Tag Archives: Max Blumenthal

Max Blumenthal triggers a wave of buyer’s remorse

For the past few years, Max Blumenthal has worked hard to establish himself as a leading anti-Israel activist who is rightly celebrated wherever there are Jew-haters. But while Blumenthal’s “pro-Palestinian” fans could see nothing wrong with his “journalism” as long as it served to demonize Israel, they have come to reject the exact same kind of “journalism” as deeply offensive hackery when Blumenthal turned his attention to Syria. Since many people were hoping that Syria’s truly heroic rescuers known as “White Helmets” would get this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Blumenthal apparently felt an irresistible urge to show off his journalistic brilliance by exposing the Syria Campaign – a group supporting the White Helmets – as an evil tool of the West. Not deceived by “the lofty rhetoric about solidarity and the images of heroic rescuers rushing in to save lives,” Blumenthal triumphantly discovered “an agenda that aligns closely with the forces from Riyadh to Washington clamoring for regime change.”

So brilliant and so obvious at the same time, isn’t it: given Bashar al-Assad’s benevolent rule, no Syrian could possibly want “regime change”…

The backlash against Blumenthal and his closest allies – notably Ali Abunimah and some of his Electronic Intifada writers – was quick and furious. Admittedly, it was a rather enjoyable spectacle, because a lot of the harsh criticism now voiced by disappointed fans (who want to see Israel gone as much as the likes of Blumenthal) could have been quoted from posts I and other critics of his screeds have written: suddenly people were ready to denounce “Max’s fact-free delusions” and his “smear pieces;” my personal favorite was perhaps when Blumenthal’s gonzo journalism was mocked in a tweet ridiculing how he usually concocts the “evidence” to indict his targets: “This NGO took money from a fund whose director once ate lunch in the same restaurant as an employee of an Islamophobe.” (Another delightful parody of Blumenthal’s “journalism” is here). Incidentally, this is also an excellent description of the modus operandi regularly followed by Ali Abunimah and his Electronic Intifada crew.

Abunimah was quick to complain that this was a “coordinated smear campaign that’s been going on for months,” and naturally, he had no doubt about the sinister forces behind it all: it was, of course, an “Israel-lobby inspired smear campaign.” Stalwart Abunimah fans like the perpetually “Angry Arab” agreed: it just couldn’t be a “coincidence that the campaign is being directed against some of the bravest voices against Israel in the US.”

Abunimah reacted with a torrent of tweets hurling abuse against his critics – and his bullying ultimately paid off: a blog post under the title “Palestinians decry Western Assad apologists” named only Max Blumenthal and linked to a statement signed by about 120 “Palestinian signatories” that denounced unnamed “Allies We’re Not Proud Of.” The statement declared that the signatories “are embarrassed by the ways in which some individuals known for their work on Palestine have failed to account for some crucial context in their analysis of Syria” and decried the “tendency to heroize those who advocate on behalf of the Palestinian struggle,” vowing that the signatories would “no longer entertain individuals who fail to acknowledge the immediate concerns of besieged Syrians in their analysis.”

An Al Jazeera article on the controversy also avoided naming names, though the author forcefully condemned activists who regard the “Palestinian cause” merely as a convenient “platform … to vent their selective anti-imperialist outrage.” Interestingly, this article painted a rather dramatic picture of the controversy:

“The Palestine solidarity movement is facing an unprecedented internal crisis, brought about not by the conflict with Israel but by the war in Syria. The latter has caused divisions that are arguably deeper and more damaging than those over how to realise Palestinian rights and aspirations. While the effects of Palestinian political infighting have remained largely domestic, the fissures over Syria have taken on a global dimension, and created unparalleled hostility among supporters of the Palestinian cause.”

There was indeed quite a bit of “hostility” on social media, some of it helpfully documented by Ali Abunimah himself. One telling example is archived here: Abunimah complained that the “Syrian American Medical Assoc. launches incitement campaign against me/others, claims we’re paid by Assad/Russia.” And apparently, Abunimah didn’t like getting a taste of his own medicine: “This level of incitement – comparing us to Hitler – is getting to dangerous levels.” Abunimah also took offense when his dear friend Max Blumenthal got the Max Blumenthal treatment from erstwhile fans.

3

Clearly, Abunimah feels that Nazi smears should only be reserved for Israel.

The controversy also revealed a few interesting tidbits showing “pro-Palestinian” stars like Max Blumenthal and Rania Khalek in a rather unflattering light. If Blumenthal really “went to Gaza &burst into tears at a Hamas checkpoint,” the boundless admiration he has expressed for Hamas perhaps also reflects some rather unhealthy psychological dispositions: the more brutal the bully, the more admiration Blumenthal will feel – which may well help to explain why Blumenthal has so much contempt for Israel and the US, and so much respect for Hamas, Assad, Russia and Iran.

mb-cries-at-hamas-checkpoint1

But while I couldn’t find confirmation for the delightful insider rumor about Hamas reducing Blumenthal to tears, I did manage to find evidence for the accusation that Electronic Intifada “associate editor” Rania Khalek is a plagiarist: if you check out this 2008 post on “6 ‘Non-Lethal’ Weapons That’ll Make You Wish You Were Dead” and scroll to the comments, you will find one posted on August 4th, 2011, which says: “This article has recently been plagiarized by someone named Rania Khalek for a website called Alternet. It’s not even subtle. […] The title of the stolen article is ‘6 Creepy New Weapons the Police and Military Use To Subdue Unarmed People’ and it was published August 1st 2011.” Sure enough, there is such an Alternet article by Khalek, which is marked as “updated” at the beginning and adorned with an “EDITOR’S NOTE” at the end stating: “This article has been corrected since its original publication for more accurate attribution to original sources.” Isn’t this a delicate way to put it…

Khalek’s author archive at Alternet shows that her regular contributions at the site ended a few months later in January 2012, but resumed again after three years in January 2015 – and amazingly enough, the plagiarized piece was promptly recycled under the exact same title, without the “editor’s note” and without any hint that it had been published years earlier. I suppose that’s Alternet quality journalism …

Last but not least, the disappointment expressed by erstwhile Blumenthal fans offered many more revealing glimpses at how truly pathetic many supporters of the “Palestinian cause” are. One heartbroken Blumenthal fan lamented: “I regret writing a review of @MaxBlumenthal’s Gaza book for @MuftahOrg http://muftah.org/a-review-of-max-blumenthals-the-51-day-war-ruin-and-resistance-in-gaza/ … I see that he’s fallen as low as Rania Khalek.” Check out the linked review posted on July 29, 2015, and you’ll find the highest praise for the “fearless integrity that fuels Blumenthal’s reporting.” You’ll also find that this review is illustrated with an image of the aftermath of a deadly “explosion … at a public garden near Shifa hospital in Gaza City on July 28, 2014.” It’s hard to think of a better illustration for a review praising Blumenthal, because Israel had immediately said that the carnage was caused by Hamas rockets, and even Amnesty International ultimately conceded in the spring of 2015 that “the projectile was a Palestinian rocket.” Ignoring this fact is really a good example of Blumenthal-style “integrity”.

