Max Blumenthal's 'Goliath' Is Anti-Israel Book That Makes Even Anti-Zionists Blush

'I Hate Israel Handbook' Sparks Feud on Left

courtesy of max blumenthal

By J.J. Goldberg

Published October 31, 2013, issue of November 08, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

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.”

Alterman elaborated the next day in a blog post. That’s when things heated up. He said the magazine had asked him to write about Goliath, but he’d hesitated, wary of the “avalanche of personal invective” that comes whenever he writes about “BDS types,” meaning those engaged in the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions campaign against Israel. He finally decided to proceed, wanting to be a “team player.”

Then the book arrived. “I expected to disagree with its analysis,” he wrote. “I did not expect it to be remotely as awful as it is…. It is no exaggeration to say that this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed).”

The left-wing blogosphere erupted. Alterman was called an “ignoramus,” a “smearmeister” and, repeatedly, a “liberal Zionist.” One blogger, writing at the anti-Zionist group blog Mondoweiss.net, where Blumenthal is a regular contributor, questioned Alterman’s right to call himself a critic of Israel, since he sometimes defends it. Another, also at Mondoweiss, questioned The Nation’s judgment for assigning the review to a “liberal Zionist” known for “impassioned devotion to Israel.”

One blog after another took whacks at Alterman’s credibility: He misspelled the name of novelist Yoram Kaniuk (true). He unfairly ridiculed Blumenthal’s descriptions of the long-dead Israeli philosophers Berl Katznelson and Yeshayahu Leibowitz (arguable). He misrepresented Blumenthal’s substantive assertions about Israeli “fascism,” “racism,” “militarism” and more (entirely untrue).


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • What do a Southern staple like okra and an Israeli favorite like tahini have in common? New Orleans chef Alon Shaya brings sabra tastes to the Big Easy.
  • The Cossacks were a feature in every European Jewish kid's worst nightmare. Tuvia Tenenbom went looking for the real-life variety in Ukraine — but you won't believe what he found. http://forward.com/articles/202181/my-hunt-for-the-cossacks-in-ukraine/?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.