Congratulations to Max Blumenthal. The Nation has, over the decades, published any number of extremely harsh critics of Israel and Zionism. But, as far as I’m aware, never before has anyone defended the analogizing of the behavior of Israeli Jews to that of the war criminals who led Nazi Germany. Such arguments are, unfortunately, consistent with both the quality of Blumenthal’s judgments and the honesty of his journalism.
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.
Blumenthal’s preamble to his charges is, shall we say, confusing. He writes, “These enforcers, recently aided and abetted by Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government, have painted critics who do not toe the party line or journalists who report uncomfortable facts as anti-Semitic, self-hating Jews or cheerleaders for terror. Readers of The Nation should recognize this kind of smearing as a form of McCarthyism.” I sure hope they do because I’ve addressed these issues so frequently in this and so many other publications for the past thirty years that it would be fair to call them an obsession. For instance: Here is one recent example from The Nation. Here is one from The International Herald Tribune. Here is one from the Center for American Progress. Here is one from The American Prospect. Here is one from The Daily Beast. Here is one from The Forward. And here is one from Moment, etc., etc. As to Blumenthal’s alleged point, however, I did not call him anti-Semitic, self-hating or a cheerleader for terror. I did not even mention any of these things.* His claim to McCarthyite martyrdom is therefore rather misplaced, to put it mildly.
Blumenthal continues, referring to yours truly, “Playing the enforcer, he [Alterman] is trying to frustrate debate….” Again, I plead confusion. I’m the only person in a print outlet anywhere in the world, as far as I can tell, who has even noticed the existence of Blumenthal’s book, much less debated its contents. Much to my chagrin, I’ve now devoted many thousands of words to it. Am I really the right person for Max Blumenthal to accuse of seeking to “frustrate debate?”
Blumenthal adds that he does not understand why I would concede that his book is “mostly technically accurate” but remain so critical. He is, apparently, unfamiliar with the concept of “context.” It might be technically accurate, for instance, to say that an individual who fatally shoots a crazed killer while said killer is mowing down schoolchildren with an assault-weapon is a “murderer.” But it would also be profoundly misleading, given the context. And this is the problem with Blumenthal’s facts. He tells us only the facts he wishes us to know and withholds crucial ones that undermine his relentlessly anti-Israel narrative. As I mentioned, he tells us that the El Al airline “has been accused” of harboring Mossad spies. He does not give us the context, which is that his accuser had just been fired, had worked for the airline for nineteen years without complaint, and presented no evidence. This is, I’m afraid, typical of a book in which the author presents no understandable explanations for Israel’s actions save the evils of the Zionist mind and the blackness of its heart. Blumenthal takes great offense at my quip that the book could have been a selection of a hypothetical Hamas Book of the Month Club, but my point remains valid. If there was a single rendering of any incident in this anti-Zionist propaganda tract that would upset the rather demanding ideological precepts of Israel’s enemies, I did not catch it. Like a child’s fairy tale, each story he tells has the same repetitive narrative, with Israel, without exception, cast as the Big Bad Wolf.