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Attacks on Max Blumenthal’s “Goliath” Escalate, Veer into Wingnut Land – Updated

7:44 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Goliath Crosses Netanyahu's Red Line

The initial attack on Max Blumenthal’s new book, released October 1st, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (currently No. 2 on Amazon’s history of Israel best seller list), was led by Eric Alterman, writing for the November 4th edition of The Nation.  Alterman condemned the book, using the now widely reported terms for it as “The ‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook,” and “Hamas Book-of-the-Month” selection.  Within days of Alterman posting his first critical essay at The Nation, he posted another.  Then, in response to detailed critiques of Alterman’s analyses of the book by Blumenthal and others, Alterman jumped in a third time.

Alterman initially refused to appear in any forum with Blumenthal, to discuss or debate the book’s content and subject matter, but has now indicated he might show up “for $10,000 plus expenses, paid in advance.”

Goliath has received a number of positive reviews.  Perhaps the most comprehensive was that by Chris Hedges, posted at Truthdig:

 There are very few intellectuals or writers who have the tenacity and courage to confront this reality [the self-adulation and latent racism that lie at the core of modern Zionism].

This is what makes Max Blumenthal’s ’Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel’ one of the most fearless and honest books ever written about Israel. Blumenthal burrows deep into the dark heart of Israel. The American journalist binds himself to the beleaguered and shunned activists, radical journalists and human rights campaigners who are the conscience of the nation, as well as Palestinian families in the West Bank struggling in vain to hold back Israel’s ceaseless theft of their land. Blumenthal, in chapter after chapter, methodically rips down the facade. And what he exposes, in the end, is a corpse.

Even as Alterman led the attacks, he was quickly outdone in the dismissive, yet somewhat shallow tone he introduced.   Wall Street Journal Assistant Book Editor, Sohrab Ahmari, announced on Twitter:

@Eric_Alterman rips to shreds @maxblumenthal‘s “Goliath,” of which two review copies currently sit in my trashcan.

What may have turned out to be the most disturbing element introduced by Alterman, was his bringing Max Blumenthal’s father, Sidney Blumenthal, into the argument.  What seemed to some as an innocuous comment in Alterman’s first article, has turned into a sordid campaign by even more sordid people, to attack both the elder Blumenthal, and Hillary and Bill Clinton, and their foundation.  The hits have devolved from Buzzfeed.com to Breitbart.com to white supremacist Robert Stacy McCain’s blog, as the threats have escalated.

On November 6th, Buzzfeed.com carried an article by Rosie Gray, centering on Max’s father:

In a follow-up blog post after the initial review, Alterman wrote that he had become the target of emails sent around by Blumenthal to friends and associates as a result of his review of the book.

‘I attribute to these friendly relations the fact that until now, Sid Blumenthal had not seen fit to make me the object of any of the unflattering e-mails he so often sends around to journalists and others — myself included — about individuals of whom he disapproves,’ Alterman wrote. ‘Privately, I worried that by telling the truth about his son’s book, I would soon hear of nasty e-mails about me sent by Sid to our mutual friends and professional acquaintances. Call it “bizarre,” if you will, but sadly, that’s just what happened.’

BuzzFeed obtained one of the Blumenthal emails from a source; it features a copied-and-pasted article from the anti-Zionist blog Mondoweiss, sent with the subject line ‘Fact-checking Eric Alterman on Goliath.‘ The article in question, by writer Phan Nguyen, calls on The Nation to retract Alterman’s review, describes Alterman as an “unreliable narrator,” and states that he has “undermined his self-proclaimed status as a conscientious critic of the Israeli occupation.”

Gray pursued the links between Sidney Blumenthal and the Clintons:

Several phone calls and emails to the Clinton Foundation seeking clarification on Blumenthal’s role in the organization went unanswered. A BuzzFeed reporter who went to the Clinton Foundation’s offices in New York on Tuesday seeking the organization’s most recent IRS 990 form was turned away.

“We don’t know what you’re referring to,” said Clinton Foundation spokesperson Nick Merill when asked about the emails and whether Hillary Clinton is aware of Blumenthal’s defense of Goliath. He copied Clinton spokespeople Philippe Reines and Matt McKenna on his response to BuzzFeed, as well as Sidney Blumenthal.

The pressure on Billary and the foundation was stepped up on November 8th, with that estimable source, Breitbart.com, giving space, in an article by Joel B. Pollack, to Alan Dershowitz:

On Friday, Dershowitz told Breitbart News that Sid Blumenthal’s vociferous advocacy for his son’s book could damage Hillary Clinton’s widely anticipated run for her party’s nomination for president in 2016.

The article goes on to quote Dershowitz:

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Did SNL Blow It By Not Running the Hagel Hearing Skit?

5:05 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

During Saturday Evening’s Saturday Night Live dress rehearsal, the cast tried this sketch, which parodies the obsequiousness shown by U.S. Senators toward Israel last week, during the confirmation hearing for former Senator Chuck Hagel, to head the Department of Defense:

The sketch didn’t run, but the show soon put it up on the web at HULU, where it was picked up by Huffington Post and Mondoweiss by early Sunday morning.

