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Right wing finds new way to dismiss Blumenthal: liken him to Dostoyevsky

Israel/Palestine
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Max Blumenthal

Max Blumenthal

Two more attacks on Max Blumenthal’s book about Israel, and two more raves.

There’s a hit job on the book and on the author’s father, Sidney Blumenthal, up at Buzzfeed, by Rosie Gray. And at Tablet, Liel Liebovitz says Goliath is a “brilliant novel”: that a zealous Blumenthal has dreamed up an evil Israel the same way that zealous nihilists in Dostoevsky’s novel The Possessed distorted Russia in order to destroy it.

First to the praise. Larry Gross (director of USC’s Annenberg School of Communications) has a rave up at Truthdig that dispenses with Liebovitz’s claim that the book is distorted. Yes it’s an indictment, but all the facts are facts, and they speak to a deep truth. Gross:

the term that came to mind was heart stopper. The book is hard to read, despite its short chapters and accessible prose, because of its relentless parade of facts—details, names, places, events—that add up to a portrait of pain and despair and injustice.

I don’t need to be told that the book is one-sided, that the author fails to acknowledge the many exceptions to the patterns and policies he reports, or that he doesn’t give equal, or much attention, really, to the aggressive and even murderous acts committed by the enemies of Israel. That’s really not the point. Because, if Blumenthal’s account is accurate—and even his most visible critic so far, Eric Alterman, notes that he is “mostly technically accurate”—then it is a damning and depressing portrait of a society that has been accustomed to presenting itself to the world as a righteous actor, the “Middle East’s only democracy,” surrounded by implacable enemies and forced to defend itself by any means necessary..

That brings me to the parts of the book that I found most disturbing: the emergence of right-wing, religious fundamentalist, racist, sexist and anti-democratic forces, not on the fringes of society, but in the Knesset and in the media (it doesn’t help that the most powerful newspaper in Israel these days may well be Metro, owned by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, and given away free).

Reading the chapters of “Goliath” that recount the anti-democratic legislative efforts of the various right-wing and religious parties, many of whose leaders gave quite candid interviews to Blumenthal and his colleagues, it is impossible not to think about the perversion of parliamentary democracies in the fascist states of Italy, Germany and Spain. Although I have followed some of these events from afar, many of the details were new and mostly horrifying. Among the most striking patterns that Blumenthal notes is the cowardice of many so-called moderates in the Israeli political scene….

At the heart of the tragedy of Israel’s democratic decline is the inescapable conflict between democracy and religious nationalism. As the point has often been put, it is not possible for Israel to be both a democracy and a Jewish state, and too many of its leaders, and its citizens, are choosing the latter.

By the way, was Harriet Beecher Stowe supposed to tell you all the good things that happened on plantations in Uncle Tom’s Cabin? Since when does transformative rhetoric entail balance?

And here is Scott McConnell, who always gets to the heart of things, at the American Conservative, calling Goliath “a bold and shocking book, presenting persuasively a major theoretical and polemical argument about Israel almost completely at odds with the image most Americans have of it.”

On the other side of the political landscape from Gross and Blumenthal, too, McConnell makes clear that Blumenthal’s is a weighty argument that our country must reckon with:

In Goliath, America’s foremost partner in the Middle East is not the humanistic and ever resourceful “David” using guile to vanquish surrounding brutes, but a militaristic and racist state whose electoral majorities have set it on a trajectory towards fascism, if it isn’t there already. Even those generally well-informed about Israel and its occupation of the Palestinian territories will have their views challenged by Blumenthal’s sharp eye and deadpan factual presentations.

Goliath eschews the standard liberal Zionist position that a relatively virtuous and democratic Israel was driven off course by some combination of the post-1967 occupation of territory won in the Six-Day War, the burgeoning political power of the settlers, the authoritarian political culture of Russian immigrants, or the swelling political clout of Jews from North Africa and the Arab world. For Blumenthal, Israel’s 1967 victory was not a turning point so much as a new opportunity to implement the ethnic-cleansing ideology present at the state’s creation.

To a degree that has no clear equal among American journalists who cover the Mideast, Blumenthal is versed in the history of the 1948 war that created Israel, with its multiple expulsions of Palestinians from their towns followed by wiping those towns off the map. His narrative makes regular connections between this past and the present.

McConnell offers a deadly spiritual insight:

a young [Israeli Jewish] woman acknowledged [to Blumenthal] that the bar in which they were sitting was in fact a converted mosque. “Yeah, but that’s how all of Israel is … built on top of Arab villages. Maybe it’s best to let bygones be bygones.”

Such a sentiment may have some practical utility and might be spoken in good faith, but from a citizen of a country where so much national culture is derived from remembrance of wrongs done to Jews, its lack of self-awareness is remarkable.

Now to the attacks. Liebovitz may think he is disposing of Blumenthal, but his assertions that this is “the most fascinating novel about Israel you’ll read this year” and that Blumenthal is Dostoevsky really only raise the stakes. And he raises the political point: Dostoevsky was a religious conservative, and the radicals of the Possessed ultimately triumphed. Isn’t Israel historically vulnerable in the same manner? Of course.

Liebovitz writes:

Ultimately, in Goliath, Max Blumenthal the author devised an ingenious cautionary tale against hardheaded dogma and a devastating indictment of those, like Max Blumenthal the character, who are willing to overlook the idiosyncrasies and the subtleties and the small moments of grace that make up the only stories about human beings truly worth telling.

That’s absurd. Are subtleties and small moments of grace the only stories about human beings worth telling? Crime and Punishment is exalted by grace, yes, but it includes a lot of other dark stuff we really want to read, because it describes the human condition, of alienation, drunkenness, lust, hatred.