So here’s a lesson for erstwhile Blumenthal fan Joey Husseini Ayoub and the likes of him: if you hail a hack like Blumenthal who glorifies an Islamist terror group like Hamas for his “fearless integrity,” you just look utterly pathetic when you denounce him for serving as an apologist for Syria’s Assad: Hamas and Assad have pretty much the same concern for the people under their rule. Just as the current carnage in Syria is due to Assad’s determination to hold on to power, all the wars in Gaza in the last decade are due to Hamas’ cynical efforts to polish their credentials as the “Islamic Resistance Movement.”

But I suppose there’s really nothing more “pro-Palestinian” than to quickly forget how Hamas threw opponents from high-rises in Gaza, tortured them and dragged their bodies through the streets, or executed them ISIS-style on public squares – a spectacle that was actually defended by Ali Abunimah. Maybe Max Blumenthal recalled atrocities like these when he burst into tears at a Hamas checkpoint: it must be really scary to be at the mercy of people who treat their own like this – even if you’re a “journalist” who came to glorify those brutal bullies.

* * *

This is an updated version of a post first published at Elder of Ziyon.

Rania Khalek’s antisemitic anti-Zionism

Since I wrote about Rania Khalek and her “updates on Jewish evil” almost a year ago (belatedly cross-posted below because it is relevant to this new installment), her career as an anti-Israel activist has taken off: she is now an “associate editor” at Ali Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada and writes regular posts for the site. Her most recent contributions include a piece entitled “Ta-Nehisi Coates sings of Zionism,” where she attacks the award-winning American writer for what she deems “one of his most glaring political lapses.” What bothers Khalek so much is that, in order to make the case that American Blacks should receive reparations for slavery and discrimination, “Coates presents German reparations to Israel as a successful and moral model, ignoring the horrors Israel inflicted and still inflicts on Palestinians and other people of the region using those funds.”

Before looking at Khalek’s new outburst of blatant bigotry, it is worthwhile noting that the title of her piece echoes a 2008 post by Ta-Nehisi Coates – “The Negro Sings Of Zionism” – where he described the “need for Barack Obama to assure us that he is, indeed, the best friend Israel could ever have” as “distasteful.” For whatever reason, anti-Israel activists discovered some six years later that they should take Coates to task for “[i]nvoking Malcolm X to justify Zionism” in this piece, and Coates duly apologized: “Yes it is [sad]. Penned as though the Palestinian people do not exist. Deeply wrong.” He added: “Apologies for pontificating on an actual struggle, as though it were a pet science project.”

Khalek is also picking up a story from 2014, when Ta-Nehisi Coates first made his by now famous “Case for Reparations” in the Atlantic. It is perhaps noteworthy that this piece opens with a quote from Deuteronomy 15: 12–15:

“And if thy brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress: of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing today.”

Perhaps prompted by the major awards Coates has received in the past two years, Rania Khalek apparently felt that it was finally time to air the longstanding resentment she seems to have nurtured ever since Coates and his Atlantic colleague Jeffrey Goldberg didn’t allow her to derail the discussion at an event she attended in 2014. She has opined on Twitter that “[i]t’s unfortunate that @tanehisicoates offers legitimacy to war crimes enthusiast & apartheid lover @JeffreyGoldberg” and has wondered how anyone can “take Coates seriously as an anti-racist while he allies w a former Kahanist Israeli prison guard who cheered the Iraq war.”

Luckily, Khalek now has the Electronic Intifada to showcase her bigotry. As far as she is concerned, Coates is guilty of “lauding Germany’s bankrolling of a racist, settler-colonial state as a model;” furthermore, Khalek feels that Coates “ignores the Nakba, erases Palestinian suffering and gives Germany a free pass for making Palestinians into secondary victims of its European genocide.”

Unsurprisingly, Khalek also claims that the “narrative” Coates advances “completely ignores the fact that while other Jews were resisting the Nazis, Zionists infamously made a deal with them, the notorious Transfer Agreement of 1933, to facilitate the transport of German Jews and their property to Palestine and which, as Joseph Massad points out, broke the international Jewish boycott of Nazi Germany started by American Jews.”

Yes, you read this correctly: Khalek is saying here that the evil Zionists should be condemned for trying to help Jews flee Nazi Germany instead of leaving them to their fate. In order to make her bigoted case, she linked to two Al Jazeera op-eds by notorious Columbia University professor Joseph Massad, who is listed as an Electronic Intifada contributor and whose writings on Israel are sometimes hard to distinguish from material posted on neo-Nazi sites like Stormfront. When Al Jazeera published one of the Massad articles Khalek links to back in 2013, Jeffrey Goldberg tweeted sarcastically: “Congratulations, al Jazeera: You’ve just posted one of the most anti-Jewish screeds in recent memory.”

Some of the reactions to Khalek’s piece are documented in this Israellycool post; it is particularly noteworthy that Ali Abunimah responded to criticism of Khalek’s piece by accusing critics of “defending Zionist-Nazi collaboration.” As Avi Mayer rightly pointed out, what Abunimah denounces as “collaboration” saved the lives of some 60,000 German Jews, and it is definitely hard to avoid the conclusion that Abunimah “would have preferred they be left to die.”

For more on the vile fantasies about “Zionist-Nazi collaboration” that are so popular among anti-Israel activists, see the following post that was originally published at my JPost blog in April 2015. But while this post focuses on Rania Khalek, it is important to note that Ali Abunimah fully supports her bigotry and that he is an ardent admirer of Massad, who uses his academic position to legitimate material that is promoted on neo-Nazi sites.

***

Rania Khalek’s updates on Jewish evil

You may have never heard of Rania Khalek – a Lebanese-American “journalist” who thinks “objectivity is bullshit” and is apparently prone to anxiously counting how many Jews write about her favorite topics – but she is quite popular among anti-Israel activists. While Khalek is in no way original and keeps busy with simply amplifying the themes propagated by sites like Ali Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada, she recently managed to provide a truly excellent example of the pervasive antisemitism that is a quasi-professional hazard for activists dedicated to demonizing the world’s only Jewish state as a monstrous evil that must be denounced in terms eerily reminiscent of the anti-Jewish bigotry of bygone times.

In an effort to promote the among anti-Israel activists popular claim that there was some sinister “Zionist collaboration with Nazi Germany,” Khalek recently posted a tweet linking to a clip of Max Blumenthal regaling an audience in Stuttgart, Germany, with his tall tales on this subject. As Nurit Baytch, who documented the resulting developments, put it so pithily, Khalek then tried “to link Zionism to anti-Semitism by linking to Holocaust denial site VHO.org, inadvertently laying bare the much more pervasive links between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.”

Khalek was apparently not much bothered that Nurit Baytch had caught her linking to a Holocaust denial site, but she did react when BuzzFeed’s Tom Gara took notice on Twitter.

RK tweets Holocaust denial site

Khalek deleted her tweet and responded to Gara that it had just been “an error,” insisting at the same time that the book she had recommended from the site was “completely factual.” In other words, Khalek is convinced that a site devoted to minimizing Nazi crimes and defending people “not believing in the existence of gas chambers” can be trusted to feature a “completely factual” book that presents Zionist Jews as Nazi collaborators – which is obviously an idea that deserves as much ridicule and contempt as the notion that a white supremacist site would be a good place to look for a “completely factual” book on blacks.

