In 2009, soon after finishing his bestselling look at authoritarian underpinnings of the evangelical core of the USA’s militant new right, Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party, Max Blumenthal went to work on his next book. He had actually conceived of the idea that became the framework of Goliath before he began writing Republican Gomorrah:
I conceived this book project before I even started my first book, Republican Gomorrah, and when I was beginning to refine the tactics that were working really well in exposing the radical right and the Republican Party. I was simply insinuating myself into the institutions of the GOP base, and into the gatherings this party would hold, getting to know people, trying to understand their mentality, and then following up with them. And making constant calls instead of relying on other people to do the reporting for me. From there, I’d conduct my own research and analysis and immerse myself in the history of the Christian right.
So what I set out to do when I made my first extended trip to Israel in May 2009, right after it elected its most right-wing government in history, is to insinuate myself into the major institutions of Israeli society.
The young author spent a lot of time in Israel and the occupied West Bank, assiduously chronicling, and interviewing, posting dozens of articles in magazines, online journals and blogs. Although Blumenthal continued to cover aspects of the far right in America, his efforts toward gathering the vast amount of information packed into the new book must have been a formidable task.
Four years later, what we have in Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel is simply the most detailed look yet taken at the increasingly racist, authoritarian and Xenophobic nation that Israel has become. The book’s narrative is relentless in its pursuit of detail. Interviews with contemporary political, cultural, religious and military figures are interspersed with well laid out chapters looking into the historical context of today’s events.
Divided into ten parts, and subdivided into 73 chapters, the book can be approached cover to cover, or tackled by looking at the subjects contained in the subdivisions. The ten divisions cluster chapter episodes related to a broader subject. For instance, Part V, What Lies Beneath the Forest, concentrates on the legacy of internal displacement of non-Jewish Palestinians within Israel itself. It contains five chapters, each of which looks at an aspect or ramification of this policy over the years:
The Days of ’48 Have Come Again looks at house demolitions of Palestinians inside of Israel, particularly the Lod ghetto, and in the occupied territories. Blumenthal interviews several people who had their houses destroyed, often without warning.
The Blueprint goes back into the historical basis for internal displacement of non-Jewish residents of Israel, particularly the historically semi-nomadic Bedouins, 170,000 of whom are Israeli citizens. Looking closely at the writings of David Ben Gurion, back into the mid-1930s, Blumenthal demonstrates that the Zionist ideal has always and continues to regard the placement of their Bedouin citizens into concentration camps as a laudable goal.
The Summer Camp of Destruction looks at how a group of Jewish Israeli kids took a day off from summer camp in 2010, to help in the total destruction of the Bedouin village of Al Arabiq in the Negev.
Preparing the Land for Jesus ties into the preceding chapter, which as an aside, brings up the strange relationship between Zionism and millennialist Christian Zionism. Blumenthal details workings of GOD-TV, “a Jerusalem-based cable television network that claimed to reach over half a billion people around the world with programming blending New World Order conspiracism with Greater-Israeli zealotry.” In essence, Blumenthal discovered that the founders of GOD-TV were partnering with the Jewish National Fund to plant over a million trees on the site or the demolished Bedouin village of Al Arabiq, and in the nearby rural areas. The author describes the development, since the 1980s, of ties between Israeli Jewish agencies, NGOs and non-profits, to American fundamentalist Christian Zionist groups.
There Are No Facts looks at the absurd Canada Forest project, culminating in the late 2010 Carmel area forest fires that killed 40 Israeli police cadets, among others. One of the best chapters of the book, it abundantly shows how nutty some of Israel’s land reclamation projects have been, how destined to failure they always were.
The five chapters of What Lies Beneath the Forest are a microcosm of the way the entire book is constructed — clusters of facts, history, interviews and encounters, showing the fatal shortcomings of Zionism’s paradigm.
Blumenthal, describing this aspect of the book’s thrust:
[W]e’re getting to the essential idea in my book, which is that when you have a system like this, you naturally–you go through a historical process–it could take 100 years, it could take less time–in which the state moves to a terminal phase of overt racism and even proto-fascism.
Writing about the book today, Alex Cane wrote:
Drop the New York Times’ international section and pick up Max Blumenthal’s new book. If you want to peel back the layers of deception pro-Israel groups and the media have created, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel is the perfect place to start. It’s the bluntest book you’ll read about the state of Israeli society, as it looks deep into the soul of an ethnocracy that dominates the lives of millions of Palestinians.
In part two of this book salon preview, I’ll look at the book’s reception so far.
I found Goliath to be one of the richest, most detailed books of this sort I have ever read. Although I have never been to Israel, I’ve got a layman’s understanding of Israeli and Palestinian history, politics, culture and their ramifications on other countries, such as our own. But I learned a hell of a lot more from this important volume. It is surely one of the most important critical books about Israel yet written, and will ultimately, no matter what its immediate impact, be regarded as such fairly widely.
Here is Paul Jay, interviewing Max Blumenthal two days ago, for the Real News Network:
image: Max Blumenthal in Anchorage, September, 2009 – by Steve Aufrecht. Used with photographer’s permission