Monday, November 4, 2013

The Anti-Zionist Civil War on the Left. By Jonathan S. Tobin.

The Anti-Zionist Civil War on the Left. By Jonathan S. Tobin. Commentary, November 3, 2013. Also here.


Some in the pro-Israel community are having a good chuckle at the feud that has erupted between Jewish left-wingers in the past couple of weeks. But rather than laughing, those who care not only about Israel but also the direction of the conversation about Israel in the post-Oslo era and what it portends for the future should be concerned.

The exchange between the anti-Zionist Max Blumenthal and his antagonists among the ranks of left-wingers who are often critical of Israel but defend its existence shows how pointless much of the debate that has been carried on between the left and the right about borders and settlements has been. As risible as the arguments put forward by Blumenthal trashing Israelis as “non-indigenous” interlopers in the Arab world who must be made to surrender their sovereignty, culture, and homes may be, they represent the cutting edge of left-wing thought that has come to dominate European discussions of the Middle East.

The dustup centers on Goliath, a new anti-Israel screed by Blumenthal, the son of Clinton administration figure Sidney Blumenthal, published by Nation Books. But to Blumenthal’s chagrin, the magazine (which is no stranger to anti-Zionist articles) allowed columnist Eric Alterman to write about it in The Nation. Alterman is himself a fierce and often obnoxious critic of Israel and defenders of Israel, and has been a major promoter of the myth that the pro-Israel community has been seeking to silence the Jewish state’s critics. Yet Blumenthal’s book was so appalling that Alterman took it apart in the magazine that spawned it. Calling it “The ‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook,” Alterman scored it for its frequent comparisons of the Jews with the Nazis and its complete absence of any acknowledgement of the Muslim and Arab war to destroy Israel. As Alterman wrote in a subsequent blog post, “It is no exaggeration to say that this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed).”

To give you a taste of how outrageous this book is, Blumenthal even has the nerve to recount a conversation with Israeli author David Grossman who has been an important figure in the peace movement in which he lectured the Israeli about the need for the state to be dismantled and for its citizens to make their peace with the need to rejoin the Diaspora rather than to cling to their homes. Grossman responds to Blumenthal by walking out and telling him to tear up his phone number. Blumenthal attributes Grossman’s reaction to Israeli myopia.

But it gets better. As the Forward’s J.J. Goldberg writes in his own column on the dispute, Blumenthal appeared at a Philadelphia event with the University of Pennsylvania’s Ian Lustick (whose recent anti-Zionist diatribe in the New York Times was discussed here).
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.”
This is sobering stuff and, as Goldberg, put it, “a chilling moment even for the anti-Zionists among us.”

The bottom line here is that the real debate about the Middle East is not between the so-called “Jewish establishment” and left-wing critics of Israel like the J Street lobby and writers like Alterman and Goldberg. Rather it is between anyone who recognizes that Jews have a right to a state and those who wish to see that state destroyed. The vitriolic nature of Blumenthal’s disingenuous responses (here and here) to criticisms from these left-wing writers is, in its own way, a mirror image of the way Palestinians and European anti-Zionists have raised the ante in the past two decades as the line between critiques of Israel and traditional Jew-hatred have been blurred. Suffice it to say that in Blumenthal’s world, anyone who believes in the Jewish right to a state even in a tiny slice of their ancient homeland is a fascist, a Nazi, or a fellow traveler.

This shows how the discussion of Israel has deteriorated in the last generation of peace processing. Instead of appeasing its critics, every move toward peace in which Israel has given up territory has only convinced its enemies that it can be portrayed as a thief that can be made to surrender stolen property. While some of Israel’s critics think that conception can be limited to the lands beyond the 1949 cease-fire lines, people like Blumenthal remind us that this is an illusion.

For 20 years since the Oslo Accords Israel tried to trade land for peace only to have each offer of statehood for the Palestinians be rejected. Despite the spin that is directed at the West by some Palestinians, their culture of hatred for Israel and the Jews has made it impossible for even their most “moderate” leaders to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn. While Israel’s political thinking has shifted in this period to the point where even the supposedly “hard line” Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted a two-state solution, the Palestinians remain stuck in a time warp in which Fatah and Hamas compete for support based on their belligerency toward the Jews.

Unfortunately many American Jews are similarly stuck in the past and cling to the belief that Israel could entice the Palestinians to make peace via concessions. But rather than continuing to bang away at each other, as they have for a generation, the pro-Israel left and the pro-Israel right need to focus on the real opponent: the growing BDS (boycott, disinvest, sanction) movement that seeks to wage economic warfare on the Jewish state whose aim is its destruction and its allies.

Alterman and Goldberg may think that if only Netanyahu and the overwhelming majority of Israelis who have drawn logical conclusions from Oslo’s collapse would change their minds, peace would be possible. But they, like those on the right who see them and J Street as the real enemy, are wasting their time. The only argument that means anything in the post-Oslo era is between those who stand with Israel’s right to exist and those who oppose it. While Blumenthal’s despicable hate is deserving of every possible condemnation, he deserves our thanks for reminding us of this.

Max Blumenthal’s “Goliath” Is Anti-Israel Book That Makes Even Anti-Zionists Blush. By J.J. Goldberg. The Jewish Daily Forward, October 31, 2013.

The “I Hate Israel” Handbook. By Eric Alterman. The Nation, October 16, 2013.

Eric Alterman Replies to Max Blumenthal’s Letter. By Eric Alterman. The Nation, October 28, 2013.