RK tweets Holocaust denial site2

Of course, as I have noted in a previous post dealing with the same sordid subject, those truly interested in the alleged “collaboration” between Zionists and Nazi Germany could consult a serious scholarly study on this topic – though admittedly, Professor Nicosia’s book wouldn’t satisfy anti-Israel activists like Khalek, since Nicosia warns already in his introduction [pdf] that readers eager to “somehow equate Zionism with National Socialism, Zionists with Nazis, or to portray this relationship as a willing and collaborative one between moral and political equals” won’t find what they’re looking for.

So it looks like Rania Khalek and her ilk are reduced to relying on books that, for good reason, are promoted by Nazi-sympathizers and Jew-haters…

But Khalek provided yet another example of the antisemitism that inevitably infects the efforts to present Israel as the Jew among the nations. The idea that the Jews are to blame for what’s wrong with the world and especially for whatever evil you suffer from or hate most has formed the core resentment of Jew-hatred throughout the centuries. The Nazis succinctly summarized it in the slogan “The Jews are our misfortune.” Khaled presented her version of this pernicious and ancient meme updated for the 21st century at an event organized by Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Berkeley earlier this week. The preposterous title of her talk was “Palestine: A Laboratory of Global Repression,” and the advertisement highlighted just how monstrously evil the world’s only Jewish state is [my emphasis]:

“What Israel does to Palestinians doesn’t stay in Palestine. Israel uses Palestine as a laboratory to test, refine, and showcase weapons of domination and control. These weapons are then exported around the world for use on other marginalized populations, from the killing fields of Gaza to the teargassed streets of Ferguson. Zionism is an engine for ‘combat proven’ repression technology that sustains racism and inequality across the globe.

RK at UCBerkeley

Khalek later retweeted a number of tweets posted by admirers who had attended her presentation, including one that cited her asserting that Israel was “becoming [the] ‘repression engine’ of the globe, spreading tech to maintain white supremacy world-wide.”

If antisemitism wasn’t such a lethal and still all too vigorous hatred, one could almost be amused: One day Rania Khalek relies on a site run by white supremacists to demonize Israel, and the next day she demonizes Israel for “spreading tech to maintain white supremacy world-wide.”

But of course, whatever Khalek’s twists and turns, her message remains the same: the Jewish state is our misfortune. If it wasn’t for Israel, who would ‘sustain racism and inequality across the globe?’ And, as one of her fans tweeted from her talk: “Opposing Zionism [is] not just important for Palestinian self-determination, it’s important for [the] self-determination of all oppressed.” Naturally, without Zionism the Kurds would have a state, as would the Baloch and the Tibetans and the people of Western Sahara and maybe even Iran’s Ahwazis; without Zionism, nobody would be oppressed – in short, a world without the Jew of the nations would be a much better place: it would be Juden-Staat-rein and its nations would live happily ever after in peace and prosperity, just as they did before there was a Jewish state…

The Palestine Project’s flood libel

When something bad happens, antisemites have always known whom to blame. So it was little wonder that, when Gaza was flooded after heavy rainfalls last month, the Palestinians would blame Israel and “the Jews” for maliciously opening entirely imaginary dams – and it was hardly surprising that some major media outlets didn’t hesitate to publish this story without even a minimum of fact-checking. While some of the worst offenders ultimately withdrew the story and AFP even dedicated a separate report to “dispelling the myth about Israeli ‘dams’,” professional anti-Israel propagandists were only too happy to spread what quickly became known as the “flood libel.”

Veteran anti-Israel activists Ali Abunimah and Max Blumenthal both tweeted a link to a post featured on a website run by “The Palestine Project,” which rejected Israeli statements that there are no dams that could be opened to flood Gaza as a “myth.”

AA MB link Holocaust denier 911 trutherSince both Abunimah and Blumenthal like to claim that they can be trusted to provide accurate and factual information, one should expect that they noticed that the post they linked to was prominently identified as a previously published post from another blog, and that they checked out the provided link to the original.

This link leads to a much longer piece entitled “No Dams in the Negev? Anatomy of a Hasbara Swarm” published in January 2014 on a blog by a certain Richard Edmondson who proudly displays his 9/11 conspiracy theories in a banner at the blog’s side bar.

MB links to Holocaust denier 911 trutherA quick look at the blog’s “About” page reveals that Edmondson has the reputation of being a Holocaust denier, and just a few additional seconds of searching illustrate how he got this reputation: even though he claims not to be a Holocaust denier, he undermined his case by cross-posting an unabashedly antisemitic article from Iran’s Press TV on the “Holocaust of Lies: US Mainstream Media.” Unsurprisingly, Edmondson considers the Iranian regime’s antisemitic propaganda outlet “a model of responsible journalism.”

A few additional minutes of browsing through the blog’s offerings reveal a cesspool of anti-Jewish bigotry, including a post suggesting that the deadly attack on the kosher supermarket in Paris in January was a “false flag” operation designed to motivate French Jews to immigrate to Israel; there is also warm praise for a fellow Jew-hater who often cross-posts Edmondson’s vile output under the label “Jewish Matters,” and a quick Google search shows Edmondson featured as a “columnist” on Veterans Today, another website where antisemitic conspiracy theories are popular.

The promotion of Edmondson’s post by “The Palestine Project” and prominent activists like Abunimah and Blumenthal is just another example illustrating an argument I have often made: “pro-Palestinian” antisemitism is not a bug, but a feature, because when your agenda is demonizing the world’s only Jewish state as too evil to be allowed to exist, you will inevitably end up using exactly the same methods and themes as those who have demonized Jews throughout the centuries.

* * *

First published at my JPost blog on 03/10/2015.

The successful demonization of Israel

The recent release of a new study by the London-based think tank Chatham House brought Israel-haters some widely cheered news, because the study includes the finding [pdf; p.12] that 35 percent of the British public feel “especially unfavorable” towards Israel. Writing at his Electronic Intifada blog, Ali Abunimah noted with great satisfaction that the Chatham House study showed that “Israel ranks as one of the world’s most unfavorably viewed countries among the UK public” and he concluded triumphantly that “these numbers indicate […] that the vast sums Israel has spent on propaganda or hasbara have made no dent in its unpopularity, while its continued occupation and repeated massacres in Gaza continue to affect public perceptions.” Linking to a post from 2013, Abunimah also pointed out that “results from the Chatham House survey confirm trends seen in other polls across the world, showing that Israel is consisently [sic] among the world’s most negatively viewed countries.”

While Abunimah’s last point is correct, both his blog post and a tweet that was popular among Israel-haters were wrong in asserting that only North Korea was seen more unfavorable than Israel.

Celebrating Israel demonizationApparently, Israel-haters all work from the same cherry-picked talking points and can’t be bothered to check them – because if they had checked the relevant table in the study, they would have realized that Russia was entitled to their “gold medal” as the country that was seen as “especially unfavorable” by a majority (56%) of the British public. But it would have been really awkward for Abunimah to crow about Russia’s propaganda efforts not paying off, since some of his best friends – like Max Blumenthal, for example, or Electronic Intifada contributor Rania Khalek – are popular guests on Putin’s well-financed mouthpiece RT. The channel has also featured various Holocaust deniers, conspiracy theorists, and neo-Nazis, and it reportedly provides a nice source of income for British politician George Galloway, who has been honored for his devotion to the Palestinian “cause” by Hamas leader Haniyeh and who supplements his salary as Member of Parliament with appearances on RT as well as Iranian and Lebanese TV.

