Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel
by Max Blumenthal, Nation Books, New York, 2013, 496 pp
Reviewed by Ted Schmidt
It has remained for our time to separate the
Jewish people from...today the nation is on the
rise. The religion however is on a steep downward
fall...By opposing Hebrew humanism to a
nationalism which is nothing but empty selfassertion,
I wish to indicate that, at this juncture
the Zionist movement must decide either for
national egoism or national humanism. – Martin
“Israel has been poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. It has been morally bankrupted by the sanctification of victimhood, which it uses to justify an occupation that rivals the brutality and racism of apartheid South Africa. Its democracy—which was always exclusively for Jews—has been hijacked by extremists who are pushing the country toward fascism...Its most courageous human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalists— Israeli and Palestinian—are subject to constant state surveillance, arbitrary arrests and government-run smear campaigns. Its educational system, starting in primary school, has become an indoctrination machine for the military.” So writes Chris Hedges in his review of Max Blumenthal’s Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.
Hedges should know. He is a Pulitzer Prize winner who was stationed in Israel and saw the ugly face of this pseudo-democracy.
The book is unremitting in its evisceration of modern Israel, with its callousness and daily humiliation of a people under occupation.
Blumenthal, in many ways, is an insider— the son of Sidney Blumenthal, a former administration presidential aide to Bill Clinton. He knows how to navigate the terrain. He lived in Israel for three years and had ongoing contact with Palestinians, something which local Canadian Jews never have.
The great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber often made this point—even before the founding of Israel.
“Israel,” he wrote, “is a people and a religious community in one...He who severs this bond severs the life of Israel.” (Hebrew Humanism, 1942). This has happened. Israel is a totally secular country in its orientation and makeup. It knows only power politics. In this case, organized thuggery against a veritable defenseless population. It, in Blumenthal’s words, has become Goliath.
And much of the world now knows this. Pollsters reveal that most countries have a negative view of Israel. The massive propaganda of the Jewish state is not fooling those outside Israel. The internet, solidarity trips of church groups and other internationals, and the principled work of a small corps of Jews of conscience inside Israel have ripped the cover off the brutal reality.
Too many Canadian Jews have resorted to what former speaker of the Knesset Avraham Burg calls “genetic Judaism,”—the knee-jerk support of Israel simply because it is Jewish. This is akin to Catholics’ slavish response to everything coming out of the Vatican. There are higher values than blind loyalty and obedience.
The book is divided into seventy-three brief chapters— polished nuggets which paint a frightening picture of a country which has become racist and anti-democratic.
A few examples:
In 2010, former president Clinton stated that Russian émigrés and settlers were a major obstacle to peace. Since 16 per cent of Israelis now speak Russian, anybody running for PM must kowtow to the thuggish, racist policies of Avigdor Lieberman.
“Of 120 seats in the Knesset, 75 were filled by right-wing ideologues. Oren Yiftaches, a professor at Ben Gurion University’s comments on the intensification of apartheid -like measures (p.17)
“Clueless American reporters (George Will among them) bought PM Netanyahu’s yarn about a signet ring about 2800 years old discovered near the Western Wall. It had the name of a Jewish official: Netanyahu whose real name is Milikovsky from Lithuania! (p.29)
Independence Day (April 25) is celebrated every year in Israel. The State goes postal when a brave Israeli group called Zochrot (Memory) dares to counter this by commemorating the same date, seen from the Palestinian perspective as the Nakba (Catastrophe) when 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed. (p.53)
When the rusty old vessel Mavi Marmara transporting a shipment of hearing aids to Gaza was brutally attacked and 9 were massacred the “Scaremonger in Chief” Netanyahu convinced the ranting mob that this was an existential threat to their lives. (p.120)
Chapter 33, PREPARING THE LAND FOR JESUS, describes the role of the biblically illiterate Christian right leaders (Robertson, Falwell, Hagee) and their “promoting of Zionism among their multimillion-member TV flocks.” Long linked with the American Israel Public Affairs Group (AIPAG), the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) were led by a Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee who had described the Holocaust as divine providence and publicly predicted that the anti-Christ would be homosexual and “half- Jewish, as was Adolph Hitler.” (p.180)
Part of Blumenthal’s strength as a chronicler of contemporary Israel is his interpolation of suppressed history of the vicious ethnic cleansing, the brutal slaughters of innocents (Deir Yassin, Khan Yunnis, Rafah), the eradication of Palestinian village names, the horrible racism of David Ben Gurion.
Maybe the most ironic chapter is The Exodus Party. According to current Israeli government estimates, a full 13 per cent of the population live outside Israel—an increase of seven hundred thousand since 1980! A 2007 poll of Israeli youth 14-18 found that more than half prefer to live abroad. The website Tapua explained, “the question is not why we left but why it took us so long to do so.” And this shocker: as many as 50,000 Israelis have applied for German citizenship, and some 100,000 already held a second German passport. (p.409) As Der Spiegel (a prominent German weekly news magazine) put it, “The city from which the Final Solution was once managed now lures Israelis...”
This is a stunning book, a fearless tour de force which dares to enter the heart of darkness and expose the venal propaganda that suggests that Israel is a democracy worth emulating. Goliath is simply a must-read for democrats who understand that justice for the Palestinians is the key to peace in the Middle East.
Martin Buber’s eerie foreboding has come true: Hebrew humanism has been trumped by Israeli nationalism.