You are browsing the archive for Stephen Walt.

Book Salon Preview: Goliath, Life & Loathing in Greater Israel by Max Blumenthal – Part Two: The Book’s Reception – Updated

3:28 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Join the FDL Book Salon with Max Blumenthal, hosted by Edward Teller this Saturday at 2:00pm PST.

Max Blumenthal’s new book, Goliath:  Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, was released October 1.  It is his second book. Republican Gomorrah:  Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party was his first.

Goliath cover

Some supporters of Israeli politics have lobbied harsh, questionably accurate criticism at Goliath.

Released in September, 2009, it became a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller. During the author’s book tour for Republican Gomorrah, Blumenthal was interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air, on CNN’s Morning Joe, and numerous other prime author venues. Reviews of the book, almost universally favorable, were printed in such mainstream outlets as Harper’s, the Los Angeles Times, truth-out and others. Considering how difficult it is to get our mainstream media to look deeply into inconvenient aspects of fundamentalist Christianity, and how that plays out in GOP ideology, Republican Gomorrah was surprisingly well covered by them. Firedoglake hosted Max for a book salon session.

That coverage of his second book is far less universal is no surprise to those of us who have observed the rollout of books critical of aspects of Israeli society, or which look closely at the unhealthy role Zionists play in internal American politics. For instance, in 2007, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s book, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, was widely reviled in articles and reviews. However, in the six years since publication, the book’s impact has been seen as seminal, in forcing more and better informed open discussion of that lobby’s influence. Five years after publication, author Walt wrote:

[D]iscussions of the lobby and its impact have moved from the fringes of U.S. discourse to the mainstream. Today, one can read or watch people from Jon Stewart to Andrew Sullivan to Glenn Greenwald to David Remnick to Nicholas Kristof acknowledging the lobby’s role in shaping U.S. Middle East policy. Editorials in mainstream papers like the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times call for the U.S. government to adopt a tougher approach toward the Israeli government. More and more news stories on U.S. Middle East policy refer to the ‘Israel lobby’ as a serious political force, and not always in flattering terms. Even hard-line neoconservatives like David Frum now acknowledge the power of groups in the lobby, as in Frum’s recent complaint that Sarah Palin failed to appreciate the political benefits she could gain by choosing to visit Israel under the auspices of the Republican Jewish Coalition, instead of going on her own. Of course, our book and article are surely not the only reason for this shift in discourse, but we probably played a role.

A fairly modest claim.

Blumenthal has not been invited back on to Fresh Air or Morning Joe. Or on to any mainstream venues normally available to authors of his high caliber upon launch of a new book. Nor will he be, even if the book becomes a best seller, which is fairly likely.

The push-back against Max Blumenthal for Goliath is reminiscent to the reception of The Israel Lobby. One might say, though, that the militant Zionist hits against the new book are informed somewhat by what Zionist commentators have learned from Walt and Mearsheimer’s book.

The most savage attack on Blumenthal’s book was published in the November edition of  The Nation, which is also publisher of Goliath. Progressive-ish writer and commentator, Eric Alterman, in an article called “The ‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook,” castigated it with one-liners like “this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club.” Alterman’s article was immediately criticized for its inaccuracies and invective, perhaps most thoroughly by journalist Phan Nguyen, in an article initially published at Mondoweiss. I wrote about Alterman’s hit job and Nguyen’s comprehensive responses here, back on October 19th.

Alterman won’t let things go.  Though he has failed to respond to Nguyen’s throughly researched critique, he has responded to the author’s rebuttal to the initial Alterman articles panning the book and its creator, concluding:

Literally nothing this fellow writes can be taken at face value. He shames all of us with his presence in our magazine.

One of the fascinating details of the lengthening Alterman-Blumenthal exchange at The Nation is that all of Blumenthal’s articles have allowed reader comments, but none of Alterman’s provide that feature.

Alterman also noted:

Blumenthal’s letter is no less dishonest and disingenuous than his dreadful book (a book, I hasten to add that has received virtually no attention in the print media, save in my column). I will answer each and every one of his charges in the order he makes them and then I hope and pray I will finally be done with this mishegas forever.

I really doubt that, Eric.

Between now and Saturday’s book salon with Max Blumenthal, there may be other reviews of the book, or negative articles such as those accumulating by or because of Alterman. I’ll update this post if that occurs.

UPDATE ONE:

1).  Eric Alterman is claiming that Max Blumenthal’s Dad, Sydney Blumenthal, is attacking Alterman in emails.  Yet Alterman, when asked to disclose the content of the alleged attacks, has refused to cooperate with the reporter to  whom he is complaining:

Sidney Blumenthal, a close adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton, has reportedlyundertaken an email campaign to defend a controversial book written by his son that compares Israel to Nazi Germany.