While there is no reason to downplay the truly dedicated efforts of Abunimah and his ilk to do their part in order to ensure that the world’s only Jewish state is among the world’s least favorably viewed countries, the negative image of Israel that is once again reflected in the Chatham House study has long been promoted by a wide array of opinion shapers. As the Simon Wiesenthal Center put it in reaction to a 2003 poll that showed a majority of Europeans viewing Israel as the foremost threat to world peace, this result indicated “that Europeans have bought into the vilification and demonization campaign directed against the State of Israel and her supporters by European leaders and media.” However, other polls show that this is not only a European problem. World-wide polls conducted by the BBC for 2012 and 2013 ranked Israel as a country seen to have a mainly negative influence along with North Korea, Pakistan and Iran.

This is actually somewhat unfair to North Korea, Pakistan and Iran – at least if you form your world view on the basis of reports by Human Rights Watch (HRW). A recent post by blogger Elder of Ziyon provides a stark illustration of the pervasive demonization of Israel in a chart that tracks how often countries are mentioned in the new HRW 2015 “World Report.” According to this chart, only Syria – a country where in recent years not only hundreds of thousands have been killed, wounded or displaced, but where also more than 10 000 people have been systematically tortured to death – is mentioned more often than Israel.

EoZ HRW biasAnyone who needs some additional illustration of HRW’s preposterous bias should note that when the organization’s Middle East and North Africa director Sarah Leah Whitson recently learned that the US Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. was exhibiting some of the gruesome evidence of systematic torture in Syrian jails, she immediately demanded that the museum “should also show pics of death and destruction in #Gaza.”

In an exchange with Jeffrey Goldberg, Whitson later protested that she had neither intended to equate the recent war between Hamas and Israel with the Holocaust nor to suggest that Israel was guilty of genocide in Gaza; instead, she claimed she had just “urged showing of images of #Gaza destruction.”

Of course, one can hardly argue that images of the destruction in Gaza from the last war have been ignored by the media. Indeed, one recent example that would perhaps have pleased Whitson was a Sky News program on Holocaust Memorial Day that featured images of this destruction while the interviewer questioned the UK’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis about possible connections between Israel’s actions and the rise of antisemitism in Europe. Contrary to countless misleading media reports, Sky News did not apologize for suggesting a connection between Israel’s actions and rising antisemitism and merely acknowledged “that the particular circumstances of the use of the pictures from Gaza was unfortunate.”

Opinion shapers in the media and in NGOs like HRW have obviously a large part in the public’s long-documented negative view of the world’s only Jewish state. As Matti Friedman put it so well in a recent presentation:

“How have the doings in a country that constitutes 0.01 per cent of the world’s surface become the focus of angst, loathing, and condemnation more than any other? We must ask how Israelis and Palestinians have become the stylised symbol of conflict, of strong and weak, the parallel bars upon which the intellectual Olympians of the West perform their tricks.”

Friedman has previously explored the problematic media coverage of Israel in several superb articles; in this presentation, he argues that “the minute state inhabited by a persecuted minority in the Middle East is in fact [seen as] a symbol of the ills of the West – colonialism, nationalism, militarism, and racism.”

“The West today is preoccupied with a feeling of guilt about the use of power. That’s why the Jews, in their state, are now held up in the press and elsewhere as the prime example of the abuse of power. That’s why for so many the global villain, as portrayed in newspapers and on TV, is none other than the Jewish soldier, or the Jewish settler. This is not because the Jewish settler or soldier is responsible for more harm than anyone else on earth – no sane person would make that claim. It is rather because these are the heirs to the Jewish banker or Jewish commissar of the past. It is because when moral failure raises its head in the Western imagination, the head tends to wear a skullcap.”

Millions nodded along when the Nazis asserted that “the Jews are our misfortune.” Millions nowadays nod along when the media and NGOs suggest that the Jewish state is the world’s misfortune.

* * *

First published on my JPost blog 02/12/2015; also published on the Polish blog Listy z naszego sadu.

David Sheen knows what it takes to demonize Israel [updated]

A few days ago, the media monitor CAMERA exposed one of the lies that budding anti-Israel activist David Sheen is spreading in order to make a living by demonizing Israel. As I have noted in a previous post, Sheen apparently hopes to appeal to the same audiences that enthusiastically embraced Max Blumenthal’s odious screed “Goliath,” which equated Israel with Nazi Germany and earned Blumenthal devoted fans wherever there are Jew-haters.

But even if one focuses relentlessly on Israel’s failings, it’s of course no easy job to pretend that the modern, pluralistic and democratic Jewish state is like Nazi Germany. While Sheen does his best to provide his audiences on social media and at activist gatherings on US campuses with the Israel-bashing they expect from him, he is also unwittingly demonstrating that it takes lots of lies to demonize Israel as a uniquely monstrous evil.

CAMERA caught Sheen when he claimed on Twitter that “Just as Nazis compared Jews to vermin to incite racism against them, Netanyahu compares non-Jewish Africans to ebola.” But even when his lie was exposed, Sheen continued to insist that Netanyahu “compared” African migrants to Ebola, because Netanyahu mentioned Israel’s “general efforts to defend our borders from illegal infiltrators and terror” in remarks addressing measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

DSheen Ebola

On Twitter, Sheen has often been challenged when he posted other lies and inaccuracies by Nurit Baytch, who has also published a detailed analysis of some of the fabrications Sheen has been presenting to activist gatherings in the US. Most recently, Nurit noted Sheen’s pathetic attempt to use a real estate advertisement that refers to Tel Aviv’s historic “White City” as yet another proof of Israel’s ingrained racism.

DSheen White City

Of course, Sheen’s utterly ridiculous claim was eagerly retweeted by almost 200 of his followers – which apparently encouraged him to dig deeper and insinuate that calling white buildings white is somehow racist. Surely he will soon start a campaign to rename the White House…

DSheen White City2

No less bizarre is Sheen’s apparent obsession with what he refers to as Israel’s “rape culture.” In recent days, I noticed two tweets where Sheen alludes to this supposed “rape culture” and provides links that are obviously meant to indicate there is a validation for his smears – but in both cases, the material he links to has nothing whatsoever to do with rape: one link leads to a report criticizing Ultra-Orthodox Jews for vandalizing ‘bat mitzvah’ ads in Jerusalem, while the other link, rather amusingly, leads to a report on the diametrically opposed world of fashion and “racy” advertisement.

DSheen rape1DSheen rape2

But whether it’s about Ultra-Orthodox men insisting on an anachronistic “modesty” or young women repudiating any notions of “modesty” and confidently showing off their bodies, David Sheen can only fantasize about a “rape culture.”

Sheen’s bizarre tweet on the fashion article (which was retweeted by Max Blumenthal) is arguably particularly offensive, as reflected in this response:

DSheen rape3

I couldn’t find any other recent tweet that explains Sheen’s “rape culture” claims. While Sheen seems to accuse Israel in general of a “rampant rape culture” in one tweet, the other seems to suggest that this “rape culture” has something to do with the “army’s crimes” – presumably meaning that IDF soldiers rape Palestinians. Unfortunately for Sheen, he is going against the stream here: as deranged as it may sound, anti-Israel activists really prefer to point to the rarity of rapes by IDF soldiers as yet another proof that Israel is racist… As an award-winning Israeli research paper put it so preposterously: “In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it can be seen that the lack of military rape merely strengthens the ethnic boundaries and clarifies the inter-ethnic differences.”