Speaking of dark stuff, Rosie Gray’s piece at Buzzfeed is in the mud. Titled, “Clinton Adviser Sid Blumenthal’s New Cause: His Son’s Anti-Israel Book,” it tries to tie Max Blumenthal’s criticisms of Israel to the Clintons because his father Sidney worked for the Clintons and — hold on to your seat — Sidney has been sending out emails defending his son’s book from Eric Alterman’s attack on it. Well, good for Sidney. That’s what dads should do.

The piece never quotes Max Blumenthal. Meanwhile, it gives Alterman a platform to continue to slag the book.

“I actually feel for Sid,” Alterman said. “Leaving aside the quality of Max’s journalism, it has to be painful for any Jew to see your own kid going around calling Jews ‘Nazis’ and ‘fascists,’ and insisting that not only should Israel be destroyed, but its Jewish population should be kicked out.”

Alterman apparently makes that claim on the basis of a piece I wrote about Blumenthal’s appearance at Penn. As I made clear, I disagree with Blumenthal about “indigenization.” But he has never said that Jews should be kicked out of Israel. That’s a misrepresentation. And Blumenthal’s target isn’t Jews, it’s Zionists.

Two weeks ago I called on The Nation to stage a debate between Alterman and Blumenthal, because– as McConnell, Gross and Liebovitz all make clear– they differ over profound questions about the Israeli future and the Jewish one and the American leftwing future too. Alterman sniggered at my suggestion, informing me by email that he would only debate for $10,000 plus expenses, paid in advance. And yet he continues to take cheap potshots at Blumenthal in the press.

We all deserve better, Blumenthal and Alterman included. These are the great questions of our time. Add McConnell and Liebovitz, and let’s have a proper debate, moderated by The Nation, whose heart is so torn.

P.S. McConnell does the hard labor I should have done in my post saying that Bloomberg marched with a fascist, Danny Danon: he asks whether the word fascist is properly applied to Israel, and says that it is fair to say there are fascist trends:

is there substance behind the charge today? Or is this simply another variant of the promiscuous use of “fascist” as an epithet, in the style of the American New Left of the 1960s?

One scholar who has at least tangentially addressed this is Robert Paxton, an eminent Columbia historian and one of the world’s leading scholars of fascism, the author of a prize-winning work on Vichy France’s murderous persecution of Jews. In his last book, The Anatomy of Fascism, published in 2003, Paxton speculated on fascism as a continuing menace beyond Europe and the interwar era. “If religious fascisms are possible,” he wrote, “one must address the potential—supreme irony—for fascism in Israel.” …

“By 2002,” Paxton continued, “it was possible to hear language within the right wing of the Likud Party and some of the small religious parties that comes close to the functional equivalent of fascism. The chosen people begins to sound like a Master Race … that demonizes an enemy that obstructs the realization of the people’s destiny.”

McConnell concludes that proto-fascism is a real force inside Israel, and that while J Street and Peter Beinart minimize the trend, in ten years time, Blumenthal’s view may well prove to be the prophetic one.

Update: I originally stated that Buzzfeed said it had tried to interview Max Blumenthal, and Blumenthal said Buzzfeed never tried. I misread the piece; Buzzfeed was referring to Sidney Blumenthal.

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About Philip Weiss

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65 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    November 8, 2013, 12:19 pm

    As to the “fascist” slur, go back to 1948, when Einstein, Arendt, and others wrote a letter to NYT declaring Menachem Begin’s Herut Party (formerly Irgun) a “fascist” -like organization

    Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine. * * * The public avowals of Begin’s party are no guide whatever to its actual character. Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.

    Attack on Arab Village

    A shocking example was their behavior in the Arab village of Deir Yassin

    fascism seems to be, like racism, and territorial expansionism, an inherent rather than an accidental feature of the Israel that irrupted in 1948 and continues today.

  2. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    November 8, 2013, 12:31 pm

    Please observe that (far’s I’ve seen) no writers reviewing Goliath favorably (or unfavorably, I’ll bet!) mentions the racist and murderous declarations printed in the Israeli religious text, Torat Hamelech (The King’s Torah ), written by leading Israeli Rabbis — mentioned at length in Goliath.

    I guess it’s one thing to take on Zionism, but another (and unthinkable) to take on Judaism as taught by those rabbis.

    My own take on this racism, which makes me feel quite queasy but has been made public before by the late Israeli professor and human rights advocate Israel Shahak, is that [1] it is indeed intrinsic to rabbinic Judaism, [2] was kept secret by the use of Hebrew and coded ways of writing, [3] was hidden outside Israel by the need to avoid conflict with neighbors, and [4] is “out and about” in Israel because — in Israel — Jews feel triumphant, all-powerful, and hence not in need of hiding these teachings any longer.

    BTW, Jewish timidity is a thing of the past, at least in the USA. Notice how triumphant AIPAC is acting these days.

    I’d like to see a lot of American rabbis say: [1] yes, these teachings were and remain in Talmud, [2] they are ancient and have no place in the modern era and should be strongly denounced by every rabbi today, and [3] I personally denounce them.

    • Hostage
      Hostage
      November 8, 2013, 12:51 pm

      I’d like to see a lot of American rabbis say: [1] yes, these teachings were and remain in Talmud, [2] they are ancient and have no place in the modern era and should be strongly denounced by every rabbi today, and [3] I personally denounce them.

      Fair enough. In other words, the Reform Movement should reaffirm the values reflected in The Pittsburgh Platform. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/pittsburgh_program.html

      • pabelmont
        pabelmont
        November 8, 2013, 1:24 pm

        Fascinating! Thanks, hostage. A religion, not a nation! No return to Palestine anticipated. Progressive, in tune with modernity.

        However, out of embarrassment or ignorance, this statement does not explicitly note (and then reject) a Jewish right to kill non-Jews, or anything like it, the Torat Hamelech stuff.

      • Hostage
        Hostage
        November 8, 2013, 3:50 pm

        A religion, not a nation! No return to Palestine anticipated. Progressive, in tune with modernity.

