Last week, I wrote about the New America Foundation’s sponsorship of Max Blumenthal’s vicious screed against Israel. Now that the event is over, James Fallows has taken to the web pages of The Atlantic to praise the reprehensible bigot and ignoramus Blumenthal, whose book he describes as “ a particular kind of exposé-minded, documentary-broadside journalism whose place we generally recognize and respect.” Fallows also adds that “items like this one in Commentary had said that New America should not provide a platform for what it claimed was destroy-Israel hate speech. Some members of the board got personal email pitches to the same effect.”
The column in Commentary by Jonathan S. Tobin appeared after mine on these pages, and Tobin credits my column for alerting him to Blumenthal’s appearance. As for the personal e-mails, I addressed one of them to a board member whom I am in touch with, as did other individuals whom I told about the scheduled event. One person I know wrote to Anne-Marie Slaughter, who did not respond to the e-mail he sent.
Now, Fallows charges us with censorship, and with trying to stand against free speech. Tobin accurately calls Blumenthal’s book one with a “complete lack of intellectual merit or integrity.” So when Fallows says everyone respects and recognizes Blumenthal’s courageous journalism, he is speaking only for himself.
Sadly, his blog indicates that the campaign for the delegitimizing of Israel is succeeding among liberal sectors of our intellectual class, who are now welcoming as good journalism the worst kind of gutter tripe. Consider The Nation magazine’s Eric Alterman, who has written a blog post that could have been published by “The Friends of Hamas Book Club,” if such a group existed. Evidently Mr. Alterman, himself a man of the far Left, does not realize how far in the cesspool his liberal and leftist colleagues have fallen.
As for censorship and calls that the NAF board should have considered not sponsoring a talk about his book, this is hardly an assault on free speech. There are scores of serious critical books about Israel that are worth having a dialogue with authors about. This is not one of them. That a book exists — and there are hundreds they could have chosen from — does not mean that such a book should receive the imprimatur of the New America Foundation
By Fallows’ own admission, what Blumenthal does is find anti-democratic extremists in Israel. He then paints a picture showing his readers that their existence reveals the true Israel — a bigoted, anti-democratic state content to oppress all whom stand in the way of keeping it a Jewish state. With his one-sided attack, Blumenthal hopes to sway the American public against the United States keeping Israel as an ally.
Blumenthal has a right to his views. He found a publisher, and they are giving him quite a tour and send-off. To urge a distinguished liberal think tank to reconsider being one of the venues for his views is hardly a clarion call to suppress speech. It is simply an attempt to suggest to the board and leaders of NAF that they question whether they really believe liberalism in America means supporting a speaker whose book has been praised by none other than David Duke.