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The Left’s Anti-Zionist Civil War

In Blumenthal’s world, anyone who believes in the Jews’ right to a state even in a tiny slice of their ancient homeland is a fascist or a Nazi.
Max Blumenthal

Max Blumenthal

Some in the pro-Israel community are having a good chuckle at the feud that has erupted between Jewish left-wingers in the past couple of weeks. But rather than laughing, those who care not only about Israel but also the direction of the conversation about Israel in the post-Oslo era and what it portends for the future should be concerned.

The exchange between the anti-Zionist Max Blumenthal and his antagonists among the ranks of left-wingers who are often critical of Israel but defend its existence shows how pointless much of the debate that has been carried on between the left and the right about borders and settlements has been.

As risible as the arguments put forward by Blumenthal trashing Israelis as “non-indigenous” interlopers in the Arab world who must be made to surrender their sovereignty, culture, and homes may be, they represent the cutting edge of left-wing thought that has come to dominate European discussions of the Middle East.

The dustup centers on Goliath, a new anti-Israel screed by Blumenthal, the son of Clinton administration figure Sidney Blumenthal, published by Nation Books, a subsidiary of The Nation magazine. But to Blumenthal’s chagrin, the magazine (which is no stranger to anti-Zionist articles) allowed columnist Eric Alterman to write about the in its pages.

Alterman is himself a fierce and often obnoxious critic of Israel and defenders of Israel, and has been a major promoter of the myth that the pro-Israel community has been seeking to silence the Jewish state’s critics. Yet Blumenthal’s book was so appalling that Alterman took it apart in the magazine that spawned it. Calling it “The ‘I Hate Israel’ Handbook,” Alterman scored it for its frequent comparisons of the Jews with the Nazis and its complete absence of any acknowledgement of the Muslim and Arab war to destroy Israel.

As Alterman wrote in a subsequent blog post, “It is no exaggeration to say that this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club (if it existed).”

To give you a taste of how outrageous this book is, Blumenthal even has the nerve to recount a conversation with Israeli author David Grossman, who has been an important figure in the peace movement, in which he lectured the Israeli about the need for the state to be dismantled and for its citizens to make their peace with the need to rejoin the Diaspora rather than cling to their homes.

Grossman responded to Blumenthal by walking out and telling him to tear up his phone number. Blumenthal attributes Grossman’s reaction to Israeli myopia.

But it gets better. As the Forward’s J.J. Goldberg wrote in his own column on the dispute, Blumenthal appeared at a Philadelphia event with the University of Pennsylvania’s Ian Lustick (author of a recent anti-Zionist diatribe in The New York Times).

 

Almost halfway through their 83-minute encounter, Lustick emotionally asks Blumenthal whether he believes, like Abraham at Sodom, that there are enough “good people” in Israel to justify its continued existence – or whether he’s calling for a mass “exodus,” the title of his book’s last chapter, and “the end of Jewish collective life in the land of Israel.”

Blumenthal gives a convoluted answer that comes down to this: “There should be a choice placed to the settler-colonial population” (meaning the entire Jewish population of Israel): “Become indigenized,” that is, “you have to be part of the Arab world.” Or else …? “The maintenance and engineering of a non-indigenous demographic population is non-negotiable.”

 

This is sobering stuff and, as Goldberg, put it, “a chilling moment even for the anti-Zionists among us.”

The bottom line here is that the real debate about the Middle East is not between the so-called Jewish establishment and left-wing critics of Israel like the J Street lobby and writers like Alterman and Goldberg. Rather it is between anyone who recognizes that Jews have a right to a state and those who wish to see that state destroyed.

Suffice it to say that in Blumenthal’s world, anyone who believes in the Jews’ right to a state even in a tiny slice of their ancient homeland is a fascist, a Nazi, or a fellow traveler.

This shows how the discussion of Israel has deteriorated in the last generation of peace processing. Instead of appeasing its critics, every move toward peace in which Israel has given up territory has only convinced its enemies that it can be portrayed as a thief that can be made to surrender stolen property. While some of Israel’s critics think that conception can be limited to the lands beyond the 1949 cease-fire lines, people like Blumenthal remind us this is an illusion.

About the Author: Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com, where this first appeared. He can be reached via e-mail at jtobin@commentarymagazine.com.


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4 Responses to “The Left’s Anti-Zionist Civil War”

  1. Edwin Schrodinger says:

    "The bottom line here is that the real debate about the Middle East is not between the so-called Jewish establishment and left-wing critics of Israel like the J Street lobby and writers like Alterman and Goldberg. Rather it is between anyone who recognizes that Jews have a right to a state and those who wish to see that state destroyed."
    Yet I think really has been the heart of the issue surrounding Israel all along. There are those who want to see Israel survive and prosper. And there are those who want to see it die. The other issues such as boundaries, settlements, fences, walls, immigration policies, foreign aid, types of weapons for the IDF are all points that mainly relate to tactics.
    Earlier in my life (pre-9/11 actually) I did not see it that way. I took the permanent existence of modern Israel as a given and therefore I pushed in the direction of having Israel compromise as much as possible to achieve peace. It seemed that Israel was totally secure. By giving up land and making other concessions Israel could put these nasty border conflicts to rest and devote its energies more productively. So too could its neighbors. The thing that never occurred to me was that the solution I favored seemed too simple. Both Israel and its Arab neighbors are carrying an enormous burden with the conflict. Making concessions on both sides was so obvious a solution that I never understood why it did not happen immediately.
    Also, on the question of Zionism I used to say “I’m not a Zionist. I’m an American. Some Jews may want to live in Israel. Good for them but not all Jews want the same thing. I’m staying in America.”
    I now see my error. The reason that the “obvious” solution was not adopted was (and is) that the Arab side does not want it. They don’t want good borders and a healthy economic environment for a Palestinian state. They want an end to Israel. The truth is, they want an end to Palestine too. Let’s assume that Israel was taken over by the so-called Palestinians. Iran, Syria, Egypt, and Jordan would invade immediately if only to get their hands on any remaining Israeli weapons. They would carve up Palestine in a matter of months, reverting to their prior (and correct) understanding that there is no such thing as a Palestinian people. If the Palestinian gambit were to work, the need to play the Palestinian game would be eliminated.
    I also now realize that the correct definition of Zionism is simply the belief that there should be a separate state for the Jews. I believe that, so I am a Zionist. But I’m still an American and that’s where I’m staying.

  2. Howard Hyman says:

    Blumenthal is a Hillary Clinton supporter!
    ALL JEWS must abandon Hillary—-another Obama!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Indogenize Blumenthal! Let him live like a pre-Mayflower Indian, run naked through the forest, live in an igloo, and engage in cannibalism! Or leave the US!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Oh, PS. Indigenous Maxie will also need a nice foreskin implant.

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