        The problem is that URJ would never dream of reaffirming the modern values of its founders again today:(

      • Erasmus
        Erasmus
        November 9, 2013, 9:55 am

        The Reform Movement Total FAILURE in Israel…..

        …has to be considered one of THE major causes which permitted the rabbinical Judaism in Israel to decay into an ugly farce of the moral and ethical principles of the fundamental assets of genuine Judaism.

        Tooo sad! Really.

  3. Hostage
    Hostage
    November 8, 2013, 12:44 pm

    “If religious fascisms are possible,” he wrote, “one must address the potential—supreme irony—for fascism in Israel.”

    There was nothing but martial law for non-Jews in Israel from 1948 until the mid-60s. Even today, the effects of the Emergency Regulations (1945), which were declared repugnant and worse in effect than the laws of the Nazi regime by the members of the Jewish Bar Association of Palestine*, remain a central feature of the Israeli political structure. They are used to control nearly every aspect of Palestinian life. Together with the Law of Return, the Emergency Regulations are fundamental. It is extremely dubious that they could be completely repealed without thereby negating the basic character of the state: its Jewish exclusiveness.

    * Remarks of future Attorney General and Justice Minister, Jacob Shapira cited in Hanna Dib Nakkara, “Israeli Land Seizure under Various Defense and Emergency Regulations”, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 14, No. 2, Special Issue: The Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories (Winter, 1985), pp. 13-34; and

    “The Other Israel: The Radical case against Zionism” – The Emergency Regulations

  4. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    November 8, 2013, 12:48 pm

    Jabotinsky’s Revisionist branch of the Zionist movement, from which the Irgun and then Herut/Likud descended (both Begin and Sharon were active Revisionists in Poland before coming to Palestine), had strong fascist tendencies. They marched through Tel Aviv wearing brown uniforms. Jabotinsky himself was not a fully fledged fascist, but a number of his lieutenants were (for instance, Achimeir wrote his articles under the titles “Diary of a Fascist” or “Notebook of a Fascist”). So were many of the rank and file. The Revisionists established close relations with the Mussolini regime, which set up a naval academy for them in Italy: some of the young Revisionists who studied there later played important parts in creating and commanding the Israeli navy.

    Regarding fascist tendencies in Israel today, recently there was an interesting court case. “Im Tirtzu” (a vigilante group with close ties to the government who harass those they consider insufficiently loyal to the state) sued for libel some Israelis who had created a Facebook page where they called “Im Tirtzu” fascists. A number of Israeli scholars, the most prominent being Professor Zeev Sternhell, testified for the defense, arguing that “Im Tirtzu” did indeed show fascist tendencies. The judge accepted their testimony and ruled mostly in favor of the defendants.

    • jon s
      jon s
      November 8, 2013, 1:08 pm

      Stephen, Sharon was born in Israel and was never a Revisionist in Poland. Perhaps you meant Shamir.

      • Stephen Shenfield
        Stephen Shenfield
        November 8, 2013, 2:10 pm

        Yes, thanks for catching the slip.

      • Shingo
        Shingo
        November 9, 2013, 7:23 am

        Stephen, Sharon was born in Israel and was never a Revisionist in Poland. Perhaps you meant Shamir.

        His birth certificate says he was born in Palestine.

  5. Krauss
    Krauss
    November 8, 2013, 12:51 pm

    Ultimately, in Goliath, Max Blumenthal the author devised an ingenious cautionary tale against hardheaded dogma and a devastating indictment of those, like Max Blumenthal the character, who are willing to overlook the idiosyncrasies and the subtleties and the small moments of grace that make up the only stories about human beings truly worth telling.

    As Josh Block said a few days ago; the Afrikaaners were cultured people too. They had their moments of grace. They listened to mozart, enjoyed fine wine and so on.

    There was only was pesky little problem: they were a bunch of fanatical racists overlooking a rampantly racist system.
    And he now says: but Israelis shouldn’t be judged on the system they impose on others!

    The “but complexity!” argument is the oldest trick in the book by any racist. If anything, you can at least forgive the Afrikaaners for they elected a de Klerk and stuck with him without threatening civil war. He didn’t get assassinated like Rabin.

    Does anyone think a de Klerk will emerge in Israel? A Mussolini is more likely.
    In fact, they already have two; Lieberman and Bennett. Only a question of time.

    Liebovitz is going to have a lot of work cut out for him if he think he can defend that kind of apartheid by the “but complexity!” argument.
    Try seeing how a brown-skinned Palestininan lives in Israel first, Liel.
    Instead of just defending the white Ashkenazi ruling class who are the administrators of Apartheid.

    • Hostage
      Hostage
      November 8, 2013, 1:41 pm

      Does anyone think a de Klerk will emerge in Israel? A Mussolini is more likely.
      In fact, they already have two; Lieberman, and Bennett. Only a question of time.

      Correction: Make that at least three; Lapid, Lieberman, and Bennett.

      {snip}
      Israel’s definition as a Jewish Democratic state is a contradiction that cannot be solved, Finance Minister Yair Lapid said Tuesday in a speech that cut deep into the fundamental problems facing Israel’s minorities.

      “The unsolvable problem is that Israel is defined as a Jewish State – both by law and by a decisive majority of its residents – as a Jewish Democratic state,” he said at the Prime Minister’s Conference on Arabs in the economy at Tel Aviv University. “Judaism is a whole line of values that have existed for thousands of years, but the democratic idea is a new idea, and significant parts of it stand in contradiction to Judaism.”

      Israel gave up the kings and prophets of Judaism in favor of a democratic vote, he said, while practices such as slavery and animal sacrifice had long gone out of favor.

