There is no American hater of Israel and all it stands for more extreme than the young, would-be journalist Max Blumenthal. The son of former Clinton administration staffer Sidney Blumenthal, he is author of a book so steaming of hatred for Israel that it makes the work of Noam Chomsky seem moderate in comparison. It has received blurbs and endorsements from Stephen Walt (of Walt and Mearsheimer), Rashid Khalidi, Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian and Chris Hedges, among others. In other words, all the usual suspects are pushing it.
The Nation, the leading magazine of the far Left, featured a lengthy excerpt for its cover story in the November 4th issue. Trying to appease their few remaining supporters of Israel, it also ran a short one and a quarter page rebuttal by their regular columnist, Eric Alterman. He sees himself as a critical supporter of the Jewish state, regularly writing in opposition to both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as most Israeli policies, with which he strenuously disagrees.
Yet Alterman, having read Blumenthal’s book, dubbed it “The ‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook,” noting that some chapters “are titled to imply an equivalence between Israel and Nazi Germany,” such as chapters titled “The Concentration Camp,” “The Night of the Broken Glass,” and one would-be humorous and juvenile chapter titled “How to Kill Goyim and Influence People.” Alterman’s bottom line is this:
Alas, his case against the Jewish state is so carelessly constructed, it will likely alienate anyone but the most fanatical anti-Zionist extremists, and hence do nothing to advance the interests of the occupation’s victims.
Alterman clearly agrees with Blumenthal that Israel is to blame for “the occupation,” but even he cannot help but note that “Blumenthal evinces no interest in the larger context of Israel’s actions;” and that he completely shows no interest in all the serious threats Israel faces from its many foes, which Alterman is compelled to acknowledge are very real and menacing to the Jewish State. He notes that Blumenthal complains about Israeli textbooks which he says “indoctrinate Jewish children into the culture of militarism,” while never saying one word about the Palestinian and Arab textbooks which do not even show Israel as a nation on their maps, and which regularly attack Jews as sub-human. As Alterman puts it, “Did it not occur to Blumenthal…that Palestinians have textbooks at all?”
One could ignore Blumenthal’s book, as they should. It is disconcerting to find, however, that on December 4th, The New America Foundation is having a book talk by Blumenthal, introduced by the noted counter-terrorism expert and best-selling author, Peter Bergen. The announcement for the talk calls Blumenthal’s book “an unflinching, unprecedented work of journalism which depicts a startling portrait of Israeli society under siege from increasingly authoritarian politics.”
For those who don’t know, NAF is the leading Democratic liberal and pro-Obama think tank in Washington, D.C. Created as a liberal alternative to the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, former administration member Anne-Marie Slaughter, who served as Director of Policy Planning at the State Department from 2009 to 2011, now heads it. Its Board includes Fareed Zakaria, Francis Fukuyama, Atul A. Gawande, James Fallows and many other notables.
I doubt whether the NAF staff consulted many of them about the decision to sponsor a talk, or if they even are aware it is taking place. But one cannot take lightly the decision of the organization to have this event. There are many worthwhile books out there with liberal authors who would have been happy to make a presentation at their venue. To bring Blumenthal, whose work has so far had an appeal only to the far Left and to the radical fringe is to legitimize this book and make its publication accessible to a wider audience that is outside Nation magazine circles, and that otherwise, would not have known about it.
NAF is funded by some of the most prominent corporations, institutions and well known individuals, as NAF’s “Our Funding” page reveals. The list includes the U.S. Department of State, which evidently gives it funds from the taxpayer’s dollars, to the tune of over 1 million. One will also find quite a few Jewish groups and individuals on the list.
All of this raises an interesting question. At a time when the Obama administration is putting into effect a very, very bad deal with Iran, and incurring the just opposition of our ally Israel, and John Kerry is busy trying to again force Israel into making concessions to promote another round of meaningless Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, how related is NAF’s decision to sponsor a book talk by Blumenthal to the administration’s new agenda? Does someone who plans events at NAF believe that this is the time to portray Israel in the harshest light possible, in the hopes that it will turn public opinion against Israel, and thereby gain approval for foreign policy measures opposed to Israel’s need for security?
For those who still believe that the advocates of American liberalism are honest and have decent principles to uphold, the decision to publicize this vile book by an out-and-out hater of Israel is incomprehensible. I hope that those who still call themselves liberal or progressive and who have a shred of decency, especially those who are affiliated with or regularly attend the New America Foundation events and programs, call them and protest their decision to have Blumenthal for a book forum. Anyone with a drop of common sense knows it is anything like the words they use in their announcement to describe it. One might indeed describe it more accurately as a travesty of good journalism meant to incite hatred and disdain for the very existence of Israel.
Is this really the kind of book The New America Foundation and its supporters want to be identified with?