While this illustrates nicely that truly anything can be used to bash Israel, Sheen usually focuses on the supposedly particularly dire plight of African migrants and refugees in Israel. Neither he nor his fans seem to be bothered by the fact that migrants and refugees face harsh experiences in countries around the world. If Sheen’s audiences in the US don’t follow the news (other than Electronic Intifada-style news from Israel), it would take only a quick search on Google to find plenty of harrowing reports on US detention centers and the merciless American “deportation machine” that even deports children – but of course, it is so much more thrilling to get worked up about problems in Israel, because when the world’s only Jewish state shows the same failings as the rest of the world, the Jew-hater happily concludes that Israel is too evil to be allowed to exist.

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

UPDATE:

Together with his admired mentor Max Blumenthal, Sheen is currently in Berlin, where he and Blumenthal have faced some opposition to their efforts to demonize Israel (see here.) This evening, both Sheen and Blumenthal have boasted on Twitter about their shockingly thuggish attempts to harass and intimidate their critics. Blumenthal posted or re-tweeted several tweets by their fans that link to a clip featuring Sheen aggressively pursuing the leader of Germany’s Left (party) into the men’s room, screaming hysterically that his life will be in danger because Gysi called him an antisemite. Sheen posted this clip on YouTube with the title “Gysi, I’m asking you for an apology.”

DS pursues Gysi2

But of course, Gysi has nothing to apologize, since he just called Sheen what he is – and Sheen proved once again what he is with his hysteric lies about having his reputation ruined and his life endangered because of Gysi’s entirely justified rejection of Sheen’s relentless demonization of Israel.

Max Blumenthal’s Halloween

Anti-Israel activist Max Blumenthal likes to complain that he doesn’t understand why he is so often accused of antisemitism. Tonight, he posted this tweet:

MB Halloween fascist kippaIf this tweet is not antisemitic, then the (hypothetical) one below is not Islamophobic:

MB Halloween fascist hijab

For those not familiar with the people pictured: the photo tweeted by Blumenthal shows hard-right Likud Knesset member Moshe Feiglin (who is wearing a kippah); the other photo shows Maryam Mohammad Yousif Farhat, a Hamas member who won a seat in the Palestinian legislative election in 2006 and was popularly known as Umm Nidal (wearing a hijab). I’m aware that some people would protest that this implies an unfair equation of a controversial right-wing politician with a frighteningly fanatic supporter of terrorism. But whether or not this comparison is fair, it highlights Blumenthal’s hypocrisy all the more starkly: he and his fans obviously see nothing wrong with ridiculing a right-wing Jewish politician wearing a kippah as having a “fascist” Halloween costume, but they would furiously attack anyone who taunted an ardent hijab-clad supporter of Hamas terrorism for wearing a fascist Halloween costume as a despicable Islamophobe.

Despite his well-documented record of antisemitism – which has earned him fans wherever there are Jew-haters – Blumenthal is currently in Oslo to address a “Globalisation conference” organized by the Norwegian Social Forum, which describes itself as “working for a world where concern for people, society and the environment is more important than economic profit.” Hopefully he is the only speaker there who has fans among neo-Nazis, white supremacists and racist conspiracy theorists and spends his free time posting antisemitic tweets from Oslo.

The Israel-hater’s Islamic State

What do Nazi Germany, Apartheid South Africa and the Islamic State have in common? For Israel-haters, it’s an easy question: all three are regarded as utterly evil and therefore, they provide a perfect reference point for expressing one’s loathing of the world’s only Jewish state. It’s of course just another variation of what Jew-haters have always done.

Israel=ISIS antisemitism

The brutal Islamic State (IS/ISIL/ISIS) is thus actually good news for those who hate Israel, because the daily news of atrocities make people everywhere recoil and this revulsion can be put to good use if it’s diverted to the one modern, democratic and pluralistic state in the Middle East that is the complete antithesis of the reactionary Islamofascist ambitions of the ISIL-jihadists.

The efforts of Israel-haters to equate the Jewish state with the savage terrorists of the Islamic State have resulted in the hashtag #JSIL that is meant to taint the “Jewish state in the Levant” with the horrors of ISIL, the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”.

It is telling that it was apparently the tireless anti-Israel activist Max Blumenthal who first created and promoted this hashtag. Exactly a year ago, Blumenthal was busy promoting his newly published book “Goliath” that compared Israel to Nazi Germany in an apparent effort to go beyond the demonization of “just” comparing Israel to Apartheid South Africa. What a difference a year makes! In October 2013, it seemed that Israel could best be demonized as the Nazi Germany of our time; but now, in October 2014, it seems so much more opportune to demonize Israel as the Jewish version of the Islamic State…

If we follow the bizarre “logic” of Blumenthal and his fans, this would presumably also mean that the Islamic State is something like the Nazi Germany of our time. Anyone who assumes that Blumenthal and his ilk would now devote themselves to opposing such evil in our own time is in for a disappointment, because the savagery of the fanatic jihadists who are currently slaughtering and raping their way through parts of Iraq and Syria matters as little as the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis and the Apartheid regime in the past. All that matters is that the Islamic State provides a new way to demonize the world’s only Jewish state as the epitome of evil.

While Blumenthal and his fans therefore see little reason to highlight the terror group’s atrocities or the plight of its victims, they are eagerly monitoring how well their #JSIL hashtag is doing on Twitter.

MB Israel=JSIL

It is of course particularly ironic that an outspoken Hamas-supporter like Max Blumenthal should try to equate the democratic and pluralistic Israel with the Islamic State. Blumenthal recently declared that if he was a Palestinian, he “would want to live in Gaza, where true resistance is” – and needless to say, Blumenthal’s greatly admired “true resistance” has a charter that defines an Islamist and jihadist ideology that shares much with the monstrous agenda of the Islamic State. A leading Hamas member confirmed recently that Hamas wants to “build an Islamic state in Palestine, all of Palestine.”

The current debate about the Islamic State and the question how many Muslims endorse similarly “fundamentalist” views of Islam’s teachings has also rekindled interest in a Pew survey from 2013 that included almost 40 000 Muslims in 39 countries. The results showed that Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank were often among the most extremist Muslim populations: 89% of Palestinians want Sharia law; 66% endorse the death penalty for Muslims who convert to another religion; 76% support punishing thieves by cutting off their hands, and a shocking 84% want adulterers stoned to death. As documented in other Pew surveys, Palestinians were also the most ardent fans of Osama bin Laden from 2003 until 2011.

So if Hamas had its way and could “build an Islamic state in Palestine, all of Palestine,” this state might not be all that different from the Islamic State that is so much in the news now. Max Blumenthal has made it repeatedly clear that he fervently hopes for a victory of the Palestinian “resistance” and he has called for the ethnic cleansing of all Israeli Jews who wouldn’t want to submit to Palestinian rule – but since he enjoyed his recent stay in Hamas-ruled Gaza so much, maybe he would want to be one of the very few Jews who would happily live in the Islamic state that his greatly admired “resistance” hopes to build on the ruins of the Jewish state that he hates so intensely.

