Blumenthal’s reply to Eric Alterman’s ninth piece attacking him and his book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. The Nation rejected Blumenthal’s request for the right to reply.

I appreciate the many thoughtful responses of Nation readers from across a wide spectrum of views about my book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, contributing to an important discussions that will continue for years to come. It is unfortunate that Eric Alterman has disparaged their letters and the debate itself.

Blumenthal-GoliathAs the author of a blog that boasts “well chosen words,” Eric Alterman has, in the course of about one month, volunteered nine lengthy, invective laden, error ridden — and still uncorrected — diatribes against me and my book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. Six of his attacks were published after he declared that my book was “being (appropriately) ignored,” and after he wrote the following: “If my editors came to me again and asked me to devote my column to Blumenthal’s book, knowing what I know now, I would tell them, ‘No, thanks.'”

While Alterman insistently wrote in the Nation that he would refuse to debate me under any circumstance, he requested $10,000 under the table from Philip Weiss, editor of Mondoweiss.com, where some of my articles have appeared. When Weiss disclosed the fact, Alterman wrote, “Dear Mondoweiss dipshits,” then admitted he had asked for the money. And when Andrew Sullivan blogged without comment Alterman’s deception to Nation readers, Alterman lashed out, writing, “Why does Andrew Sullivan “hate America (and Andrew Sullivan)?”

To manufacture his latest attack on me and my book, Alterman has turned to Free Beacon, an extreme right-wing website published by the Republican lobbyist, former Sarah Palin spokesman and Sheldon Adelson funded Emergency Committee for Israel advisor Michael Goldfarb. Alterman communicated with Free Beacon writer Alana Goodman, who had once approvingly cited Rabbi Meir Kahane, the fascist Israeli demagogue, in order to praise President George W. Bush.

Cooperating with and linking to the Free Beacon was more than peculiar coming from someone who has made a reputation as a critic of conservative media. But Alterman has chosen to use this dubious outlet for his vituperation and as a supposedly reliable source. Most recently, the Free Beacon claimed Goliath had “received rave reviews from [white supremacist] David Duke’s website.”

Days later, Alterman echoed the claim that my book had been “endorsed” by Duke’s website, linking to the Free Beacon’s piece on his blog at TheNation.com.

In fact, a writer for DavidDuke.com had cited an ex-Israeli writer and jazz musician, Gilad Atzmon, who had in fact criticized me for trying in Goliath to “vindicate the Jews as a collective,” and who I have repeatedly denounced as an anti-Semite with neo-fascist tendencies. My statements against Atzmon (and articles exposing Duke’s machinations) are easily searchable, as are Atzmon’s attempts to smear me. But Alterman failed to engage in this rudimentary method of journalism and instead, without checking, sourced a far-right website repeating David Duke repeating an anti-Semite I have repeatedly denounced.

While the Free Beacon’s cheap trick was predictable, Alterman should have been skeptical about this particular smear, not least because it has been used against none other than Eric Alterman. In fact, David Duke declared that “Eric Alterman deserves to be commended” for his 2012 article on the influence of Sheldon Adelson. (The Free Beacon acts as a PR mouthpiece for Adelson, routinely defending him against criticism.)

Duke quoted from Alterman: “If a Jew-hater somewhere, inspired perhaps by The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, sought to invent an individual who symbolizes almost all the anti-Semitic clichés that have dogged the Jewish people throughout history, he could hardly come up with a character more perfect than Sheldon Adelson.”

Of course, David Duke’s favorable quotation of Eric Alterman no more taints Alterman than DavidDuke.com’s reference to my book reflects on it. That’s something that Alterman should know—and has known.

During a May 18, 2009 panel discussion sponsored by the liberal pro-Israel group J Street, Alterman was asked if he feared that criticizing Israeli policies encouraged anti-Semitism. His response is an effective refutation of his own use of the Free Beacon and David Duke. [Alterman’s remarks begin at 48:45 in this video]:

“I do fuel anti-Semitism. I write things about Israel that turn up on anti-Semitic websites. And I see myself quoted on them. And it bothers me a great deal when I see it and it happens all the time.

There are no perfect choices in life as you become an adult. Life is a matter of available alternatives and to me the dangers [of Israel’s rightward path] are far more significant to the Jewish people and my values than the dangers posed by anti-Semitism.

I think anti-Semitism is, in most places and most situations, of manageable proportions. In fact, it’s at all time low in most Western countries and people talk about an enormous increase in anti-Semitism in Europe but that’s largely fueled by an increase of Islamic people in Europe. If you go to France and speak to French people, they’re less anti-Semitic than French people have been. And certainly in this country, it’s to me an insignificant problem.

I think the ADL has kind of a racket going with all the money they raise. I picked up the Jewish Week a few weeks ago and it said — there was an ad from the ADL, it said, ‘We will protect you.’ I said, ‘From whom? I have a doorman! I don’t need you!’

So it bothers me a great deal. I don’t like these anti-Semites but I think we face much greater problems right now and the problems are largely a matter of us not facing up to [Israel’s rightward path].”

Posting his latest smear against Goliath, using the transparent David Duke gambit, Alterman declared on Twitter: “OK, I’m done with this shit.” He’s said this before.

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