The book, written by Max Blumenthal, accuses Israel of being a fascist country and has chapter titles explicitly comparing the Jewish State to Nazi Germany, such as “The Concentration Camp” and “The Night of Broken Glass.”

According to the Nation columnist Eric Alterman, who harshly reviewed the book, long-time Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal has sent “nasty emails” to “our mutual friends and professional acquaintances” attacking him for “telling the truth about his son’s book.”

Alterman’s refusal to disclose specifics:

Alterman declined to give additional details on the contents of the alleged emails, telling the Free Beacon that “private emails deserve to stay private.” He said he only mentioned them in his column because “it was necessary to answer one of Max Blumenthal’s myriad charges.”

2).  Alterman is interviewed by The Forward‘s J.J. Goldberg:

There’s an unpleasant little debate sloshing around the Web lately that tells you all you need to know — and perhaps more than you want to hear — about the current state of relations between Israel and the left.

The debate revolves around an unpleasant book published October 1 by Nation Books, titled “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.” The author is Max Blumenthal, gonzo journalist, video provocateur and son of onetime Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal. The book is the product, the author says, of four years’ work, including more than a year living in Israel and the Palestinian territories to study the facts on the ground.

As his title makes clear, he didn’t think much of the place. He’s written a collection of 73 short vignettes, weaving together reportage, history and interviews to show the suffering and unbroken spirit of the Palestinians and the callous cruelty of the Israelis. Lest anyone miss the point, many of his chapters have titles like “The Concentration Camp,” “The Night of Broken Glass,” “This Belongs to the White Man” and “How to Kill Goyim and Influence People.”

The hottest debate, though, isn’t over the book itself. It’s about a magazine column devoted to the book. It appeared October 16 in the left-wing weekly The Nation, whose publishing arm put the book out. It’s by Eric Alterman, the magazine’s sharp-tongued media columnist. Its title: “The ‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook.”

A prolific author, academic and liberal pundit, Alterman is regarded as a chronic Israel-basher by the Israel-right-or-wrong crowd, while devoted Israel-bashers call him a “member of the Israel lobby.” He stipulates that Israel’s “brutal occupation” inflicts “daily humiliations” on the Palestinians, but says Blumenthal “proves a profoundly unreliable narrator.” The book, he writes, shows “selectivity” toward truth. Its chapter titles are “juvenile,” its accounts “often deliberately deceptive.”

Is Obama REALLY Going to Nominate Chuck Hagel for Defense Secretary?

2:22 pm in Uncategorized by EdwardTeller

Chuck Hagel

According to reports beginning on Thursday, Obama is considering nominating former GOP Nebraska Senator, Chuck Hagel, for Secretary of Defense:

After a high-stakes game of musical chairs on Thursday, the stage could be set for Chuck Hagel to take over the Pentagon.

A Hagel move into the Obama administration was first signaled by a White House leak that he’d been fully vetted and reached the top of President Barack Obama’s short-list to replace Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Hagel is serving as co-chairman of The President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, and is chairman of the neo-liberal Atlantic Council, among other duties and activities. I perceive him as too realistic about policy toward Iran and Israel to make it through the nomination process, should the so-called “Israel Lobby” stand against him.

The first sign that this non-existent lobby might be concerned about a Hagel nomination surfaced Thursday evening, at the White House Hanukkah Party:

On Thursday night, hundreds of American Jewish leaders visited the White House to celebrate Hanukkah, but many also came with a less celebratory agenda: They were there to deliver a warning to President Barack Obama about the potential nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel.

The buzz around the former Republican senator from Nebraska — seen as a top contender to lead the Department of Defense — has Israel supporters worried. Hagel has been a frequent target for Jewish Democratic and Republican groups for more than a decade, even as he is close to Obama, having been a supporter in 2008 and an appointee to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board.

“He was one of these worst senators in his party in memory when it comes to Israel,” said one Jewish Democratic operative. “It’s a terrible idea.”

By Friday, friends of the imaginary “Israel Lobby” were openly characterizing Hagel in the most unflattering terms.  Some had the courage to attach their names to their statements.  This one did not, probably because it was so over-the-top (emphases added):

Some Jews and supporters of Israel voiced major concerns about the possible nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel to lead the Defense Department, taking to Twitter and the blogosphere this week to slam the Nebraska Republican.

“Send us Hagel and we will make sure every American knows he is an anti-Semite,” a senior Republican Senate aide told The Weekly Standard. The aide continued, “Hagel has made clear he believes in the existence of a nefarious Jewish lobby that secretly controls U.S. foreign policy. This is the worst kind of anti-Semitism there is.”

