I am eager to debate the issues raised in my new book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (Nation Books), the result of over four years of on-the-ground research and reporting. Whatever one’s opinion of possible resolutions of the Israel-Palestine crisis, I have dedicated my work to presenting the facts as clearly and accurately as I could. Without understanding the realities, no true debate can take place. In writing my book I intended to loosen the blockade of suppression of thought and discussion on the subject of Israel-Palestine. For years, especially since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing Jewish extremist, a contingent of self-appointed enforcers has attempted to suppress an honest, free and full debate. 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.
Eric Alterman’s invective against my book in his column and blog in The Nation fits that last category of smear (“this book could have been published by the Hamas Book-of-the-Month Club”). Playing the enforcer, he is trying to frustrate debate, which might be a strange professional choice for the Distinguished Professor of English and Journalism at Brooklyn College and CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and “The Liberal Media” columnist for The Nation. Yet, curiously, Alterman also concedes that my book is “mostly technically accurate.” Is this a logical contradiction or cognitive dissonance?
Unfortunately, I cannot say that Alterman’s review of Goliath is technically accurate. Other writers have already carefully deconstructed his tangled mess of factual errors and deceptive claims: Phan Nguyen, Corey Robin, Ali Gharib, Ira Glunts and Charles Manekin.
Alterman’s review of Goliath is so error ridden that it would take too lengthy a reply to debunk all of them. But here are a few of his howlers:
He mockingly cited a portion of a quote by the Israeli journalist Lia Tarachansky as “the definition Blumenthal quotes of the substance of Israel’s ‘fascism.’” In fact, the statement occurred during a conversation in which I initially expressed skepticism about defining Israel’s political environment as fascist. I reported Tarachansky’s quote but did not express approval, as Alterman suggested I did, though I do consider Tarachansky—an émigré from the former Soviet Union raised in the Israeli settlement of Ariel—to be an exceptionally notable source. I have recorded many conversations from all sorts of people who are not the usual sources cited by much of the US media, including Israeli dissidents, Palestinian citizens of Israel, Bedouin villagers, Palestinian popular protest leaders, members of the Knesset from across the spectrum, and a host of right-wing Israeli officials, especially from the younger generation.
Early in my book, I quote former Maariv editor Amnon Dankner condemning “neo-Nazi expressions in the Knesset”; former editor-in-chief of Haaretz David Landau calling for Israelis “to stand against the wave of fascism that has engulfed the Zionist project”; and Uri Avnery, the famed Israeli journalist, former Knesset member and once-terrorist member of the Irgun turned peace activist, who warns that “Israel’s very existence is threatened by fascism.” I also detailed a 2010 protest in Tel Aviv in which a who’s who of founding-generation Israelis issued a “Declaration of Independence from Fascism.”