One of the clearest and bravest voices on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today is that of Max Blumenthal. Whereas many other commentators on this never-ending conflict approach the topic from a moral, political, or historical point of view, Blumenthal’s refreshing perspective is that of a journalist, on assignment, providing an up-close-and-personal account of daily life in Israel and the occupied territories. And unlike other reportage on Israel, Blumenthal speaks frankly without any filters or fears of offending. His most recent book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel has attracted a good deal of attention and deservedly so. This is his own description of the book:
The atmosphere I captured in the pages of Goliath is the one that veteran Israelis from Uri Avnery to former Maariv editor Amnon Danker to former Haaretz editor-in-chief David Landau have described in no uncertain terms as fascistic. Through the experience of almost a year on the ground in Israel-Palestine, I was able to capture the feeling of the atmosphere they described and to bring it to life on the pages of my book.
While many aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are relatively well-known, few people have any sense of what life is really like on the ground in Israel. Blumenthal does a great job and provides a great service in attempting to document it for those on the outside. His attention to detail is striking. Consider, for instance, the following exchange which is part of this recent interview in Counterpunch, conducted by Joshua Frank.
JF: In [your book] Goliath you write a lot about realities on the ground in Israel. What were some of the more surprising ones you discovered?
MB: There was no particular incident or event that I was not prepared for when I began the fieldwork for the book. What shocked me was the degree to which Israel was able to fuse Western-style neo-liberalism so seamlessly with settler-colonial apartheid. In Goliath, I described drinking at a bar in a hip neighborhood in Tel Aviv, staring at the nearby luxury “ghost tower” inhabited by wealthy American Jews like Marty Peretz, and listening to fusion jazz emanate from an adjacent club with my t-shirt still saturated in the residue of teargas from the demonstration against the separation wall I attended earlier in the day. That is when it became clear to me how much the Tel Aviv bubble required the Iron Wall.
I am filled with memories like this. In one instance, I was sitting in a macrobiotic/vegan restaurant in central Jerusalem with a French tourist who was staying at my flat during the summer of 2010. The tourist grabbed a French-Israeli magazine on a nearby table, flipped to a random page, and began translating an article to me about the dangers Jewish women could face if they dated Arab men – how the Arab male would charm you before he took you captive in his village and beat you into submission. The feeling of having a Jim Crow-style tract read to me in a French accent while I noshed on a quinoa, tempeh and kale platter in a restaurant packed with vegan settlers summed up the whole experience of Israel for me. I was living life in a tech-savvy, gay-friendly apartheid state where oiled up soldier girls in skimpy bikinis tanned themselves to an orange hue on balmy beaches a few kilometers up the coast from a besieged ghetto filled with food insecure refugees. Each day I spent in Israel, I was staring straight at the West’s most vulgar image of itself.
While Blumenthal considers a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a “delusion,” he does believe that there is hope for progress. As he explains in the passage below, the most promising strategy for resolving this conflict, and one which outsiders can support, is the BDS campaign.
As long as the status quo in Israel-Palestine persists, all of the trends detailed in Goliath will intensify. And since 1967, the US has been the primary guarantor of the status quo. So when I speak to audiences around the country, I encourage them to give up all hope on their elected representatives and societal elites doing anything decent or courageous to challenge Israeli apartheid. After all, these are the same people who have enabled apartheid to retrench itself across this country, either by actively driving inequality or through cynical negotiations with the corporate forces behind it. If Americans want to see genuine change in the Holy Land, they can participate in grassroots, Palestinian-led campaigns like the BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction) movement. This movement is growing rapidly and sending shockwaves through the pro-Israel establishment. And that’s a very good thing considering that Palestinians may have few effective tactics left to resist a project aimed at their absolute dispossession.
The following two-part interview with Blumenthal on Democracy Now is also highly informative and worth watching: