Max Blumenthal on the Israeli apartheid state

Joshua Frank interviews Max Blumenthal about his new book Goliath and how it has exposed the many PEPs (progressive except for Palestine) in the US who will talk freely against injustice except when it comes to the apartheid policies of Israel and the support it gets from the US government and Congress as a result of the powerful Israel lobby. On this issue, the PEPs become strangely silent or attack those who try to bring greater awareness to what life in Israel is really like.

In his very first response, Blumenthal lays out why his book is different and why it has triggered a fierce response.

Goliath is the first on-the ground, journalistic portrait of the real Israel that has been whitewashed and covered up by the mainstream American media. The book reveals a society overrun with extremism, with open racism emitting from the highest levels of government, inspiring anti-Arab and anti-African riots from the West Bank to Tel Aviv while the siege of Gaza deepens. Many of the pivotal events I detailed at length through background research and first-hand reporting were buried or ignored by the New York Times and have scarcely been examined even in progressive American media.

The atmosphere I captured in the pages of Goliath is the one that veteran Israelis from Uri Avnery to former Maariv editor Amnon Danker to former Haaretz editor-in-chief David Landau have described in no uncertain terms as fascistic. Through the experience of almost a year on the ground in Israel-Palestine, I was able to capture the feeling of the atmosphere they described and to bring it to life on the pages of my book. Obviously, pro-Israel zealots were not terribly happy about this.

There was also the fact that I did not write Goliath with concern for Israel’s anguished “soul,” or with any abiding belief in the absolute necessity of a Jewish state; that I did not advance the fantastical notion that the Israel that exists behind the 1949 Armistice Lines is a vibrant democracy. And I refused to pay lip service to the idea that the Palestinians were partially at fault for their own dispossession — that “both sides” were responsible for the crisis. This is what you are expected to do if you wish to cater to Jewish-American opinion from a liberal perspective. I refused to take this approach not only because I reject the Zionist narrative but because it is deeply dishonest and actually requires intellectual contortions about the present and the willfull distortion of the past. That my book managed to gain traction despite my rejection of the established liberal Zionist narrative framework was another reason so many viewed it as threatening.

I presented Israel without sentimentalism or nostalgia, painting a portrait of a state that controls all people between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea under a regime of ethnic separation with no national borders. Some of those who have grown accustomed to the hackeneyed liberal Zionist narrative found my factual portrayal of Israeli society deeply discomfiting. And neocon types were absolutely infuriated that I was able to generate publicity and attention. But of all those who have attempted to destroy my book, none have been able to challenge it on its merits or disprove any substantial facts in it. None.

He says that the systematic nature of the oppression in Israel will inevitably lead it to harsher and harsher anti-democratic measures in order to preserve itself, because that is the intrinsic dynamic of repressive states.

Israel is the product of a settler-colonial project that requires perpetual campaign of violent demographic engineering against the wishes of the indigenous Palestinian population.

The looming terminal stage of Zionism will be marked by crusades to crush the free speech rights of citizens inside Israel and across the West — to restrict their very ability to organize for the rights of Palestinians. Former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren reflected the increasingly anti-democratic undercurrent of pro-Israel advocacy when he took to Politico to call on Congress to pass laws illegalizing Palestine solidarity activism and punishing Americans for protesting Israeli officials in public forums.

What shocked me was the degree to which Israel was able to fuse Western-style neo-liberalism so seamlessly with settler-colonial apartheid.

He describes the intense indoctrination that young people in Israel receive so that they become willing to join the security forces and mete out harsh treatment to the Palestinians.

These Holocaust tours, called “The March of the Living,” are explicitly designed by the Israeli Ministry of Education to produce more nationalistic attitudes among Jewish youth and a more favorable impression of the army. In his devastating documentary about the exploitation of anti-Semitism, Defamation, the Israeli filmmaker Yoav Shamir accompanied a group of Israeli students to Auschwitz. He showed how after a week of unrelenting indoctrination, the students were reduced to tears of rage, with some declaring that they wanted to go out and find some Nazis to kill. Of course, the Nazis are all dead, or maybe a few of them had their brains frozen in cryogenics labs somewhere in the jungles of Paraguay. So all that is left to do is lash out at those explicitly designated by Netanyahu and other societal leaders as the Nazis’ heirs: the Palestinians.

Those who are not familiar with Blumenthal’s earlier work may not realize that he is actually a funny guy. He has written a lot about American politics and I have linked in the past to his videos where he goes to right wing political or religious events and asks questions of the attendees in a matter-of-fact way that elicits very revealing answers that show how extreme these people are. His videos were so effective at bringing unflattering attention to these groups that organizers would try to either keep him out or surround him with a cocoon of hostile people. But this never seemed to faze him and he would endure the taunting with a smile and continue to pose questions.

He still retains his sense of humor, as when he describes all the attacks that the pro-Israel zealots have thrown at him, ending with this.

Finally, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, just named me the 9th biggest anti-Semite of 2013. Like so many other Jews, I strive to be at the top of my field, so I was really disappointed to find myself so low on this Islamophobic outfit’s blacklist. Next year, I promise to try harder and aim for number one.

But he says that all this effort to shut him up has not worked and his book is now in a second printing.

Finally, the response to my book across the country has been nothing short of incredible. With absolutely no mainstream coverage, sizable, extremely energized crowds in cities across America have appeared almost spontaneously to hear me discuss my work. The audiences are diverse, with people of all ages, including hardcore activists and new faces who are generally curious about the issue, but they are all united in their disgust at the repression both inside Israel-Palestine and in the US. Something is happening out there and I truly believe a tipping point is approaching. At the very least, we can conclude that the gatekeepers are rapidly weakening.

He ends with suggestions for what people can do to improve the situation.

As long as the status quo in Israel-Palestine persists, all of the trends detailed in Goliath will intensify. And since 1967, the US has been the primary guarantor of the status quo. So when I speak to audiences around the country, I encourage them to give up all hope on their elected representatives and societal elites doing anything decent or courageous to challenge Israeli apartheid. After all, these are the same people who have enabled apartheid to retrench itself across this country, either by actively driving inequality or through cynical negotiations with the corporate forces behind it. If Americans want to see genuine change in the Holy Land, they can participate in grassroots, Palestinian-led campaigns like the BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction) movement. This movement is growing rapidly and sending shockwaves through the pro-Israel establishment. And that’s a very good thing considering that Palestinians may have few effective tactics left to resist a project aimed at their absolute dispossession.

The whole interview is well worth reading.


  1. doublereed says

    Oh come on, The March of the Living as methods of indoctrination? That’s bullshit. You can’t go to Holocaust Memorials without wanting to kill Nazis or taking solace in solidarity. That’s a blatantly ridiculous assertion. The March of the Living isn’t even for specifically Israelis or Jews.

  2. Curc says

    I believe Blumenthal is talking about the utilization of the March to create specifically Jewish solidarity, rather than human solidarity, in the aims of creating a strong ingroup mentality that can be directed against the governments desired outgroup (ie. the Palestinians). The Holocaust was an extremely tragic, evil, and recent chapter in our specie’s history and it should be used to teach humanity never to allow such to take place again (as is the lesson to most people) rather than teach Jews that they must be ever ready and vigilant against threats to themselves.

  3. wtfwhateverd00d says

    “He describes the intense indoctrination that young people in Israel receive so that they become willing to join the security forces and mete out harsh treatment to the Palestinians.” and then describes travel to a WWII death camp.

    Check out this site to see countless video clips of very young children in Gaza and Egypt being taught to hate, not just Israel, but all Jews. child indoctrination

    Elsewhere Turkey seems to be building a 2 -- 4 meter apartheid wall on its border with Syria.

    This seems similar to the apartheid wall the US built on its border with Mexico as well as the Israeli apartheid wall that the Israelis claim was built to stop Palestinian Freedom Heroes from blowing up Israeli discoteques and buses.

    We must bring down all of these apartheid walls.

    Thank God for Max Blumenthal.

  4. wtfwhateverd00d says

    I do enjoy your monomania on Israel Professor Singham.

    You’re sort of like that crazy racist uncle.

  5. wtfwhateverd00d says

    Hmm, wish there was an edit button.

    I am not saying you are racist Professor, just referring back to when you decide other people have a “monomania” and I apologize for any hint that I believe you are racist.

    I do agree “the dogs may bark but the caravan moves on. It is the motion of the caravan that we should keep our eyes on, and learn to tune out the barking.” and that’s pretty much what I see when I find you decrying the emotions brought on by travel to death camps as some sort of anti-palestinian hate mongering.

  6. Curc says

    No, you accused him of being racist. The uncle in his story was not racist, so adding that in inveighs against Dr. Singham. Furthermore, Dr. Singham discusses a wide range of topics so monomania is hardly an apropos description (although it certainly is accurate for a certain “d00d”). You obviously intended insult, so own up to it.