      “The meaning of democracy is equality before the law. How can Israel say that everyone is equal before the law – that you’re equal before the law – when the law defines Judaism as the cultural, national and legislative basis for the state?” he asked the Arab participants at the conference.
      {snip}
      See Lapid: Israel’s definition as Jewish and democratic is an unsolvable contradiction http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Lapid-Israels-definition-as-Jewish-and-democratic-is-an-unsolvable-contradiction-330067

  6. Ludwig
    Ludwig
    November 8, 2013, 1:06 pm

    Don’t you dare compare this anti-Israel hack who’s only claim to fame is being somebodies son to one of the greatest authors of all time. Do not even dare.

    • annie
      annie
      November 8, 2013, 1:44 pm

      ludwig, i don’t see your comment over at http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/151897/fascinating-novel-about-israel go tell Liel Leibovitz:

      But Goliath is a novel, and it takes the liberties of literature seriously. Like the novel it resembles most—Dostoevsky’s Demons—Goliath is a mosaic of forces, beliefs, ideologies, hatreds, passions, denouncements, and betrayals. The neat trick of Dostoevsky’s title is that we’re never quite sure who is doing the possessing and who is being possessed; Goliath pulls off a similar feat.

    • justicewillprevail
      justicewillprevail
      November 8, 2013, 7:57 pm

      So you haven’t read Max’s book, Ludwig? Easy to condemn on the basis of rumour and propaganda, eh?

    • Shingo
      Shingo
      November 9, 2013, 7:26 am

      Don’t you dare compare this anti-Israel hack who’s only claim to fame is being somebodies son to one of the greatest authors of all time

      I’ll dare. Blumenthal’s book one of the greatest authors of all time deserves to be compared to some of the greatest authors of all time

      • Mayhem
        Mayhem
        November 9, 2013, 8:31 am

        @Shingo, for you anybody who compares the Israelis (Zionism) to the Nazis (Nazism) has got to be the greatest. Blumenthal does just that, analogizing the behavior of Israeli Jews to that of the war criminals who led Nazi Germany. You get your ‘I hate Israel handbook’ so you can maintain the flow of crude remarks like this one of yours at http://mondoweiss.net/2013/10/indigenized-blumenthal-lustick.html/comment-page-1#comment-603818. In fact these vile gutter tactics are what bring the Palestinian cause into disrepute.

      • Cliff
        Cliff
        November 9, 2013, 9:01 am

        In fact these vile gutter tactics are what bring the Palestinian cause into disrepute.

        Gee thanks for the advice, cultist.

        Nazi analogies aren’t always about genocide – they are about fascism, common everyday hate, ‘othering’, superiority complexes. The reason Israel is highlighted in this aspect (since there are plenty of people who behave this way) because of the ONGOING ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The ONGOING apartheid. ONGOING colonialism. ONGOING occupation. ONGOING discrimination against Israeli Arabs.

        So coupled with casual racism among Israeli Jews and the power dynamic between Jew and Arab in Israel/Palestine – the analogy is apt.

        But you’re the same type of Zionist who denies there’s apartheid or Jewish colonialism or ethnic cleansing.

        And in that context, Israeli Jews are indeed behaving like Nazis. You are behaving like a Nazi.

        And of course people behaving like Nazis (your cult) would be upset at someone for calling you out.

      • talknic
        talknic
        November 9, 2013, 9:21 am

        Mayhem ” Blumenthal does just that, analogizing the behavior of Israeli Jews to that of the war criminals who led Nazi Germany”

        The UN Charter, laws and conventions adopted post WW2 were based in part on the ghastly treatment of Jews under the Nazis.

        FACT: Israel is in breach of hundreds of UNSC resolutions reminding Israel of its obligation to observe the UN Charter, laws and relative conventions.

        FACT: Successive Israeli Governments have encouraged Israeli citizens to break GC IV. A convention adopted to protect ALL civilians including those of an occupying power, from the possible violent consequences of occupying another people and their territory.

        Any country in breach of relative UN Charter articles, laws and conventions and who encourages its citizens to breach the UN Charter, laws and conventions adopted to protect them and those they occupy, is acting in a Naziesque manner.

      • Shingo
        Shingo
        November 9, 2013, 3:14 pm

        Shingo, for you anybody who compares the Israelis (Zionism) to the Nazis (Nazism) has got to be the greatest.

        The British also compared Zionists to Nazis at one point, so it’s not a new concept. But I gotta love your hypocrisy. I don’t hear you complaining every time Bibbi or Israeli useful idiots compare anyone else to Hitler. Lieberman made the allegation that Europe’s call for an end to settlement construction was reminiscent of 1939.

        You love Nazi and Hitler comparisons when they suit you.

        Blumenthal does just that, analogizing the behavior of Israeli Jews to that of the war criminals who led Nazi Germany.

        And as even his harshest critics admit, the reports are accurate.

        In fact these vile gutter tactics are what bring the Palestinian cause into disrepute.

        No it doesn’t, which is why Israeli apologists spend so much time lying and trying to change the subject to Iran.

      • tombishop
        tombishop
        November 9, 2013, 5:50 pm

        Read the book! (You obviously haven’t.) He doesn’t say that, but he quotes people who do. It is a courageous, historic book.

      • Ecru
        Ecru
        November 10, 2013, 8:17 am

        @ Mayhem

        Please explain why exactly Israel cannot be compared to Nazi Germany; just about every other country on the planet’s been so compared at some time or other.

        And understand that “it offends me because I’m Jewish” isn’t a valid objection and neither is the fact that Israel hasn’t yet started building Death Camps for Palestinians; because not only does the word “compare” not mean “identical” but that would also be reducing Nazism down to one single thing, a MASSIVE oversimplification and quite possibly anti-semitic in and of itself.

        Thank you in advance.

      • Ecru
        Ecru
        November 13, 2013, 6:00 am

        CRICKETS from Mayhem. You know if I was feeling uncharitable I might say he can’t answer the question and knows it.