Eric Alterman v. Max Blumenthal. By Corey Robin., October 19, 2013.


Max begins his treatment of Grossman by articulating the conundrum of many lefty Israelis: like other liberal Zionists, Grossman thinks Israel’s original sin is 1967, when the state seized the West Bank and Gaza and the Occupation officially began. But that position ignores 1948, when Jewish settlers, fighters, and officials killed Palestinians or expelled from their homes (the Nakba) in order to create the State of Israel itself.

The Desert of Israeli Democracy. By Max Blumenthal. The Nation, October 14, 2013.

Israel Cranks Up the PR Machine. By Max Blumenthal. The Nation, October 16, 2013.

Israel’s New Racism: The Persecution of African Migrants in the Holy Land. Video. By David Sheen and Max Blumenthal. The Nation, October 21, 2013.

A Response to Eric Alterman. By Max Blumenthal. The Nation, October 23, 2013.

A Response to J.J. Goldberg of the Forward. By Max Blumenthal., November 1, 2013.

Max Blumenthal on “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.” Part 1. Part 2. Democracy Now, October 4, 2013.

Talk Nation Radio: Max Blumenthal on Israeli Ethnocracy. By David Swanson. Audio. Let’s Try Democracy, October 22, 2013.

Author Max Blumenthal Offers Unfiltered View Into Israel’s Commitment to Ethnic Supremacy. By Rania Khalek, Truthout, October 27, 2013.

Max Blumenthal’s Goliath, Life and Loathing in Greater Israel Part I. Blumenthal interviewed by Paul Jay. Video and transcript. Truthout, October 28, 2013. Parts 1-5 at The Real News Network.

Blumenthal: Well, as you mentioned, Israel is an ethnocracy. It’s not an actual multiethnic, multireligious democracy. It’s not a real democracy. At best you can call it a Herrenvolk democracy, because it privileges one group which happens to be a group of exogenous immigrants who have been settled through colonial methods against the will of the indigenous Palestinian population, privileges them over non-Jews who are living in historic Palestine, which is everywhere from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. And so you have this system in place which requires the engineering of a Jewish demographic majority.

Israel and the Dangers of Ethnic Nationalism. Jonathan Cook interviewed by Joseph Cotto., November 4, 2013. Also at CounterPunch.

Cook: Zionism was a reaction to the extreme ethnic nationalisms that dominated – and nearly destroyed – Europe last century. It is therefore hardly surprising that it mirrors their faults. In exporting to the Middle East this kind of nationalism, Zionism was always bound to play a negative role in the region.
Theodor Herzl, the father of Zionism, developing the concept of a Jewish state in response to the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe in the late nineteenth century. One notorious incident that appears to have shaped his views was France’s Dreyfus affair, when a very assimilated Jewish army officer was unjustly accused of treason and then his innocence covered up by French elites.

The lesson drawn by Herzl was that assimilation was futile. To survive, Jews needed to hold firmly on to their ethnic identity and create an exclusivist state based on ethnic principles.

There is a huge historical irony to this, because Europe’s ethnic nationalisms would soon end up tearing apart much of the world, culminating in the expansionary German war machine, the Second World War and the Nazi death camps. International institutions such as the United Nations and international humanitarian law were developed precisely to stop the repeat of such a cataclysmic event.

Once in the Middle East, Zionism shifted the locus of its struggle, from finding a solution to European anti-semitism to building an exclusive Jewish homeland on someone else’s land, that of the Palestinians. If one wants to understand the impact of Zionism in the Middle East, then one needs to see how destabilising such a European ideological implant was.

The idea of ethnic-religious supremacism, which history suggests is latent in many ethnic nationalisms, quickly came to the fore in Zionism. Today, Israel believes in:

* segregation at all levels – made concrete in the separation wall across the West Bank;

* in ethnic exclusivism – Palestinian citizens inside Israel are even denied an Israeli nationality;

* a kind of national paranoia – walls are built to protect every border;

* but at the same time, and paradoxically, a refusal to define those borders – and with it a craving for expansion and greater “living room.”

All of this was predictable if one looked at the trajectory of ethnic nationalisms in Europe. Instead, we in the West see all this as a reaction to Islamism. The reality is we have everything back to front: Zionism, an aggressive ethnic nationalism, fed reactionary forces in the region like political Islam.

Israel is a “corpse” — Hedges on Blumenthal’s “Goliath.” By Annie Robbins and Phil Weiss. Mondoweiss, November 5, 2013.

Goliath the Israel Slayer: Why Max Blumenthal’s New Book is a Painful Read. By Shaul Magid. Religion Dispatches, November 7, 2013.

Max Blumenthal’s Goliath is a Brilliant Work of Fiction About Those Who Want the Jewish State to Disappear. By Liel Leibovitz. Tablet, November 8, 2013.

How Much Hatred of Israel Is Too Much? By Daniel Greenfield. FrontPage Magazine, November 12, 2013.

Preaching to the Choir: Reflections on Max Blumenthal’s Goliath. By Jerome Slater., November 26, 2013. Also at Mondoweiss.

Israeli Jews must become “indigenized” to the Arab world, Blumenthal tells Lustick. By Philip Weiss. Mondoweiss, October 18, 2003.

Max Blumenthal and Ian Lustick speak at Penn. Video. PennForPalestine, October 18, 2013. YouTube.

Obama’s Dirty War. By Jeremy Scahill.

Obama’s Dirty War. By Jeremy Scahill. Real Clear World, October 30, 2013. Also at TomDispatch.