In comments and articles on the sketch, many are saying that the sketch wasn’t run because it wasn’t funny.  I didn’t watch SNL this week, but my wife did, and she says it would have been one of the funniest sketches this week, which isn’t saying much these days.  I think the audience may have at times been uncomfortable watching the sketch unfold before them.

Surprisingly, the funniest headline on it, even beating out Wonkette, was the Times of Israel, which put this in the headline:

Andrew Sullivan featuring the clip this morning in a piece titled  A Cultural Breakthrough, wrote:

After being banished from earnest Washington discussion for decades by various press gate-keepers, the absurdly overblown power of the Greater Israel lobby is now seeping into the popular culture. SNL captures the lunacy.

This does appear to be the case.  As Philip Weiss noted today:

Even friends of mine who don’t know the issue are fulminating about the Hagel hearing. And remember that those gatekeepers and lobby pooh-poohers included the Atlantic Magazine, David Remnick, Leon Wieseltier, Leslie Gelb, Walter Russell Mead, Jeffrey Goldberg, among other eminent journalists.

Weiss and others have noted within the past week, that the failure of Alan Dershowitz and his ilk to stop the Brooklyn College Global BDS talk last Thursday;  the Academy Award-nominated films Five Broken Cameras and The Gatekeepers getting major interviews, articles and reviews in media that too often in the past ignored important Palestinian and pro-Palestinian art; and attention being drawn to how much more interested Senators on the Armed Forces Committee are in Israel than the welfare of our soldiers and veterans, together mean more than a cultural breakthrough is at play here.

2013 is shaping up to be the year during which people will no longer have to carefully and guardedly talk about Israeli apartheid, but will finally be listened to, when they openly draw attention to Israeli Apartheid.

Watching the Breitbart-inspired campaign against Hagel’s “Hamas PAC” unfold, the SNL scriptwriters might consider keeping their pencils handy.

Occupy Oakland Endorses Global BDS by 135 to 1 Vote on the Eve of UPenn BDS Conference

7:28 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

I. Friday evening, a conference opened at the University of Pennsylvania, devoted to speakers, clinics, workshops and teach-ins on the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, initiated on July 9th, 2005, by 171 Palestinian non-governmental organizations, in protest to continuing Israeli incursions upon Palestinian rights, particularly in the occupied West Bank. As one might expect, Zionist organizations have been either trying to stop the conference or demonize it since word got out it would happen.  Even though people were strongly discouraged from attending, the event is unrolling without incident so far, with “a waiting list of 250.”

In the run-up week to the conference, notable luminaries and usual suspects showed up, to take one side or another.  Here’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s endorsement:

Here’s a set of notes on part of Alan Dershowitz’ speech Thursday to the Philadelphia Jewish Federation:

–Professors at the University of Pennsylvania who support BDS are complicit with evil.

–Protecting Israel is one of the great human rights issues of the 21st century.

–(During the audience Q and A): Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein hate America. They hate liberalism. They hate Western values. Make it clear that people who love liberty love Israel.

–Attacking Iran would not be preemptive, it would be reactive. Iran is already engaging in war with Israel. It has armed Hezbollah, Hamas….Israel has a right to attack.

–2 state solution would require a military presence in Jordan Valley in case there’s an incursion from Iraq. Iraq is becoming Iran. They take their orders from Iran.

Best-selling writer, videographer and journalist, Max Blumenthal, a U Penn alumni, wrote in the Daily Pennsyvanian on the same day, countering Dershowitz, and questioning the prominent neocon attorney’s credibility:

To counter the Penn BDS event, local pro-Israel groups including Hillel and the Philadelphia Jewish Federation have summoned the famed trial lawyer and Harvard University professor of law Alan Dershowitz to campus to keynote a Feb. 2 event: “Why Israel Matters to You, Me, and Penn: A conversation with Alan Dershowitz.” Penn’s Political Science department – which has pointedly refused to co-sponsor the BDS conference — will co-host Dershowitz’s lecture, where the professor has vowed to explain why he considers BDS to be one of the most “immoral, illegal and despicable concepts around academia today.”

The support Dershowitz received from the university and from pro-Israel groups that claim to abhor violence is ironic in light of Dershowitz’s record. Indeed, Dershowitz is an open advocate of torture who has urged Israel to destroy entire Palestinian villages, attack civilians and bulldoze their homes. Despite Dershowitz’s professed concern for political dissidents living under autocratic regimes, he has called for personal retaliation against Israeli academics who speak out in favor of BDS. Meanwhile, Dershowitz routinely smears high-profile critics of Israel’s 45-year-long occupation as evil anti-Semites — and worse.

