Ron Radosh

The Liberal Supporters of Max Blumenthal and the Campaign to Delegitimize Israel

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.

Let us then ask, since David Duke is one of Mr. Blumenthal’s fans and is happy that what he has been saying for years is now being said by Max Blumenthal, whether, if the same book had come out by Duke, the NAF board would have asked him to speak, and whether Peter Bergen would have been the willing chair of the event. Would James Fallows take to the pages of The Atlantic to praise Duke’s courage and integrity, and condemn anyone who suggested that the NAF not use its facilities and its reputation as an endorsement of David Duke’s book? I think we all know the answer. And since there is little difference between what Duke says about Israel and what Max Blumenthal says, it is perfectly reasonable to try to let the board of NAF know why so many of us are disheartened at their decision to hold this talk and as a consequence to add to the growing animus against Israel by our intellectual liberal class.

Already, sensible liberals show that they understand how dangerous it is for them to be taking this path. Alan Dershowitz said that “Max Blumenthal is well outside the acceptable range of rhetoric about Israel. His constant comparisons between Nazi Germany and the Jewish state establish him as an extremist bigot whose greatest appeal is to anti-Semites and others who apply a double standard to the Jewish state.” Dershowitz has it right. No “decent person,” he continued to say, “should ever support the views expressed by Max Blumenthal.”

Dershowitz’s comments came after it was revealed in Buzzfeed by reporter Rosie Gray that Max Blumenthal’s father, journalist Sidney Blumenthal, is going to bat for his son’s book in a big way. The problem is that Sidney Blumenthal may still be on the Clinton’s payroll, and is listed in The Atlantic as an advisor to the Clinton Foundation. Dershowitz is obviously concerned that should Hillary Clinton decide to run, her association with Sidney Blumenthal could hurt her campaign, unless she dissociates herself with his defense of Max’s book.

I have a simple response to James Fallows and Peter Bergen. Shame on both of you for trying to make Max Blumenthal into a respectful journalist. By doing so, you harm your own integrity and reputation. As for myself, I would rather be called a censor and an opponent of free speech by James Fallows than be seen as lending credibility to a cheap extremist like Max Blumenthal.