Blumenthal vs Alterman

Nov 4 2013 @ 1:58pm

I haven’t managed to read Max Blumenthal’s controversial new book, Goliath, based on his reporting in Israel and the West Bank. But one reason to pick it up is the lazy hatchet job performed on it by one of the more egregiously nasty writers in America, Eric Alterman. Alterman’s critique can be read here, titled “The ‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook”, and here. I urge you to read both. Money quote:

It is no exaggeration to say that this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed) without a single word change once it’s translated into Arabic. (Though to be fair, Blumenthal should probably add some anti-female, anti-gay arguments for that.) Goliath is a propaganda tract, not an argument as it does not even consider alternative explanations for the anti-Israel conclusions it reaches on every page.

The reason I urge you to read it all is because it’s essential background for Blumenthal’s response. It’s always a joy to see a smear artist exposed, trick by trick, con by con – and Max is relentless. To wit:

Alterman carps about the titles of several chapters in my book, claiming they were “titled to imply an equivalence between Israel and Nazi Germany.” He did not bother address the substance of the chapters, which explains the titles. The chapter titled, “How To Kill 51-jsDj2gPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Goyim and Influence People” detailed a Jerusalem conference of prominent state-funded Israeli rabbis who had gathered to defend the publication of Torat Ha’Melech, a book published by their rabbinical colleagues that the Israeli paper Maariv described as “230 pages on the laws concerning the killing of non-Jews, a kind of guidebook for anyone who ponders the question of if and when it is permissible to take the life of a non-Jew.” (Among the book’s lowlights: “There is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us…”)

My chapters titled “The Night of Broken Glass” and “The Concentration Camp” detail the officially sanctioned campaign of racist incitement and violence against Israel’s population of non-Jewish African asylum seekers. The former chapter described events leading up to the night of May 23, 2012, when, after an anti-African rally headlined by leading officials from the ruling Likud Party, in which Africans were described from the stage as “a cancer,” hundreds of Jewish Israelis rampaged through African-inhabited areas of South Tel Aviv, attacking their homes and cars and literally smashing the glass of their storefront windows. “I am as afraid to live in the Israel of 2012 as any right-minded German should have been in 1938,” Aliyana Traison, the deputy editor of Haaretz, wrote at the time.

For good measure, Alterman concedes that the book is “mostly technically accurate.” I hate the bullying tactics of those suppressing a discussion of difficult subjects, so am glad to note that Blumenthal himself is not the only one shocked by the shoddiness of Alterman’s smear:

Other writers have already carefully deconstructed his tangled mess of factual errors and deceptive claims: Phan Nguyen, Corey Robin, Ali Gharib, Ira Glunts and Charles Manekin.

I’d particularly recommend Corey Robin’s dissection of Alterman’s account of Blumenthal’s conversation with David Grossman, the legendary liberal Zionist. It’s both a thorough debunking of Alterman but also a disturbing revelation about what has happened to Israel, and why it matters.