- Reviewed by Joseph J. Honick
There is little doubt that Max Blumenthal, author of “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” (Nation Books, 512 pages, notes, index, $27.99) is a skilled wordsmith. There is, on the other hand, much question as to the ethical use of his skills.
I didn’t have to move too deeply into this fascinating book to see that Blumenthal had set his opinions in place and merely returned to Israel to seek out that which would fortify his obvious prejudices.
What he has ended up accomplishing is proving that the State of Israel is an imperfect nation that has some bad people in its population who do some nasty things. One wishes he might cite more perfect places for examples.
But what he also may not realize that the very nation he condemns also makes it possible for him to have traveled freely, and the authorities certainly must have known of his beliefs, prejudices and other background, not to mention his access to the powerful pages of the New York Times. Moreover, he has failed to note that there are all kinds of opponents to the government who raise hell in the media and in the streets. In fact, he avoids talking about media and free press altogether.
At bottom, one is confronted with a self-hating Jew who must address only the ugliness that arises in any nation with such a mélange of immigrants and original residents. The United States of America comes to mind.
But that is not enough to insure that readers are clearly aware of how unfortunately this skilled writer has misused what he can do so well.
Certainly crime by anyone must not be countenanced in any nation. While Israel is as political an operation as any free country, it does in fact punish those who injure others, whether Arab or Jew.
What the author also likes to downplay is the fact there is Arab representation in the Israeli Knesset — the nation’s parliament — avoiding discussion of whether there are any Jews in similar bodies in Arab countries that do not feature any kind of democracy.
But democracy among a spirited people with a history of arguing about almost anything is often a messy affair, as it is in Israel.
Blumenthal also avoids the Arab lie that conveniently hides the fact — a “fact on the ground” as Blumenthal puts — that an estimated 800,000 Jews who once lived in Arab nations — many for centuries — who were forced to flee for their lives and, for the most part, wound up in Israel as members not just of the newly UN created nation, but on soil that historically was Jewish, or what were the great Temples outsiders liked to destroy in that historic space.
For instance, there is no mention of the massacre of 133 Jews in the now West Bank city of Hebron — the second holiest city of Judaism after Jerusalem itself — in 1929 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1929_Hebron_massacre); there is ample discussion of Palestinian villages in present-day Israel depopulated by fleeing Palestinians. This is one-sided, repugnant journalism. The Hebron massacre attracted worldwide attention and led to the creation of Israeli defense forces and eventually the IDF itself.
That there is racial and religious prejudice in Israel can hardly be denied. Some of it was engendered not only by slaughters of Israeli schoolchildren in Ma’alot, the murders of Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich in 1972 and any number of other raids on Jewish residents in Israel proper or on the seas where terrorists committed the senseless killing of a wheelchair-confined American Jew by tossing him into the ocean.
It is not that tit-for-tat justifies anything at all in any nation. However, creating what is disguised as valid history and current affairs in such a book, however skillfully done, does not render it either accurate or useful for either Israelis or outsiders as anything more than the bitter prepared sensibilities of this otherwise smart man who leans to the left with the chip on his shoulder.
Had he accorded even modest praise for the internationally acknowledged medical advance by Israeli scientists, the 11 Nobel Laureates and the two nominated for this year, the phenomenal nanotechnology programs, the work of the Technion….
No, this is not what Blumenthal had in mind when he purposely checked into what he called a “dilapidated” place when he arrived in Israel to begin his witchhunt.
Instead, he uses the Israeli soccer teams and fans to paint his portrait of the “real” Israel. Considering the drastic reach in such examples, one has to assume the author has not been in the stands for an American professional football game, college tournaments like what’s called “March Madness” and many other sports high spirited outlets for fans.
One could go on and on with such examples. The bottom line is both very sad and angering. Sad that a writer of such clear talent could so bastardize it by producing a more than 500-page volume supported by carefully selected references to prove his deep seated and unfortunately biased commentary. It’s angering because of its transparent attempt to insult an entire nation that had to fight several enemies at its rebirth in 1948 merely to survive and evolve into one of the most productive countries in the world.
In the end, knowledgeable readers will be insulted by this book and its author and perhaps offer the hope Blumenthal might find some solace in the hands of someone who might help him outgrow, to use his own self loathing as a person inconveniently born into the Jewish faith.
About the author
Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author whose articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Guardian, The Independent Film Channel, The Huffington Post, Salon.com, Al Jazeera Englishand many other publications. His book, “Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party”, was a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller. He blogs at maxblumenthal.com
Note by David M. Kinchen: For more about “big Arab lies” that have become propaganda tools for anti-Semites and people — many on the left or “progressive” side of the political spectrum — opposed to Israel: http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=8592