    • Cliff
      Cliff
      November 9, 2013, 8:05 am

      Ludwig,

      Max Blumenthal has more integrity in his pinky finger than all of you Zionists combined.

      He wrote a great book about the true Israel. A great book you and your fellow cult members didn’t even read.

      All you can do is slander him because you’re so intellectually inadequate and incompetent to take him on, on the facts.

      Carry on, bottom-feeder.

  7. Pamela Olson
    Pamela Olson
    November 8, 2013, 1:22 pm

    “in ten years time, Blumenthal’s view may well prove to be the prophetic one.”

    I have little doubt. Because he tells truths everyone else ignores. What a brave and important book. Of course it’s attacked by people too cowardly to face difficult and painful realities.

  8. annie
    annie
    November 8, 2013, 1:46 pm

    this is a great read phil. nd my hat goes off to max, the response to his book coming from all quarters is really fantastic. it’s definitely NOT being ignored. i hope it becomes a national best seller as a result of this firestorm he’s created.

    and i love it that his dad is standing up for him. max must have the best parents to have raised such a courageous and independent human being. go max!

    • pabelmont
      pabelmont
      November 8, 2013, 2:29 pm

      Annie: If it becomes a national bestseller, it’ll be the first ignored (also as to best-seller-hood) by NYT. Let’s hope for that event, and for NYT to find a way to crawl out from under.

  9. Philip Munger
    Philip Munger
    November 8, 2013, 1:47 pm

    I’ve now read all the reviews Phil Weiss links to in this essay. A few comments:

    1). “in ten years time, Blumenthal’s view may well prove to be the prophetic one.” I observed the same in my review posted as a header to last Saturday’s firedoglake Book Salon with Max:

    Goliath is surely one of the most important critical books about Israel yet written, and will ultimately, no matter what its immediate impact, be regarded as such fairly widely.

    http://fdlbooksalon.com/2013/11/02/fdl-book-salon-welcomes-max-blumenthal/

    Having had a week to think about that, and re-reading some sections, I’ll add that Goliath may be the only book out there which puts the research of authors like Benny Morris and Ilan Pappé into relevant context in regard to Israel’s inexorable plodding to the extreme right. That too is covered in Scott McConnell’s review:

    To a degree that has no clear equal among American journalists who cover the Mideast, Blumenthal is versed in the history of the 1948 war that created Israel, with its multiple expulsions of Palestinians from their towns followed by wiping those towns off the map. His narrative makes regular connections between this past and the present.

    2). Few writers will complain about being compared to Dostoevsky.

    3). The ways Rosy Gray bring up Max’s dad and the Clintons are just plain creepy:

    The latest flap comes as the Clintons gird for another political campaign, and as their circle maneuvers for advantage.

    “Do you think Chelsea went and cleaned up the operation at the Foundation only to have those kinds of people slip back in to the operation? And that was before Sid was going around defending a book comparing Israel to Nazis that his kid wrote,” said a Washington Democrat who has worked for both Clintons. “Given the lessons of Hillary 2008, people would be aghast to see him around for 2016.”

    The not so subtle message here is that unless the Clinton Foundation makes some statement distancing itself from Sid Blumenthal, no amount of donkey fellating is going to keep them from losing an important donor, or five:

    “We don’t know what you’re referring to,” said Clinton Foundation spokesperson Nick Merill when asked about the emails and whether Hillary Clinton is aware of Blumenthal’s defense of Goliath. He copied Clinton spokespeople Philippe Reines and Matt McKenna on his response to BuzzFeed, as well as Sidney Blumenthal.

    I agree with Phil Weiss, on ” good for Sidney. That’s what dads should do.” Back in 2008, when Max stayed with us for a week in Wasilla, Alaska, while performing research on the religious currents surrounding Sarah Palin’s rise, our younger child had just left to go to college in California. We were “empty nesters” for the first time. Judy and I couldn’t help but treat this young man like a son. We’ve sort of had that attachment to him ever since, for what it’s worth. However, that bias hasn’t kept me from being able to evaluate the quality of his subsequent work. I have a hunch that as estimable as Max’s two important books are, his best work is in front of him. His measured responses to such vehement attacks are beyond commendable.

    4). “Alterman sniggered at my suggestion, informing me by email that he would only debate for $10,000 plus expenses, paid in advance.”

    — That shouldn’t be too hard to do. Back in September 2009, the (now defunct) Alaska progressive blogging network raised over $700.00 in less than 48 hours to bring Max to Anchorage, for two important lectures. OTOH, why enrich Alterman’s pockets?

    • annie
      annie
      November 8, 2013, 2:03 pm

      phillip, i was astounded by grey’s buzzfeed article Sources familiar with the Clinton world say he’s become an increasingly marginal figure in recent years… this is by far the biggest sign there’s real worry about the influence of max’s book. they are seriously going after his father! and trying to do it via the clintons!

      it’s not enough attempting to kick max out of the tribe, they’re trying to eviscerate the whole family. it’s fantastic, it means the book really threatens them.

      and they resort to distortion/lies, to do it too….check this out, from grey:

      . The author is a prominent figure on the hard left of the Israel debate who has argued in the past that the “non-indigenous” population of Israelis should not remain in the country now known as Israel. The book was released under the Nation Books imprint and an excerpt of it ran in The Nation.

      but when you open the link it goes to this:

      Almost halfway through their 83-minute encounter (minute 34:00 on YouTube), Lustick emotionally asks Blumenthal whether he believes, like Abraham at Sodom, that there are enough “good people” in Israel to justify its continued existence — or whether he’s calling for a mass “exodus,” the title of his last chapter, and “the end of Jewish collective life in the land of Israel.”

