Probing Max Blumenthal’s Goliath

Note: throughout this review I refer to concepts like “racial oppression”, “Jewish supremacy” and so on. None of this is intended to imply that the concept “race” is meaningful, biologically or otherwise. Racial supremacy does not depend on the reality of race, but merely on the belief in it. Whether race is or is not meaningful is a completely separate question from whether Israel is an instance of racial supremacy. I cover this separate question in another article, “Invention, Imagination, Race and Nation.”

Max Blumenthal just had a book published, entitled Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. He is a left-wing Jewish American journalist. The book assumes that the left/right political dichotomy is meaningful, not only in America, but in the Jewish state. He writes as if Israel can be reformed:

“The Nakba law was only one among a constantly expanding battery of racist and anti-democratic proposals pouring from the legislative offices onto the floor of the Knesset” (page 62).

“Israel’s very existence is threatened by fascism” (Uri Avnery, quoted sympathetically by Max Blumenthal on page 65, complaining about Jewish extremism undermining what is good about Israel).

“…the maintenance of a Jewish demographic majority is Israel’s national priority…” (page 42).

A national priority is something which can be changed. [it changed in south africa] But a Jewish majority is what Israel is.

My point (at least, in this review) is not to criticize reformism as such – normal Western countries can be, and are continually being, reformed. They are critical of their own histories, particularly in regard to racial oppression. Israel stands alone in its self-righteousness.The almost exclusive concern of organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, radical anti-racist groups, and various academic departments, with “white racism”, tends to obscure this. Another article of mine, “The One-Sided View of Hate in Hate Studies,” goes into this question in more detail.

On several occasions in the book, the author criticizes the “settlements” in the “occupied territories” and the “right wing” Israeli politicians who support them. Taken seriously, this argument supports Israel’s fallback position — withdrawal to its 1967 frontiers, before it occupied the “occupied territories”. On page 273, he explains that liberal Zionists mislead us, by claiming that the “source of Israel’s crisis” is in 1967, with the occupation of the West Bank and other areas, rather than with the ethnic cleansing of 1948. But the Nakba was not the “source of Israel’s crisis” – it was the source of Israel!

The book is critical of what it calls Israeli “racism”, for example, on pages 18, 23, 39, 77, 135, 176, 247, 334 and 398. But what would it mean for a state, whose very definition of citizenship is membership of a particular “race”, regardless of geographical origin, leading to the expulsion of non-members of that “race”, who happen to be located within that state’s boundaries, to be “less racist”?

One area where Blumenthal argues there could be improvement, is the mistreatment of Israeli citizens of Palestinian Arab descent.

“…it is hard to find any Arab citizen who travels abroad by air and who has not experienced a discriminatory security check at least once” (page 39).

But, unlike equality for minorities in Western countries like the USA, equality for Israel’s Arab minority would make no difference to the basic fact that Israel, the Jewish state, is an implementation of imagined racial supremacy. They’re a minority because most of them were driven out.

In line with his effort to make Israel look like a Western society, Blumenthal lauds “feisty bands of Israeli radical leftists who had dedicated themselves to direct action against their country’s militaristic policies” (page 67) as if they are analogous to the anti-war movement in the USA. But the war in Vietnam really was a US policy, and that is why it could be changed. Ditto, US aggression in the Middle East. The imposition of Jewish supremacy is not an Israeli policy. It is what Israel is.

On page 116, he contrasts the left-wing shministim with right-wing “Israeli ultra-nationalists”. But what is an “ultra” nationalist in Israel? You either support Jewish power, or you don’t. Uri Avnery confuses the issue further by claiming that the “violence” of the “rightists” is the result of “brainwashing”.

“About fifty Jewish radical leftists brought up the rear of the protest [against a settlement], banging drums and chanting in Hebrew ‘Fascism will not pass!’” (page 50).

One of Blumenthal’s radicals left Israel and landed in London. No, it’s not Gilad Atzmon, whom the author explicitly repudiates. In contrast to Atzmon’s critique of Zionism and Jewish anti-Zionism, Blumenthal’s favorite joined “a radical counterculture” that was “transforming the Western world”, “successfully fusing anti-Zionism into the New Left’s broader struggle against colonialism” (page 265).

He’s right. Subordinating anti-Zionism to anti-racism, etc., has been very successful – in the sense of making it completely ineffective. As a result, the struggle against Zionism has been a complete failure – segregation and apartheid were ended, but Jewish supremacy in Palestine continues.

Blumenthal is, at best, ambiguous; he criticizes Israeli policies and politicians, and sometimes comes close to criticizing the entire project, but never once gets to the point – since the Western countries (the USA, Britain, France, etc.) have repudiated racial supremacy, and enforced compliance with that repudiation, and Israel is, by its very definition, based on racial supremacy, the Western countries should, if they follow their own standards, boycott Israel until it grants citizenship only to those born in Palestine, and those whose recent ancestors were born in Palestine, in other words, ceases to exist.

An example of this ambiguity is the first paragraph on page 74. It starts by saying there is not much to choose between the right and left wing Israeli parties, because they only differ in how to maintain the what he delicately calls the “Jewish demographic majority”. But the same paragraph ends:

In a society where maintaining the tyranny of the ethnic majority formed the underpinnings of national policy, there could be little wonder that an unapologetically supremacist party like Yisrael Beiteinu was able to consolidate a mainstream foothold in such a rapid fashion.

What does claiming the tyranny of the ethnic majority forms the underpinnings of national policy mean? Isn’t it just a roundabout way of saying that racial supremacy is what that nation is? In which case, why does it matter how unapologetic its parties are about their supremacy?

Blumenthal complicates and confuses the issue, but it’s quite simple. There are three major differences between South African apartheid and Israel. One is that, unlike apartheid, Israel exists. The second, is that Israel is Jewish. Finally, South Africa merely had to change its laws, but if Israel abandoned racial supremacy, it would no longer be the Jewish state. The complete contrast between the treatments of these two implementations of racial supremacy means that Jews have special rights in the Western world, and that white gentiles do not. It follows that opposing racial supremacy today therefore means, first and foremost, dismantling Jewish privilege, and that the “anti-racist” industry’s continuing emphasis on the critique of “white privilege” is, to put it charitably, a diversion.

How is Jewish privilege maintained? Blumenthal does briefly mention an example of president Obama having to grovel to the power of the American Jewish lobby on page 275, but only in passing, and with no attempt to help us understand how the organizations of a small ethnic minority can make the most powerful country in the world follow its interests.

  • For a dissenting point of view see “Is the West Comparatively Racism Free?
  • Jay Knott wrote The Mass Psychology of Anti-Fascism. Read other articles by Jay.