    On to your main point: neither Max nor Mano are decrying emotions brought on by the March, they are decrying the use of those emotions as a means of propaganda and manipulation by the Israeli government and Army in the aims of creating soldiers who won’t balk at the repression of Palestinians and, eventually, their fellow Israeli’s.

  7. doublereed says

    So I just came from Israel. It was a really nice experience.

    I saw some of the fun propaganda they had (at independence hall), and I’m pretty sure it was made by Americans, cause it’s like the same stuff that we do with our stuff. But that’s probably not the crazy nationalism we’re talking about here.

    I’m skeptical of this, mostly because he acts like Israel is so homogeneous, when it’s far from it. I got the impression that Israel is quite bitterly divided between the Religious and the Secular. Where the Religious are very much racist, intolerant, warlike, and right wing, and the Secular are fighting for peace and human rights. And in fact I’m shocked that Blumenthal isn’t using these terms, because this is very much the way I saw many Israelis discuss it. It’s not like America, where you don’t phrase things in a ‘religious vs secular’ way. He’s somehow phrasing things as Pro-Israel or Pro-Palestine, which I find weird.

    I did, however, get a strong sense of cynicism about peace among the secular. Like it just wasn’t going to happen. But that seemed to be more like fatigue and political nonsense than malice.

  8. Mano Singham says


    You do not seem to understand what is meant by monomania and you should go back and read that original post to see the context in which I used it. It is not meant to signify focus on a topic.

    Monomania becomes visible when a discussion about anything, however irrelevant, is turned into an occasion to bring up the speaker’s favored topic, using the most tenuous of connections or even making up some excuse, like the gunshot sound.

    By your strange understanding of the word, I would be a monomaniac about all the things I write about repeatedly, including British sketch comedies.

    Also, as Curc points out, the old man in the original story was not racist, so where did that idea of yours come from?

  9. says

    Either slc created third name to post under, or there’s another “Israel at any cost” poster.

    Given his propensity for accounting of half the posts on such threads, it’s a likely explanation.

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    Mano @8:

    By your strange understanding of the word, I would be a monomaniac about all the things I write about repeatedly, including British sketch comedies.

    Ahah! You’re a multimaniac! 🙂

  11. Jared A says

    Rob @10

    And If Mano start posting more links to children’s cartoons, it would make him an Animaniac.

    d00d @3

    Please look up the “tu quoque fallacy”. If you want people to take your arguments seriously, you need to stop making it.

    Also, I understand you are being satirical, but I don’t understand your point about ‘apartheid walls’. The term isn’t used anywhere in the post. Apartheid systems can use walls, but it’s not really the defining characteristic. In case you are confused, m-w defines apartheid as:

    “a former social system in South Africa in which black people and people from other racial groups did not have the same political and economic rights as white people and were forced to live separately from white people”. “a former policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination against non-European groups in the Republic of South Africa ”

    So it’s true that segregation is part of it, but it’s important that it is a means to the end--the withholding of rights to certain groups. So if you want to make the point that no set of Israeli policies towards people of Arab decent together constitute an apartheid-like system, how is any of that stuff about walls even relevant?

    Are you saying that a wall along a boundary between two well-established sovereign nations is not a very good example of apartheid policies? In that case I agree with you, but it is utterly irrelevant to anything in the post. Instead you should specifically show how Israeli laws and policies give full rights and responsibilities to all people, which is the only way to invalidate the premise.

    If you are saying that there is apartheid in Israel, but it is excusable because everyone else does it, well that’s the tu quoque fallacy all over again. That is, it is irrelevant.

  12. mnb0 says

    @11 Jared A: “Please look up the “tu quoque fallacy”.”
    He undoubtedly knows it. The “Israel at any cost” attitude justifies it. Another typical example is Jerry Coyne, though he is a bit more subtle. “I don’t approve of everything that happens in Israel (for instance the building programs of the colonists) but …..”
    Follows a very, very long list of things that moslims in general an particularly Palestinians are doing wrong. Typically enough Coyne never writes articles about what’s wrong in Israel. It’s always “Israel is doing so much better than all its surrounding countries and it is antisemitism not to acknowledge that.”
    Last time I pointed this out on his site in admitttedly the most undiplomatic words (though not more undiplomatic than when I criticized MS on his article on the Cyprian bank crisis, on which I turned to be right btw); that resulted in a ban.
    I write it again. “Israel at any cost” in many respects is comparable with Ken Ham’s brand of creationism: pick the facts that suit you and ignore the rest.

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