      Blumenthal gives a convoluted answer that comes down to this: “There should be a choice placed to the settler-colonial population” (meaning the entire Jewish population of Israel): “Become indigenized,” that is, “you have to be part of the Arab world.” Or else…? “The maintenance and engineering of a non-indigenous demographic population is non-negotiable.”

      stripping out the authors editorializing this is what max said:

      “There should be a choice placed to the settler-colonial population….Become indigenized, you have to be part of the Arab world. The maintenance and engineering of a non-indigenous demographic population is non-negotiable.”

      and doesn’t it make sense if israel is to survive it becomes part of the middle east? it becomes part of the region? part of the arab world? especially given over half the population there came from the arab countries and have arab origins. so what is so radical about saying ‘fit in’, “become indigenized”? isn’t that the main take away of max’s argument, not that they should leave?

      so why does buzzfeed need to manipulate the context to make a point? because their argument is weakened by the truth. and israel should stop trying to be part of europe, that goes without saying. they keep referencing themselves as the ‘western’.

      • Philip Munger
        Philip Munger
        November 8, 2013, 2:11 pm

        I’m no fan of Bill or Hillary Clinton. Bill will tell the foundation to throw Sid under the bus. By next Wednesday.

      • annie
        annie
        November 8, 2013, 2:27 pm

        i don’t think hilary has a chance in hell of becoming president, so this kind of dumping friends thing is ridiculous. and if the foundation is dependent on funds from people who make you grovel over the family loyalties it should go under and doesn’t deserve to exist.

        but all in all, the more hullabalu surrounding this and his dad’s relationship to the clintons, the more people will want to read the book. max’s star is just beginning to shine and ultimately, that illumination could outshining his father’s. what more could a parent ask for? it’s every parents dream.

        the book will be huge, it will go down in history and define our time. it’s really amazing reading all the screeching about it, i just love it.

      • German Lefty
        German Lefty
        November 8, 2013, 6:05 pm

        it’s not enough attempting to kick max out of the tribe, they’re trying to eviscerate the whole family. it’s fantastic, it means the book really threatens them.

        Right! I was just going to write the same.

  10. Philip Munger
    Philip Munger
    November 8, 2013, 2:39 pm

    MJR:

    The news that Eric Alterman will debate Max Blumenthal for $10,000 sums up the guy.

    He’s a progressive for pay, which is why he is personally so disliked by his fellow progressives. In fact, nobody has a good word to say about him.

    I don’t think he is faking the Israel thing. He has said that his loyalty is to Israel (although he is surely willing to entertain offers). And I’m sure he honestly has problems with Blumenthal’s book. I sure do.

    But he does seem to be flipping out over it. Why is he so threatened by Max? Does he think Max has more money? Is it Max’s youth?

    I don’t get it.

    My guess it’s about money. I don’t know exactly how. But the $10,000 demand is the tell. Anyway, what a jerk.

    http://mjayrosenberg.com/2013/11/08/eric-alterman-has-lost-it/

    • W.Jones
      W.Jones
      November 9, 2013, 6:15 pm

      Alterman’s 3rd rebuttal, on the Nation blog, says that his 3rd rebuttal had better be brief because he is writing it for free.

    • W.Jones
      W.Jones
      November 9, 2013, 6:23 pm

      Also it looks like MJR is still posting about Ali Abuminah as an “Anti-Semite” and connects that to criticisms of Blumenthal’s book:

      JJ Goldberg On Anti-Zionism Unhinged

      My decision to label Ali Abunimah an anti-Semite (yeah, I stand by that in spades) produced a mini-firestorm… When the haters come in, I’m out. (You can hate individuals — I sure do — but not, say, gays, Jews, African-Americans, Palestinians, Israelis, Zionists, etc etc).

      I don’t agree with all of JJ Goldberg’s criticisms of Max Blumenthal’s book [on The Forward] — I found it [the book] informative and useful — but his general thrust is right on. Bravo, JJ. Fighting the good fight for 50 years!

      http://mjayrosenberg.com/2013/11/01/jj-goldberg-on-when-anti-zionism-goes-off-the-rails

      Keep in mind that MJR also defends Blumenthal from Alterman- but are Alterman’s criticisms really so different from JJG’s?

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        November 9, 2013, 6:34 pm

        (His 8th post on Ali A. on this topic, BTW.)
        Tag Archives: Ali Abunimah
        http://mjayrosenberg.com/tag/ali-abunimah

        Vendetta?

      • Shmuel
        Shmuel
        November 9, 2013, 6:41 pm

        You can hate individuals — I sure do — but not, say, gays, Jews, African-Americans, Palestinians, Israelis, Zionists

        Not that I think that all Zionists should be hated (I happen to love a few), but there is a difference between factors such as ethnic background, sexual preference or nationality (even when acquired by means other than birth) and ideological beliefs – at least when it comes to mature adults. You can’t choose the colour of your skin, but you certainly can choose your ideological/political belief system.

        Would MJR put hating conservatives or creationists or anarcho-syndicalists in the same category as hating Jamaicans or Catholics?

      • tree
        tree
        November 9, 2013, 7:29 pm

        Would MJR put hating conservatives or creationists or anarcho-syndicalists in the same category as hating Jamaicans or Catholics?

        or Nazis or fascists?

        I suspect that MJR is having difficulty completely letting go of his Zionism,and his railing against Abunimah is a symptom of that. Zionism is still connected intimately with MJR’s sense of Jewishness, so anyone who categorically slams Zionists, even liberal ones, is slamming Jews and thus an anti-semite in his mind. Ironically, MJR’s formulation is the anti-semitic one, not Abunimah’s.

      • W.Jones
        W.Jones
        November 9, 2013, 8:36 pm

        “You can hate individuals — I sure do — but not gays, Jews, African-Americans, Palestinians, Israelis, Zionists”
        ‘there is a difference between factors such as ethnic background, sexual preference or nationality’ ~Shmuel.

        I thought about that. The first four categories are physical traits, the fifth refers to citizenship, and only the last refers to one’s political ideology.

