When it comes to telling the inconvenient set of truths that increasingly set Israel apart from what we consider to be a Western democracy or a society akin to the USA or western Europe, no good deed remains unpunished. Max Blumenthal, in two books published four years apart, has exposed two authoritarian Old Testament-based cultures for their anti-democratic underpinnings. The first book, unveiling strange Christian and Christianist currents in our political world was widely praised. The second, examining somewhat similar forces in Israeli political, religious, cultural and educational life, is being widely damned.
In his first look at this, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party, the author closely examined how deeply dysfunctional the relationship is in the GOP, between evangelical currents and what had once been the party’s mainstream. He showed how, just as the Tea Party was beginning to become a force in Republican primaries, uncompromising fundamentalists were capturing the machinery. As uncomfortable as revealing this reality was to media figures who reviewed Republican Gomorrah, or interviewed Max on its content, he was given many opportunities to present his case. The book became a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller.
Max’s new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, takes a similar look at an increasingly dysfunctional society, Israel. The book is not without advocates.
No less an authority than Rashid Khalidi wrote “Goliath lifts the carefully maintained veil concealing the reality of Israel as it actually is today, a reality that is elided in most reportage from the region… Blumenthal’s book is packed with remarkable vignettes illustrating the dangerous path Israel is currently following.”
Glenn Greenewald noted “[t]he only worthwhile, honest discussion of Israel can come from someone who possesses two attributes: fearlessness and expertise. Max Blumenthal wields both in abundance, and the result is an eye-opening and stunningly insightful book about the dramatic plight of a country central to America’s political fortunes.”
But Goliath is being attacked by gatekeepers unwilling to allow such a powerful narrative as what Blumenthal has fetched up to change public perception of what Israeli society is. Part of what is frightening militant Zionists about Max’s in-depth documentation is his accuracy. Eric Alterman, even as he savaged the book, had to admit “Blumenthal’s accounts are mostly technically accurate.” Anshel Pfeffer, in an unsympathetic November 1st review in Haaretz, notes “as far as it goes, “Goliath” is pretty factual when it comes to providing the outline and main details of “Loathing in Greater Israel.”
Alterman, Pfeffer and others have pointed toward the book’s title as evidence the author is immature, hoping, I guess, to draw false comparisons to Hunter Thompson’s paradigm-shifting short 1971 work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. Instead, one might compare Goliath to Thompson’s later (1973) masterpiece of Gonzo political documentation, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. That book documented what came to be called “pack journalism,” a feature of our political coverage in American media that has only gotten far worse since Thompson and others first noted it.
Alterman, Pfeffer and others have falsely invoked Godwin’s Law in their outrage over Blumenthal’s use of terms such as “concentration camp” or “ghetto.” This is quite unfair, perhaps meretricious, in that both terms predate any association with the Third Reich. Blumenthal, in a measured, calm response to Alterman’s first two attacks, eloquently explained the context of such terms in his book.
I found Goliath to be a compelling read, so rich in detail I felt obliged to read several chapters more than once, so I could etch in the many interlinked aspects of the chapters’ subjects. I wrote here on Wednesday that 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.”
Disclaimer: In 2008 and 2009, I was one of many Alaska bloggers who materially assisted Max Blumenthal in Alaska. In 2008, my wife and I joined others hosting him and helping him with details, as he investigated Sarah Palin’s religious background here. In 2009, I led efforts to get Max to Anchorage to speak at the Unitarian church and the University of Alaska Anchorage about Republican Gomorrah. We have no collaborations currently planned.
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions. Please take other conversations to a previous thread. – bev]