Folks are talking about the fact that though Nation Books published Max Blumenthal’s book Goliath, The Nation has put Eric Alterman’s attack on the book on the cover of its latest issue, right alongside a piece by Blumenthal, with the headline “Two Views on Israel.” The placement suggests the deep discomfort inside the lib-left over criticisms of Israel, and the Nation’s desire to reconcile these two segments of its community. This balancing act has worked as a form of conflict management for decades, but I don’t think it will succeed now. The two points are irreconcilable, and because the reality in Israel and Palestine is becoming undeniable, my side is winning the left.
Alterman’s piece is titled, “The ‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook: Max Blumenthal’s carelessly constructed case against the Jewish state won’t help the occupation’s victims.” It tries to redeem Labor Zionism but has little to say about Blumenthal’s reporting on Palestinian conditions.
Yesterday Blumenthal said in Philadelphia that he’d challenged Alterman to debate, and Alterman said No thank you. I have also challenged Alterman to debate, in years gone by, and he’s said No thank you. What’s happening is that Blumenthal and I have the left here, and Alterman doesn’t; there’s been a big shift in the discourse, displacing Alterman, and he doesn’t like it. So he stands up for David Grossman– who told Blumenthal in 2009 that Obama was going to take down Likud, but who opposed sanctions to effect such an outcome. Dreamy inaction.
Scott Roth tweets to Alterman “you belittle Nazi crimes like @netanyahu when you say dumb s— like @MaxBlumenthal ‘equates’ Israel with Nazis.”
While Ali Gharib tweets this career advice from the columnist:
— Ali Gharib (@Ali_Gharib) October 18, 2013
Gharib has taken Alterman on. He cites Alterman’s claim that Blumenthal misreads Israeli political life.
[Alterman writes,’] “Blumenthal accuses others of naïveté, but it is he who is the naïf. He condescendingly accuses Aluf Benn, editor in chief of the left-wing Haaretz newspaper, of ‘underestimat[ing] the prime minister’s cynical gamesmanship’ for failing to realize that the real purpose of Bibi Netanyahu’s ‘hysterical rhetoric’ regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program was to take the world’s attention away from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. (Does anyone else in the world think Bibi was only kidding about Iran?)”
“Only kidding” is a nice straw man. But has any one else postulated that Netanyahu’s focus on Iran serves to distract his public from the occupation? Have any serious people done so?
– David Rothkopf, CEO and Editor-at-Large of Foreign Policy, “The Great Distraction,” Foreign Policy, March 5, 2012:
For both the United States and Israel, whose leaders are meeting Monday to discuss how to handle Tehran’s nuclear program, Iran should be called the Great Distraction.By focusing on Iran, indeed by having some among Israel’s top leaders seemingly obsessed about it, Israel is ignoring (or seeking an excuse to ignore) the real existential threats on and within its own borders — demographic, social, and economic.
– Zehava Gal-On, chairwoman of the Israeli Meretz Party, quoted in the Jerusalem Post, June 16, 2013:
Netanyahu uses the Iranian threat whenever he wants to distract the public from the country’s real problems.
(Gal-On has said “the continued occupation” is Israel’s biggest problem.)
– Daniel Levy, former Israeli negotiator, “Maximum Bibi,” Foreign Policy, September 27, 2013:
There are other reasons for Netanyahu to oppose any developments that would allow Iran to break free of its isolation and win acceptance as an important regional actor with which the West engages. The current standoff is an extremely useful way of distracting attention from the Palestinian issue…
– Roger Cohen, columnist, “Bibi’s Tired Iranian Lines,” The New York Times, October 3, 2013:
Netanyahu’s credibility issue is rooted in the distorted priorities evident in a speech that was Iran-heavy and Palestine-lite. The real challenge to Israel as a Jewish and democratic nation is the failure to achieve a two-state peace with the Palestinians and the prolongation of a West Bank occupation that leaves Israel overseeing millions of disenfranchised Palestinians…Iran has long been an effective distraction from the core dilemma of the Jewish state: Palestine.
Alterman asks. I answer: Yes, there are other people in the world who think Netanyahu uses Iran as a distraction from the Palestinians.
Thanks to Scott Roth.