Whether or not the totally-fucking-made-up “Israel Lobby” is the “us” the anonymous threatener means is up to you.

Helping fan the flames Friday was Stephen Walt, co-author of a book the above staffer no doubt places in the fiction category, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy.  Walt praised Hagel as a possible choice:

So the Beltway world is a-twitter (literally) with the rumor that President Obama will nominate former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb) to be the next secretary of defense. This is a smart move that will gladden the hearts of sensible centrists, because Hagel is a principled, intelligent and patriotic American who believes that U.S. foreign and defense policy should serve the national interest.

The reaction to the endorsement of “the worst kind of anti-Semite” by the author of the 21st century version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was met by heavy, but totally unorganized resistance by spontaneous objection from supporters of the Greatest Democracy in the Middle East.  Here’s Front Page‘s Daniel Greenfield (emphasis added):

[T]here are behind the scenes issues and screwing a constituency does not make for good feelings.

The last time this happened was over Chas Freeman Jr, currently doing interviews with Russian propaganda channels about the evils of Israel. Hagel isn’t as terrible a candidate as Freeman, who took money from China and Saudi Arabia, and suggested that China didn’t go far enough in Tienanmen Square, but he’s bad enough.

And when your loudest endorsement for Defense Secretary comes from Stephen Walt, it’s not exactly a good sign for your prospects.

And here’s from the Republican Jewish Coalition’s twitter feed:

Chuck Hagel gets a vote of confidence from the author of the infamous “Israel Lobby” bookhttp://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/12/13/top_five_reasons_obama_should_pick_chuck_hagel_for_secdef … cc: @SenatorCardin

Although some anti-Semitic Israel haters have claimed in the past that the RJC is part of the hysterically imagined “Israel Lobby,” a check of their series of tweets on Hagel clearly show this is not the case:

Obama’s Top Jewish Democrat Opposes selection of anti-Israel Chuck Hagel. Calls Hagel “concerning” to Jews http://goo.gl/PJkZN 

 Retweeted by RJC National

Expand

RJC #News release: Hagel Nomination Would Be “Slap in the Face” for Pro- #Israel Americans http://www.rjchq.org/2012/12/rjc-appointment-of-hagel-would-be-a-slap-in-the-face-for-pro-israel-americans/ … #jcot #tcot

ICYMI: Likely Sec of Defense Chuck Hagel is paid to advice a bank under investigation for violating Iran sanctions http://goo.gl/tuqaY 

 Retweeted by RJC National

Expand

A handy checklist for the rumored Chuck Hagel appointment.:http://moelane.com/?p=68434 

 Retweeted by RJC National

Expand

How would Secretary Hagel deal with Iran? He shares some thoughts here: http://www.acus.org/event/iran-issue-brief-launch/transcript … (Hint: “the Brazilian-Turkish point”)

That’s just a sampling from their feed, which is spontaneously continuing to run one tweet after another about this possible nomination.  The blog Mondoweiss, is keeping up with pro- and anti-Hagel developments, which will probably deepen over the weekend.  From The War Over Hagel is On:

The war over Chuck Hagel’s possible appointment to be Secretary of Defense has begun in earnest, but right now at the fringe: leading the attack are neoconservatives at the Weekly Standard and the Republican Jewish Coalition who surely hope to nip this idea in the bud lest a Republican who has been openly critical of Israel gets a top policy job.

Following an earlier anonymous threat he published from an alleged congressional staffer to paint Hagel as an “anti-Semite,” neoconservative godfather Bill Kristol has published “a fact sheet circulating widely on Capitol Hill” (who knows what that means?) that seeks to portray Chuck Hagel as an Israel-hater who would appease Iran. Some of the fact sheet’s assertions will please those who seek a balanced American policy in the Middle East.

The article’s comments cite more links to many articles and blog posts and tweets that are coming in against Hagel from people who have nothing to do with the purported “Israel Lobby.”

So, the question begs asking, “Will Obama actually nominate this guy?”

I seriously doubt it.  My wife, mom and I (we’re visiting my 94-year-old mom in Seattle for the Holidays) discussed this over coffee this morning.  They feel that Obama may be about to break from his habit of throwing somebody out there – Elizabeth Warren or Susan Rice, for instance – as bait, only to walk away from them, and nominate somebody else for the open position.

I’m not so sure.  I think Hagel is merely more chum, thrown off the stern of the FV Obama.

Totally spontaneously.

(semi-snark tag duly attached)

Photo by Nestlé under Creative Commons license.