MB Hamas fan

* * *

Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

 

Ha’aretz guidelines for progressive bigotry

The recent war between Hamas and Israel has once again unleashed a global wave of antisemitism that all too many people who should know better try to downplay as mere “anti-Zionism” or justified “criticism” of Israel’s policies and conduct. But while we may pay more attention to this phenomenon when it makes the news because of massive demonstrations, the pernicious notion that it is somehow “understandable” when people express antisemitic resentments while claiming to protest Israeli policies and that therefore, Israel is ultimately to blame for spikes in global antisemitism, has long been promoted by anti-Israel activists who have an obvious interest in whitewashing the antisemitism that is so prevalent in their circles.

As I have repeatedly argued, it should be obvious that if antisemitism can be “justified” by Israeli policies, any other bigotry can also be justified by employing a similar “reasoning.” It is therefore particularly disheartening to see that the Israeli left’s flagship paper Ha’aretz keeps publishing op-eds that promote endless variations of the argument that Israel causes “understandable” antisemitism. In late May, I wrote about this on my JPost blog (now cross-posted below) and I just noticed that Ha’aretz published recently yet another variation on this theme by Dmitry Shumsky. Tellingly, Shumsky’s preposterous piece starts out with the utterly misleading assertion that “Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, cited the socioeconomic and political failure of Europe’s Jews to integrate into the non-Jewish environment as the cause of modern anti-Semitism.” So you see, even Herzl felt that antisemitism was caused by the failure of the Jews “to integrate into the non-Jewish environment”… Good news for Muslim-haters in Europe and elsewhere: as long as you feel that Muslim minorities in your country fail to integrate into the non-Muslim environment, you’re most welcome to indulge into anti-Muslim bigotry, discrimination and persecution to your heart’s content. The same applies to anyone in the US who feels that blacks haven’t properly integrated into the non-black environment, or that Hispanics haven’t really integrated into the non-Hispanic environment – hate these people all you want, because after all, your hate is justified by their failure to integrate.

As far as Shumsky is concerned, today’s collective Jew Israel “is not discriminated against in the family of nations. On the contrary. It is given preferential treatment and benefits from privilege” and thus there is no reason to be surprised “that a country that enjoys privilege in the international community has awakened large, ongoing waves of hatred against itself.” Since Shumsky doesn’t tell us exactly what “preferential treatment” and “privilege” Israel enjoys in “the family of nations,” i.e. the UN, we are left to speculate which parts of the UN “network of anti-Israel institutions” Shumsky has in mind.

* * *

Ha’aretz playing into anti-Semites’ hands

Under the title “Netanyahu playing into anti-Semites’ hands,” Ha’aretz opinion writer Carolina Landsmann makes a convincing case that the paper she works for is determined to compete with the often antisemitic websites that cater to anti-Israel activists and outright Jew-haters. Landsmann begins her not particularly coherent column by mocking the Israeli prime minister’s efforts to have good relations with countries in Asia and Africa. Miss Landsmann’s comment on this diplomatically and economically sound approach: “The West repudiates us? Let’s recreate ourselves in the East (at least until they realize who we are).”

Right, Miss Landsmann: maybe Jews can pretend for a while to be different than they really are, but truly, who would want anything to do with them once it becomes clear who the Jews really are?

For Carolina Landsmann, Israel’s prime minister is really “Emperor Netanyahu, head of the Jewish empire with its capital the State of Israel,” and one of the most frightening developments under his reign is what she calls “the ‘Jewish identity’ bill.” Presumably, she refers to the much debated initiatives to define Israel as a Jewish state, though according to her there is something even more sinister afoot:

“We are witnessing a move to nationalize the Diaspora Jews. The bill aims to identify Jewish with Israeli and convert all Diaspora Jews into Israelis de facto. It’s only a matter of time until Jews, wherever they are, get the right to vote. […] Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman are on a dangerous course. They want to harness the struggle against anti-Semitism to the struggle against moves against Israel’s policy. But they don’t realize, or do realize and turn a blind eye, that the move will backfire. It will merely inflame the rage and anger further, because it portrays Israel and the Jews as a body without borders that wants to expand beyond its state. In this sense, Netanyahu is playing into the anti-Semites’ hands by implementing their wildest fantasy about the Jews.”

For good measure, Landsmann also suggests that perhaps “such a situation is not against Israel’s interests. Zionism in its current incarnation has created a distorted dependency on anti-Semitism.”

So let’s summarize all the antisemitic tropes Miss Landsmann manages to pack into her column:

1) Jews want to deceive others who will rightly recoil once they realize who the Jews really are

2) Jews can be seen as “a body without borders” bent on expansion and control everywhere

3) Jews cause antisemitism by behaving in ways that can only confirm antisemitic fantasies about the Jews

4) Jews ultimately benefit from antisemitism

Little wonder that the Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah was excitedly tweeting Landsmann’s column as a confirmation of his views:

AA on Haaretz Landsmann

 

This is a well-deserved compliment for Carolina Landsmann given Abunimah’s Orwellian definition of antisemitism which is based on his view that Zionism is “one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism in existence today” and that it is comparable to Nazism. Unsurprisingly, Abunimah’s stance has been warmly endorsed on David Duke’s website – where they are currently working hard on “The Illustrated Protocols of Zion.” Landsmann’s article would certainly qualify as useful source material for this project.

Duke Protocols

Unsurprisingly, neither Abunimah nor Ha’aretz were impressed by the findings of the recently published ADL survey on antisemitism. A few days after Abunimah mocked the survey as merely showing that “the most Israeli-occupied places on Earth have the most ‘anti-Semitic’ views,” veteran Ha’aretz reporter Amira Hass complained that the ADL had failed to ask Palestinians “How many times have you been beaten by a Jew? How many people do you know whose land was stolen by Jews – people whom the Jews removed from their homes?”

Israel-haters like Max Blumenthal – who is popular wherever there are Jew-haters – were clearly pleased:

MB bigotry OK

A Ha’aretz editorial on the same day argued:

“Netanyahu, the last of the demagogues, seized on one of the survey’s findings, which states that the place with the highest level of anti-Semitism is the Palestinian Authority areas, where 93 percent of adults allegedly hold anti-Semitic views. Of course that finding can, and should, be explained in the context of the Israeli occupation that’s going on for 47 years; an occupation in which hundreds of thousands of Jews settled on lands that are not part of the State of Israel; an occupation under which thousands of Palestinians were killed and hundreds of thousands jailed; an occupation that prevents the Palestinians from living comfortably and with dignity.”

In their eagerness to justify antisemitism, the Ha’aretz writers inevitably provided a general justification for bigotry: Have you or anyone you know ever been harmed in any way by a Muslim/Arab/immigrant? If so, it’s fine to hate Muslims/Arabs/immigrants – and if anyone calls you a racist, tell them that the political correctness of your bigotry has been certified by Israel’s famously progressive paper Ha’aretz.

 

Max Blumenthal’s Jew-hating fans

Max Blumenthal, the proud author of a book that equates Israel with Nazi Germany, keeps complaining that he is being unfairly accused of antisemitism. According to some tweets quoting Blumenthal’s statements at a recent event in Chicago, poor Max Blumenthal doesn’t know “what it means anymore,” though he is quite certain that this is just more evidence for a “symbiosis between Zionism and anti-Semitism.”

Blumenthal complains1Blumenthal Zionism AS To be sure, Blumenthal isn’t entirely wrong to see a “symbiosis,” but it’s between anti-Zionism and antisemitism – and his own work provides plenty of evidence for this symbiosis.

As I have shown in a detailed documentation [pdf], Blumenthal’s work on Israel has been promoted on all the major sites popular among conspiracy theorists, Jew-haters, racists and neo-Nazis: from Stormfront to David Duke’s site, Rense, and Veterans Today. Given Blumenthal’s own conduct, there is also every reason to assume that he fully agrees with the praise by a Stormfront member who declared that by exposing Israeli evils, “Max Blumenthal has done a great service for all of humanity here, and we WNS [i.e. white nationalists], and the rest of the world, ought to be grateful to him.”

Since the publication of my documentation in February, it has emerged that in addition to the sites I mentioned, Blumenthal’s writings were also posted on the neo-Nazi forum used by the arrested suspect in last month’s fatal Overland Park, Kansas, shootings. The shooter targeted Jewish institutions and reportedly shouted “Heil Hitler” when he was taken into custody.

While the suspect’s interest in one of Blumenthal’s articles certainly doesn’t justify sinking to the level of Blumenthal himself – who tried to present the 2011 massacre in Norway as inspired by writers cited in the perpetrator’s deranged “manifesto” – William Jacobson rightly argues in a related blog post that the shocking attack in Kansas provides yet another illustration of “the intersection between neo-Nazi and anti-Zionist conspiracy theories.” Moreover, given Blumenthal’s popularity on so many reactionary and antisemitic sites, it is utterly disingenuous when he now complains about being “smeared” with such racist associations only on the basis of the Kansas shooter’s interest in his work. With his relentless efforts to demonize Israel, Blumenthal has certainly done his part to show over and over again that supposedly left-wing “pro-Palestinian” activists and far-right reactionaries have no problem finding their lowest common denominator in their shared enthusiasm for antisemitic material.

Indeed, it seems that wherever there are Jew-haters, there will be fans of Max Blumenthal’s work. Among the most recently exposed antisemitic hate sites is a blog that promises its readers “The Ugly Truth” about “Zionism, Jewish extremism, and a few other nasty items making our world uninhabitable today.” It’s unfortunately not at all surprising that the site is popular among some so-called “pro-Palestinian” activists – and it is not at all surprising that the person(s) maintaining the blog have found quite a few of Blumenthal’s articles relevant for their purposes (I stopped looking after I found more than half a dozen).

Blumenthal UglyTruth1

As the screencap shows, the articles authored by Blumenthal and cross-posted on this site  include his already mentioned attempt to implicate writers he opposes in the Norway massacre, because the perpetrator cited them in his own rambling writings. Another post on the same subject quotes Blumenthal; this piece is entitled “Anders Behring Breivik: a Judeo-Masonic Terrorist” and is authored by somebody who claims to be the founder of a “Center for the Study of Anti-Goyimism” and a “revisionist” historian whose “research” includes material like the one pictured below.

Blumenthal &revisionism

It’s again not surprising that Max Blumenthal has promoted a variation on the theme that terrorism is somehow good for the Jews – or at least for those Jews who are Zionists: after all, cherry-picking a few quotes or scenes that suit his purpose of demonizing the Jewish state is his specialty. Ultimately, Blumenthal’s message is similar to the one outlined in Article 22 of the Hamas Charter, which includes the charge: “They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state.” In short, there is no evil that the Jews/Zionists don’t manage to take advantage of.

As Mark Gardner writes in his excellent post on the odious site where Blumenthal’s writings are appreciated as part of the “ugly truth:”

“The sordid, ugly truth […] is that the Holocaust occurred […] because of the singling out of Jews for unique hatreds, built upon hateful ideas, language and imagery. These old themes resonate throughout The Ugly Truth, used for both Zionism/Zionists and Judaism/Jews. […] They are depicted as controllers of nations, driving war and death; as the master manipulators, perpetrating their false plans; as needing to be cut down; as killing the innocent; perverting decent morals and values; ritualistic monsters, to be derided, hated and feared in equal measure.”

And the sordid, ugly truth about Max Blumenthal’s work on Israel and on American Jews is that it has earned him a well-deserved following wherever there are Jew-haters: from the fringes of the far-left all the way to the fringes of the far-right.

* * *

First published at my JPost blog and The Algemeiner.

Free speech and antisemitism: Max Blumenthal’s Goliath [updated]

When the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) released its 2013 list of the “Top 10 Anti-Semitic/Anti-Israel Slurs” at the end of December, Max Blumenthal reacted with scorn and ridicule when he found himself included in the category “The Power of the Poison Pen.” As if to prove SWC’s assessment, he posted a drawing by the cartoonist Carlos Latuff, who, for good reason, had himself been included in the SWC list for 2012.

Blumenthal Hier cartoon

According to the SWC, it was his recently published book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel and his efforts “to equate Israelis with Nazis” that earned Blumenthal a place on the list.

But Blumenthal’s book also had its defenders, most notably perhaps James Fallows, a veteran board member of the prestigious New America Foundation (NAF) who is widely regarded as “a highly acclaimed author, journalist, editor, and media commentator.”

Writing at the Atlantic, Fallows described Blumenthal’s Goliath as a book that “should be discussed and read” and dismissed criticism of Goliath, asserting that it amounted to “flat mischaracterizations” when critics denounced the book as “bigoted propaganda” that is “so anti-Israel it is effectively anti-Semitic.” Fallows also defended the controversial decision to provide Blumenthal with a platform to promote his book at the NAF in early December, arguing that it “was the right call on general free-speech principles” to ignore critics of the event.

Blumenthal certainly appreciated Fallows’ endorsement and promptly posted an excerpt on his Amazon page for Goliath.

But there was another endorsement for Goliath that Blumenthal appreciated greatly – and it arguably makes a fool of Fallows, because it documents that Blumenthal indeed wanted his readers to understand his book as “so anti-Israel” that critics who denounced Goliath as antisemitic can only feel fully vindicated.

Blumenthal made it abundantly clear what he wanted readers to take away from his book when he recommended a “brief but thorough review of Goliath” to his more than 27,000 Twitter followers, explicitly thanking the blogger who had posted the review for the “praise.”

Blumenthal Goliath review1

Here are the relevant quotes from this “brief but thorough review:”

“You’d think Jews, […] of all people, would react viscerally […] against the notion of their state would [sic] come to create their own Gestapo (Shin Bet), build concentration camp (Ketzlot, for African refugees), emphasize racial purity while demonizing miscegenation (rationalized as the ‘demographic’ problem, but more significantly given religious and racial expression in groups like Lehava), using the police state, not just against enemies, but to crush dissent and ghettos (the walls are sprouting up all over Palestinian towns in the West Bank and, of course, there’s always Gaza). Even Kristallnacht was recreated by what amounts to an officially sanctioned anti-immigrant pogrom in Tel Aviv, in May of 2012.

Yes, you’d be mistaken. Reading Goliath, the similarities between Nazi Germany and today’s Israeli regime are impossible to avoid. […]

As I read Goliath, one thought […] kept cropping up throughout: Apart from the specific group, it’s [sic] flag, and all the other trappings of a national mythos and its veneration, are the aims and methods of the ‘pure’ Zionist state so very different than those of the ‘pure’ Aryan one?”

It is often difficult to show antisemitic intent, but Blumenthal makes it easy by endorsing this review – as well as others that offer similar “praise” – thus leaving no doubt how he wanted his book to be understood. Inevitably, this means that Blumenthal and his admirers actually agree with his critics that Goliath presents Israel as an utterly evil state that can only be compared to Nazi Germany. Even though there is considerable controversy about the question when hostility to Israel should be defined as antisemitism, Blumenthal’s single-minded effort to portray Israel in an extremely biased way in order to promote comparisons to Nazi Germany that would justify political campaigns aimed at eliminating the Jewish state qualifies even under the most stringent criteria.

In a paper entitled “Another Milestone for the Mainstreaming of Antisemitism: The New America Foundation and Max Blumenthal’s Goliath” that has just been published by the Louis D. Brandeis Center, I have also provided extensive documentation that Blumenthal’s book, or the material he published earlier and then recycled for the book, has been praised on all the major sites popular among conspiracy theorists, Jew-haters, racists and neo-Nazis: from Stormfront to David Duke’s site, Rense, and Veterans Today. In addition, Goliath was of course celebrated by outlets such as Mondoweiss and the Electronic Intifada, which cater to activists devoted to promoting boycott campaigns against Israel and maligning the Jewish state as illegitimate and uniquely evil.

Even if the hate-filled material promoted by these sites is considered “protected” free speech, few would argue that it is a violation of the principles of free speech that mainstream outlets usually shun this material and no respectable think tank would consider featuring it.

So what to make of the fact that a prestigious think tank like the NAF and a prominent commentator like James Fallows insist that it was entirely appropriate to promote a book written with the intent to depict Israel as the Nazi Germany of our time? What to make of the accusation that opposing the promotion of a book like Blumenthal’s Goliath violates “general free-speech principles?”

As Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin rightly argued:

“By claiming that this book requires our attention, he [Fallows] is asserting that Israel’s existence and the right of its six million Jews to self-determination and self-defense is debatable. The answer to Fallows from those of us who were offended by NAF’s decision to embrace Blumenthal is to say that these notions are no more debatable than the positions of the Klan, apartheid advocates, or those of al-Qaeda. Blumenthal’s book belongs in the category of those things that are offensive, not because he is critical of an imperfect democracy but because his purpose is to advance the cause of its dissolution.”

Fallows noted at the end of his defense of the NAF event for Goliath that if Blumenthal is wrong, “his case should be addressed in specific rather than ruled out of respectable consideration.” That means in effect that Blumenthal’s critics are supposed to make a convincing case that Israel is not like Nazi Germany and that the world’s only Jewish state should perhaps be allowed to continue existing, even if some of its citizens, officials and politicians have views that are no better than those held by reactionaries in Europe or the US.

The bigotry inherent in comparing Israel to Nazi Germany has been often demonstrated. Among the most memorable examples is perhaps the 1961 debate at Montreal’s McGill University between the famous British historian Arnold Toynbee and Israel’s ambassador to Canada, Yaacov Herzog. Toynbee had been willing to believe in the 1930s that Hitler had only limited ambitions, but he was alarmed by Zionism, which he considered “demonic.” During a lecture at McGill in January 1961, Toynbee questioned the right of the Jewish people to a state and claimed that Israel’s conduct in the War of Independence was morally equivalent to the Nazis. In the subsequent debate, Herzog forced Toynbee to concede that if Israel’s actions during a war of self-defense justified the comparison to Nazi atrocities, every nation’s conduct in war – and certainly the conduct of the Arabs, who had threatened the fledgling Jewish state with a “war of extermination and momentous massacre” – would have to be denounced in the same terms.

It would be easy to repeat the same exercise with Blumenthal’s Goliath, but since the bigoted comparison between Israel and Nazi Germany has remained fairly popular for more than five decades, it is arguably time to acknowledge that continuing to debate this calumny as if it had any merit might only serve to legitimize and perpetuate the underlying bigotry. As Tobin argued, there are ideas and ideologies that don’t deserve to be debated, and few would suggest that the ideas of Max Blumenthal’s admirers on David Duke’s site, Stormfront, Rense, and Veterans Today need to be seriously debated in order to be refuted. Yet, this is exactly what Blumenthal wants us to do, as this tweet he recently sent to me illustrates:

Blumenthal Stormfront Zionism

In the post Blumenthal links to, a Stormfront member advances the “controversial and extremely radical proposition” that White Nationalists in Europe and the US should support Zionism and even a “mandatory expulsion of Jews” to Israel in order to reduce the “excessive influence” of Jews “over both the media and economics.” As far as Blumenthal is concerned, this “proves” that anti-Israel activists like him are right to claim that Zionism is not only racism, but also a pernicious form of antisemitism that supports a “Juden raus” policy by establishing and maintaining Israel as a Jewish state.

James Fallows may think all this is worthy of debate, but as Twitter user Sol Robinson demonstrated with his reply to Blumenthal, there isn’t really all that much to debate when someone “cannot understand the difference between Jews wanting to get away from racists, and racists wanting jews gone.”

Blumenthal Stormfront reply

Assuming that Blumenthal really “cannot understand” this difference is arguably the most charitable take, particularly in view of the fact that Blumenthal himself  advocated a “Juden raus” policy for those Israeli Jews who would refuse to “become indigenized” in the Arab state that Blumenthal hopes will replace the Jewish state in the not too distant future. To put it bluntly: there is precious little difference between what Stormfront members would like to see happen in Europe and the US and what Max Blumenthal would like to see happen in the Middle East.

Marginalizing such views as despicable bigotry that doesn’t deserve to be dignified by serious debate is not a violation of free speech. Max Blumenthal may fervently believe that the Middle East’s most democratic and pluralistic state is the Nazi Germany of our time and should be treated accordingly, but anyone who agrees that this is a proposition worthwhile debating would have to explain why other hate-filled bigotries that are popular among Blumenthal’s fans at Stormfront and similar sites are generally not regarded as worthy of debate.

* * *

First published on my JPost blog and at Harry’s Place.

Update: In the meantime, I’ve written another related post published on the blog of the Louis. D. Brandeis Center, where I address the spurious claim by Judith Butler and Rashid Khalidi that BDS advocates like them suffer from “accelerating efforts to curtail speech, to exercise censorship, and to carry out retaliatory action against individuals on the basis of their political views or associations, notably support for BDS.”

As I argue there, one important point to keep in mind is:

“When prominent tenured academics like Butler and Khalidi worry about the ‘intimidation’ of BDS advocates and proceed to call on their colleagues to oppose this alleged intimidation, it is arguably time to point out that students who oppose the BDS goal of doing away with the Jewish state and view the comparison of Israel and Nazi Germany as anti-Semitic have plenty of reason to feel much more intimidated. Highlighting a research paper on ‘Antisemitism in the Contemporary American University,’ the eminent anti-Semitism expert Robert Wistrich noted three years ago that ‘it is a deeply troubling fact that anti-Semitism (often in the form of anti-Zionism and hatred of Israel) has become a significant part of intellectual and academic discourse.’”

Another crucially important point is that, as Britain’s former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has argued, “an assault on Jewish life always needs justification by the highest source of authority in the culture at any given age.” A widely praised new study based on some 14,000 hostile messages sent to the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Israeli embassy in Berlin by Monika Schwarz-Friesel provides plenty of evidence that contemporary antisemitism is often expressed as “anti-Israelism” and that it is promoted primarily by “the social mainstream – professors, Ph.Ds, lawyers, priests, university and high-school students.”