        I think ideally you should love everyone and not “hate” anyone, no matter how bad they are. Admittedly this can be extremely difficult in the world. But it is natural to strongly oppose ideas and actions that are bad.

      • German Lefty
        German Lefty
        November 10, 2013, 6:47 am

        Zionism is still connected intimately with MJR’s sense of Jewishness, so anyone who categorically slams Zionists, even liberal ones, is slamming Jews and thus an anti-semite in his mind. Ironically, MJR’s formulation is the anti-semitic one, not Abunimah’s.

        Well said, tree!

      • eljay
        eljay
        November 9, 2013, 10:55 pm

        >> (You can hate individuals — I sure do — but not, say, gays, Jews, African-Americans, Palestinians, Israelis, Zionists, etc etc).

        Does “etc etc” include all groups with supremacist ideologies, or are Zio-supremacists the only ones who get a free pass?

        Will MJR ever publicly condemn people who say they hate Hamas or Hezbollah or terrorists rather than individual members of those groups?

        What about anti-Semites – must they be hated individually, or are we free to despise them collectively?

  11. a blah chick
    a blah chick
    November 8, 2013, 3:31 pm

    “Rosie Gray’s piece…tries to tie Max Blumenthal’s criticisms of Israel to the Clintons because his father Sidney worked for the Clintons…”

    I guess this means Hilary will have to pleasure a whole herd of goats ON STAGE and LIVE! at the next AIPAC meeting.

  12. Philip Munger
    Philip Munger
    November 8, 2013, 4:28 pm

    DS Wright, writing at firedoglake, makes a couple of good catches on the buzz feed angle. First, he links to a live feed from the Columbia School of Journalism, at which buzzfeed editor Ben Smith was pontificating:

    Buzzfeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, speaking at the Columbia School of Journalism, disclosed that he “hated” advocacy journalism instead preferring the theoretical (arguably mythical) objective journalism. A posture where reporters are to present themselves as detached and free from personal bias.

    Start at 57:56:

    ERIC HIPPEAU: What about the fine line between either investigative journalism, or journalism period, and advocacy?

    BEN SMITH: Um, yeah, I hate advocacy. Partly because I think, you know, telling people to be outraged about something is the least useful thing in the world.

    This is a particularly odd claim given that at the same time Smith was lecturing students at Columbia he was defending one of his most controversial reporters, Rosie Gray, over a piece where she presented a heavily biased and inaccurate story on Max Blumenthal, his book, and his family.

    Some corrections have already been made to the piece including a semi-admission of poor research by Gray and Smith for posting an easily disproved claim that Max Blumenthal’s father, Sidney Blumenthal, was behind a controversial photo of Barack Obama. A mere Google search would have shown it to be an inaccurate claim but Gray and Smith seemed to not have the time or inclination to check their work.

    Wright also makes a fine catch here: “Smith should have been vigilant with research when Gray started writing about a journalist with whom she had had a public feud.” He links to an article Max Blumenthal wrote last summer for alternet, clearly showing how questionable Gray’s stuff can be.

    http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/exposing-dark-forces-behind-snowden-smears?page=0%2C1

    Rosie Gray has a lot of axes to grind, doesn’t she?

  13. mcohen
    mcohen
    November 8, 2013, 4:43 pm

    tablet has got the stuff,the liebovitz article is spot on.

    • Hostage
      Hostage
      November 8, 2013, 5:58 pm

      tablet has got the stuff,the liebovitz article is spot on.

      LOL! Tablet says: “Max Blumenthal’s ‘Goliath’ is a brilliant work of fiction” as if their readers can’t easily verify the details of the stories he reported from third-party Israeli sources, including Haaretz, Ynet, and the Jerusalem Post.

  14. Philip Munger
    Philip Munger
    November 8, 2013, 4:56 pm

    The Dersh to Billary – Throw Sid under the bus!

    Noted defense lawyer, scholar, and pro-Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz has warned the Clintons that they will need to distance themselves from Sid Blumenthal unless he stops defending his son Max’s anti-Israel book.

    And, to top it off, the Dersh gets his message out via that incredibly reputable source – breitbart.com

    http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/11/08/Dershowitz-Warns-Clintons-Blumenthal-s-a-Problem-for-2016

    hat tip DSWright

    • Ecru
      Ecru
      November 10, 2013, 8:27 am

      And he’ll say that not hiring a Jew for a given job over Israel’s behaviour is anti-semitic (it is btw) but this is pretty much what he’s advocating here. Punish someone for the “crimes” of someone else.

      How come Zionists have such a kink for collective punishment (Iran, Palestinians etc) but are appalled by the very idea when applied to Israel or Jews? Double standards by any chance?

  15. piotr
    piotr
    November 8, 2013, 7:28 pm

    I think that “fascism” is a misleading label because it did function as a rather complete political doctrine and many key elements are hardly present in Israel, even if the roots of Revisionist movement were pretty close to the fascism as narrowly defined, Mussolini before his pact with Hitler. However, I am not aware of a better widely used label.

    My personal choice would be “ante-bellism”. Before Civil War, southern states had a multi-party democracy and hardly any symptoms of cult of leaders. However, as the time progressed, the South was increasingly intolerant. It was not just racism, after all, racism was quite normative for Western countries well into XX century. But there was censorship, with postmasters confiscating abolitionists tracks. An abolitionist speaking in public was literally risking his life (so it did not happen too often). There were even incidents like Southern mobs crossing Ohio river to burn down offices of an abolitionist newspaper. The rage against abolitionists was seemingly spontaneous and not imposed by centralized states. So the pattern is that of a majority that felt that “their way of life” is in danger and adopting less and less tolerant attitudes (evolving toward murderously intolerant) over eighty years of history of democratic slave-holding states.

    Could a state be slave-holding and democratic? You can read bio entry on John C. Calhoun to see that the answer is “complex”.