In March 2002, during the height of the Second Intifada, Dershowitz published an article in The Jerusalem Post proposing a “new response to Palestinian terrorism.” According to Dershowitz, even the ironfisted tactics of then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were not harsh enough. He urged Israel to adopt an explicit policy of collective punishment — a practice banned by international law. Dershowitz advised Israeli forces to arrange for “the destruction of a small village which has been used as a base for terrorist operations. The residents would be given 24 hours to leave, and then troops will come in and bulldoze all of the buildings.”

No less disturbing is Dershowitz’s recommendation that the United States adopt an official policy allowing federal law enforcement officials to torture criminal suspects. As long as an FBI agent received a “torture warrant,” according to Dershowitz’s rules, he was free to do as he pleased to the body of anyone in his custody. Dershowitz even offered torturers proposals for inflicting maximum pain. Among the methods he advised was “the sterilized needle being shoved under the fingernails,” an idea the journalist and former US intelligence analyst James Bamford described as “chillingly Nazi-like.”

For a list of some of the more important articles leading up to this watershed event, Mondoweiss has made one as part of their article on the first full day, including tweets coming out.

II. On Wednesday, at a meeting of Occupy Oakland, here is what happened:

Last Wednesday at the amphitheatre in front of Oakland’s city hall, occupiers endorsed Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel in a 135-to-one vote. Oakland’s occupiers have recently experienced chemical dispersants, and a mass arrest, which took place over the weekend. Among those arrested was Noura Khouri, the Palestinian organizer who initiated the BDS proposal.

The general assembly (GA) was electric; Wednesday was the first time those arrested were present for an occupy meeting. Despite the several distractions, including barking dogs and a New York Times reporter snapping photographs, occupiers listened attentively as Khouri and two others discussed the “intimate relationship,” between local law enforcement and the Israeli military. “We are seeing the militarization of our local police forces,” Khouri said, continuing “they are using the same tactics, weapons and laws.”

Khouri, along with co-presenters Basima Sisemore and Deppen Webber, also touched on the use of chemical dispersants by the Oakland Police Department (OPD) and the Israeli military. “The same tear gas that is being used on the streets here against you all is being used in Palestine,” said Sisemore. And, in fact, a portion of the occupiers at GA had experienced tear gas during the weekend’s “move-in day” actions, a failed attempt to occupy a vacant building. Throughout the march the OPD fired tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, flash-booms, and smoke grenades, on protesters, including children and elderly. One producer of these “non-lethal” weapons is Defense Technology, which is also used by the Israeli military.

The presenters then read the proposal text, and a letter of solidarity with the occupy movement from the BDS Nation Committee (BNC):

Our aspirations overlap; our struggles converge. Our oppressors, whether greedy corporations or military occupations, are united in profiting from wars, pillage, environmental destruction, repression and impoverishment. We must unite in our common quest for freedoms, equal rihts, social and economic justice, environmental sanity, and world peace.

However, occupiers did not need much convincing on why BDS should be endorsed.

This was an important event.  Here’s a link to the video of the endorsement and the discussion that led up to it (about 25 minutes of open presentations), from Alison Deger’s excellent article on this.

From the beginning of the OWS movement, some have sought to characterize elements of its organization or participation as being “anti-Semitic.” As the movement has grown remarkably over the winter and gears up for Spring, some will attack this vote as the same. Look for articles coupling the burning of an American Flag at Oakland City Hall and this resolution within the same paragraph.

But as law enforcement forces at dozens of Occupy encampments and actions have shown over the course of this winter, and as the initiators of the Oakland proposal mentioned in their explanation of their move, our police are increasingly showing influence of what Max Blumenthal has described as the “Iraelification” of American law enforcement:

The Israelification of America’s security apparatus, recently unleashed in full force against the Occupy Wall Street Movement, has taken place at every level of law enforcement, and in areas that have yet to be exposed. The phenomenon has been documented in bits and pieces, through occasional news reports that typically highlight Israel’s national security prowess without examining the problematic nature of working with a country accused of grave human rights abuses. But it has never been the subject of a national discussion. And collaboration between American and Israeli cops is just the tip of the iceberg.

Having been schooled in Israeli tactics perfected during a 63 year experience of controlling, dispossessing, and occupying an indigenous population, local police forces have adapted them to monitor Muslim and immigrant neighborhoods in US cities. Meanwhile, former Israeli military officers have been hired to spearhead security operations at American airports and suburban shopping malls, leading to a wave of disturbing incidents of racial profiling, intimidation, and FBI interrogations of innocent, unsuspecting people. The New York Police Department’s disclosure that it deployed “counter-terror” measures against Occupy protesters encamped in downtown Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park is just the latest example of the so-called War on Terror creeping into every day life. Revelations like these have raised serious questions about the extent to which Israeli-inspired tactics are being used to suppress the Occupy movement.

III. I hope to follow up on ramifications of the Occupy Oakland BDS resolution, and on the results of UPenn’s BDS Conference, as they are making postable videos of most speakers there.  Meanwhile, here is the address Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of Global BDS, had taped for the conference: