Posted by Bob Lord
I reviewed Max Blumenthal's book, Goliath, Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, in this post earlier in the week. I borrowed heavily from Chris Hedges' review in that post.
Today, I came across another review, by Larry Gross, Reading 'Goliath': Inconvenient Truths. Gross' review may not be as riveting as Hedges', but in his sober, intellectual style, he may be more compelling. He also addresses the flaws in the negative reviews of Goliath. If Israel-Palestine is a subject you struggle with, Gross' review is helpful. A few passages:
The striking thing about the critical reviews I have seen is the relatively small points they use to support their attacks. As one writer put it, these are gotcha moments, and even as some of these turn out to be erroneous and some accurate, they miss the main message of the book.
As I read “Goliath,” I applied a familiar test: When he was writing about things I knew about firsthand or was otherwise familiar with, he got it right. Thus, I tend to extend credibility to those accounts of things with which I am not familiar. And, as I’ve noted, even the relatively critical responses have ceded the overall accuracy of his account, while accusing him of leaving out the other side, or cherry-picking the most vivid instances that fit the story he wants to tell. But here is precisely the point: Even if he is selectively focusing on the worst examples he can find, there are too many of them, and their cumulative impact is too powerful to shrug off. [emphasis mine]
I had the same feeling myself when reading the negative reviews. It is a feeling I also had when reading Jimmy Carter's book, Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid, after reading the negative reviews of Alan Dershowitz and others. Yes, Alan Dershowitz managed to discredit a couple points Carter made, but Carter's other couple hundred points were valid.
Indeed, Carter's fact-filled approach is similar to Blumenthal's. The facts Carter presents are troubling, but not at the same level as those Blumenthal presents. Why? My guess is the passage of time. Israel's extremists have become more extreme. The acceptable level of cruelty to Palestinians was higher during the time Blumenthal did his research. But the underlying Israeli attitude was the same.
Moving on, Gross nails it here:
That brings me to the parts of the book that I found most disturbing: the emergence of right-wing, religious fundamentalist, racist, sexist and anti-democratic forces, not on the fringes of society, but in the Knesset and in the media (it doesn’t help that the most powerful newspaper in Israel these days may well be Metro, owned by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, and given away free).
Reading the chapters of “Goliath” that recount the anti-democratic legislative efforts of the various right-wing and religious parties, many of whose leaders gave quite candid interviews to Blumenthal and his colleagues, it is impossible not to think about the perversion of parliamentary democracies in the fascist states of Italy, Germany and Spain. Although I have followed some of these events from afar, many of the details were new and mostly horrifying. Among the most striking patterns that Blumenthal notes is the cowardice of many so-called moderates in the Israeli political scene. As right-wing legislators propose anti-democratic laws, Knesset members from the “centrist” parties absent themselves from crucial votes.
And here, regarding what really is the ultimate inconvenient truth about Israel:
At the heart of the tragedy of Israel’s democratic decline is the inescapable conflict between democracy and religious nationalism. As the point has often been put, it is not possible for Israel to be both a democracy and a Jewish state, and too many of its leaders, and its citizens, are choosing the latter.
Yes, the hard, inescapable truth is that Israel, the citizenry of which includes Palestinians, both Christian and Muslim, Druze, and others, will never be a democracy unless and until it separates church and state. But if it does so, it will no more be a Jewish state than is America a Christian nation.
And those American Jews who support the concept of Israel as both a democracy and a Jewish state, while bristling when Michele Bachman and her ilk describe America as a Christian nation, are as delusional as they are hypocritical.