  16. American
    American
    November 8, 2013, 7:59 pm

    The more I think about Max’s book the bigger impact I think it’s going to have and even more threatening to the Zios then M&W’s ‘Israel Lobby’.
    M&W were strictly ‘political’, this is different—goes into the immoral pit of Israel.
    The Zios cant do political double speak on the ugly innards of what is Israel now. There’s no way they can spin the examples of Israel in this book.

  17. Qualtrough
    Qualtrough
    November 8, 2013, 11:00 pm

    In a moment I am going to click a few keys and buy a copy for my sister with the instruction to pay it forward by buying a copy for someone else. I encourage everyone to do likewise. Let us get this on the NYT Best Sellers List.

    • American
      American
      November 9, 2013, 10:14 am

      Also encourage people to give a copy to their local library.
      If you’ve got a friend who works at the library suggest they put it in the ‘new’ non fiction section under the 7 day only checkouts—–die hard readers and library users always go to that section to see what the latest is.
      We use to keep all our books and then realized how dumb that was—donate them to your library, you can always go check them out if you want to re read.
      Help educate people—Support your local library.

  18. MHughes976
    MHughes976
    November 9, 2013, 9:13 am

    A true analogy with The Possessed would arise if someone spent a short time in an Israeli prison for political reasons and then wrote a story in which the Israeli establishment was portrayed without admiration but the Palestinian resistance cells were described as having been transformed by their suffering and oppression not into heroic seekers after liberation but into something beyond terrorist and criminal, actually demonic. I suppose such a book may be written one day but I don’t think that Max B will write it.

    • Ecru
      Ecru
      November 10, 2013, 8:29 am

      Possibly because the reality is that the people who are descended from those who suffered in the Nazi Death Camps and then moved to Palestine are the ones who’ve been so transformed.

  19. LeaNder
    LeaNder
    November 9, 2013, 9:14 am

    Thanks, interesting. I wonder too if the Dostoevsky “device” will work on readers. But yes, since Max gives voice to and concentrates on the people that are usually not head much makes it–never mind the obvious awareness that it is no fiction–a “reading enjoyment”.

  20. Kathleen
    Kathleen
    November 9, 2013, 11:31 am

    We are so excited that Max will be speaking in Denver and Boulder this coming week. We are trying hard to get the word out. Sure wish Max would make a stop on Univ of Colorado’s campus.

  21. dbroncos
    dbroncos
    November 9, 2013, 12:09 pm

    Max’s reporting is outstanding but so is his TV presence in the interviews I’ve seen. Max answers questions with a calm voice, he speaks slowly with a story teller’s narrative style and he illustrates one point at a time with a youthful, confident, no bullshit look in his eye. As an author and TV “personality” he’s a nightmare for Israel’s blind supporters. Nice work, Max.

    • Kathleen
      Kathleen
      November 9, 2013, 2:11 pm

      “no bullshit look in his eyes” indeed. Cuts to the core and makes no excuses

  22. James North
    James North
    November 9, 2013, 3:46 pm

    What I find far more disturbing than the negative reviews of Max Blumenthal’s book is my growing suspicion that the mainstream media is actually going to boycott covering it. I had always intended to buy Goliath, but this effort to bury yet another thoughtful criticism of Israel prompted me to go straight to the local bookshop this afternoon.

    • James North
      James North
      November 9, 2013, 6:19 pm

      I have now started reading Goliath, and it is even better than I expected. Even those of us who are not ignorant about Israel/Palestine will learn something new on just about every page. I can see why the mainstream media may try and ignore this excellent, well-written book.

  23. tombishop
    tombishop
    November 9, 2013, 6:01 pm

    This is Max Blumenthal’s first stop on his book tour for “Goliath”. It was held at the University of Pennsylvania on October 18th.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upv9KUuks_8

    Also, The Real News has a recent five part interview with Max about the book.

    http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=10922

  24. Djinn
    Djinn
    November 9, 2013, 11:19 pm

    I probably would have got around to buying Goliath eventually (when I finish the shelves of books I compulsively buy but rarely get a chance to read) but the stink it’s causing in the usual suspects prompted an immediate e-purchase, and I’ll buy a hard copy for my Dad’s upcoming birthday. The more stink they kick up, the more people will hear about it and unfortunately for those desperate to shield Israel’s crimes, many of those people will want to see for themselves what the fuss is about.

  25. Philip Munger
    Philip Munger
    November 10, 2013, 5:38 am

    Now the estimable Robert Stacy McCain jumps on the bandwagon:

    Robert Stacy McCain @rsmccain

    Just FYI, if Max Blumenthal were being attacked by a werewolf, every sane and decent person would be pro-werewolf

    Gray, the Dersh, and now – RSMcC, paying Max Blumenthal back for telling the truth about their work. How do they do their payback? Incredible ad hominem smears.

    http://theothermccain.com/2013/11/09/andrew-breitbart-was-right-maxblumenthal-is-despicable/

    Andrew Breitbart would be proud of all of ’em.

    disclaimer – I’ve had my run-ins with McCain.

    • piotr
      piotr
      November 10, 2013, 7:54 am

      This is funny indeed. “We should pity Alterman, however despicable he is, for how cruelly he was maligned by the co-conspirators of the spawn of Clinton’s hatchet man Blumenthal”. And among the other posts:

      WILLIAM JACOBSON: ObamaCare: Subsidizing the bohemian lifestyle for liberal arts majors

      Does anyone know if Max Blumenthal is, or was a bohemian liberal arts major? I think that radical Zionists may rue the day when they stirred enmity of BLAMs.

  26. Philip Munger
    Philip Munger
    November 10, 2013, 5:42 am

    More on Robert Stacy McCain, courtesy of a link provided by Justin Raimondo.

    http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2010/03/10/robert-stacy-mccain-and-the-washington-times/

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